This week we’re honored to feature Jacob Lewis and Dana Goodyear—co-founders of Figment. All three Texas Sweethearts had the pleasure of meeting Jacob Lewis, Co-Founder and CEO of Figment at various ALA events. It is enjoyable to walk the convention floor and to run into someone so friendly and enthusiastic, and we hope to run into Dana Goodyear in the very near future!
TXS: Could you tell us about Figment, and what led you to co-founding Figment with Dana Goodyear?
JL: Figment is a mobile publishing and social media site for reading and writing young-adult fiction. The idea comes from an article Dana wrote for The New Yorker in 2008 about Japanese cell phone novels. She discovered a really amazing social, literary, and technological phenomenon, where young girls were reading, sharing, and writing novels on the cell phones. Dana and I want to build a creative place for an active community of teens, where they can read amateur and professional stories, and generate writing that they can share in a way that is unfiltered and unfettered on computers and mobile phones.
TXS: Have you had any pleasant surprises since starting Figment?
JL: Lots! The enthusiasm and encouragement we've gotten from teens has been overwhelming. But we've also gotten a tremendous response from professional authors and publishers. It's as if everyone has been waiting for this kind of site to come along. The expectation that this kind of community has to exist is thrilling.
TXS: You attend many trade shows, do you have any advice on how to make the most of these events?
JL: I really enjoy these shows. Any time you have a room (and in some cases, a really GIANT room) full of people who are passionate about an industry like publishing, even in the face of bad times, it can be captivating. You always find a new book, or meet a new librarian, or talk to a new writer. I think the best approach is to stroll through the booths and have as many conversations as possible.
TXS: How do you think reading has changed for kids and teens over the years, and how do you see it changing in the future?
JL: I think the most amazing change has been just how engaged kids are these days with the books and the authors and the stories. It's not a passive experience for them. They want to know about the process, and they want to know the personalities, and they want to hear directly from the authors. It's a change that has had a profound effect on the publishing industry as a whole (I believe for the better).
TXS: Do you have any marketing advice for children's book professionals?
JL: I think it's imperative to engage with your audience, whether you're a writer or a publisher. Kids want to be heard, and they want to be a part of the experience of creating a book and promoting that story. It's sometimes easy to overlook that the success of teen books is almost solely due to word of mouth. The readers are your greatest resource.
TXS: Thanks, Jacob and Dana!
Jacob Lewis began his career in the mailroom of The New Yorker magazine, working his way up to be managing editor. He worked at The New Yorker for more than twelve years. In 2007, he helped start, as the managing editor, a new business magazine, Conde Nast Portfolio. He has written for The Washington Post, New York magazine, and The New York Observer. Jacob graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a BA in creative writing and English literature. He now lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two kids.
Dana Goodyear has worked at The New Yorker since 1999. For four years, she was a senior editor; now she is a staff writer, covering a wide variety of subjects for the magazine, and often writing about literary and cultural figures. (Some of her work can be read at www.danagoodyear.com). She is also the author of “Honey and Junk,” a collection of poems, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2005. In addition to The New Yorker, her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Review of Books, and many other magazines and periodicals. She is on the board of Red Hen Press, a non-profit publisher in Los Angeles, and teaches literary nonfiction, with an emphasis on new media, at the University of Southern California.“I [heart] Novels”—her article about Japanese cell-phone novelists, written while in Tokyo as a Japan Society Media Fellow—was included in “The Best Technology Writing 2009,” edited by Steven Johnson.
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