Monday, February 28, 2011

"Average" Week

I was speaking with a couple people the other day who were shocked when I told them that editors often don’t read or edit books in the office and have to bring that work home. There are too many other things going on during the workday! So, to illustrate this fact, here is a minute-by-minute recap of my hours spent working last week.

Please note: this isn’t meant to be representative of what editors do. It’s not even necessarily representative of what I do. Some weeks are busier than others. Some weeks are full of meetings. Some weeks I take more work home or stay in the office later. My goodness, some weeks are even FIVE days long.

Even though there’s no such thing as an ‘average’ day, this is my schedule as an editorial assistant last week.*

Settle in; read emails that have piled up over the long weekend
Attend cover strategy meeting for Books A and B
Update Facebook page
Mail Book C final manuscript to author
Read Book D first draft manuscript and write reader’s report (started early last week)
Miscellaneous including request title change for Book E, order books, print out updated schedule of important dates
Read Book D first draft manuscript and write reader’s report (partly while eating lunch)
Review industry-related magazine and blogs
Finish reading Book D first draft manuscript and write reader’s report
Attend marketing meeting
Draft copy for our digital catalog
Watch book trailer for Book F, update Facebook page, prepare for tomorrow

Settle in; read emails
Miscellaneous including circulate materials and gather attendance for editorial group for upcoming week
Write and polish reader’s report for Book D
Miscellaneous including organize email and go through to-do list in preparation for meeting with boss
Meet with Boss#1
Review royalty statements (planned on doing this for an hour)
Boss#1 receives Submission A she’s excited about, so asks me to reading ASAP
Attend Harper-sponsored lunch about cover design
Continue to read Submission A and write reader’s report
Read industry-related articles online, prepare for tomorrow

Speak with student from my alma mater about how to break into the publishing industry

Read Book G.  This manuscript is edited by another person on the team, not my bosses, but the editor thinks this book is special and really wants everyone (editorial, sales, publicity, etc.) to get behind it.  So I'm reading it because of that and because it just sounds so amazing!  This intersection between work and fun reading is exactly why I love my job so much.

8:45- 9:30
Settle in; read emails, read industry-related blogs
Miscellaneous including emails, organize calendar, look into contract issue, order contractual book copies for authors, report attendance
Group editorial meeting
Miscellaneous including emails, deal with a DHL delivery issue
Cover strategy meeting for Books G and H
Finish drafting copy for our digital catalog
Miscellaneous including emails, update Facebook page
Eat lunch while reading Submission A and writing reader’s report
Miscellaneous including talk with Boss#1, organize to-do list, emails
‘Lunch’ break
Review ARC manuscript of Book I for typos, etc.
Update Facebook page
Prepare for tomorrow

Read Book G

Offer book buying advice for friend's niece
Read Book G

Settle in; read emails
Figure out payment issue
Miscellaneous including review jacket for Book J, organize calendar, get copy of Book K from design, deal with audio book issue, emails
Review royalty statements
Harper-sponsored ‘lunch’ meeting on book-centric social media
Run out and get lunch
Miscellaneous (while eating lunch) including mail books to authors, emails, Deal with contract mailing issue
Read Book G
Miscellaneous including emails, prepare for next week

So, there you have it, the glamorous life of an editorial assistant!

* I haven’t included any of my kind-of-for-work-but-not-really-reading (aka children’s book published by other houses to keep up to date with the industry), but that’s a very important part of my subway commute/evenings, too.

** Times are rounded to the nearest quarter hour, to make up for circulating manuscripts and other materials to my bosses, checking my mailbox, keeping up with social media, replying to email quickly, answering phones, etc.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Other Bookstores

A lot of Borders Bookstores are closing- but that doesn’t mean you have to stop shopping at physical stores.  Check out this list of independents near the closing stores!  Maybe you'll even discover the indie that perfectly fits your reading needs.  You never know!

Happy reading on this rainy Friday!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five Books

I was on a long bus trip this past weekend (okay, it wasn’t that long of a bus ride, it’s just that everyone else was sleeping and since I, too, was also supposed to be sleeping, I didn’t have anything to do) so I was musing about books (naturally).  And then, for some reason, my brain came up with a crazy what-if scenario.  The kind no book worm would enjoy:

What if you could only read five books for the rest of your life?  What would they be?

It’s easy to just pick your five favorite books.  But a lot of books I love are the beginning of series.  Would I be content with only reading the first book for ever and ever?  My answer to this was ‘yes’ when it comes to Harry Potter because the world and characters are so rich and magical (literally and figuratively), but my answer was ‘no’ to any of Tamora Pierce’s fantastic Tortall series because the growth of Alanna, Daine, and Kel are so necessary to the satisfaction readers get from reading the series, I could not be satisfied with just the first book.

And then there’s balance to consider.  I’m not sure if I’d only want to read classics for the rest of my life.  The same way I might not want to only read books aimed at 8-12 year olds. 

