Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Part of me rejects the hackneyed practice of making new-year's resolutions. After all, how many of them have really stuck for me past January 2? I think I will instead just throw out some general ideas that we should all keep in mind during the coming year. If they help us make a few better decisions, that's awesome enough for me.

  • Keep your priorities straight: If there's one positive thing about recession, it's that it forces us to cut out a lot of the wastefulness and excess. You don't need a Hummer. You need a roof over your head.
  • Make a difference to someone: If you can't afford to donate money to charities this year, maybe you can donate time instead. Spend time with someone who is lonely, send a card to a long-lost friend, hold a door open for someone and give them a smile.
  • Work out a Plan B: Don't just hope you don't lose your job. Do something proactive to help your company and your job survive. Start thinking what you would do next if you are laid off. Unemployment money might not be there in the future. What can you do to keep the cash coming in?
  • Get involved: Our incoming president has a monumental task ahead of him, and he wants your opinions. Join in community forums and share your opinions on how to help rebuild our nation's economy and improve everyone's quality of life.
  • Get moving: Stop the excuses and start exercising.
  • Give up a bad habit: Cut down on sugary drinks or potato chips or cigarettes. Eat more (locally grown) fruits and vegetables!
  • Forgive someone (or everyone): Carrying grudges gets tiresome. Drop them all.
  • Watch less TV: Read more books!

I resolve to lead a richer life next year in which I focus on what's really important and don't dwell on the bad things. Hope your new year is safe and happy, and filled with a simpler abundance.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Writing Letters of Recommendation

Today I got the opportunity to write a letter of recommendation for a former colleague who is hoping to get a gig as a creative writing instructor on top of his current freelance editing work. In the past few years, I've also been asked to serve as a verbal reference for a few friends and former colleagues, including one who was interviewing with the DEA. (You would not believe the prying questions they asked!) It always makes me a little nervous, but I have developed a bit of a system for doing it right.

First, I sit down and write all the positive words that come to my mind when I think about this person. I think about what that person's strengths are and how those strengths relate to his or her job target (it helps if the candidate can send me a job description or give me some details about the job). Then I weave it all together into three punchy paragraphs loaded with enthusiasm and wholehearted endorsement.

The question naturally follows: What if the person asking for a reference is, shall we say, deficient in some area? If they're bad enough, I think you have to decline writing the letter at all (I haven't had to do this). But if it's a toss-up and you decide to go ahead with it, you can still use the first part of my technique above. Write down words that describe the person's good qualities and steer clear of areas where you know he or she is weak.

The technique also works well for writing recommendations on LinkedIn. You just have to keep it shorter--five sentences max--because nobody has time to read a long recommendation online.

As for how the letter I wrote today turned out? "I think I'm blushing," said the candidate. Yessss!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Sales, Industry Optimism, and Laurence on TV

Tomorrow I crawl back to work after a nice extended break for the holidays--but just for three days. Then we're going to Disney World. We're tagging along with Jason as he attends the Pearson winter sales meeting there.

A few things have caught my notice this week:

And best of all, local editor Suzy had her quadruplets on Christmas Eve! I guess I can tell her a thing or two about having a baby on that date, but I know not one thing about having four!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hey, Look: I'm a Marketing Expert!

Check out the latest issue of Book Business magazine, in which I am quoted in this article full of tips for a successful book-marketing campaign launch using both high-tech and traditional methods. I'm thrilled to be quoted alongside marketing pros from National Geographic Books and Doubleday.

This feels a little surreal and ironic, because I've never officially been in a marketing role. But working at a small company and feeling ultimate responsibility for all of the books on my list, I've learned a lot by osmosis. Plus, I read a lot of blogs written by smart marketers.

Thanks to Mark Long for pointing me toward the article. I did the interview quite a while back and didn't know when to expect it. And happy upcoming birthday to the article's writer, Amanda Baltazar (which I know because Plaxo told me so!).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday WINS and Title Fun

The Daily Kos is asking readers to speculate on what the title of George Bush's little-anticipated memoirs will be. Care to start our own list of suggestions?

Also, I'm still patting myself on the back for a bit of technological cleverness this week that saved me from a major headache. When I manage to think of it, I like to send a holiday treat to my freelance clients--you know, to make them like me and want to work with me more next year. When I managed the freelancer pool for Frommer's, we used to rake in piles of sugar-laden payola. (These days, not so much.)

Anyway, I wanted to send my new client a box of my favorite chocolate/caramel "turtles" from Mike Libs in Evansville. I picked them up when I was there at Thanksgiving and even chatted a bit with Mike himself, a self-styled Willy Wonka who is one of two brothers carrying on the family candy business. But I waited until nearly the last minute to mail them, and was faced with braving an ice storm and long lines of other surly procrastinators at the post office.

Then it occurred to me: Maybe could help. And help it did! I was able to print a mailing label and pay the postage with my credit card. Then I dropped it in the outgoing mail. Woo-hoo! Add that to the fact that I did 75% of my Christmas shopping online (and still got awesome deals) and I am feeling pretty happy. Is there anything you can't do online?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gory Details of the Macmillan Layoffs

Can't resist pointing out this article from the New York Observer, which gives you an idea of what it was like inside the Macmillan offices during the layoffs.

The article also goes into great detail about how earlier publishing layoff victims are coping. Some high-profile people are still "floating," and the writer observes that

Most of the book people who have for whatever reason had to leave their jobs in the past year should not expect to find new ones if they only consider positions at the handful of New York trade houses that they’re used to working for. Instead, both Ms. Shanley and Ms. Sayre said, these people will have to make their living by doing freelance work and seeking out new outlets for their skills.

So I have to wonder: Will there be enough freelance work for everyone who seeks it? Certainly the fact that people are being laid off will necessitate that more work be sent out. But publishers are also cutting back their lists, which means less work in general.

The article then goes on to quote people bemoaning the end of the publishing world as they know it, tying it to the end of the Industrial Revolution. Well, folks, I have to agree. We are in the midst of the Information Revolution, and the way we do business and deliver information is changing. Those people who couldn't ever be bothered to learn how to edit on a computer will be the first ones left behind. Those who figure out what the trends are and adapt their skills accordingly are the ones who will lead the new publishing paradigm (whatever it may be!).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Same Old Stuff, Different Day

Yet another publishing layoff announcement, this time at Macmillan.

An interesting thing to note is CEO John Sargent's admission that the company's presence at Book Expo next year will be greatly reduced. "I think it makes more sense to funnel our marketing dollars elsewhere," he said.

I can pretty much guarantee that the majority of the other publishers out there are saying the same thing. They were already saying it last spring before things really got bad. The only thing that might save it this year is the fact that the show will be in New York, so many people will be able to attend without incurring travel costs (although I admit that it was thoroughly amusing to see all those black-wearing Manhattanites in L.A. this year, framed uneasily by palm trees and squinting at the excess of natural light).

Publishing blogger Fran Toolan has some predictions for publishing in 2009. I agree with him: It's going to be an interesting year.

All in all, not an auspicious way to celebrate Jane Austen's 233rd birthday, but there it is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh, the Irony: Layoffs at CareerBuilder

Last week, online job bank CareerBuilder laid off 300 employees (see report here in the Chicago Tribune, a sibling in the same struggling parent company). These people were primarily in the unit that sold job postings to smaller companies.

HR blogger Cheezhead somehow knew about this ahead of time and spoke of the 300 boxes being brought in in advance for people to pack up their stuff. I guess that's another sign to add to the list of "how you know you're about to be laid off."

