v31 #3 ATG Interviews Bob Vrooman, Publisher, New Business Development, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

by | Jun 28, 2019 | 0 comments

by Tom Gilson  (Associate Editor, Against the Grain)  

and Katina Strauch  (Editor, Against the Grain)  

ATG:  What was it about Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. that most appealed to you as you were deciding whether or not to join the company?

BV:  I have encountered many Mary Ann Liebert journals over the years, and I have always admired their reputation for publishing high-quality, cutting-edge research while also remaining a privately-held company.  I also thought it would be really fun to work with such a nimble publisher that moves so fast on new ideas and initiatives!  

ATG:  We noticed that you are based in CA, while the corporate office is in NY. Can you talk about that?

BV:  This is correct that Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. has corporate headquarters in NY.  However, Mary Ann has long desired to set up a smaller, west-coast satellite office, and serendipity led me to her since I was already living here.  I have therefore set up my location in Ventura County and will be growing a West Coast presence for the company, which is very exciting for Mary Ann, me, and the entire company.  

ATG:  You held a number of leadership positions at SAGE Publishing, most recently as the Director of STM Journals.  How has that experience prepared you to take on your new responsibilities at Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.  

BV:  My experience at SAGE in both commercial sales and STM editorial provides me the ideal background to apply to my new role here at Mary Ann Liebert.  My new role will oversee all aspects of growth strategy, which includes editorially-driven initiatives such as new innovative launches and society partnerships, but it will also include close collaboration with the commercial and institutional sales teams to maximize those revenues.  The company is very creative with their business models and revenue driving initiatives, which plays perfectly with my background. After all, I did earn the nickname of “Mr. Revenue” while at SAGE!  

ATG:  As you consider Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. current position in the marketplace, what do you see as key factors in an emerging growth strategy?  Where do you see the major opportunities?  

BV:  One of my first observations when I started here was the length of staff tenures.  There are quite a few staff members who have tenures well beyond 20 years. This is a testament to the unique and exciting culture of the company, which includes regular involvement from Mary Ann herself.  This experienced and nimble staff allows us to move quickly on new ideas and growth strategies.

We do not limit our growth strategy to just one facet of the business such as open access.  Instead, we pursue a diverse growth plan that includes development of our subscription-supported journals, commercially-supported journals, and open access journals, along with a robust and creative custom publishing program.  The academic publishing market is undergoing significant flux and uncertainty right now, which requires us to be nimble and pursue a diverse array of business models, with the one constant being the identification and dissemination of high-quality, cutting-edge research, often before it becomes mainstream.  

ATG:  Are there any potential barriers standing in the way of the company’s growth?  

BV:  No!  

ATG:  Where does open access fit into the company’s growth plan?  How about society partnerships?  

BV:  As mentioned above, both Open Access and Society partnerships will be important parts of our growth plan, and I have considerable experience in developing both of these.  Open Access is now available for all journals, whether a fully OA model or hybrid model. Researchers are among Mary Ann’s heroes, and she is very careful to protect their resources for conducting research, so we do not want to accelerate any siphoning of such funds to article processing charges.  That said, we do support the broader initiatives of open science and removing barriers to research discoverability, provided it can be done feasibly and fairly to all parties, most notably to the researchers themselves.  As a result, we will be developing our OA program accordingly and appropriately.  

As for society partnerships, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. prides itself on nurturing our society and editor relationships.  In fact, we take a more journal-centric approach to our society program than do many of the larger publishers.  Every journal we publish is unique, and we provide the customized care and attention that allows us to maximize the return to our society partners, financially and qualitatively.  I predict we will see more partnerships going forward. 

ATG:  How do libraries factor into your growth strategy?

BV:  Mary Ann Liebert, Inc is fully committed to the needs and resources of the library community.  As we all know, libraries prefer to subscribe to content they actually want and need, and not be forced into larger packages of content they do not need.  This is why we do not offer our version of the “Big Deal” and, instead, we allow our library customers to choose the exact content they need and use.  

While this may seem old-fashioned to some, it allows us to maintain our journal-centric approach, and our library sales teams are therefore equipped to discuss the scope and benefits of each of our 90+ journals with our customers and prospective customers.  

ATG:  Product innovation is essential in growing a business.  Can you share the company’s plans for new products and services?  Are there any cutting-edge launches being planned that our readers should know about?

BV:  Recent launches include The CRISPR Journal and Bioelectricity, both first in fields that have enormous potential and also challenging ethical considerations.  As usual, the company is ahead of the curve. We will continue to launch such ground-breaking journals in the future, but in addition to innovative journal launches, we are starting to look at product innovation beyond journals and traditional products.  

ATG:  When you look into your crystal ball, where do you see Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. in the next two to three years?  

BV:  I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but you can count on new publications, new society partnerships, diverse business models, complementary services, and new adventures!  

ATG:  If and when you find some free time, what do you like to do?  Are there any hobbies or activities that you particularly enjoy?

BV:  My hobbies include playing guitar, bike riding, and spending time with my family, which includes my wife, two sons, and one daughter.  My daughter is an avid equestrian, and we own a mini-ranch with 3 horses, so that keeps me very busy. So, I guess you could say I am a publisher by day, rancher by night.  


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