Thursday, January 31, 2008

Freelance Permissions Editor: Julie Cancio Harper at Permissions Trackers

Perhaps no post on this blog has generated more off-line interest than the one several months ago in which I said I had a friend who was looking for a freelance permissions editor. I never knew such a job existed, and yet I heard from a dozen people who have made full-time careers of it. As it turns out, my friend never got permission to hire anyone (har, har). So I've left all of those people hanging.

One of them, however, has been kind enough to write up her career story and advice for this blog. I present to you the story of Julie Cancio Harper of Permissions Trackers in Sherman Oaks, CA, who has given me permission to post her story here. It's kind of long, but hang in there--it's fascinating and very helpful.

How Did I Get Here? My Freelance Publishing Life

The summer after I earned my BA in English from Kenyon College, I attended the Denver Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. DPI offers students a four-week graduate-level overview of book publishing. Industry professionals from all over the country teach workshops on editing, production, and marketing.

I was trying to find out whether publishing was for me, and this was a great way to do that. I especially enjoyed learning how to copy edit and proofread using Chicago style. So, it showed me that my preferences leaned toward the editorial department. DPI also helped me target appropriate entry-level publishing jobs, which was a great help.

After DPI, I moved to Boston and was hired as an Editorial Assistant at Allyn & Bacon. Being an EA gave me the opportunity to work with every department (editorial, production, marketing/sales) each step of the way through the book's life cycle. I especially enjoyed preparing the book manuscripts for turnover to production and working with the authors to make sure all materials were in place. Part of that process included reviewing permissions packets, including contracts and logs, for completeness.

As you review many permissions packets over time, you notice that permissions acquisition is a time-consuming process (sometimes taking months). You quickly learn that clear query letters and a consistent pattern of labeling and organizing all the paperwork saves a lot of time in the long run.

As an EA, I also worked with several editorial freelancers. Some did developmental editing, others were proofreaders, some were adjunct professors hired to write supplementary materials (web content, test banks, etc.).

After I had been an EA for about a year, I was offered the opportunity to produce a short film shooting on location in a remote area of Utah. That was too flattering to pass up. It required several months of pre-production work, which I knew I could not manage while I worked full-time hours in publishing. And it occurred to me that freelancing would offer me an opportunity to both work on the film and also use my publishing skills and experience in new ways.

The same week that I gave notice that I was leaving my position as an EA, editors started approaching me in the halls, saying "I heard you're going freelance. Do you have time to proofread for me? I have a project coming up soon. Will you take on a permissions project?"

So I said yes to everyone and everything and let word of mouth work its magic. When people ask me how they can get a strong start as freelancers, my answer is to work in-house. Quality work is recognized in publishing and your reputation will speak for you even when your desk is no longer in their office (because it's in your spare bedroom).

When a colleague got a new job at another publisher, she suggested I would be a good candidate for the position of freelance project manager there. That referral led to a year-long string of projects where I oversaw the authoring, editing, and proofreading of websites that helped college students review the chapter content in their textbooks.

Also, join a professional organization where you can get a listing in their online directory. I became a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and my directory listing there produced several cold calls that led to ongoing relationships with two book packagers. Those leads were worth a lot more than the cost of membership.

Aside from networking, I also got good results submitting proofreading tests. I chose proofreading over copy editing because I just enjoy it more. I worked as a freelance proofreader on Blackwell journals for two years.

Over time my workload began to shift increasingly toward permissions projects. It's more stress than proofreading, but it also pays more. I enjoyed building relationships with repeat clients and I tried to maintain the same calm, thorough approach to each new project; and that went double when deadlines were short. My clients appreciated the effort and I became known as a permissions specialist.

What a Permissions Editor Does

When an author submits a manuscript to the publisher, that manuscript may contain material from outside sources. Photographs, text quotes, cartoons, full article reprints, charts, line drawings, graphs, maps, screen shots of websites or software--all sorts of things--may have been found during the course of research and may be added to the manuscript by the author. Someone must (1) evaluate whether permission is required for each of those "found items" to be printed in the book and, where permissions are required, someone must (2) obtain written permission before each item can be reprinted.