I was wondering the other day whether the dearth of want-ads right now is because there are no jobs, or because nobody wants to pay to advertise them. I guess this gives us a clue that the latter might be at least partially true. In a case like that, people should be refocusing their efforts on looking for those "hidden" jobs that you can find only through networking. Of course, that was always true, but now it's more true than ever. Also, check the companies' own sites and other free posting places, such as craigslist.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wal-Mart Deletes Hyphen

Okay, call me a little slow on the uptake, or perhaps just distracted. But I just noticed this week (while convalescing on the couch) that Wal-Mart is now Walmart. They changed their logo and their font and dropped the hyphen.

This post on Brand New (from back in June) knew of no explanation for the change. It's all well and good, and makes it simpler for those of us who literally spent hours arguing over whether the star in the old logo was a hyphen (seriously!). Except how are they ever going to get rid of all the instances in the world with the hyphen? Their own site is riddled with the hyphenated version.

I feel an inconsistency nightmare coming on. What's worse, I don't think the rest of the world really cares.

What do you think of the change? Does the new logo make you more willing to fight the angry hordes in ever-narrowing aisles for bargain-priced Sam's Choice items? For me, it depends on the day. If I'm feeling strong, have a couple hours to blow, and am girded with my coupons and my walking shoes, I might venture in. Otherwise, I'll just duck into my local "lifestyle" Marsh and enjoy a relatively spa-like experience.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Did I Walk into "the Butler Plague"?

I'm back on my feet today after two days of a moderate stomach virus--not the worst I've ever had, but still no fun at all. It's all over the local media that the students at Butler University are being picked off by a similar-sounding condition (read story here). It just so happens that I was on campus Friday night for their fabulous production of The Nutcracker. Could that have been the fatal mistake that took me out of commission for 48 hours? No matter. It was almost totally worth it to see how much my five-year-old girl enjoyed the performance.

Meanwhile, a day and a half on the couch has its merits. I got to see some good old reruns of Will & Grace, Frasier, and Happy Days (the one where Fonzie dressed up and sang like Elvis, with Laverne and Shirley as backup singers). I also finally got to watch the DVD of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in Music and Lyrics, which I bought for $6 at Lo-Bill. By most accounts it's a "B" movie, but to me it was worth every penny--especially the opening sequence, which is a parody of '80s music videos that is so spot-on that it hurts.

Another great thing is that I just had my first real meal in days, and it was the most spectacular cheeseburger I ever had. Nothing like a short illness to make you appreciate your health--and your appetite!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jeff Bezos Cameo on The Simpsons

Betcha thought I was going to write another doomsday post on publishing's "black Wednesday" last week and all the subsequent hand-wringing. But frankly, my dears, I need a break from thinking about it (although I will confess to having gone to Borders yesterday and buying stacks of Penguin and DK titles and feeling all noble about doing my part toward saving Pearson).

No, what I want to mention today is the fleeting cameo appearance of CEO Jeff Bezos on The Simpsons last night. In an episode titled The Burns and the Bees, Bezos is shown having wet himself at a camp for billionaires--over a scary campfire story about the SEC.

Just two questions:

  1. How'd he get that gig?

  2. How many people outside publishing do you think actually know who he is?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Author Escapes Thailand

Shawn Graham reports here that he is now home safe after taking a 20-hour bus ride to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and getting a 20-hour flight from there. Makes me exhausted just thinking about it. On the plus side, he reports having met a stellar crowd of fellow stranded travelers. Just goes to show--you can usually find something positive about a negative experience.

Still monitoring Jane Friedman's blog for news of her safe return. The airports are set to reopen, so I'm sure it won't be much longer.

Three High-Profile Publishing Layoffs

Read all about it here, from the AP. "Yes, Virginia, book publishing is NOT recession proof," says Association of American Publishers president and CEO Patricia Schroeder. Seriously, who ever thought it was?

All the more reason to keep buying books for Christmas, I say.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Solution Tree Seeks Copy Editor in Bloomington

I heard through the grapevine today about this opportunity at Solution Tree in Bloomington, Indiana:

Solution Tree, a growing K–12 educational publishing and services company, seeks a full-time, onsite copyeditor in Bloomington. This position is responsible for copyediting manuscripts efficiently, thoroughly, and accurately; the copyeditor may also check and correct outsourced copyediting. Requirements include: A college degree and minimum 2 years’ experience copyediting books in a professional, supervised publishing setting; Knowledge of CMS style; APA familiarity preferred. For consideration, please send cover letter and resume to: EOE.

Managing editor Caroline Wise, who put the word out about the job through the local freelancer network, attests that Solution Tree is "truly an amazing [company] to work for." It produces books, videos, and other materials for teachers and administrators who work with at-risk students. Caroline also says that the commute from Indianapolis is relaxing compared to the hectic rat race that is I-465 at rush hour.

Despite the bad economy, they are having trouble finding the right person for the job. They require someone with book editing experience; yet most of the applicants have newspaper experience instead. We see this everytime we post a job, too. I think it's a problem unique to the Midwest, where chances to get book publishing experience are more scarce than in New York or Boston, for example.

JIST's books are all about knowing and promoting your transferrable skills, and you would think that someone who has edited or written for a newspaper would have the ability to learn to be a good book editor (after all, I did). But I guess the difference comes in the length of the material (and the need to maintain consistency across hundreds of pages), the style guide used, and the pacing of the deadlines. If we can find someone who has done all that before, we'd rather do that than have to break in someone who hasn't.

Anyway, looks like a good opportunity for someone who lives on the southside of Indy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Exciting Times for a Local Editor (Times Four!)

The wonderful thing about blogs is that they can sometimes give you a storyline that rivals anything you'd see on TV. Take, for example, the blog of a local editor named Suzy. For many months now I've followed her story on the Four by Two blog, in which she has been chronicling her pregnancy--with quadruplets!

In the beginning, I watched with trepidation. I felt the odds were against her delivering all those babies safely. But as the months have passed, she's come through it with flying colors, despite having to be hospitalized for the last month. And now she's about to reach the 30-week mark and the four babies are all over 3 pounds each. So I finally feel like I can unclench and be happy--nevermind that she hardly knows me. The blog has made me feel like part of the adventure.

Even if you're not excited to join the baby watch now, you'll still want to surf over there and see her before-and-after belly pictures: truly awe-inspiring.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Someone Else We Know Is Stuck in Thailand

Haven't heard more out of poor Shawn Graham, but I just discovered that someone else from the publishing world is also stranded by the political situation in Thailand. Jane Friedman of F+W Media has posted a lengthy description of her situation here.

I'm starting to truly wonder at the U.S. media. They are barely mentioning this story. I guess everything was on auto-pilot for the holiday.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Author Stranded in Bangkok

While the fray in Mumbai is grabbing all the headlines, another tense situation is developing in Thailand, and one of my authors is stranded there as a result. Shawn Graham is stuck indefinitely in Bangkok because protesters have shut down the airports. He is blogging about it here. If you have any suggestions for how he can pass the time there, or get out of the country, please drop him a comment on his blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Power of Lunch--in New York

The New York Observer has a fascinating article on how all the economic turmoil is causing a lot of editors at the big houses to not be able to expense fancy lunches with agents every day. There is some protest because many old-timers see this as the only way to get agents to notice and know you, and send you book proposals that fit your list.

Here in the Midwest, of course, we had no idea this was going on. I think it puts us at a slight disadvantage that we've never wined and dined an agent. In fact, I spend most lunches eating leftovers in our tiny kitchenette--or kvetching with coworkers over fajitas at the strip-mall next door. But the most enterprising agents know how to do their research and target their c-list authors to specialty publishers outside Manhattan.