So what were the five books I chose?  Here they are, in no particular order:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Although my favorite Jane Austen novel is actually the forgotten and much-maligned Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice is a much more enjoyable novel to read again and again because of the characters’ complexities.  Not only is the protagonist Lizzie wonderfully relatable in her foibles, but secondary characters like Mr. Bennett, Mrs. Bennett and even Lydia are well developed and help make this a very meaty novel.  And who can’t fall in love with Darcy?  Come on, now.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.  As stated above, the vivid world Rowling creates and the characters that inhabit it are so lifelike and intriguing it is so easy to get lost in this book.  Although my favorite Harry Potter is The Goblet of Fire, The Sorcerer’s Stone sets up the magic that I am as much in love with now as I was when I first read it in seventh grade.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.  I read the three books in the Gemma Doyle trilogy very far apart, so it’s easy for me to think of each book on its own.   I’ve only read this book once (so far!) but I loved the combination of Gothic, Victorian and fantasy.  Plus it takes place in an all-girls boarding school in England. It’s all my favorite genres/settings in one!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  Anne Shirley is one of my favorite literary heroines from childhood.  I can’t help but love her spunk, imagination and ability to get into scraps.  Unlike some other childhood favorites, Anne is still as relatable to me now as she was when I was ten.  And besides, who isn’t in love with Gilbert Blythe?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.   As I’ve stated above about A Great and Terrible Beauty, Jane Eyre combines so many of my favorite genres.  The growth of plain and meek Jane is one that every introvert can relate to so deeply.  I love many of the adaptations based on this novel (a rare thing for me), including the musical, and I'm looking forward to the movie coming out in a few weeks.

What five books would you pick?

Monday, February 21, 2011

How a Book Gets Published

Working in the publishing industry means I inevitably get emails from friends or friends of friends or long lost relatives asking, “how can I get my book published?”.   I have no problem assisting them, so long as the query is for guidance rather than magical fairy wand flicking to get their book published by my contacts within the next month. Publishing is a mysterious industry for those who aren’t in it and aspiring writers often don’t know where to look first for information.  So, here we go: How a book gets published.*

A writer, let’s call her Wendy, writes a manuscript.  She writes and edits and polishes and then has trusted people critique her manuscript. Then Writer Wendy writes and edits and polishes some more.  Eventually, after many drafts, she thinks she is done and decides that she wants to get this manuscript published.

Writer Wendy then begins researching literary agents.  She does this online or through books at her local library, discovering not only which agents represent the genre of her manuscript, but which are accepting new queries, what the agents have sold to publishing houses recently, etc.  Full of that knowledge, Writer Wendy picks a handful of agents to query. 

The query Writer Wendy writers is very carefully constructed.  A query gives her less than five hundred words to present her manuscript to a potential agent, illustrating the main character and his/her conflict within the story. Writer Wendy researches how to write a good query, using websites like Query Shark.  She writes and edits and polishes and then has trusted people critique her query.  Next Writer Wendy writes and edits and polishes some more.  Eventually, after many drafts, she thinks she is done and decides that she wants to send this query out to the agents she has selected.  Sometimes this query is submitted electronically, sometimes by snail mail.  Sometimes it is accompanied by none of her manuscript, sometimes by a few (normally between 10-20) sample pages.  Writer Wendy makes sure to send each agent the appropriate materials because of her careful research. 

Then Writer Wendy waits. Then she gets a rejection, from Agent Adam.   Then another rejection from Agent Alyssa.  Then another rejection from Agent Allen.  Writer Wendy is disappointed, but realized that perhaps her manuscript and query letter weren’t quite polished enough. She writes and edits and polishes and then has trusted people critique her manuscript and query letter.  Next Writer Wendy writes and edits and polishes some more.  Eventually, after many drafts, she thinks she is done and sends out query letters again.

Writer Wendy waits.  This time she receives positive feedback from Agent Amanda. Agent Amanda requests to see the full manuscript.  Then Agent Amanda wants to be Writer Wendy’s agent, and will help Writer Wendy find a publishing house to publish her manuscript and will look out for Writer Wendy’s behalf during complicated contract negotiations, payments, and so forth.  Writer Wendy is so happy!

Agent Amanda gives Writer Wendy feedback on her manuscript on how to make it more appealing to publishing houses.  Writer Wendy writes and edits and polishes and then has Agent Amanda critique her manuscript again.  Next Writer Wendy writes and edits and polishes some more.  Eventually, after many revisions, she and Agent Amanda think it is done and decide that they want to submit this manuscript to publishing houses.

Agent Amanda knows all about the industry, so she carefully selects a few editors to whom to send Writer Wendy’s manuscript. Agent Amanda waits.  She gets positive feedback from Editor Emily.  Editor Emily wants to publish the manuscript.  Agent Amanda and Editor Emily negotiate the contract, such as when the final draft of the manuscript is due, how large Writer Wendy’s advance is, and what rights (world, audio, eBook, etc.) the publishing house is buying.

