Writers Roundtable: Q& A with author, literary agent, anthropologist and producer Bill Gladstone

Bill Gladstone
Bill Gladstone

By Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz

Sometimes accomplished people can be so understated that we often don’t know who really lives in our own backyard. Bill Gladstone is just such a person. A Yale- and Harvard- trained cultural anthropologist who traveled the world in search of mysteries for Rod Serling, Gladstone is considered an international expert on indigenous cultures and the meaning of 2012 and its rippling impact on our world.

Co-producer of the highly-acclaimed film “Tapping the Source,” Gladstone is also a literary agent who has represented some of the most respected and influential authors of our time, including Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and Barbara Marx Hubbard. Gladstone’s newest novel, “The Power of Twelve,” will debut with a discussion and signing at Mysterious Galaxy on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 2 p.m. (7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego, CA 92111; 858-268-4747). Gladstone, who can be found in and around Cardiff taking beach walks, playing tennis, and enjoying golf, shared some thoughts on writing with us. (www.12thebook.com)

  1. You have been an agent, publisher, author, and an innovator in the publishing industry. What is it about publishing that draws you?

I was born into this industry; my father founded Arco Publishing in New York City in 1936.  I have always loved reading books and  have enjoyed writing even more. My mother was a devoted reader who read the entire Wizard of Oz series to me as a young child. She collected of what she referred to as second-rate Victorian writers; her collection was gifted to Columbia University. My mom loved books; my dad saw books as a commercial product. The combination of seeing books as both a way to make a living and a way to experience the world and impact others through writing has made me a devoted agent, writer and publisher.

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  1. What is the most profound change you have seen in publishing in the past decade?

The last decade has been all about ebooks and print on demand. About 15 years ago I helped launch the first ebook and first print-on-demand book companies. Clearly those have been the two most important new revenue-generating developments of the last decade. What do you expect to remain the same? We will still have the five major book publishers publishing the majority of bestselling books. There will still be book stores.  But the percentage of revenue from print book sales will continue to decline.

  1. As an agent, what do you look for in an author and a book?

I like to represent courageous and talented people who are dedicated to making a positive difference in the world. I have represented many first-time authors but — with rare exception — must now limit myself to working with authors with large established fan bases.

  1. You live here in North County San Diego.  As an agent, does it matter that you are not in New York?

When I first moved to North County in 1979, it was a long shot that I would survive as a literary agent.  All the major publisher and agents were in New York, and my chances of success were quite small. But I lucked into representing books about technology, and it became an advantage that I was in California where all the technology experts were living and writing. Now, with email and other technology it is no longer essential that major literary agents be based in New York.  One or two trips a year to New York is now sufficient to enjoy the same access to editors that New York agents have.

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