“I hope it will make other publishers connect their authors to each other more and offer more of a sense of community. I hope it will remind everyone that authors and books aren’t just simple products to market, but emotional touchstones that require special handling!”
Zibby Owens wears all the hats. She is the founder of Zibby Owens Media, a modern media company on a mission to “help busy people live their best lives by connecting to books and each other.” As CEO, Zibby oversees the brand’s various arms, including Zibby Books, a publishing house for fiction and memoirs, and Zcast, an audio network where she hosts the award-winning podcast Moms Don’t Have Time To Read Books.
“The most fulfilling part of building a business is seeing the positive effects of what we’re doing on people’s lives and moods!” says Zibby, whose media business also boasts a magazine, an education platform, retreats, events, and a virtual book club. Offline, she owns Zibby’s Bookshop, a carefully curated brick-and-mortar bookstore in Santa Monica, CA.
Did we mention she’s also a mom of four?
Long before Zibby became a mother, media mogul, and publishing sensation, she was a shy, curious little kid, tucked away with her nose buried in every book she could find. Born Elizabeth Schwarzman in New York, Zibby is the daughter of billionaire businessman Stephen Schwarzman. She grew up in Manhattan and studied at Yale University and Harvard Business School before returning to NYC to kick off a writing career.
Zibby penned a memoir about losing her best friend, Stacey Sanders, in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. She was taken aback by the rejection she faced from publishers, but it didn’t deter her. Armed with tenacity and a passion for literature, Zibby embarked on a journey to reshape the book, along with the publishing world at large.
Fast forward to 2018, and Zibby found herself behind a microphone. It all started with a simple idea—she wanted to connect with other moms who struggled to find time to indulge in their love for reading. Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books was born, and boy, did it strike a chord. “I Googled ‘easiest way to podcast from your phone,’ found an app, and literally talked into my phone sitting on my bed for the first episode,” says Zibby. With her warm, engaging style and a lineup of fascinating guests, Zibby’s daily podcast is a must-listen for book lovers and busy parents alike. From acclaimed authors like Cheryl Strayed, Samantha Irby, and Min Jin Lee to Hollywood royalty like Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Dern, her show has become a hot spot for captivating conversations and laughter-filled moments.
As her podcasting and publishing empire grew, Zibby didn't stop there. In 2021, she created Zibby Books, a “new kind of publishing company” launching 12 titles a year in fiction and memoir. The following year, she founded Zibby Media, a full-service company that aims to help other creators find their voice and share their stories with the world. Her knack for empowering busy women—especially moms—to read more has only further solidified Zibby’s reputation as a true champion of the spoken word.
Zibby's flair for discovering fresh talent led her to be an instrumental force in launching many new authors' careers, and she’s left a trail of successes in her wake. She wrote a children’s book, Princess Charming, and edited the popular Moms Don't Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology based on a collection of pandemic-era essays from esteemed authors. (Oh, and that memoir she wrote about life, love, and the loss of her best friend? Bookends was published in 2022 and quickly debuted as a #1 bestseller on Amazon Kindle.)
You’re probably wondering how on earth Zibby manages to build a flourishing media empire while raising four kids. We assumed she had a time-turner stashed somewhere, but she insists it's all about finding balance, cherishing the small joys, and being intentional about her to-do list. “For every task, do I want to spend the moderate, maximum, or minimum effort on it?” Zibby says. “It helps me allocate the scarce resources I have—time! My brain!—to things that really do matter.”
For Zibby, her media business is not just about getting women to read more—it's about creating a vibrant community where conversations spark and books come alive, and igniting a beacon of hope and change for the industry. “I hope it will make other publishers connect their authors to each other more and offer more of a sense of community,” she says.
Zibby Owens is redefining what it means to be a CEO, a mother, a podcaster, and an all-around inspiration. Keep reading as Zibby muses on founder life, reveals the author who inspires her most, and shares her hopes for the future of publishing.
Zibby Media spans publishing, podcasts, and education platforms. For you, what is the most fulfilling part of building a business? How do you navigate unexpected challenges?
The most fulfilling part of building a business is seeing the positive effects of what we’re doing on people’s lives and moods! I’m lucky to have a close-knit team that I can turn to and collaborate with when unexpected challenges arise—which they do all the time. I trust my instincts. I listen. I gather data. And then I act.
How does Zibby Books support and uplift authors from various backgrounds?
We offer ways for authors and aspiring authors to connect through classes, a writing group, a book club, events, retreats, and on social media. We uplift authors by having them come on daily as guests on Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, the award-winning podcast I host; by featuring them in Zibby Mag; by choosing their books as Zibby’s Book Club picks; by publishing their books; by selling their books in Zibby’s Bookshop and online; by featuring them in all our newsletters and social accounts; by inviting them to our retreats and salon events; and by connecting them with each other.
Your Moms Don't Have Time To anthology captures the ups and downs of parenting in a pandemic. What is the best advice you’ve gotten about juggling a busy career, home life, and raising kids?
I got great advice from a time management expert and author of Time to Parent, who has a system of assigning tasks and to-dos into categories based on effort level. For every task, do I want to spend the moderate, maximum, or minimum effort on it? It can be for a birthday party or social media post. Anything. “Mod/Max/Min.” It helps me allocate the scarce resources I have—time! My brain!—to things that really do matter.
How do you hope Zibby Media will influence the publishing industry?
I hope it will make other publishers connect their authors to each other more and offer more of a sense of community. I hope it will remind everyone that authors and books aren’t just simple products to market, but emotional touchstones that require special handling! I hope it will ignite a resurgence in reading from those who identify as readers but don’t have time to read. I hope it will bring new books into readers’ hands, help authors feel supported when books launch, and inspire.
When you were a young girl, what were the narratives you were exposed to about women and women's rights?
My childhood image of fighting for women’s rights was Mrs. Banks heading off to protest in Mary Poppins.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
I’m inspired by [author] Anna Quindlen. She has been writing for decades and always has her finger on the pulse of emotions and life. Everything she writes helps others. She shares her personal experiences but not in an exploitative way and has made a fabulous, esteemed career and life for herself. If only I could be like her!
What's a ritual in your life that you swear by?
What's your favorite way to celebrate a win (big or small)?
With Une Femme, of course! I have two sayings: Always go to parties in the rain. Never turn down a glass of champagne. Also, Party City. A festive table goes a long way!