March 8, 2016
News & Opinion: Jack Covert Selects and the Editor's Choice
Jack Covert began writing the “Jack Covert Selects” column in the year 2000 at the suggestion of our late owner (and his best friend) A. David Schwartz. Jack had always used his advanced knowledge of the latest business books being published to build relationships with customers who craved that information, and he had also been putting out a bestseller list and running a new releases column—a simple list of the books being released that month— for years. So, perhaps selecting the very best of the latest releases every month for a wider swath of business readers—those that subscribed to business journals and other local newspapers all over the country—would be a good idea. Perhaps those readers and leaders would be eager for his expert analysis of the field, as well.
And so they were. The Jack Covert Selects reviews built upon Jack's business book knowledge and sales success to establish him as an expert in curation of and opinion on the latest business book releases. He wrote a batch of three reviews each and every month, which ran in journals and papers all across the country. (There were multiple times an author we didn't know would call or write to thank Jack for a review found in their local paper.) It was an expertise that was expanded upon when he wrote The 100 Best Business Books of All Time with Todd Sattersten and Sally Haldorson (our former and current General Managers). But it was while working on that book—which took a lot of time and love and attention—that Jack stopped writing the majority of the Jack Covert Selects. Everyone from our General Manager to Shipper/Receiver have filled in with reviews of their own since then, with Jack typically turning in one a month until he ceased writing reviews altogether upon his retirement last year. When that happened, we opted to leave the name of the series in place as an homage to Jack and all he’s done for the business book community. After all, the rest of the staff had been contributing reviews to the series for years, a fact that we had documented on the site and that we felt was well known. We figured those that had been following along would understand that the series was now “Jack Covert’s” only in the honorary sense. That turned out not to be the case.
The series also underwent two other major changes last year. To better fit the online publishing paradigm we now exist in, we began publishing one review a week rather than releasing a batch of three all at once each month—a schedule that had fit the small papers and business journals that used to run them, but the key words there are "used to." We've found that most of those publications no longer run the reviews, as such organizations have shifted their concentration to hyper-local content—also in response to developments in online content and difficulties in print. The second development is that we are back to one person writing all these reviews. I decided to take them on entirely myself as our editorial director. The series has a style and focus that is simply easier if one person makes it their own, and I wanted to free the rest of our editorial team (each of whom has at least one other job, managing sales, marketing, or the company itself) to only have to write about the books that they really take a personal shining to, to be able to write it in their own personal style, at whatever length they wish, and on whatever timeline they wish to write it.
So, while the ethos of the series remains what it was when Jack began it—these are the books we as a company feel deserve to be held up—the weekly reviews that have been running the past seven weeks have run under an Editor’s Choice banner instead of Jack Covert Selects for the first time. We're trying to build something new, using the building blocks and keeping true to the ethos of the Jack Covert Selects reviews.
Of course, we're not ready to let Jack go entirely, riding off into the easy sunset of retirement. We have been handing out the Jack Covert Award for Contribution to the Business Book Industry for the past two years to honor someone in the industry we feel has made a great impact on the industry over the course of their career (as he did), and he has been gracious enough to get to New York with us the past two years to hand it out personally. He has also been coming in to consult with us often, and I have been sitting down with him and a tape recorder twice a month to get his first person account of our company's history—how he took over the business and computer section of a local bookshop in 1984 and turned it into what we are today, weathering the storms of big box stores and Amazon's arrival along the way. I don't know if we'll ever get those stories to you, but I have begun transcribing and writing them up for an internal record and, if nothing else, some of those lessons and insights will inevitably seep into and inform this review series going forward.
You can continue to follow the company review series in the Editor's Choice channel, and I hope you'll keep an eye on our Staff Picks, as well. Those will not come out on any specific schedule, but we have a lot of really smart people and really good writers on our staff, and I think you'll find their reviews even more dynamic and interesting than the Editor's Choice. I hope to be able to contribute my own fair share of those reviews, as well. You can get all of this in our weekly newsletter, the Keen Thinker.
Thanks for following along with all of it. Until the next Editor's Choice is released on Thursday,
Dylan Joseph Jerome Schleicher
Top: photo of Jack from a 1995 Inc. magazine profile.
Bottom: photo of Dylan putting together our new library,from Blyth Meier.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.