Thursday, May 31, 2007

Headed Out for BookExpo

It's that time of year again, when everyone and everything related to book publishing and bookselling goes to New York for three days of showing off their latest, hottest books at BookExpo. And the lengths they go to stand out from the others is truly amazing. People dress in costumes and hand out flyers and free copies of books. Hundreds of famous (and not so famous) authors are autographing their books and giving them away for free. The traditional "trade show booth" has been replaced by acres of carpeted, plush areas designed to ensnare librarians and booksellers into staying longer and looking at more books. All manner of free food is given away. You can have your picture taken with Heidi Fleiss and Dr. Ruth. You can go to a concert by the Rock-Bottom Remainders, a group of top authors (like Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, and Dave Barry) who get together once a year at the fair to dispense less-than-polished versions of Motown favorites. Lots of air-kisses, leopard-print clothing, and big deals all around.

My place at the fair is usually low-key. I have a list of competitors that I intend to visit, look at their books, and snatch a catalog of upcoming titles. I also want to meet children's author Mo Willems and universal smart-ass Chris Elliot. Jason will also be there, meeting with representatives from several of his foreign publishing partners.

But we have to hurry back home before the fair is over because we're leaving on vacation. I'll send my post-fair update after we return. I also have at least two other publishing professionals working on their interviews for this blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jason: Foreign Rights Manager at a Major Educational Publisher

I had planned to interview my husband for this post, but if I waited for him to get back into the country, it would be July before I wrote this! So I'll tell you what I know about his publishing career (and I've had a ring-side seat for almost 12 years now):

Jason graduated from Wabash College with a double major in Political Science and French. He spent a semester studying in the Great White French-Speaking North of Quebec City, at Universite Laval. He was editor of the college newspaper and worked many years at the photo shop in his hometown.

So upon graduation he signed up with a temp agency, in addition to applying directly to companies. He was placed with a computer book publisher in Indianapolis, in the graphics department. There he cropped digital images of computer screens ALL DAY LONG. For YEARS. Well, maybe a year. Then he got the chance to move into a department called Production Control, where he was the drop-off point for all the text and art pieces that went into the hundreds of books we did every year. He was in charge of quality control and keeping all the files organized. I think he loved rejecting submissions that weren't done right.

One of the departments he interfaced with was the Foreign Rights department, because he would provide files to them for their foreign publishing partners to translate. He made good friends with everyone in the department and waited for his moment to join them. And it came. So now he was responsible for sending files to foreign publishers to translate.

Finally he learned the business well enough to be promoted to Foreign Rights Manager. He was an account manager for book club sales and some accounts in the Middle East. Basically his job was to market titles to foreign publishers and interest them in buying the rights to translate the books into the local languages. He communicated with them by e-mail and by meeting them at book fairs such as BookExpo (more on that in a few weeks--we're going again this year) and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

So now his territory is Eastern Europe. He goes to London every year in March/April, Warsaw in May, and Frankfurt in October for various book fairs. He has been to the Ukraine three times (counting next week) and Russia twice. He's visited Latvia and Croatia, and just got back from a big fat Greek wedding--in Athens.

So it's turned out to be a dream job for him. Pay is surprisingly low, but the benefits are incalculable.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Long-Awaited Indy Freelancer Survey

Back in March I sent an extensive survey to approximately 100 publishing freelancers currently or formerly based in Indianapolis--we had quite an industry here in the 1990s when computer books were booming. I heard back from quite a few (although probably not a statistically significant sample) and finally found the time to quantify the results for you. So here goes:

1. What is your primary freelance specialty (copy editing, proofreading,writing, etc.)?
Five people said copyediting, three said proofreading, three said development editing, one said writing, one said indexing, and one said project management (many people gave more than one answer)

2. How many years have you been a freelance editor?

Average length of time was 5.5 years.

3. How long did you work "in house" before going freelance?

Average length of time was 7.25 years.

4. Why did you decide to become a freelancer?

43% said it was because they were downsized from their jobs. Others chose the profession to stay home with kids, earn extra money as a side job, because they were unhappy in their current careers, and because they didn't want a "real" job.

5. How many projects do you do in a year?

This varied widely depending on how big the projects were--from 6 big books a year to 60 smaller articles. Average was 28 projects.

6. How many hours per week do you work, on average?

Average was 42 hours, but ranged from part-timers to people who work 75 hours a week some weeks.