This is just another reminder that there is relatively little excess in independent nonfiction publishing. Times might be painful for the bigshots, but we already know how that feels.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Author Freaks Out over His Book Cover

I just ran across a thoroughly enjoyable blog post from Kenneth Whyte, editor-in-chief of Maclean's, Canada's only national weekly public affairs magazine. He is the author of the soon-to-be-released The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst. During the editing process, his editor at Random House's Counterpoint imprint showed him a few cover options and asked for his input. He gave it, and the editor should then have been able to proceed with getting the cover produced.

But Whyte, who knows how much a cover can affect magazine sales, couldn't let it rest. In his post he details how he increasingly got so far under his editor's skin that she decided to feign an e-mail outage to avoid further contact with him. I like, though, that he is able to make fun of himself in the post.

Have I seen this happen? You bet. Of course, author input is great. But when it starts to interfere with the production schedule and cost a lot of money in redone designs, somebody has to draw the line.
And as for the "atrocity" of a cover that the publisher decided to go with? I don't see anything wrong with it. Of course, you want a picture of Hearst on the cover. And in this one, he looks like he's sitting on a throne with kingly bearing. The black-and-white and the antiquated font fit nicely on a book about a newspaper baron from the late 1800s. It's simple, it's elegant, it fits. What do you think about it?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random House Freezes Pensions

Oh, here's some news that will surely make your morning. One of the best known divisions of one of the world's largest publishers, Random House, announced today that it's stopping contributions to its employees' pension plan.

On the surface, this news made me queasy. But then I stopped and thought: Really, who in this country even expects a pension anymore? Certainly independent publishers don't offer them. We've all been moving toward the 401(k) model and away from the idea of a pension. Hardly anyone stays at a company long enough to build up a pension, anyway. But I suppose that's cold comfort for the people nearing retirement age who were planning on theirs continuing to grow.

The AP article goes on to cite more instances of layoffs in the industry, as well as the latest gloomy wimper from B&N.

On the other hand, I was watching Good Morning America this morning while getting dressed and Mellody Hobson had a short list of companies that are hiring now. Borders was mentioned (seriously, buy books from them if you can--if they go under, we'll have only one major chain left). Also mentioned was FedEx, which has to pick up the slack from DHL's exit from the domestic shipping market (good news for my sister who works there; bad news for the 9,000 people who are being laid off from DHL).

Anyway, more bad news to keep us awake at night. I think I'll go drown my sorrows in our company's snack day festivities. Cheese balls, veggie trays, brownies, and more await!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Give the Gift of Books

Last week I mentioned that various book bloggers are starting to promote the idea of buying and giving books as Christmas gifts. Of course, we always want people to do that. But this year it's even more important than ever. B&N chairman Len Riggio has warned his employees of a grim holiday season (I'd give you the link to his company memo, but WSJ has taken it down), and every time you turn around you hear stories saying that 51% of consumers plan to spend less on Christmas this year.

Personally, I think it's good to see people backing down from the wretched excess of years past. So what's a more perfect alternative to "Kitchen Aid mixers for everyone" than a thoughtfully chosen little book? Or two? Or a dozen?

To help get the word out about how cool books still are, a coalition of book bloggers has started the Books for the Holidays blog. Go there, sign up, start spreading the word, and start buying those books. For more help, see the Books on the Nightstand blog, which is featuring holiday gift book ideas every day between now and Thanksgiving.
I've always wondered--do people give job search and career books as Christmas presents? I mean really, aren't they a bit too utilitarian to fit in with the spirit of the holidays? Let me know your thoughts. Obviously, people need them now more than ever. But are gift-givers still shying away from sending a message like "instead of sitting there eating another piece of pie, shouldn't you be working on your resume?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs

Once in a while, the stars align and a publisher puts out a book at just the right time. Finally, that's happened for JIST with the October publication of Laurence Shatkin's 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs. I claim no credit whatsoever for this book, except that when it was proposed, I said "How quickly can you get it out?" Who knew back last year that the book would come out at the precise moment that the U.S. economy appeared to dive into an irreversible downward spiral?

Lo and behold, the media are going gaga over this book's premise. Where can people shift their skills to avoid unemployment in a market that sees new casualties on a daily basis? Laurence is happy to shed light on that question, as he did yesterday on ABC News NOW (find a link to the video here). Education and health care are his top picks, as well as transportation.

In case you're curious, editors made the list, checking in at #96.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Funnies

What better way to start the week than with a laugh or two? First, we have this report from BookCatcher's Book Publishing News blog that one enterprising publisher has the economic downturn all figured out. They've decided to declare that they are a bank:

"The economy is in a bit of a spot now and this makes it very difficult to sell books," said Mark Young, president of Dolyttle & Seamore. "Rather than take a chance by publishing books that may not sell, we've decided to take the easy route and ask the government to bail us out."

Of course, this is a joke. But it might also be a brilliant way to get some viral attention for their book.

And now for something completely different, but still funny. The Michael Palin for President campaign might have lost the election, but I think they are still happy with the outcome. They recently released this photo taken in front of the U.S. Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square on election day:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Predicting What the Media Wants

Funny thing happened this afternoon: Fox News called one of our authors wanting him to speak on camera today about the "workplace dynamics" that might come into play if
  1. Barack Obama offered Hillary Clinton a cabinet post.
  2. She accepted.
  3. And an older, more experienced person ended up working for the young superstar.

Our author didn't feel qualified to speak on the subject. Our publicist Selena is out of the office this afternoon, so it fell to me and my boss to try and track down someone else. I've made a few calls. So far, nobody's biting. We might have to let this one go.

The lesson here: Always be on the lookout for a way to peg your book to the latest events in the news. You never know when one of your authors could be tapped for a big media appearance.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kaplan Offers Acquisitions Internships

Kaplan, which bills itself as one of nation's leading publishers of academic and professional development resources, has posted an advertisement for acquisitions internships in NYC. Kaplan is one of those publishing hydras with divisions all over the place, including its training centers.

This particular internship program looks very interesting. You'll get the chance to learn about the research that goes into making publishing decisions, assist editors with projects in various subject areas, and, of course, get to make copies and distribute mail. Woo-hoo!

Here are the skills and qualifications that the posting requests:

  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • English or Communications major preferred, but not required.
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Ability to multi-task.
  • Microsoft Office proficiency.
  • Proofreading/editing experience and familiarity with Macs are pluses.

Skills/Knowledge Developed:
  • Research skills.
  • Presentation skills.
  • Understanding of acquisitions and publishing process.
  • Ability to identify the market for a book.
  • Ability to position a title for a competitive advantage.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Get Your Manuscript Critiqued by Writer's Digest Editors

If you're writing a book (and really, these days, who isn't?), here's an event you might want to check out. Writer's Digest is hosting its first ever Editors' Intensive on December 13-14. For $199 you get a Golden Ticket into the F+W headquarters in Cincinnati, where you will attend workshops and have your manuscript or query letter critiqued by one of four WD editors. You'll learn how to find an agent, write a killer query letter, and more.

All this emphasis on writing query letters should tell you something: The pitch is everything. If you can hook me in one page or less, your chances of getting published are greatly increased. That hook needs to be able to travel down the line and hook everyone else--the editorial board, the publisher's salespeople, the marketing department, the media, the chain bookstore buyers, the librarians, and, ultimately, the book-buying public.

via Jane Friedman's There Are No Rules

Friday, November 7, 2008

Editorial Ass on Publishing's Bloody October

First of all, love the blog title. Second, this blogging editorial assistant has put together the most cogent explanation I've seen yet of why it sucks to be a book publisher right now. Again, lots of blame goes to the inexplicable model of bookstores being able to send back the inventory they don't sell, and essentially using publishing companies as interest-free loan brokers.