Editor Emily gives Writer Wendy feedback on her manuscript on how to make it more appealing to readers.  Writer Wendy writes and edits and polishes and then has Editor Emily critique her manuscript again.  Next Writer Wendy writes and edits and polishes some more.  Eventually, after many revisions, she and Editor Emily think it is done.

In the meantime, Editor Emily has been the champion for Writer Wendy’s manuscript, getting sales/marketing/publicity/ librarians/booksellers/the reading public excited about Writer Wendy’s manuscript.  Editor Emily also works with design to make a cover for the book. 

Writer Wendy’s job isn’t complete either, even after revisions are finished.  She provides Editor Emily with ‘extra’ writing blurbs to help publicize her book and is also hopefully on social networking sites getting librarians/booksellers/the reading public excited about her book.

Finally, at least a year later from when Editor Emily acquired the manuscript, Writer Wendy’s book is published.  Now all the readers out there can enjoy it!

* This post isn’t meant to be representative of all the ways in which a book can get published; it is just one explanation of the complicated journey a book may go through from manuscript to bookshelf.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Daily Changes

Having a job in publishing is AWESOME. Approaching three months in I love it just as much as I did on my first day, and as I learn more and more, it becomes even more exciting.  There are some changes in my life that come with having a job in publishing- the expected sort of things that I’ve already mentioned: getting an apartment, waking up early, reading until your eyeballs fall out.  There have been some changes in the past three months that I hadn’t anticipated. These aren’t bad changes at all, but they’re interesting to reflect on.

Before: I’ve always been an girl when it comes to buying books, or if I wanted to take in the glorious smell of books, a chain bookstore girl.  This was a cost issue, mostly.  And the fact that the part of CT where I grew up never managed to support an independent bookstore, so my only options within a reasonable drive were Barnes and Noble or Borders.

Now: I’ve come to realize that independent bookstores are places that publishing houses rely on to hand sell our books. The booksellers that work at indies know our books, know their customers and know what would be a good match between novel and reader.  And independents rely on that community and host events- like the wonderful Books of Wonder which hosted the first stop on the Breathless Reads Tour* which I attended last week- that foster a love of reading. Books might be more expensive at indies, but you’re buying far more than a book- you’re supporting a community of book lovers.

(*Side note: if you can catch the Breathless Reads Tour, do so.  It’s a tour for five Penguin authors: Beth Revis (Across the Universe), Ally Condie (Matched), Andrea Cremer (Nightshade), Brenna Yovanoff (The Replacement), and Kirsten Miller (The Eternal Ones).  I was very pleased with the event/really want to read Nightshade (I’ve already read The Replacement)!)

Before: I was blissfully ignorant where my music came from.  I didn’t download any; I just relied on my sister and never questioned where it came from.  And when a friend-who-shall-remain-nameless told me she downloaded Mockingjay shortly after it came out, I was in awe that that was possible- I had no idea.

Now: I get emails regularly from authors wanting HC to take down illegal book download links. There was a blog post floating around a while ago by an author illustrating (whether truly or not) how illegal downloads have been detrimental to her writing career and financial well being. Although I never had illegally downloaded a book, I know I never will now- and I’m much more aware of where my music and movies come from. I want to support the artists behind the media I love!

Before: I was a dresses girl, especially in the summer. If I could wear a dress, I would.  I had overly strict ‘rules’ that I followed about what I could wear (sweatshirts in public? Only if I was sick/sleep deprived!), which often resulted in me being a little dressier than the others I was spending time with.

Now:  I’m still a dresses girl, but when you have eight work-appropriate dresses and have to wear them five days a week, you get pretty bored with your wardrobe.  And tights get pretty darn uncomfortable, too.  So on weekends, it’s jeans jeans jeans.  Maybe even a sweatshirt, or sneakers (but let’s not push it yet).

So there you have it…three ways in which having a job in publishing has changed my daily habits, just a little bit, but a change nonetheless. This weekend I think I might head out in comfy jeans to my local bookstore and buy a book or two!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Discounts, Extras and More!

One of the best parts of living in New York City is being able to take advantage of what the city has to offer: delicious food, world-class museums, entertaining performances.  But on a tight budget, it’s hard to indulge in all the offerings all the time. Luckily, there are plenty of discount coupon companies that make enjoying all NYC has to offer possible: Groupon,, Living Social, etc. I take advantage of these discounts regularly, which is why I’m also so happy to introduce, HarperCollin’s own “Groupon for books.” Books easily add up, but sometimes borrowing a book from the library just doesn’t cut it. That’s when you should check out Bookperk, which not only offers discounts on books and book related items (like a classic children’s book collection), but also has lots of extras, like tickets to Justin Beiber’s 3D movie Never Say Never, when you buy his biography.  While I’m just highlighting the awesome children’s perks- there’s something for everyone! Check it out- everyone loves a good discount!