Industry Interview with the co-owner of Big Blend Magazines & Radio, Lisa D. Smith

For our 2024 blog series, we’re highlighting industry professionals to find out more about their time in the book world. Follow along for insight on what catches a reviewer’s interest, things to avoid when pitching a media outlet, what librarians are searching for and more. 

Today, we’re chatting with Lisa D. Smith. Along with her mother Nancy J. Reid, Lisa is the co-owner of Big Blend Magazines & Radio which produces and publishes a portfolio of themed digital magazines and over 40 podcast channels. As digital nomads, they travel the country on their Love Your Parks Tour documenting parks and public lands gathering stories about communities and destinations, and pet-sitting along the way. They’ve been sailing the Big Blend media ship since 1997, and together have over 65 years of combined experience in tourism, hospitality, retail sales, marketing, publishing, media, writing, wildlife and public lands conservation, photography, art, and music. Lisa was born in Southern California but raised in Kenya, England, and South Africa, and for a short time, also lived in Mexico and the Channel Islands between England and France.

As someone who hears about A LOT of books, what makes one stand out to you?

I always look for books that will connect with the topics we cover and will appeal to our various audiences: Nonfiction and educational books that are well-researched, share stories, and perhaps some projects for the reader to work on; memoirs and biographies that are candid, to the point, with some humor along the way; and fiction that takes you on an unexpected journey with interesting characters that connect. And book covers are still important – like vinyl album covers and wine labels!

What’s the worst thing an author (or publicist!) can do in telling you about a book they’d like you to consider for coverage?

Send a pitch and then when I respond with a positive, ask me what our podcast/magazine is about. Please research us first, let me know which show you were listening to that you think is a good fit. Or just ask if the book is a fit for any of our Big Blend Radio shows.

What makes your job easier?

Please send all materials or the press kit in at the same time, along with the author’s website link and social handles. Plus, for the author to be communicative in setting up the interview and recording date.

What’s the most memorable (or maybe funniest) pitch that’s ever come your way?

One author listened to our Happy Hour show where we typically ask, “If you could spend Happy Hour with one person (alive or dead), who would it be, where will you spend it, what are you ordering, and what will you discuss?” She emailed me saying that she was recommended by another author who had been on one of our shows and proceeded to answer our Happy Hour questions. Her answers were funny and made us want to join in that virtual happy hour. In fact, we did eventually meet for margaritas, and now she is a regular Big Blend expert contributor and friend.

Did you always know you wanted to be involved in the book world?

I have a huge admiration for authors. So much work goes into crafting a good book be it fiction or nonfiction. I always knew I wanted to conduct interviews, and that includes authors of all genres. I thought it would be more for our magazine but had no clue podcasting or digital media were coming down the pipeline when we got started back in 1997.

What is your most recommended book and why?

One book…yikes, so tough! I’ll stick to my side of the industry with Richard Branson’s “Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way.” It was one of the first biographies that showcased the magazine, music, and travel industries all in one (three very dear to my heart), and how to think outside of the box (with some genius PR campaigns) and go for it as an entrepreneur. I think it’s time to reread it!

What is a book that surprised you recently?

I just interviewed David Lipsky about his latest book “The Parrot & The Igloo: Climate and the Science of Denial” … it is more than eye-opening on so many levels. Even the book industry is in it with one of the most incredible marketing campaigns to keep people reading.  Another one is Clay Schwab’s biography, “Manny Shwab and the George Dickel Company – Whisky, Power and Politics During Nashville’s Gilded Age.

What is your favorite part about working in the book community?

The people for sure. I love the creativity and attention to detail of both the authors and the publicists. New books are exciting, and I love the backstories of what inspired the authors to write them and the process. Humanity may have explored and settled a huge part of the world, but authors take us to places unknown, and along the way, remind us that we humans are allowed to be imperfect, all while inspiring, entertaining, and educating us readers.