Read the whole post and you'll get a better idea of how the sales and returns processes work. And take Moonrat up on his/her suggestion to buy books--now, and as Christmas presents.

On a tangentially related note, I'm getting anecdotal reports from friends and family of several people losing jobs (non-publishing) they've held for decades and their homes are in jeopardy. I feel like we are poised on the brink of an ever-widening sinkhole. Hang on tight.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Powerful New LinkedIn Apps

I got an e-mail from LinkedIn yesterday about a new set of applications they've added which enable you to use the online networking tool in some interesting new ways. True, they're still not letting us feed people to the zombies like they do on Facebook, but these tools sound infinitely more useful.

There are a few tools that enable you to collaborate online with your network. I don't see me using those anytime soon, but somebody might like them.

The BlogLink tool enables you to link your blog into your profile and see an aggregation of blog posts from the people in your network. I just did the former but had trouble getting the latter to work. It says nobody else in my network has their blog URL on their profiles. I find that kind of hard to believe, but whatever.

And here's a good one for Jason: TripIt lets you tell your network where you're traveling so that maybe you can meet up with them on the road.

Probably the coolest new app is ReadingList by Amazon. You can put up covers and comments about the books you've read, are reading, and plan to read soon. Pearson's John Pierce and I have already a book on our profiles. He's being smart and featuring a book from his own company. My choice reveals that I like to read lighter things in my spare time than I do on the job. Anyway, this feature makes it easier to find people who have read the same books you have, get suggestions for the next book to read, and even go straight to Amazon to buy books.

Check out all these features and more here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Joe the Author

On this most glorious morning, on which I can proudly say for the first time in my life that I live in a "blue state," comes word (from Fox News, no less) that Joe the Plumber is writing a book:

"Everyone came at me to write a book. They had dollar signs in their eyes. '101 Things Joe the Plumber Knows' or some stupid s---- like that. Excuse me, I am sorry," he said. "You know I will get behind something solid, but I won't get behind fluff. I won't cash in, and when people do read the book they will figure out that I didn't cash in. At least I hope they figure that out."

The book, called Joe the Plumber -- Fighting for the American Dream, is to be released by a group called PearlGate Publishing and other small publishing houses.

"I am not going to a conglomerate that way we actually can get the economy jump started. Like there is five publishing companies in Michigan. There's a couple down in Texas. They are small ones that can handle like 10 or 15,000 copies. I can go to a big one that could handle a million or two. But they don't need the help. They are already rich. So that's spreading the wealth to me," he said.

Noble sentiments, yes. But I hate to tell him that his media chuckwagon has already rolled on past him. If he had that book done and ready to go the night he became the star of the last presidential debate, and had some big distribution behind him, he could have made some money off the idea. But his 15 minutes are up. Despite his intention to stay active and work toward charitable causes, I don't think anyone's going to remember him a year from now. I suggest that he give Rupert Boneham a call and get some advice on extending your 15 minutes for the good of others without expecting to jump-start the economy or make an independent publisher rich.

Oh, and can we get a little sympathy for his ghost writer?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Amazon Stands Up to "Wrap Rage"

Few things have made me happier recently than Amazon's announcement that it is starting a multi-year initiative to work with its suppliers to provide products in packaging that's easier to open. As the mom of a preschooler, I feel that freeing the world from impenetrable packaging is a worthy goal for so many reasons.
First off, have you tried to open a Fisher-Price playset of any sort recently? All those crazy twist ties and fasteners are even more of a challenge to work through when you have a little person standing over you chanting "Open it now, mommy!" And seriously, all that wasted material can't be doing the environment any favors.
But now my anguished cries of "why?" will begin to be silenced. (Why indeed, I ask? I worked in a toy store 23 years ago and we got along just fine without the twist ties.) Amazon is offering an opening slate of 19 products with frustration-free packaging. I am so going to buy that Polly Pocket Ultimate Party Boat from them. I was going to have to buy it anyway, but the new initiative makes me happy (or less unhappy) to fork over my money to them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Job Action Day 2008: Jobs, Baby, Jobs

Popular career advice site Quintessential Careers has declared today Job Action Day. They've devoted their site to articles on all aspects of improving your career situation, bracing for layoffs, and finding jobs.

"To rally those who have lost their jobs or are facing possible job loss in the current devastated economic climate, Job Action Day 2008 aims to empower workers and job-seekers to take proactive steps to shore up their job and career outlook," say Katharine and Randall Hansen of Quintessential Careers. "Our challenge to you, our readers, is to ask you to do at least ONE proactive thing TODAY, Job Action Day 2008, to improve your job and/or career situation. Whether you update your resume, develop a backup plan in case of job loss, or add contacts to your network, take at least one action Today for Job Action Day. As our regular contributor Joe Turner says, 'Don't let all the hype about the economy spook you into a state of panic and inaction.'"

The very timely articles include the following:
In addition, a whole host of career bloggers is joining the effort with Job Action Day-themed posts:

In the spirit of Job Action Day, read all of this great free advice and do something proactive today. Then go vote tomorrow, and as the QC team says, hold your candidate's feet to the fire over job creation.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Nursing Honor Society Seeks Publisher

Sigma Theta Tau International, the Nursing Honor Society, seeks a publisher for its journals, newsletters, and books in Indianapolis. Here are the details:

Job title: Publisher
Pay grade: 5
Dept: Publications

Oversees an expanding program of periodical (journals and newsletters) and nonperiodical (primarily books) publications, both in print and electronic format. Serves as the developer and manager of the Society’s intellectual property. Responsible for the identification, evaluation, development, and production of publications which meet the strategic goals and business objectives of Sigma Theta Tau International. Since publishing is a collaborative art, requiring major contributions from volunteers, staff from many different departments, and third-party partners / vendors, the Publisher must be the catalyst for bringing these individuals together to achieve the common goal of creating successful publications.

Major Responsibilities:
1. Develop, implement and evaluate
a. Publishing goals, business objectives and strategic publishing plan (short and long term)
b. Publishing policies, procedures and processes
c. Annual sales and financial goals for the publishing program overall with attention to the sales and revenue goals for the individual publications in a given year
2. Oversee and establish priorities for Society’s publications reflecting the Society’s mission and the slate of initiatives of each Biennium.
3. Prepare Annual and Biennial Publications budget and be accountable for achieving the financial goals expressed in these financial management and strategic documents.
4. Supervise and support the editorial staff charged with acquiring, developing and producing the publications forecast for each annual and biennial budget.
5. Serve as chief liaison to the Society (and vendors) for key volunteer leaders responsible for major publications, informing or reminding key volunteers of the Society’s mission, philosophy, policies, and publishing goals as appropriate.
6. Manage the overall relationship with key publishing partners, such as Wiley-Blackwell, informing key partners of the Society’s mission, philosophy, policies, and publishing goals as appropriate.
7. Chair interdepartmental meetings for the purpose of
a. new product evaluation
b. assessing and managing production issues (new product launch, pricing / print run / reprint decisions)
8. Coordinate with acquisitions editor, development editor, authors, reviewers and vendors to acquire and publish the targeted number of book projects per year.
9. With Finance, establish and review on a biennial basis a financial model to measure the success of existing periodical publications and a financial model that all nonperiodical projects presented for approval must adhere to.
10. Publish at least every other week a Publication Schedule for all nonperiodicals which are in production and circulate the updated report to all interested parties within STTI and NKI.
11. Set policies and processes emphasizing quality and efficiency for the journals and newsletters through consultation with the volunteer editors, key staff, and appropriate vendors.
12. Communicate with volunteer editors, STTI staff, and Wiley-Blackwell staff to expedite production of journals as needed.
13. Develop a plan and implementation process for leveraging the Society’s intellectual property through licensing arrangements.
14. Establish and enforce Society policy regarding the sales and placement of space advertising in STTI’s publications, both ads purchased by customers and ads promoting STTI products and services. Ensure efficient internal communication of the policies and processes for placement of in-house ads.
15. Serve as publishing consultant to membership and staff committees, work groups, and task forces as need.
16. Complete other duties as assigned.

