Publishing and the Wine World

Q & A with Maya Battle of Random House Publishing
Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Random House?
My role spans a few disciplines under the marketing umbrella and is a great combination of all my previous roles in 13 years at Penguin Random House—advertising, content development, and promotional strategy. I specialize in using our consumer insights and an analysis of our most successful campaigns to scale up our efforts in support of upcoming titles and longtail promotions. The book publishing industry is changing constantly, but our love for storytelling doesn’t! There’s a book for everyone whether they think of themselves as readers or not, so it’s really all about matching the right stories with the right people in the spaces they are (online, right now, but back in person soon, we hope!). The fun part about that is finding the unique connections—like, what kinds of wine go well with the food mentioned in a novel about an Italian romance—that build communities and start conversations.
What is one of your favorite sections in Black Futures (mine is Color(ed) Theory)?
 I love “Now More Than Ever” by Morgan Parker. It’s the lamest phrase to talk about serious issues that seemingly just became more relevant/a nameless “everyone” just started paying attention. I’m happy to see Parker point this out because it’s such a mainstream news cliché that often becomes the default indicator that marginalized stories have to be told now to make folks feel better about a collective pivot to taking inclusion more seriously. We been here! My now is always ever…wait, does that make sense??
What  do you like to drink while reading / editing? 
Hooo, boy. I have to say that my favorite kind of readin’ wine is a nice Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Something nice to sip, but not too funky (so as not to distract from the readin’!) and mid-priced so I don’t feel too bad about being out half a bottle 50 pages later.
A couple weeks ago we talked a little bit about similarities in the wine and publishing world. Could you talk a little bit about how you see and address gatekeeping in publishing. 
That was a great conversation—so much is similar! Books and wine can really take you to a place. You don’t have to know much about books or wine to enjoy a great one—it’s all about finding the best quality, for the best price, for YOU. I think both industries have this aura of being highfalutin; there’s such a mystery in how subjective products are made and distributed, but a good gatekeeper curates a selection of products that demonstrates variety and a consistent quality. It also facilitates an experience vs. telling people what they should like or making them feel bad about something that supposedly everyone likes (it’s really never the case…maybe Popeye’s chicken sandwiches?). I like a $5 paperback thriller and an $8 Lambrusco and that’s just as okay as enjoying a $35 Nobel Prize-winner’s book with a $50 prosecco. A good gatekeeper ensures that both of these customers are getting a satisfying experience that’s authentic to your shared values. We’re doing the work of trying thousands of things to pick what we hope is truly special; shoppers have so many choices so we hope that curation makes it a little easier to have a high-quality experience without having to do as much work!
Last thing you saw that brought you joy? 
I love this question. I’m a huge WWE fan and one of my favorite superstars is Bianca Belair. She’s incredibly talented in a million ways, but my favorite part about her is how hard she works and how much her success is genuinely a source of joy for her. It makes me so happy to see that black girl magic in professional wrestling! There was a short documentary about her that aired before a recent WWE pay-per-view and I legit sobbed through the whole thing, she bursts with so much life. Not embarrassed at all. And I think I was drinking a sauvignon blanc—that’s my go-to for weeping, haha.