C.e.o and co-founder of VaynerMedia, Gary Vaynerchuk, rose to prominence in the late 1990s after he helped his father grow the family business from $4 million to $60 million, with one of the first ecommerce wine sites, WineLibrary. Appearing with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Will.i.am on Apple’s first original series Planet of the Apes, Vaynerchuk is also a venture capitalist, four-time New York Times bestselling author and an early investor of companies such as Twitter, Tumbler, Venmo and Uber.
In his new book, CRUSHING IT! How Great Entrepreneurs Build Business and Influence—and How You Can Too, Vaynerchuk examines the major social and digital media platforms, and offers lessons for a new generation of entrepreneurs. To celebrate the launch, we asked him to turn his disruptive eye on the book industry - and he didn't hold back.
Where do you think the book trade currently sits in terms of entrepreneurialism and innovation?
I think that there is pressure on books these days because information is coming out so quickly, and so rapidly and so freely at scale. So I think the Mendoza line for a good book has gotten higher and that’s a challenge. I think I've taken a pretty unique strategy over the last five books, which is that my books are not necessarily written to be evergreen because I think the evergreen book is getting harder and harder to write. There are some evergreen aspects to all the books that I write, but for the most part, I'm trying to write books that are relevant in our current culture.
Do you think the industry has a positive future?
Of course. Books aren't going anywhere. They've been around forever. Don't let people trick you. It's not going away. I believe it has a positive future. I think that authors and publishers have to be better because there's pressure.
What is it doing well?
Not much, from my point of view. I think it's kind of stagnant and I think we're lacking innovation. I think what it's doing well is trading on its history, which is fine, but I'm not super enthusiastic about it.
What do you think it needs to do better?
I think it needs to innovate. I think we need to see new formats. Where's the publisher that only puts out books that are accompanied by 45-minute documentaries? Where's the publisher that only puts out books that are done by podcasters? Where's the underground book launches? Where are the people that only make a hundred copies of a book and the rest of the book is only in audio? I think there is a lack of innovation.
What emerging tech can you imagine having a big impact on the book trade?
The internet has already had a huge impact and will continue to have a huge impact. It’s obvious that Alexa and Google Home type products will review books and that’s how you might interact with them. Somebody will literally be reading one of my books in a few years saying, Alexa, what did he mean by that? And it will tell you what I meant by it. So I think that all technology is affecting the book industry just like it affects every other industry.
Why did you decide to publish with Harper Collins rather than self-publish (the more ‘entrepreneurial’ route, one might say)?
Because of my deal in 2008. Self-publishing in 2008 was basically left to people at the bottom of the bottom. I set a unique book deal with Harper Studios when it was a start-up within Harper Collins, which allowed me to get a headline in the Wall Street Journal that said, "Gary Vaynerchuk, signs a 10 book, one million dollar deal", which was enormously impactful on my career.
That book did extremely well, which allowed me to get out of my contract. But I've built a relationship. I believe in relationships and Harper came and we signed a nice deal for Thank You Economy and that worked. Then very honestly, Hollis Heimbouch and Tom Brechio have built a real relationship with me - and they continue to make it worth my while to use them as a bank and a distribution in retail that I find valuable.