Significant people and project management experience required.
Demonstrated ability to lead interdepartmental task force in the pursuit of a common goal required.
Experience in strategic and business planning required.
Excellent interpersonal communication (oral and written) and presentation skills required.
Detail oriented with the ability to manage multiple, complex projects / programs simultaneously required.

Bachelor’s degree required; Master’s degree desired

Computer Skills:
Proficiency in Microsoft Office applications (including, but not limited to, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint) required.

Five to ten years experience in editorial management required, preferably of both periodical and nonperiodical publications.
Project management and people supervision experience required.
Experience in both print and electronic publishing required.
Experience in non-profit professional organization desired.
Experience in health sciences publishing desired.

If you are interested, you can send your resume, cover letter, and salary requirements to Laura Thurman in HR. Development editor Carla Hall has also offered to answer any questions about the job that aren't covered here.

Random Friday Ramblings

Can you believe it's Halloween already and October is almost over? Today is so lovely and warm that it hardly seems like bleak November is just hours away.

I had high hopes of starting the day, as I do every year, by hearing me some "Ghostbusters," "Monster Mash," and "Thriller" on the radio during my commute. It must be some vast right-wing conspiracy going on, because I haven't heard any of them all week. It's doubly bad because now I've got a little Peter Venkman fan in the backseat demanding that I find a Halloween song right now.

Lucky for me, I've got all the good stuff on my iPod. I made a cool playlist last year that has songs on it that, although maybe not all actual Halloween songs, have scary titles or lyrics:
  • Ghostbusters
  • Monster Mash
  • Ghost Train (Madness)
  • Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band)
  • Be Still My Beating Heart (Sting)
  • Behold! The Night Mare (Smashing Pumpkins)
  • Black Cat (Janet Jackson)
  • Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
  • Cast No Shadow (Oasis)
  • Cold Brains (Beck)
  • Cyclops Rock (They Might Be Giants)
  • Devil's Haircut (Beck)
  • Devil in My Car (B-52s)
  • Dig Your Grave (Modest Mouse)
  • Dirty Creature (Split Enz)
  • Don't Pay the Ferryman (Chris DeBurgh)
  • Dr. Evil (They Might Be Giants)
  • Dracula's Castle (New Order)
  • Exquisite Dead Guy (They Might Be Giants)
  • I Feel Possessed (Crowded House)
  • It's a Sin (Pet Shop Boys)
  • Killer in the Home (Adam and the Ants)
  • Last Living Souls (Gorillaz)
  • Losing My Mind (Pet Shop Boys)
  • Magic (Olivia Newton-John)
  • Maneater (Hall and Oates)
  • Masquerade (Berlin)
  • Murder by Numbers (The Police)
  • Murrow Turning Over in His Grave (Fleetwood Mac)
  • October (U2)
  • Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
  • Rat in Mi Kitchen (UB40)
  • Satin in a Coffin (Modest Mouse)
  • Scarecrow (Beck)
  • Screaming (Pet Shop Boys)
  • Sister Madly (Crowded House)
  • Spider (They Might Be Giants)
  • Spiders (Moby)
  • Spiderwebs (No Doubt)
  • Spirits in the Material World (The Police)
  • Spooky (New Order)
  • Synchronicity II (The Police)
  • Temptation Waits (Garbage)
  • The Seer (Big Country f/Kate Bush)
  • Vampires (Pet Shop Boys)

Whew. If you're still hungry for more Halloween thrills, check out the header on Yahoo! today--there are zombies doing the Thriller dance. And I still love this video of the inmates in the Philipines doing their rendition of this classic dance routine.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Haunted Library

Since 1930 the legend has circulated about the mysterious "Grey Lady" who supposedly has been haunting the historic Willard Library in my hometown of Evansville. The private library has made the most of the rumors by installing live webcams for ghost viewing. The various sightings have also landed the library on national TV on programs such as "Ghost Hunters."
So who is this mysterious lady who moves books around, touches people's hair, and leaves a whiff of perfume as she passes? She is rumored to be Louise Carpenter, the daughter of library founder Willard Carpenter, who was angry that most of his estate was left to the library rather than to her. And if you don't believe she exists, how do you explain the fact that she has her own MySpace page?
I visited the library a few times in my school days and never saw a thing, although I've seen some pretty convincing photos. The library isn't the scariest place I've ever been in that town, though. They used to stage a haunted house on the grounds of the 19th-century insane asylum that pretty much put me over the edge.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Wisdom of Michael Hyatt

I keep being impressed almost daily with the wisdom and innovation of Thomas Nelson Publishers CEO Michael Hyatt. Yesterday he blogged about how his company, in a matter of hours, approved a dress-code change that now allows all Nelson employees to wear jeans to work whenever they want to (read the post here). The reasoning was that it was an easy way to help employees save money on dry cleaning, feel more comfortable at work, and realize that their company cares about them. (Here at JIST, we wear jeans on Fridays, and it certainly is nice not to have to worry about ironing anything one day of the week.)

Mr. Hyatt's other recent hits have been today's announcement of a blogger-review program that will surely generate a lot of buzz for their books; and this article about his philosophy during tough times. Back in April he was very frank and faced his company's layoffs head-on. How often do you see a CEO stepping up to share his private thoughts on bad news? Hyatt's From Where I Sit blog is don't-miss reading.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Online Networking Tool: Plaxo Pulse

"Oh no, not another online network to join and maintain!" That's what I thought last week when I got an invite to join Plaxo Pulse. Plaxo's been around a long, long time as a contact management app. Now it's getting into social networking as well.

But I gave in and accepted the invitation because it came from someone I really want to keep in touch with. I didn't intend to go much further with it. But then it showed me a bunch of familiar names and asked whether I wanted to connect with these people, too (how did it know that I knew them?). Before I knew it, I was sending out connection invites left and right.

One cool thing about Plaxo is that you can classify your relationships within it as Business, Friend, or Family. So, ostensibly, I can show my home address and phone number to Great Aunt Joyce in Evansville but hide it from the people I don't want calling me at home.

Also, the Plaxo home page enables people to send out status reports (a la Twitter), notify people when you've put up a new blog post, put your calendar online, and share your favorite photos, links, and video. You can even poll your network (although what about, I'm not yet sure).

So resist the urge to recoil in horror at the thought of joining another network. This one looks cool.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ryan Healy on Job Hunting in the Tough Economy

Supposedly things are getting tough out there in the job market. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether that's really true or whether it's media hype. If you're in the financial field, yeah, I'd say things are probably pretty tough. And all indications are that publishers are holding off on putting out some products and hiring new people until January, when they will have new budgets, a new president, and hopefully new hope. I talked to an IT dude yesterday who reminded me that when the economy collapses, as it did in 2001, industries tend to collapse in waves. So things might be OK where you are now, but how long before the domino effect catches up with you?

Meanwhile, Ryan Healy of Employee Evolution and Brazen Careerist has five great, in-the-now tips for making yourself a more marketable candidate. He hits on the familiar themes of networking and managing your online identity. But I think we can all use a reminder, can't we?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Medical Editing Audio Conference

Freelance editor and friend of this blog Katharine O'Moore-Klopf has asked me to pass along the following information about an upcoming audioconference she will be copresenting. The healthcare field is one of the hottest in our economy and will continue to be so for the rest of our careers. Here's a way to use your editing talents in an industry that is growing.