Depending on the practices and requirements of each publisher, I've seen evaluations performed by the author, the editor or editorial assistant, the legal department of the publisher, a freelancer, or by a combination of those (as double-checks). It helps to have a thorough understanding of copyright and fair use. Most publishers provide basic guidelines to their authors. The book contract will specify whether the author or publisher is responsible for doing the work of obtaining all required permissions (or for hiring a freelancer to do so).

Most authors who come to me for assistance have already started the permissions for their book, but have found the process nerve-wracking, confusing, and/or too stressful for them to deal with considering all their other on-going obligations to the book. Editors--working either for the publishers directly or as staff at a book packager assigned to the project--will usually know in advance whether they need a freelancer.

When I receive a new project, I determine where we are in the permissions process. If the manuscript has already been evaluated, I will receive a spreadsheet containing the items needing clearance, called a permissions log. Or I will receive a hard copy of the manuscript with flags on the pages containing items needing permission and I will then generate the permissions log myself.

If an evaluation needs to be done, I review the full manuscript page-by-page and create a permissions log based on my findings. Next I make a list of questions to get clarification on any material whose origin is unclear from the manuscript or other materials I have received. Accuracy is very important when dealing with copyright evaluations so I need complete source information.

When the permissions log is finalized, I can move to the querying stage. In order to send a complete and clear permissions query, I will need the permissions log to contain a full reference citation for each item as well as complete contact information for the copyright holder. I will conduct Internet and library research to obtain any relevant information not provided by the client. I track down ISBN numbers, page numbers, literary agents, estates of deceased authors/artists, you name it.

Clients will usually provide their preferred permission request letter as a template. If they do not have a template, I have one of my own that I've developed over the years. I create and send the query letters . . . and wait. Permissions departments that receive these queries are usually swamped and a 12-week response time is not unheard of. Four to five weeks is more common. I'll begin receiving responses and updating all the details in the permissions log, including reprint fees, rights restrictions, copyright notices and source credits, complimentary copy requests, and requests for changes to the reprinted material or book content.

For regular projects, I will begin following-up on the unanswered queries in a few weeks. For rush projects, my query will include a plea to help me meet a specific deadline (about a week from the date of my letter). If I do not receive a reply by the deadline, on the following business day I will email (once), leave a voicemail (once), and send a fax (once) to ask for an update: Did you receive my request? When I can expect to have a reply? This will usually do the trick. If there is still no response, I wait a day or two and try again--maybe with a voicemail only. Calm, apologetic urgency may earn me a friend in that office who can help me impress clients when future projects require fast turnarounds.

It can take days, weeks, or months to receive all the responses. Throughout this process, I am also keeping the client informed about all our progress. I submit updated permissions logs at intervals depending on the project size and urgency: weekly, biweekly, monthly. When we're getting close to our deadline (typesetting or press time), I document the full story on each of the items with permission still outstanding. In an email I list what I've done to track the item, what companies I contacted, who I talked to, what they said, when I will follow-up again, etc.

I will sometimes be asked to give a recommendation about whether I think the paperwork will be received in time. Ultimately, it is up to the publisher to decide if the book's schedule should be altered to allow more time for permissions to arrive. I do not recommend that material requiring permission be reprinted without the written permission grant in hand. If the schedule must be kept, I prefer to have the material in question deleted or replaced with material not requiring permission. I do not agree with due diligence or good faith arguments. There is no need to take legal risks when in many cases a simple replacement of a table or figure with original author-made content can allow the book to make its original press deadline.

Advice for Potential Freelancers

I've heard other freelancers say this, and I'll add my voice to the chorus here: I had no idea what I was in for. The learning curve is steep.

