Ever wondered what it’s like to be one of the leading publishers in the country, to people looking forward to the books you’ll publish the next season, to every newsletter your publishing house will send out? Well, that’s what I learnt when Jo Lendle came in for 2 masterclasses at the Seagull School of Publishing. From launching a small-scale literary magazine to being Publisher to Dumont and now Publisher at Carl Hanser—the trajectory of his life is truly inspirational. No matter where or how you start, what matters is where you arrive. The humility and the ease with which he shared his experiences made us relish every moment we spent with him. And curious beings that we are, we inundated him with what seemed to be an endless array of questions but Jo had answers for each of us.
As a publisher one might publish hundreds of books a year; only a few will go on to become huge successes. But the ‘unsuccessful’ ones in no way prevent the publisher from taking risks. As a publisher, it is one’s duty to encourage the writer to write well (and deal with the odd tantrum)—it is, after all, her or his story that is going to be printed, bound and sold.
One of the things I found most interesting was when Jo talked us through the Carl Hanser website. Though it was all in German, the creativity of the Carl Hanser team was prominently visible from our very first glimpse of the homepage, full of stories. One of them was about Tilman Ramstedt who’s book is forthcoming from Carl Hanser. But what was even more interesting for us was Jo telling us about Ramstedt, on a daily basis, sharing the plot on his blog. Not only does he share it, he also allows the readers to give feedback. He even shares pictures from his desk, his couch and much more in order to nurture and nourish a relationship with old and new readers. A wonderful example of how a writer can help build a community of loyal readers around himself and his work.
8th February was our first long day at School, from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. But thanks to Jo Lendle and his wonderful, amusing and patient presence, his anecdotes, his lessons and his responses to our questions, it didn’t really feel like such a long day at all.