Meet the Team

From the NHL to Tellwell, President Jason Farris shares why indie authors should consider Tellwell

Meet Tellwell’s new president, Jason Farris! A jack of all trades, Jason has worked in the marine world, the banking industry, the software industry, and the NHL before joining us here at Tellwell. Read on to learn about what attracted Jason to the self-publishing industry, and what he wants authors to know about publishing with Tellwell.

Tell us about your role at Tellwell.

I am the president of Tellwell, working closely with our founder to take the wonderful things that have already been built and find ways to take those capabilities and services to new authors. We’re just starting to expand outside of North America, and there’s a whole world out there of authors we can connect with to continue to support creativity and contribute to a broader cultural enrichment, helping to grow the opportunities for new authors, and providing top-notch arts-based jobs.

What did you do beforehand?

Before this, I was in the electric marine world, helping bring to market a 50-horsepower electric outboard motor. We developed a world-leading product, began delivering to our large list of pre-order customers and brought in General Motors as a 25% partner in the business.

Prior to that, I was chief operating officer of the Dallas Stars hockey club, helping bring them out of bankruptcy as part of the management team that rebuilt the franchise in an important market in the US for the National Hockey League. 

I’ve had the benefit of working in a variety of industries before that as well, including banking and software. So, coupled with being a self-published author myself, I’ve had a range of experiences that give me the ability to connect with our authors about what they do and want to accomplish, but also enable me to share my company-building experiences with our employees to help them grow and develop as Tellwell grows.

What do you enjoy most about this new role?

The self-publishing industry is evolving because of technology and the ability of being able to stitch together a network of top talent and resources, like we have at Tellwell. We’re able to offer authors things that weren’t available to them 10–20 years ago to allow them to take complete control of their destiny and dream of publishing. Being an author myself, I know the pride and satisfaction that comes from publishing a book, so I think seeing that reflected in our customers’ experiences is my ultimate enjoyment.

I’m also incredibly impressed with the talent that has been assembled at Tellwell. So, helping that talent grow and develop, and bringing on more talent makes us all better, all the while preserving what has made Tellwell successful, which is serving the needs of authors in a truly consultative way so they get the professionally produced book they envision.

“I like to see others thrive in roles and creative endeavors that they enjoy, and Tellwell is a company that is helping people realize dreams.”

What attracted you to the self-publishing industry?

I think my whole career has been characterized by a tension between creative output and its commercialization. It’s one thing to fulfill a personal passion, it’s another for that to have commercial potential and be consumed by a broader audience. That’s what I really like about indie publishing: it allows authors to commercialize their creative talent in a way that was almost inaccessible 15+ years ago.

It’s not a simple process to bring a professional product to market. That journey, one that I walked as a self-published author myself, is gratifying. For us to be able to complement an author with the capabilities that they either don’t have or have chosen not to do on their own allows us to help them reach their full potential—no more, no less than what they need to help them fill in the holes of their publishing plan and get the book they want to produce out in the market.

You’re an author yourself! Tell us a little more about your books.

My books all centre around the sport of ice hockey, although I would say they’re more at the intersection of hockey and leadership. I’ve always partnered with well-known personalities in the game of hockey: initially my boyhood favourite goaltender Cesare Maniago (Hail Cesare: Trail Through the NHL); and then my hometown broadcaster, whom I listened to growing up, Hall of Famer Jim Robson (Hockey Play-by-Play: Around the NHL with Jim Robson and Hockey Play-by-Play: Canuck Captains with Jim Robson). 

The book I am probably best known for is Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built, which was produced with the 35 living general managers of the NHL who have taken teams to the Stanley Cup Finals. It finds that cross-section of executive leadership and sports, and discusses what it takes behind the scenes to build winning teams. In that same vein, my most recent book, It Takes 23 to Win: Building and Being a Part of Great Hockey Teams, takes readers a few floors down in the hockey arena from the GM suite to the players’ dressing room to hear in-depth from 23 former NHL players, and learn what it takes to build a winning team inside the dressing room from a pro player’s perspective. 

Always hockey-related and highly visual, I try to layer my books with hockey, business, statistics, history, economics, cultural evolution, etc., so there’s lots for people to enjoy at different levels.

You actually have a previous connection to our July author of the month, Dan Russell. What a small world! Tell us more about your experience with him.

I can’t speak highly enough of Dan, not just for the interest in and support of my books that he’s given me over the years, but that he is just such a consummate professional. He really pioneered the sports-talk radio format in Canada, and in his own way has a wonderful entrepreneurial spirit with that great blend of commercial and creative talent that I talked about earlier. 

In the early days, I was a caller on his show as a high school student and a big sports fan. I even finished second in one of his annual hockey pools, and won dinner at a bar (though I was underage and didn’t actually get to use the prize for a couple of years). Because of my career in hockey and as a self-published author, I’ve been a guest on his show many times. He better than anybody understood the subject matter of my books, and was better researched than anyone else who’s interviewed me. Oftentimes, I would be on the show for an hour block, which is rare for an author, because I think he really appreciated the depth of the books I produced and how they related to his listeners. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with him over the years. What fun it was for me, like all of his loyal listening audience, to read his memoirs (A Pleasant Good Evening) as he got out from behind the broadcast microphone to tell his behind-the-scenes stories. And what fun it is to know how positive an experience he had working with Tellwell, both in producing that terrific book and in marketing the book which has become a runaway success.

What do you enjoy doing most outside of work?

First and foremost, I love spending time with my wife and two kids. It’s fun for my wife and I to visit the kids, who are now grown and out of the house, and enjoy time together as they begin their adult lives and professional careers. 

I’m an active hockey player as well. I play about twice a week, and have migrated out to play forward after being a goaltender growing up. I also ski and snowshoe quite a bit, and like to be out on the ocean in summer.

Would you like to add anything else?

If someone is considering Tellwell, I’m excited for them to learn more about us, as I have. Over my first two months here, as I’ve gotten around to meet everyone and see the quality of work they produce, I’m just so impressed with the talent that’s been assembled; with our unique Octavo author portal, that serves as our publishing project management backbone and really clarifies and simplifies the process for authors; with the consultative nature we have with our authors; and just the spirit that’s in our collective hearts to help authors realize their goals. We have thousands of very satisfied authors who have published with us and are proud of their finished book. If you are reading this and there’s a book inside you (as the New York Times once declared, there is in over 80% of those they surveyed!) then take a look at the Author Publishing Guide on our website, or drop us a “contact us” message to tell us what you’re writing about and the vision you have for your work.

Tellwell’s process is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all template. It’s one that has the structure and discipline to help an author proceed through the publishing path, but seeks to figure out what the best and most unique outcome is for each author so their project finds its way into the hands (or e-readers or ears via audiobooks!) of an audience who will enjoy it.

SPEED-ROUND QUESTIONS

All right, Jason, pick one! 

Books or e-books?  Printed books.

Favourite book this year? Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet by Nicholas Crane.

Favourite work playlist? I don’t actually listen to music while I work, but I enjoy listening to classical music and classic rock.

How do you take your coffee? I’m not a coffee drinker, so nada! I’m a fan of cold drinks or fizzy drinks, like San Pellegrino, or my favourite drink of all, ginger beer (non-alcoholic). My daughter also got me on to kombucha, so we’re connoisseurs of that as well.


You can learn more about Jason Farris and get your copies of his books by visiting his author website, circanow.com.

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