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Lunch at The Four Seasons with: Barbara Cave Henricks

Published by The New York Sun on 2006-03-06

Barbara Cave Henricks says that she enjoys commuting between Texas and New York - as long as she doesn't have to fly the 1,510 miles between her base in Austin and the headquarters of her book-promotion company in Manhattan too frequently.

For that matter, the vice president and director of Goldberg McDuffie Business said, she enjoys commuting from Austin to most anywhere in America - again, as long as she doesn't have to board planes too often and leave behind her three children, Kathryn, 12, Corey, 10, and Brady 5.

So if planes are out, then does the single mother commute through astral projection?
Ms. Cave Henricks smiled at that bit of journalist-as-agent-provocateur.

"Tele-commuting," Ms. Cave Henricks, one of the country's most successful promoters of business books, said. "Technology has allowed me to meet all kinds of deadlines in promoting books."

Such promotion means dealing mainly with key figures in the press who monitor America's $28.5 billion book industry, which consists of 63,000 publishers and some 3,500 book stores.

The books that Ms. Cave Henricks has promoted include business best-sellers such as Jack Welch's Jack: Straight from the Gut); Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan's Execution and Confronting Reality); Arthur Levitt Jr.'s Take on the Street); Vanguard founder John Bogle's The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism; Maria Bartiromo's Use the News; and Adrian Slywotzky's The Art of Profitability).

She's also been handling current bestselling authors Patrick Lencioni (Silos, Politics and Turf Wars), and Joel Greenblatt (The Little Book That Beats the Market). Other authors whose books Ms. Cave Henricks has promoted include poet Diane Ackerman, novelist Amy Ephron, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, and astronaut James Lovell.

"As head of the business division, I also work closely with a number of major business clients including The Gallup Organization, McKinsey & Company, Mercer Consulting, Honeywell, Ernst & Young, The Boston Consulting Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Goldman Sachs, The Financial Times, and J.D. Power and Associates," Ms. Cave Henricks said in one breath, suggesting that perhaps there'd been some voice training in her background.

Well, as it turned out, she once made her living from her voice.

After graduating from Indiana University with a major in radio and television, Ms. Cave Henricks worked for a radio station in her native Hammond, Ind. She started as a reporter, and rose to become a news anchor.

"It was a new adventure not only every day, but every hour," she said. "There's nothing like radio to instill deadline discipline into a young person."

Her work came to the attention of radio-station directors in other states, and Ms. Cave Henricks found herself working in South Carolina. After that, it was on to NBC Radio in Washington.

"It was a very good time to be in Washington - George H. W. Bush had just been elected president, and there were a number of rapidly breaking news stories, including some sad ones like the PanAm Lockerbie crash," Ms. Cave Henricks said. "Being in Washington was a great way to make contacts not only in the capital's press, but also nationally."

Sometime during this period, she started paying attention to how books were publicized. She accepted a job offer from Workman Publishing in New York where, she said, she was able to "watch how a book really came together - from commissioning to writing to editing to promotion to pre-publication marketing to publicity and sales."

"Because of my press contacts, I knew how to position a book - I knew what journalists were looking for," Ms. Cave Henricks said. "With more than 100,000 books published in America each year, journalists are really overcrowded with manuscripts and bound galleys. They appreciate the informed knowledge that someone like me brings to a situation."

That knowledge consists of an assessment of an author's ability to promote a book. Typically, a publisher sends out between 100 and 300 galleys - or bound page proofs - of a book about four months prior to the publication date. These galleys go to news publications, independent book reviewers, and other recipients who are likely to spawn "buzz" - or good advance talk - about a forthcoming title. The publisher then send these same sources copies of the finished book about 4 to 6 weeks before it appears in book stores.

"At any given time, I handle 6 to 10 books at various stages of the publication process," Ms. Cave Henricks said. "The most important thing is that in order for a book to succeed, it must have a clear message and a spokesman. This especially applies to business books, which are often seen by the press as not urgent, or news breaking in nature."

By the time that Ms. Cave Henricks came to Goldberg McDuffie, she knew that it was essential to ensure that business books have a platform, or shelf life, of at least five years.
"They need to inject ideas into the national conversation," she said. "And sometimes business ideas take a while to percolate through the system. Authors need to be steadfast in promoting their books. After all, books are a very vulnerable moment in their lives -- a book can have lasting impact not only on the field itself, the subject about which the author has written, but on the author's own life."

So what's with this tele-commuting out of Austin? Would a base in New York be more convenient because of its status as the world's publishing capital?

"I moved for personal reasons," Ms. Cave Henricks said. "My then husband wanted to live in Texas. I turned in my papers at Goldberg McDuffie, but my boss, Lynn Goldberg, wouldn't have any of it."

"You sure you want to quit?" Ms. Goldberg said to Ms. Cave Henricks, who recalled for a reporter that difficult encounter.

It was Ms. Goldberg who suggested that Ms. Cave Henricks try working for the company out of Austin.

"She was prescient," Ms. Cave Henricks said of Ms. Goldberg. "She wasn't only looking out for me; she also understood how the publishing and promotion business would change with technological innovations."

That was 10 years ago. Ms. Cave Henricks is still at it.

"Would I want to move back to New York?" she said, anticipating the reporter's question?

Then she answered with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes: "Only if I'm welcomed back with marigold garlands, sweet incense, and a rock band to get things rolling."

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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