Note: Below is the first installment in our Meet the Team series, a regular feature in which we will highlight various members of the BookBub team.
Josh Schanker is BookBub’s co-founder and president. During his career as a serial entrepreneur, he has founded, advised, and invested in a number of startups in the media and technology spheres. His previous companies include Sombasa Media, an email marketing firm he grew and sold to About.com, and Sconex, a social networking site for teens bought by Alloy Media.
In addition to his focus on business and technology, he’s long fostered an interest in books, and came up with the idea for BookBub while advising on a friend’s publishing startup. He and his co-founder noticed a need for direct to consumer tools for marketing books, tried out the idea of a targeted email newsletter on a small number of subscribers — and the rest is history!
With Josh at the helm over the past two years, BookBub has grown to serve thousands of author and publisher clients, and help millions of readers discover books and authors they love through daily ebook price promotions.
1) Explain your role with the company.
I lead the organization, which means I do a little of everything, but ultimately my core job is to figure out how to keep advancing the company’s two main goals — to help readers discover great books and to provide a way for authors and publishers to get those books discovered.
2) Tell us one thing most people wouldn’t know about your job.
Although I don’t interact with the vast majority of our author and publisher partners directly, I’m obsessive about learning about them and hearing their feedback about BookBub. I review author survey data all the time, get forwarded publisher conversations, constantly prod our accounts team for thoughts on what particular publishers and authors are requesting, and through this research, try to figure out how to best serve their needs.
3) What’s something you do every day that’s unique to your position?
I’m not the only person involved in hiring, but what’s unique to my position is how much time I spend on it, probably more than any other person on the team. I feel that each person we hire has the potential to make a really large impact at BookBub, and so I’m known for holding long intense interviews, spending lots of time networking to find great candidates, and trying to review (at least briefly) every single resume we receive.
4) What’s the most exciting thing about working for a startup?
Watching the company grow and change quickly has been incredibly exciting. Every time we have a new team member start, hit a subscriber milestone, launch a new site feature, or break a new record for books sold, it’s incredibly fun and rewarding. In startups the one constant is change — it can make running a startup scary, but also a lot of fun.
5) What’s your fondest book-related memory?
My first summer job in high school was as a bookseller at Waldenbooks in New York. I look back on it not only as a fun time, but also as a valuable learning experience and introduction to the publishing business. I still remember so many interactions with specific customers that shape my views of the industry today, whether it be the flood of people asking every day if we carried The Bridges of Madison County or Ageless Body, Timeless Mind — the two big bestsellers from that summer — or the regular romance readers who each week would grab as many books as they could carry, and stagger side to side through the store trying not to drop any as they made their way to the cash register. I’m still disappointed to this day that management didn’t take my suggestion to add shopping carts to help those readers.
6) What’s your favorite book?
That’s a tough question! If I had to just pick one, I would say A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, but other finalists would include Moneyball by Michael Lewis, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, and Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.
7) Pick a superpower: flying or teleportation. Why?
Teleportation, no doubt. It’s more efficient and the Boston atmosphere is especially chilly in the winter.
8) How did you pick the book you’re currently reading?
We’re reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis for our company book club this month. We typically choose one of our partners’ books for our monthly picks. This one was featured in the BookBub email on March 8th and although I just started it, it’s been a great read so far!
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