7. How do you go about finding work?

Networking/word of mouth were the big winners here.

8. What is the best thing about freelancing?

57% of people said it was setting their own schedule. Others like the extra money, the lack of a commute, and the absence of office politics.

9. What is the biggest drawback of freelancing?

55% said it was the difficulty of scheduling--some weeks they have too much work and others they have none. Others mentioned the unpredictability of the paychecks and the need for discipline.

10. What are your favorite websites for freelancers?

11. What advice would you give to aspiring freelancers?

  • The best editors are organized, good with details, patient, have a good memory, and enjoy reading about a variety of topics. You work on your own all the time, without any interaction from other people.
  • Work in house before trying to be a freelancer. Stick to a regular working schedule as much as you can when working from home. Communicate often with the editors you are working with to let them know of issues with the project. Work to expand your professional network so that you're not reliant on just 2 or 3 clients.
  • Realize that you may have to work two jobs to pay the bills until the freelance picks up enough for your needs. Don't get discouraged. Don't do free work to "get your foot in the door." Be open to working on something that isn't "your thing"; it could lead to just the perfect thing.
  • It takes time to build your client base, but don't give up too easily. There are a ridiculous number of people trying to make it in this business, and if you don't have faith in what you're doing, you won't last!
  • Put aside whatever financial cushion you can to be ready for late checks or projects that run long. Consider health insurance options carefully.
  • Be afraid - be very afraid.
  • Get to know exactly what the client wants, preferably from an employee or freelancer doing the same work. In the case of a corporate book publisher, that may mean memorizing the Chicago Manual of Style, obtaining in-house style guides, and reading through samples of similar books from them. In the case of academic authors, it may mean reading through style guides and journals for their discipline. In the case of individual unpublished authors, it may mean doing more coaching, basic English tutoring, and computer instruction than “editing.” Most individuals do not want their work to be edited; they want to be coached and then have their work proofread.
  • Networking and get to know people before you leave an in-house position. My friends/co-workers/close acquaintances/and people I know who know someone are responsible for my success.

12. How is the pay?

42% said it was good. 29% said it's OK. 29% said they couldn't afford to do it if they weren't married (to a spouse who gets insurance through their employer).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Assistant Labor Secretary Charles Ciccolella on the Job Market Outlook

I'm sharing more information I gathered at the Career Masters conference last week. Another awesome speaker was Department of Labor official Charles "Chick" Ciccolella. Here's my report on his presentation:

An unconventional public servant, Vietnam vet Charles Ciccolella shared his view of the U.S. economy and trends for future employment. Much of what he shared could probably be gleaned from reading the Occupational Outlook Handbook (a biennial publication of the DOL), but he was engaging conveyor of that information. Main points of his speech included the following:

  • The Internet has changed the way we do business, get news, and go shopping. It is altering the course of the national economy and future employment.
  • The U.S. economy is doing well—the GNP was up 3% last year. At 4.4%, unemployment is lower than it was in the 1990s. France’s long-term unemployment is 300% higher than ours.
  • 7.8 million new jobs have been created since 2003—more than the European Union and Japan combined.
  • We are the most productive workers in the world, which translates to higher wages and a higher standard of living. But people are worried about job security, health care, and gas prices.
  • We have evolved from a manufacturing economy to an information economy, and are working toward becoming a knowledge economy. But there is a tremendous skills gap.
  • Workers with education and skills are earning a premium, while those without are falling behind.
  • 50 million people change jobs each year and the average 40-year-old has had 10 jobs.
  • Education and Health Care are the fastest-growing industries at 30%. Business and professional services are next at 28%. Twenty-five percent of that percentage is in employment services (such as resume writers).
  • The only goods-producing industry that is up is construction, which is up 10%. These employers are actively recruiting for skilled labor, and he said that veterans will be especially well suited for this type of work.
  • People in other goods-producing industries need to look at retooling themselves to learn new skills.
  • The government allocates millions per year to workforce development, such as One-Stops, TANF, counseling, and placement—but people don’t get enough work training there. And, he added, much of this money is lost in bureaucracy.
  • Workforce development is currently training 200,000 workers per year, but the goal is to train 800,000 workers in the skills needed for the 21st century—and to make as much money as possible go to the workers through individual “career advancement accounts” to get them the skills they need and give them better control and choice.
  • The Hire Vets First campaign will strive to help vets decide what they want to do and translate their experience into a civilian resume.