Please do not rely on freelancing to give you a full-time income right away just because you are working (probably more than) full-time hours. Running the business of freelancing takes up more time than working on actual paying projects, some days. This is especially true in the beginning. You are suddenly the marketing team, the contracts negotiating squad, the accounting department, a tax preparer, the technical support and computer guru, the shipping clerk AND the freelance editor, all at once.

There will be kinks in any well-made plan. Do not give up. Be patient and give yourself enough time to figure out all the things you didn't know you'd need to know about freelancing. Everything will be harder to learn if you are also pressed by urgent financial obligations. So if you do not have savings to give you a buffer, then I would urge you to work in-house and start your freelancing business part-time after hours.

There is still so much for me to learn, even after 8 years. And the trick is to not get discouraged by temporary setbacks. Find joy in everything that happens--including the tough stuff, from meeting impossible rush deadlines to mending communication snafus. Do not give up.

Permission to post the material below on your blog located at Permission for any additional use must be requested separately. Copyright (c) 2008 Julie Cancio Harper. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Better Editing Through Poetry

Freelance editor Gayle Johnson offers some unexpected advice in today's post: If you want to be an editor, study poetry! I think she definitely has a point, and I could name quite a few editors who are, or have been, poets.

If you’re in college and are interested in becoming a copy editor, there’s one class you should take that you might not have considered—poetry. Analyzing and writing poems can help you sharpen your editing skills.

When you think about poems, the concepts of rhyme, meter, imagery, and symbolism probably come to mind first. But poems also incorporate the concepts of precision and economy of language—as does copy editing.

The brief nature of a poem allows its author to distill a topic to its essence. In this art form it’s crucial to choose exactly the right words and to use no more words than necessary to convey an idea or image. In a poetry class, you examine poems at a micro level, breaking them down line by line and word by word, considering why the author chose certain words or even certain sounds. Analyzing text at this level is good practice for many of the issues you’ll face as a copy editor, when you’ll have to make decisions about word choice and reducing redundancy.

Experienced editors know that most authors are not experts in word economy. They’re more likely to write “gives a good indication as to” instead of just “indicates,” or “have the ability to” instead of “can.” That’s why editors need to be adept at decreasing wordiness.

Check out the following links to learn more about poetry analysis and word economy:
  • This Wikipedia article is an introduction to analyzing poetry.
  • The independent weekly newspaper Nuvo offers Haiku News—current events condensed into minimalist poetic form.
  • The self-explanatory Four-Word Film Reviews reduces movie plots to their core—often with a twist. These witticisms are an excellent exercise in word economy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Role-Reversal: My Stint as an "Author"

I'm living a double life and I've decided to "out" myself this morning. For the past six months, I have been working nights and weekends as a ghost writer of sorts. I got the job because of who I know (and maybe also because of my long history as a development editor).

My longtime friend Linda Seifert's husband Mark is an anatomy professor at IU med school. This summer he got a contract to write a Complete Idiot's Guide on human anatomy. But he wanted someone to help him "Idiotize" it and also help him navigate the publishing process. When he offered me the gig, I couldn't turn it down: great experience, and also the chance to help a friend.

I think he will agree with me that it's been a wild ride. Although we missed some deadlines (gasp!), we turned in a manuscript that was quite clean. Now we're in the author review stage and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The experience has given me a renewed appreciation of just how much thought, time, and work go into every book that is published. When I crack the whip as an acquisitions editor and say I need something turned around in a week, someone is missing spending time with their kids. I will try to approach my "day job" with renewed empathy for all my authors for whom writing isn't their only responsibility.

I've been asked whether I'd do it again, and the answer is "Not while I have a full-time job." It's just been too stressful trying to do it all. I did love the experience, but it was also hard on Jason and Cate. Jason became the laundry maven and Cate began acting out for attention. It's time for me to just do one job for a while now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Author Needs an Intern

Author Alexandra Levit is looking for a summer intern to help her research her upcoming book on career changers, which Random House is publishing in 2009. She lives in Chicago but the intern can live anywhere as long as they have high-speed Internet access.