On Tuesday, October 28, 2008, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern time, Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, ELS, will be a copresenter of an audio conference, sponsored by Copyediting newsletter, on common problems in medical editing. The conference is for new medical copyeditors and for those who would like to become medical copyeditors. You can get more details and register by going here. The main topics will be

  • When to stet jargon and when to eliminate it
  • How to describe patients—they aren't their diseases and they aren't on meds
  • Where to find solutions to problem reference-list entries
  • Which sections of the AMA Manual of Style you'll keep returning to

Katharine has spent the last 18 years as a medical copyeditor, most of them as a freelancer, and she is also certified by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences as an editor in the life sciences. She will be speaking from the viewpoint of an editor who works on both medical textbooks and medical journals. There will be Q&A periods scattered throughout the conference.

If you can't change your schedule to participate in the audio conference, you can go here to order an audio CD of the conference. If you can't afford the cost of the conference yourself, you and one or more colleagues can register under one name and make arrangements among yourselves to share the cost. International callers are welcome; consider using VoIP software such as Skype to decrease the cost of your time on the phone. And remember, if you're already self-employed as a freelance editor in the United States, the cost of the audio conference (and the audio CD, if you purchase it) is a business expense that you can write off on your income tax forms.

Get ready to pick up your phone and learn from the comfort of your employer's office, your home office, or your home. If you've wanted to know what makes medical copyediting different from copyediting in other fields, this is the conference for you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Writing Resumes for McCain and Obama

File this under the category of "wish I'd thought of this." The Ladders, a job portal for $100,000+ candidates, asked resume writer extraordinaire (and, incidentally, one of my authors) Wendy Enelow to write resumes for John McCain and Barack Obama (see the story here). The results are stunning. Check them out. Regardless of your political leanings, aren't you in awe of both of them? That's what a great resume does: It distills the most impressive highlights of your career and makes the reader say "Hey, I want to hire this guy."

Kudos to The Ladders for coming up with an irresistible tie-in with the all-consuming election coverage. It landed them--and Wendy--a story on

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ugly Truth #2061: The Chains Don't Buy Every Book

I guess it's common sense that bookstore chains don't--and just can't--carry every book that's published. They have a limited amount of space and publishers just keep churning out hundreds of thousands of new books every year. Still, when you have a track record, a good sales rep who can get a meeting with the buyers, and a dominance in your niche, most of the time they will give most of the books on your list a shot, in varying degrees. It's just the few times that they don't that really sting. (I'm trying to take it less personally, really, I am.)

Yesterday MediaBistro pointed me in the direction of this article written by Wiley science fiction marketing manager Andrew Wheeler about a recent trend toward more "skipping," which is what they call it when the chain says "no, thank you" to carrying a book. In it he gives some great inside info on how the trade buying model works.

What do you do if you get skipped? Amazon will list just about any book, so optimize your listing online and drive all of your customers there to buy it. (This is just one of the many reasons I like Amazon.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as a Freelance Acquisitions Editor?

Occasionally over the years I've gotten inquiries from people who want freelance acquisitions work from us. I've always rather discounted the idea because I've thought that the functions involved in acquisitions needed to stay in house, for several reasons:
  • I just couldn't envision how this would work.
  • A freelancer would really have to get up to speed on our publishing strategy and procedures, not to mention our contract and terms.
  • We have enough trouble producing the books we acquire now. We don't need to ramp up acquisitions until we know we can ramp up editorial and production, too.
  • The hard part is coming up with the ideas that we haven't already done, and most freelancers want you to give them the book idea and let them run with it.

But today I stumbled upon a posting for a freelance acquisitions editor at Thompson Publishing (not to be confused with Thomson, which is now Cengage, et al) that outlines exactly how this might work:

  1. The company hands the freelancer an idea.
  2. The freelancer does market research on the idea's viability.
  3. Then he or she shapes the idea into a customer-centric focus.
  4. The freelancer then recruits an author.
  5. The freelancer negotiates the contract with the author.
  6. The freelancer manages the writing process until the book is delivered to the publisher.

Okay, now I see how this might work. But I still don't need to outsource my acquisitions anytime soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

JIST Has a New Publicist and a New Blog

I'm happy to announce that Selena Dehne has been promoted to the position of publicist for JIST. She has been our marketing copywriter for several years (see this post) and has done a tremendous job. She is a superb writer and I am very glad that she is now the official voice of JIST.

One of her first acts was to institute the new JIST Job Search and Career Blog. In it she will be dispensing helpful advice on all aspects of the job search industry.

Congratulations, Selena!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Checking in on Frankfurt

The Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest gathering of publishing people for the purpose of selling rights, is now in full swing. I haven't heard a peep from my hubby since he got to his hotel a few days ago, but that's typical. He generally loses his voice by the end of the first day and gets caught up in a whirlwind of speed-meetings with foreign publishers and wine-soaked ethnic mashup dinners that last into the wee hours. (What happens when you take the Ukrainians to a Spanish restaurant in Germany? If it's comparable to taking the Greeks to a Lebanese restaurant in London, I have some idea.)

Since we're getting no reports from Jason, feel free to check in on the official fair blogs here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Introvert's Bill of Rights

Who would have ever thought of this: A blog for shy authors who need to promote their books. Shrinking Violet Promotions is just that--marketing for introverts.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The people who make the best writers (and thus the most likely authors) are most often introverts at heart. But it generally takes a huge personality to perform all the tasks needed to effectively promote a book, such as public speaking and networking. Often you see publishers solve this problem by pairing the loudmouth who has all the ideas with a coauthor or ghostwriter who does the technical heavy lifting on the manuscript and is content to stay out of the limelight.

But in the cases where that doesn't happen, and a shy author is left with the task of getting the word out about his or her book, this is an awesome blog to read.

I was particularly taken this week with the post outlining The Introvert's Bill of Rights. We introverts needn't feel guilty for needing our alone time to recharge or preferring to communicate in writing rather than verbally. I'll add to that our own introvert's mantra:

We're here.

We're shy.

Please don't talk to us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October Surprise: Wikert Leaves Wiley

Readers of Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 blog got a big jolt yesterday when they tuned in to the news that he has left his position as VP and Executive Publisher at Wiley after 10 years. He's been hired as the new General Manager of O'Reilly Technology Exchange. O'Reilly's blogs are buzzing about his appointment, and a flurry of lurkers on his own blog have come out to congratulate him.

The new position will give Joe the chance to practice the kind of forward-thinking publishing ideas that he preaches on his blogs, so this is a perfect fit for him. Instead of moving to the San Francisco area where the company is headquartered, Joe will be working out of his home in suburban Indianapolis. But he will be traveling both east and west.

Congratulations, Joe! O'Reilly has made a very smart move!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What Color Is My Parachute?

It's a spooky time in the business world, and the publishing industry is no exception to the rule. When we had a wave of layoffs at my company this summer, it got the rest of us thinking about what we would do if it happened to us. I found my answer fairly quickly because it's the answer I've been sitting on for nine years, since layoffs were threatened at my former employer. In a word: freelancing.

So skittish was I about the prospect of going jobless that I have been doing freelance editing on the side ever since I left Macmillan in 1999. I was finishing up a big deadline for Alpha just weeks before my baby was born, and I picked it back up again when she was 1. I have always steered clear of doing anything competitive to my main gig, and have not allowed my performance to suffer as a result.

