Writing a book takes dedication. For many authors it is a culminating, defining feat of their lives. Sadly, the chances of an author’s book actually being read are miniscule at best. Rapacious agents, stoic publishers, and that brick wall called ‘marketing’ are typically insurmountable hurdles for would-be authors. Enter iUniverse (parent company Author Solutions) and their new, successful self-publishing model. New York Times bestselling author Amy Fisher published If I Knew Then in 2004 through iUniverse. Since then, a series of partnerships (Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble) and programs such as The Star Program are providing hopeful authors a reason to be optimistic.
SM: Let’s get started by reviewing your background. Where do you come from and how did you end up in this business?
KW: I grew up in the northeastern part of the United States and went to Princeton University. After graduation I went to Manhattan and worked for IBM. I spent approximately 17 years with IBM in a variety of jobs, mostly on the sales side. I did go into corporate strategy for a while, then software, which took me to Austin, Texas. An opportunity came up to work for an enterprise software company called BMC Software, so I joined them in 1995. BMC had just come off of a good growth year at just over $400 million. I stayed there five years, and when I left we had just finished of our fiscal year at $1.75 billion. It was not because of me, I was just happy to be part of such an incredible growth factor.
SM: What did you do at BMC?
KW: I was the head of field operations in the Americas. After that I went to work for a little re-start company. The person who hired me at BMC became CEO of Bindview, another enterprise software company with a security focus. I went there to be the chief marketing officer. Not quite a year after I joined them, the person who brought me in decided he wanted to leave and the founder returned. I did not want to be in the middle of that, so I told the founder I would help him out but that he should get someone in there who would be loyal to him.
I then went to work for Ariba. Ariba was down on its luck but they had a good franchise. I ran their international business and ended up moving to London, where I got recruited to head operations for McAfee in Europe. I left in October of 2006, not of my accord, as the president. I then did some work in Houston for a private investor who had quite a bit of money invested in a company and was trying to figure out if it was ever going make a dollar. I consulted until December of last year, when I came to Author Solutions as the CEO.
SM: How did you get introduced to Author Solutions?
KW: Bertram Capital, one of our investors, was started by Jeff and Ken Drazan. Jeff and I went to college together. Jeff and Ken started Bertram Capital and Author House, which was the largest self-publishing company in the world, was their first acquisition. They followed that up with the acquisition of iUniverse.
Jeff called me and asked if I would be interested in helping them out with this company they just bought. Eventually he asked me if I would be willing to take over the company, which I was not sure about because I did not know anything about publishing. He said I would know what I needed to after six months! Sometimes things just feel right, and this did. I saw the publishing industry, which has been doing business the same way for a long time, was flat. I then saw Author Solutions was posting 20% growth by doing things I thought were unique. I saw a huge opportunity and felt we could be disruptive without knocking the boat over. I took over as CEO in December of last year.