Meet the Press: Nick Liao
Although it's a cliché and can even be exploited for "spin" about faceless corporations, you know it's true, at root: a big part of any healthy organization is its people. So I figure you might be interested to learn about some of the real individuals here at InterVarsity Press. A good place to start is with Nick Liao.
One reason I think of Nick (for what I hope will become an occasional "Meet the Press" series) is that he's both new to IVP and at the same time a veteran. Last month, he returned to IVP as a "new" hire as our marketing copywriter, but he had been here previously, in a different capacity with IVP Academic marketing. Coincidentally enough, he's recently engaged to be married to the woman who currently holds his old job here. Small world. ;)
In between, he did a stint in editorial with one of the "Big Six" New York publishing firms (which shall remain nameless). So, because Nick's been here, then departed for different shores, and now voted with his feet to return by returning here, he's an interesting guy with a unique perspective on IVP.
His desk is literally 11 steps from mine, but we did this interview by email. Don't worry, though; we talk face-to-face plenty, too.
How are you explaining your new job to your friends and family these days? What's your "elevator pitch" about what you're doing?
When I tell my friends and family that I'm a copywriter at a publishing house, I'm often met with confused looks and questions about whether I'm actually writing the books. And they are invariably disappointed to learn that I do not. I am not a writer in that sense.
However, I am writing about IVP books — a job that most people probably don't know even exists. The nuts and bolts of being a marketing copywriter are editing and writing text for IVP's diverse array of marketing communications, including print ads, catalogs, newsletters, brochures and signs. All of that is in service of a single aim: creating compelling messages around IVP titles that spark readers' curiosity and passion.
What are you honestly most excited about, in coming back to IVP generally and to this new role in particular? Other than holding hands with your fiancée during your lunch break, I mean? I take that for granted. ;)
I'm delighted to again find myself a part of a team of people driven by thoughtful content and who have a sense of the unique role that IVP has played in the church and world over the past 70 years. There's a sense of tradition here, and at the same time there's an openness to experimentation that makes it a fun, dynamic place to work. But most of all, I appreciate the friendships. And I did meet my fiancée here, which was an unexpected perk.
Do you think we should hire more ex-employees of for-profit, New York publishing houses? That's just a sassy way of asking what you learned during your time away that you think will benefit the Press and whether you might recommend others follow your strategy of doing a stint in a very different organization.
There might be some things that a mid-sized independent publisher like IVP can glean from Big Six publishing houses. Speaking from limited experience, however, it seems to me like they're just really different models with their own distinctive strengths.
For example, I think IVP's lean size and unique business model has helped us carve out a niche in the increasingly saturated market of Christian publishing. We're not so big that readers feel like we're a bloated, faceless, corporate entity. They can talk to us, and they feel like they're heard. And focusing on thoughtful non-fiction Christian books rather than publishing every kind of genre has given us a particular identity and reputation in the industry. So, those kinds of things help us punch well above our weight. And that could turn out to be a more sustainable model in this business climate.
What are you reading lately?
This winter I read Fresh Off the Boat (Spiegel & Grau, 2013) by the restaurateur Eddie Huang, which I found highly enjoyable. So far that might be the best thing I've read this year. Right now I'm chipping away at two very different books: Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition (Penguin, 2013) by Gary Wills and Salt: A World History (Walker, 2002) by Mark Kurlansky, the latter of which is a more engaging read than you might think. Turns out that salt has a lot to do with the way the world turned out.
Thanks, Nick, for sharing a bit of yourself here — and in everything you do for IVP!
Do you have any questions, comments or words of welcome for Nick? Or is there any person or position here at IVP that you'd like to see featured in an upcoming "Meet the Press" post? Just let me know, and I'll see what I can do.
Posted by Jon Boyd
at April 29, 2013 9:45 AM