But dang, it's been hard. When I get a project from Frommer's, I work every night and all weekend for two weeks straight. I've just learned how to take "power breaks," rapidly decompressing and then getting back to work before wasting too much valuable time. I count on my husband tremendously to keep the child out of my hair. Recently she broke my heart when I shooed her away and she said "Mommy, you work too much."

So I've still got good connections in place. But with publishers delaying projects (in some cases, their entire lists) until next year, it's just one of the baskets I'm putting my eggs into. The other is--get ready--resume writing!

I have been enchanted with the art of resume writing since 1999, when I first met Susan Whitcomb and worked with her on reprint corrections to her classic Resume Magic. Since that time I have acquired and edited dozens of resume how-tos and collections, attended resume writers' conferences, and soaked up the best of the collective wisdom for how to optimize your personal marketing presentation. I know all too well how really difficult it is to do it right.

Recently I got the opportunity to try my hand at writing resumes myself--and I loved it. It uses every bit of reporting, marketing, writing, editing, SEO, problem-solving, big-picture, and tiny detail skill I have developed over my entire career. But best of all, it's a lot faster than writing or editing a book!

So the point of all this is that we all need to be thinking of what we will do if we lose our jobs. If you lose yours, I'll be happy to take you on as a client. :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Michael Hyatt on "Silver Bullet Thinking"

I stumbled upon a really profound post today from Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt, who writes the insightful From Where I Sit blog. He's got four guiding principles for publishing companies (or any companies) trying to succeed in today's challenging (OK, near-disastrous) economy:
  • Be clear about your vision.
  • Reaffirm your strategy.
  • Stay relentlessly focused on your core strategy and competencies.
  • Keep believing in the future.

Not many people really get this. Everyone's always busy trying to out-do one another in one fell swoop. Maybe it's time everyone took a step back and reaffirmed what got them where they are in the first place.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Reporting from the Obama Mosh Pit

This is not a political blog. And I am not a pundit. But once again I have had the good fortune to spend a little time in the presence of the Obama camp, so I thought you might want to hear about it.

Jason's uncle called Tuesday with an offer of a ticket to the "preferred seating area" at Obama's post-debate rally at the Indiana State Fairgrounds yesterday. Because Jason was taking off for Frankfurt yesterday (here we go again...), the ticket fell to me.

After being searched and wanded at the gate, we brandished our "preferred" tickets and were directed out onto the wet track surrounding the podium. "Seating" was a euphemism, because there were no seats. Our preferential status landed us in the role of mud-encrusted groundlings. (That's us in the bottom-left corner of the above photo--copyright Indianapolis Star.)

But it was still awesome. We were about 40 feet from the podium and felt at one with the crowd of 21,000 fired-up people of all ages, races, and social statuses. Barack's message of hope was so tremendously uplifting to me at a time when we are all tetering on the brink of disaster and despair.

Afterward he did a "rope sweep," but we were too far back to be included. He went to a bunker under the field where he signed autographs on books and magazines that were sent back to him via Reggie. Then the entire New Orleans Hornets team filed in to meet him (they were here for a game against the Pacers).

I was particularly charmed to be in the presence of the Bayh family, including Senator Evan and former Senator Birch. I enjoyed basking in their charisma, and Birch even signed my rally placard.
Anyway, an awesome day at the fairgrounds, despite the rain and mud. Please don't forget to get out and vote!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Editorial Freelancers Association Offers Courses

The EFA recently announced its slate of fall education courses for freelancers. Many of them are online, but a few are offered in person at the EFA office in New York City. Here's a sampling of what's available:

  • Pricing Strategies for Freelancers

  • Copyediting Basics

  • Substantive Editing Clinic

  • How to Get Freelance Work

Check the link above for dates and prices. Thanks to freelance editor Linda Seifert for the heads up on this.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cover Letter Magic

On the final day of the NRWA conference, JIST author Louise Kursmark gave an outstanding presentation on the fundamentals of writing cover letters that get results. I'll share some of her copious tips here, seeing as how cover letters are such an important piece of the puzzle and I rarely mention them here.
For starters, she said the preferred method of transmitting a resume and cover letter via e-mail is to attach a Word document of your resume and put your cover letter in the body of the e-mail. If you're submitting your resume in a Web form on a resume bank or company database, look for a box in which to copy and paste your cover letter text.
A cover letter must be to-the-point and easily skimmable. It needs to include distinguished information about your career (without parroting your resume) and address the specific needs of the position for which you are applying. Hiring managers always want to see "what's in it for them" if they hire you.
Start with an opening paragraph that establishes who you are and why you are writing. Capture the reader's attention and make them want to read more by indicating your value.
Use the body of the cover letter to emphasize your greatest accomplishments, perhaps in just three bullet points, and drawing themes and trends from your resume. Incorporate keywords from the job posting and be sure to "write tight."
Close with other important information the reader needs to know, such as why you are considering this company and any other relevant personal information. Avoid cliches and an overly aggressive or passive call to action--stike a balance between "I'll be calling you Tuesday at 2pm to talk about this opportunity, so be ready" and "I look forward to hearing from you."
As icing on the cake, Louise suggests getting creative by adding visual interest (charts, graphs, tables) or an endorsement quote.
Do all these things and you will be well on your way to creating your own Cover Letter Magic!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Resume Keyword Tricks and Traps

Another excellent speaker at last week's NRWA conference was Paul Forster, cofounder and CEO of, a job posting aggregator that pulls jobs from all over the web into one search. Paul spoke in detail about the concept of using resume keywords to make sure you get found when recruiters search online and company resume databases.

Career professionals have been conscious of resume keywords for close to a decade now, so this is not a revolutionary topic. However, more and more everyday people are beginning to grasp and use the concept. So his tips are insightful and timely:
  • Use every commonly known synonym for your skills. For example, include both "security" and "collateral" to cover your bases in case a manager searches for one and not the other.
  • Be sure to include brand names associated with your company, especially if they are more well known than the company itself.
  • Include any possible spelling variations of your employers' names. For example, use both "Walmart" and "Wal-Mart." Of course, there was outcry from the group because this would be inconsistent and look wrong. Personally, I think it's better to seek out the absolute correct spelling and be consistent. If a potential employer is dumb enough to spell it wrong, do you want to work for them, anyway?
  • Include abbreviations and acronyms in addition to the spelled-out terms. I generally like to put these in parens after the first reference.
  • Account for "stemming." I'll leave this to the SEO experts among you to clarify (hello, Erik?), but I think what he meant was to be sure to use all variations on the words that describe your skills and titles. For example, be sure to include "editing" as well as "editor" (in this case, "edit" is the stem word).
  • Don't compromise the reader. Even as you're trying to get the computer to like you, you also want a human reader to like your resume and be able to read it.

Paul also shared some general resume posting rules:

  • Use a standard format with consistent font sizes; avoid automatic Word tables.
  • Update your online resume and repost it periodically, but not too often. New resumes get fresh consideration. But if you pop up every week, people will start to ignore you.
  • Clarify the location where you want to work--often for graduating seniors, it's not clear from looking at your college address where you want to go.
  • Always write cover letters that are customized to each opportunity that interests you.

And finally, here are Paul's predictions for the future of the resume:

  • Paper resumes are becoming less and less important.
  • Resumes can incorporate rich media, including video, audio, and photos.
  • Resumes are boundaryless--they can include links, testimonials, and other sources of corroboration.
  • The hResume standard XML format bears watching. If you can code your resume to this format, you'll be able to send it via feeds to employers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Career Encouragement from a Teenage Millionaire

The keynote speaker at the NRWA conference was Cameron Johnson, whose recent fame derives from having been runner-up on Oprah's Big Give. But at age 23, he's already been a self-made millionaire for almost a decade.

