Questions for: Robin Cutler

News - Interviews Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The director of IngramSpark contributes to our Q&A series

What is your current job?
I am the director of IngramSpark, which is a publishing platform providing print and distribution services to indie authors and publishers.

What was your first job in the book industry?
Even while I was a journalism student, I worked for a company that created and published a library reference series called The Dictionary of Literary Biography. My first job after college was as design and production manager for the University of South Carolina Press.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?
Well, in truth it was Steve Jobs, because he gave me my first little Mac SE computer, which I completely fell in love with while designing my first digital book. A live and current person would be John Ingram, who is not only a great employer but also gave us print-on-demand technology some 20 years ago that continues to revolutionise the publishing industry.

How has the industry changed since your first job?
The first book I produced was typeset in linotype and printed on handmade paper on a letterpress printer - a very labour-intensive and expensive way to create a book. Some 35 years later I'm working for Ingram Content Group, which is on the front edge of research and development in bringing content to readers in new and exciting ways. For the past decade it seems like the industry changes by quantum leaps every year. Honestly, it's hard to keep up.

"I see indie publishing more directly aligned with bookselling channels from content creation to point of sale"

What's the biggest challenge in your job?
We have created a very popular tool in IngramSpark that brings in a constant flow of new users that don't all have the same technical abilities. Making sure we can provide a good experience to all is our biggest challenge and opportunity.

What's the best piece of publishing-related advice you've ever been given?
To remember that much of what we're doing in publishing today hasn't been done before. Don't get stressed out that you don't know the answer, because no one else does either. Just do the best you can to constantly solve problems.

What are the most interesting things you're seeing at the moment in the industry?
Technology that converts text to speech and vice versa. What Google is developing in terms of simulating the human voice is remarkable.

What do you think might be the next big thing?
Repurposing content easily in multiple formats based on reader preference. I also see indie publishing more directly aligned with bookselling channels from content creation to point of sale.

What do you most like doing when you're not working?
Gardening, cooking and reading for pleasure. I especially like listening to audiobooks while I'm gardening and cooking. My cats are into that too.

What is the best book you've read in the last year?
Becoming by Michelle Obama. I actually listened to the audiobook, which was brilliantly read by the author. When I finished, I thought of her as my BFF.

What are you reading now?
Two books: Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Shafford and If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura.

How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks?
I sometimes will read an ebook because I work on my computer all day and need a break, but I prefer to read on paper or listen to an audiobook.

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