Female Disruptors: M.J. Rose and Liz Berry are shaking up the publishing industry

Our goal/motto/mandate has absolutely always been “Women Lifting Up Women”. It’s amazing what can happen when we support each other. We can literally move mountains together.

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Our goal/motto/mandate has absolutely always been “Women Lifting Up Women”. It’s amazing what can happen when we support each other. We can literally move mountains together.

I had the pleasure to interview M.J. Rose and Liz Berry. New York Times bestseller, ​M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it. Rose is the Co-President and a founding member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz. She also runs the blog, Museum of Mysteries. ​With Liz Berry she co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc. In 1998, her first novel Lip Service was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house, as well as published in more than 15 countries including France (where she is published as Melisse J. Rose). Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Liz Berry has two passions. She is the executive director of International Thriller Writers (ITW), a trade group of over 4,500 thriller writers from around the world. Previously, she was the long-time director of Thrillerfest, the annual gathering of ITW, which happens in New York City every July. With M.J. Rose, Liz co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc — an Internet marketing company that works to brand authors and expand readership within the romance genre. Liz has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Georgia and also studied at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Both areas of study have allowed her to gain twenty-plus years of experience in the ever-changing marketing field.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

We were friends both entrenched in the publishing biz. M.J. as an author and marketing exec. Liz as a marketing exec and mentor to many authors. In 2013, we found ourselves strongly disagreeing with the status quo in publishing — particularly as it impacted the romance genre. And we decided to put our money, time, and effort into doing something about it. A few months later, 1001 Dark Nights was born.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We’re going up against all the ways publishing normally works for romance books.

The traditional publishing world has a few hard and fast unspoken rules:

* All authors are NOT created equal

* Big marketing budgets are for big names

* Relationships and dialogue between authors is frowned upon

* Innovation is scary and avoidable

* Romance is best left as a cash cow, no need to highlight it in the same way as literary fiction, women’s fiction, thrillers, etc.

* High prices rule and discovery shouldn’t be the focus

We literally turned all of those rules on their ear — and broke every single one. The result has been an overwhelming response from both readers and authors alike, along with the message being made clear: 1001 Dark Nights admires, respects, and celebrates our authors. We treat them all equally and spend the kind of time and money on them that they deserve. Above all, we lift them up. And in turn, they lift each other — and the genre — to even more amazing heights.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?

From M. J. — My mentors have been all the stories I’ve read about people who said no to the status quo and my mother always told me there was nothing I couldn’t do — even become a writer despite being very dyslexic.

From Liz — From a young age, my parents never doubted my goals. Not once. They made me believe that if I put my heart into a project, I could do it. That continued on throughout my career, each mentor encouraging and never doubting. Until one day, I realized what they’d done: they put blinders on me. Keeping me from succumbing to the negativity that surrounds so many and destroys dreams. Instead, they kept me focused and taught me the incredible lessons of self-discipline and having a constant “attitude of gratitude”.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

From M.J. — Be grateful to every “no” you get in trying to reach a goal because it brings you that much closer to a “yes”. I tried to get published for the first time and was so depressed that I was getting one “no” after another. A friend of mine gave me this nugget of advice — to embrace the “no’s because I was getting them out of the way. And as a result, getting that much closer to a “yes”. Which I did.

From Liz — I was told many years ago that along my journey — in life and in business — I would probably run into obstacles that had the ability to cause self-doubt and could possibly derail me from pursuing my dreams. The great advice that followed was that it’s okay to slip and fall. You can learn from the healing of those skinned knees. And next time, you’ll know where the potholes are. The other great advice I love came from one of the most incredible female entrepreneurs of the 20th century — Mary Kay Ash. She said to always shoot for the moon. If you don’t reach it, at least you’ll land among the stars. And that’s a pretty wonderful place to be.

How are you going to shake things up next?

One of the biggest challenges that faces authors today is how to grow their brands. Our company takes that very seriously and 1001 Dark Nights — along with several of our crossover collections — has definitely met the challenge. For an individual series that’s already enormous, getting to the next level is virtually impossible. But in January 2019, we’re going to do just that — with New York Times bestselling author, J. Kenner, and her mega-successful Stark Series. Our plan is to take her unique book, Damien, and market it not only to her current fan base, but to the millions of fans who discovered the series over the years. Using a new and exciting approach that we think will really capture the readers and their imagination.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

From M.J. — Simon Sinek ( has influenced me greatly. When I discovered him — even after a successful 20-year career in branding and marketing — he shook up my thinking profoundly by suggesting that we focus on figuring out not wat we do but why we do what we do. He’s written several books — I suggest you start with Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. This isn’t about making money — that’s a result. WHY is all about your purpose, cause or belief. WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed in the morning? And WHY should anyone care?”

My own brand as a novelist, Liz and my brand with 1001 Dark Nights and even my Facebook page starts with answering the questions that Sinek taught me to ask.

From Liz — The most impactful book I’ve ever read in dealing with my thinking and outlook on life is How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I actually read it before starting my junior year of high school — at the recommendation of a teacher — and it literally changed how I perceived the world and my place in it. I’m so very grateful for Mr. Carnegie and his words of inspiration.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Our goal/motto/mandate has absolutely always been “Women Lifting Up Women”. It’s amazing what can happen when we support each other. We can literally move mountains together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

From M.J. — My mother always told me “This too shall pass” which has helped me so much in moving forward instead of ruminating about what’s gone wrong. It’s a real push to solve the problem.

From Liz — “She believed she could, so she did.” This is my absolute favorite quote, and I’m so grateful that I stumbled on it many years ago. It’s such a powerful thought, and one that I strive to remember.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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