Cute as a button and in command of the room, Cameron enthralled and amazed us with the story of his entrepreneurial ventures--from being the first eBay reseller of Beanie Babies to making $15,000 a day from his Internet business while still in high school. Cameron's business instincts have been unerring.

So imagine the dissonance I perceived when he said his latest venture was to write a book. During the Q&A session, I had to ask:

"I work in book publishing and I know it's not a very profitable business model," I began.

"Oh, it's terrible!" he interjected.

"So what was your motivation to write a book?" I asked.
He went on to elaborate on the grim statistics of the publishing business to the audience full of secretly aspiring authors. Then he said that the reason he wrote it was to tell his story, in response to many requests. He said he has an awesome agent in La Jolla who got him a bidding war like the ones we read about in Publishers Lunch, and presumably a big advance. So he was one of the lucky few, and You Call the Shots has been a successful venture.
The key takeaway from Cameron's riveting presentation was this:
"Put yourself out there. If you don't ask for it, you're never going to get it."
I intend to keep this thought in the forefront of my mind going forward.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Top 10 Things Recruiters Hate About Resumes

I'm back from a whirlwind trip to San Diego and the National Resume Writers' Association annual conference, which truly rocked. This week I'll be slicing, dicing, and serving up the juiciest bits I learned there.

For starters, here are some resume don'ts from the HR manager panel discussion moderated by Community Relations Director Rosanna Indie:

Top 10 Things Recruiters Hate About Resumes

  1. Spelling errors, typos, and poor grammar
  2. Too duty oriented, not highlighting accomplishments
  3. Omitted or inaccurate dates
  4. Incomplete or incorrect contact information
  5. Inappropriate e-mail addresses (like
  6. Functional resume formats instead of chronological
  7. Long resumes
  8. Long, run-on paragraphs
  9. Person not qualified for the job they're applying for
  10. Inclusion of personal information not relevant to the position

The whole group had their eyes opened by #6. Many people prepare resumes that highlight their relevant skills when their job history has gaps or isn't relevant to the position they seek. But this panel was unequivocal about it: They hate those. They throw them in the trash. They want to see a chronology and actual job titles. A compromise: Use a summary of your skills at the top of the resume before launching into the chronological job listings.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leaving for the NRWA Conference

I'm leaving first thing tomorrow morning for the National Resume Writers' Association annual conference in sunny San Diego. I don't expect any sympathy for getting to spend three days immersed in cutting-edge career industry knowledge and surrounded by like-minded writers (not to mention the beaches, the shopping, the dining, and time alone on planes to read!).

Come to think of it, conferences are kind of a racket. Organizers lure participants by scheduling the meetings in fabulous locales that offer the opportunity for a little R&R between sessions. Then they add in greatly reduced rates at fancy hotels. Who can resist? I guess everybody wins: Organizations make money, participants have an enjoyable learning experience, and companies benefit from the knowledge they bring back.

Speaking of all that reading time on planes, I panicked earlier this week when I realized I didn't have a paperback on hand that I was dying to read. Luckily, Steph and Stephanie, fellow publishing folks with an amazing personal library, came through for me and lent me three cool books that I have been wanting to read:

The only question now is, which one to read first?

Have a great week. I'll try to check in from the conference, but I am not lugging my ancient laptop through airport security. Besides, it feels good to be untethered for a few days!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How to Future-Proof Your Publishing Career

Everyone is in agreement: Book publishing is changing so rapidly, we might not recognize it 10 years from now. Today you might be on top of it all; but if you don't start thinking outside the proverbial box, tomorrow someone's going to ask where you got all your fossilized notions about what book publishing is.

But just what should we be doing today to make sure we're still employable in the future world of book publishing? Here to answer that question is Wiley VP and Publishing 2020 and Kindleville blogger Joe Wikert. I posed a few questions to him about the brave new world of publishing careers, and his responses are enlightening.

I'd love to get your insights on how all the new technology in publishing will affect the careers of individuals. What sorts of retooling should we be doing to make sure we're still relevant to the publishing industry of the future?

I think the most important thing we need to do in this (and probably any) industry is make a commitment to being lifelong learners. Technology is causing rapid change everywhere and if you're not keeping up with it, you're highly likely to fall behind. That's why every time I see a new and interesting applet, website, tool, device, etc., I try to test-drive it. I miss quite a few, but I also think I do a reasonably good job of staying on top of the important ones.

As far as our own industry is concerned, it's pretty clear that e-content is the future. E-books only represent a tiny fraction of any publisher's revenue base today, but that's likely to change--maybe not tomorrow or next year, but it will happen. (Btw, I'm still a big believer in print books...that's not going away in my lifetime, but e- is where it's at.)

With that in mind, I'm amazed to talk to so many people in our industry who have never touched a Kindle or Sony Reader, for example. Even though the Kindle is harder to find (because of Amazon's online-only distribution model), the Sony product isn't; just go to your local Borders or Target and check it out. I've had my Kindle for three months now and I can't tell you how much it's influenced my thinking, not just for the Kindle but for e-content in general.

Social networking is another critical area. Every publisher will want their content where communities are forming. What better way to accomplish that goal than to tap into social networks? You can't be overly obtrusive, of course, but I'm convinced we'll see all sorts of innovative ways to expose our content through this sort of platform.

Do you think book graphic designers should be learning skills for laying out/converting e-books, such as XML and whatever other technologies are being used?

Yes, I definitely think designers should be familiarizing themselves with the new challenges involved in e-devices. It's a totally new world and it introduces a new set of challenges from the print space. Every time I get a file/book/newspaper on my Kindle that looks like a simple port from print I just about want to scream! The tricky thing here is that we're working with rapidly moving targets. Right when you think you have all the angles figured for something like the Kindle or Sony Reader, boom, they'll probably release a new version or add new functionality. There again, staying on top of all the developments will be crucial.

What about editing--if the world moves to an e-book-heavy model, will editors need to adjust how they do their work?

The same goes for editors. This brings me back to the "content layering" drum I like to bang from time to time. It also applies to authors as well as editors. Just because a print product features a two-dimensional reading surface, why should we feel compelled to limit ourselves to that in the e-world? Simple hyperlinks are one thing and should be considered baby steps in this area. What I'm talking about is building a truly collapsible and expandable work.

Are you familiar with any of those book summary services out there? getAbstract is one and I believe another is called Executive Summaries. These guys take a 300-page book and boil it down to 4-5 pages. So in the e-world, what I'm describing is a product that could be read as a four- to five-page summary or a full-blown 300-page book. The reader gets to decide based on how much they want to drill down in each area. So I envision a getAbstract-like approach that allows me to click on any of the summary paragraphs and they expand into more in-depth coverage of that particular topic. Maybe there are only a few small pieces of the four- to five-page summary that I want more info on, so I expand there and cruise right through the rest of the summary. The key is I can shrink and expand as needed.

Authors and editors would have to learn how to write to this layering model I've described above, and that's no small task. But think about how much more usable the resulting product could be! Then again, I tend to get overly excited about this stuff...and I might be the only one!

How will acquisitions editors compete against people self-publishing their own e-books and selling them online?

We'll have to look at reinventing ourselves, don't you think? Author platform is such an asset to any great book these days and it doesn't matter whether it's self-published or done through a big publishing house. So where do we add value? Marketing and PR are two areas. Then there's the editorial/selection process. I'd like to think that editors still play an important role in finding the highest-potential projects, but there have been enough self-publishing hits to show that we don't catch everything. I think it will also be important for publishers to play a role in helping authors build their platforms. It should be a joint effort, not something an author should have to do on their own.