Mark Jeffrey is an author and internet entrepreneur. He has cofounded four internet companies and written two novels, including Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant.
Mark is currently CEO of ThisWeekIn.com, a web television venture with Jason Calacanis and comedian / actor Kevin Pollak.
Previously, Mark Jeffrey was CTO of Mahalo.com, Inc., a company backed by Sequoia Capital (Google, Youtube, Yahoo, etc.), CBS, NewsCorp, Elon Musk (Paypal) and others. Mark also cofounded business social networking company ZeroDegrees, Inc. and sold it to IAC/InteractiveCorp in 2004 with more than one million registered users.
Mark initially podcast an audiobook version of Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant: it received more than 2.5 million downloads, and Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin cited it as one of her favorite novels in a nationally syndicated interview.
Mark has been named as a 50 to Watch by Variety magazine, selected as one of the Digital Coast 50 by the Silicon Alley Reporter, and one of the Heroes of Multimedia by Entertainment Weekly. In 1996, he was a featured speaker at the first Harvard University Conference on the Internet and Society.
Mark holds a BS in Computer Science and is a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. He lives in Santa Monica, CA.
Q: How keen a reader were you as a child?
A: I was a very heavy reader as a child. But I grew up in the 1970s: there was no Internet, video games, iPads, iPhones or even cable television yet. Reading was probably more appealing simply because there were fewer choices for entertainment.
Q: What were your favorite reads as a child?
A: “The Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet” was certainly one I loved and remember vividly, that and its sequels. It’s been continuously in print since the 1950s, which is amazing. I also read all of the Tom Swift books, Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Swiftly Tilting Planet’, and later on Asimov’s Foundation series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and still later on the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.
Q: What made you a keen reader?
A: I don’t know why anyone would ask that question. To me, it’s like going to the movies, but you get a much richer and longer experience. So, reading stories isjust fun. I enjoyed it immensely.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to write books?
A: When I was about 12 or so. I figured this would be what I would do. I even entered college thinking I would be an English major. But then I decided to switch to computer science for practical reasons. And then for years, I put off the dream of being an author — until I was in my thirties. I suddenly had a block of time open up and thought, Now is the time. So I started writing the Max Quick books. It took me seven years to get them published, but the first two were written then.
Q: Tell us about your podcast. Is that something that helps encourage reluctant readers to pick up your books?
A: A bit of background for your readers is probably in order: I finished the first Max Quick book in late 2004. I self-published it as a paperback on Lulu.com then. But nobody knew who I was as an author; I needed to promote the book. So I went to the World Fantasy Conference, looking for an agent or publisher. I found neither one, but I did meet Evo Terra who ran a very popular scifi podcast, and he suggested that I podcast the novel as an audiobook — all for free. I knew that I wouldn’t make any money, but that I might create a large audience — and that might lead to getting a publishing deal. And that’s exactly what happened: Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant got 2.5 million downloads — and that was one of things that led to a deal with HarperCollins in 2010.
Q: What’s your best advice to parents of teens or pre-teens who want to encourage their kids to read?
A: I think you have to find a type of book that appeals to them. There are some kids who simply don’t like things like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games (though I can’t imagine that personally ) — it’s simply important that they read, it almost doesn’t matter what. A great example is a series by my author friend Scott Sigler: he’s got a book called The Rookie that’s all about a football league in the future: Aliens populate the gridiron, playing positions suited to their physiology. It’s a far more brutal kind of football than we know — and the story follows a human who enters the league and is tempted by drugs and fame — and keeps himself clean. Here’s what’s interesting: he gets letters from teachers and parents all the time saying that this book is the only thing they could get their kids to read. Why? The subject matter: football. The kids who don’t like Potter may be into sports and something a bit grittier.
Q: What have you learned about reluctant readers from your experiences in life?
A: It’s pretty much what I outlined above: it’s about finding the right subject matter. There is a subject that will appeal to everyone on the planet and they won’t be able to stop themselves from reading about it: The key is to find out what it is. I’d also say in the last few years that kids are used to using Facebook and Twitter and ‘reading’ online; get these kids a Kindle or a Kindle app for their iPad or iPhone — the line between what’s a webpage and the page of a book can blur easily, and it may seem more natural to them than an actual bound paper volume.
Q: What do you most enjoy when you’re not reading and writing?
A: Being outside — rollerblading, or going down to Gold’s Venice for a workout. I also enjoy playing and recording rock music.
Interviewed by Tony Dirksen