Director’s Desk: Celebrating Jean Srnecz

April 2009
by Terry Nathan

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by Terry Nathan
Executive Director

Small and independent publishers know too well that many key partners in this industry do not pay close enough attention to their needs—wholesalers, distributors, chain stores, trade shows, online retailers, trade magazines, and large publishers, just to name a few. As the head of a group representing the interests of small and independent publishers, I am often challenged to contact some of these big companies to voice our members’ concerns, and many times our concerns fall on deaf ears.

Of course, that does not deter me from continuing to let our voice be heard, and it doesn’t change the fact that independent publishing is alive and well, regardless of the impact of any giant trading partner. But it takes a courageous, open-minded person to see through the bureaucratic blindfold that keeps so many people inside large corporations fixated on the bottom line.

Jean Srnecz, senior vice president of merchandising at Baker & Taylor, who died in the crash of Flight 3407 on February 12, was one of these people, and it is a great honor to dedicate this month’s column to her.

Here are some tributes from members:

Independent publishers, and publishers of all types and sizes, have lost a true and valued friend. For the 30 years that I had known Jean Srnecz, she embodied the best of our industry. She was particularly open to, and interested in, what independent publishers had to say and went out of her way to advise and guide them. Jean’s integrity and wonderful personality, her assistance and her friendship to so many in the industry will truly be missed.
Tom Woll, President
Cross River Publishing Consultants, Inc.
Katonah, NY

Jean Srnecz’s loss is heartbreaking. As long as I can recall my association with PMA/IBPA, Jean Srencz was the face and voice of Baker & Taylor, looking for ways to help independent publishers learn how to use the distribution system to mutual benefit. I met Jean many times at PMA/IBPA panels and those of other industry trade organizations, and she was always ready to share information with candor, good humor, and helpfulness. She made dealing with Baker & Taylor an experience that enabled every publisher, no matter how small, to feel respected. I will miss seeing her, but she will remain in memory with every mention of Baker & Taylor.
Gene Schwartz, Editor at Large
ForeWord Magazine
Malden on Hudson, NY

Here in Buffalo, the whole city and its surrounding areas are feeling an overwhelming sadness for the victims of Flight 3407. As a new author and publisher from the area, I want to offer my personal expression of sympathy for your loss of your friend Jean.
Dayle Lynn Pomerantz
SGP Press
Buffalo, NY

I first met Jean sometime during the late ’70s or early ’80s, probably in the old B&T building on Kirby Avenue in Somerville. Throughout the following years (many more than I had realized until I did the math), Jean never failed to make time for me, however large or small the publishing house I represented. And there have been a few: Yale, Harvard, Blackwells, University of California Press, Island Press, and now Potomac Books. Jean always seemed to have a snapshot of how our list was doing, suggestions for what we could do better, and of course an avid interest in any industry news I had to share.

Whether by accident or design, I think one of her favorite schemes was to pair me up with new buyers from time to time, just to see how they would handle a perennially enthusiastic sales rep. After the initial introduction to the new buyer, Jean would disappear. But invariably, halfway through the list, she would reappear in the buyer’s cubicle, and gently but firmly admonish the buyer not to “go overboard” on my list. This exchange was always delivered with an impish smile, and a pat on the shoulder to reassure me the iron hand had a velvet glove. Later, she would ask me how I thought the buyer had handled the list. On that score, I figured diplomacy was always the best tack.

No doubt many other publishers had similar experiences over the years. The memory of a kind, very knowledgeable, and totally professional person who had a deep love for publishing and bookselling will remain with me.
Sam Dorrance , Publisher
Potomac Books Inc
Dulles, VA

Jean was so dedicated to the book publishing world and was always happy to pass along her knowledge and experience. She will be missed by so many in our industry.
Marianne C. Bohr, Senior Vice President
National Book Network
Lanham, MD

Jean Srnecz’s contributions to publishing were legion, as were her understanding of and concern for the independent publisher. She was a good friend to PMA/IBPA through the years, and her passing is a loss to our association, to Baker & Taylor, and to the entire industry. We extend our deepest sympathies to her friends, family, and colleagues.
Florrie Binford Kichler
President, Independent Book Publishers Association
Publisher, Patria Press
Indianapolis, IN

Jean was a true friend and colleague for more than 25 years. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. We will miss that wonderful lady.
Bob Erdmann, President
Columbine Communications & Publications
Sonora, CA

We heard the news of Jean Smecz’s tragic passing with great sadness. I first met her 10 or 11 years ago at Publishing University, and spoke with her and heard her presentations at Pub U on many subsequent occasions. She combined wisdom, business acumen, and kindness with a high level of professionalism. More than anything, her taking time with the tiniest of IBPA members speaks volumes about her character and integrity. She, and her family, friends, and associates, will be in our thoughts and prayers.
Len Charla
Elizabeth Whitney
Countinghouse Press, Inc.
Bloomfield Hills, MI

I appreciate that our book Saving Miss Oliver’s is served by B&T in spite of the smallness of our company. I admire that loyalty to good books, however small the commercial reward.
Stephen Davenport
HH Bonnell, Publisher
Oakland, CA

I don’t have the details any more, but I’m pretty sure that it was the same Jean who helped me out a few years back. I was having trouble getting my rep at Baker & Taylor to respond to a question I had. The day that Jean happened to pick up the phone, I explained my situation, and she said that she would take care of it. It wasn’t 24 hours before my rep got back to me to settle the matter!
Susan Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books
Oakland, CA

Charles William Eliot, an American academic and president of Harvard University (from 1869 to 1909), said once, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

The same can be said about people like Jean Srnecz. She was one of the rare professionals, wise counselors, and patient teachers who contributed to the publishing industry by promoting our books and making them visible, marketable, and salable. She had bright ideas and was committed to bring them alive. May she rest in peace!
Svetlana Konnikova, Publisher and Author
Aurora Publishers, Inc.
Boca Raton, FL

Summing Up

Jean Srnecz was a friend of mine as well as a friend of PMA (now IBPA) over many years. Her great strengths are reflected in the tributes printed here and in others that members sent to me after her death. She spoke regularly at our Publishing University and was always there when one of our members needed help.

Although Jean held a very important position in upper management at B&T, somehow she always found time to pick up the phone when I called. She recognized the need to help even the smallest of publishers, which was an almost unique quality and one I appreciated more than she may ever have known.
People like Jean are too few and far between, and I will miss her. The world of publishing will miss her.

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