It sounds like a great way to get some good experience and make good connections. But there's no actual pay involved. Sometimes, though, experience is more important than money.

"Ask Daphne" on Getting a Job in Children's Book Publishing

Brand-new literary agent Kate Schafer of kt literary blogs as Daphne Unfeasible, where she answers readers' questions about all things publishing. Kate was formerly a rights assistant in New York and shares her story of how she got into book publishing.

I can totally identify with her on the pseudonym front. When I was a toddler, I told my parents that my "stage name" was Daphne Morning Glory. Looking back, I think it must have been inspired by my favorite character on Scooby Doo, plus my favorite "flower" in the backyard.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

iUniverse Casualty Speaks Out

Elizabeth Parker is one of the editors who will be losing her job as a result of iUniverse moving to Indiana. Here's her brief blog entry on what it was like in Nebraska this week.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Random House Recruiting at Indiana University

This week I discovered that the IU Communication and Culture program has a blog. And on this blog they post all kinds of really helpful information related to publishing careers and education.

What really caught my eye is that Random House is coming to campus February 4 to present two informational sessions (at 6 and 7:15) about careers with the company. All IU students are welcome to attend to hear about three different options:
  • The Summer Internship Program
  • The Associates Program
  • Full-time opportunities

The Associates Program is particularly intriguing. Here's RH's description of it:

The Associates Program is ideally suited to college graduates who are passionate about publishing, but need to know more before committing to a specific area. The one-year program provides a year of training and exposure to many different aspects of the book publishing business. An Associate is assigned to a specific publishing imprint or division, and rotates through its various departments. The basic concept of the Associates Program is to explore and learn more about the many facets of publishing before committing to a particular area. After one year in the program, Associates are encouraged to apply for any open position within their area of interest.

For more information about the RH sessions at IU, go here. For more information about careers at Random House, go here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

iUniverse Moving to Bloomington, Indiana

Here's some interesting news: iUniverse, a company that works directly with authors to publish their books, has announced that it's moving its operations from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Bloomington, Indiana. Bad news for about 70 Nebraskans, but good news for some Hoosiers. (Read the story in the Lincoln Journal Star here. I would have given you the Bloomington Herald-Times link too, but they won't let you read the story without a subscription. Boo!)

All employees in Nebraska have been given the option to move to Indiana, but how many do you really think will? (After all, the cold, barren wasteland you know is better than the cold, barren wasteland you don't know.)

iUniverse was purchased last September by Author Solutions, which operates Author House in Bloomington. So this is a consolidation move that looks to be creating a pretty big operation.

I'm being careful not to outright call these companines "self-publishers," even though that's what they call themselves. Self-publishing guru Dan Poynter cautioned us all last week on Joe Wikert's blog that companies like these should be called "vanity publishers."

Whatever you call them, they're a good place to get editing, design, and sales experience.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Finally Some Good News: Pearson Posts Record Profit

Bloomberg News reported yesterday that publishing giant Pearson had a record year in 2007. Of course this makes me happy because despite having left there nine years ago, I'm really still part of the Pearson family by virtue of being married to a current employee. And Pearson has been very good to us all these years.

So of course, I have decided to show my gratitude by stealing one of their employees. But more on that later.

Pearson credits its success to three factors:
  • Penguin has done better than expected.
  • The education business has expanded and opened worldwide testing centers.
  • The Financial Times has grown strongly.

So it's good to hear that at least one of the giants is operating stably and is probably still hiring strongly.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Advice for an Aspiring Freelance Editor?

Krisan Matthews at the Publishing Curve blog is thinking of getting started as a freelance editor on top of her day job as an editorial assistant in Chicago. She's soliciting feedback on a number of questions surrounding freelancing. If you've got some advice for her, please drop by her blog and comment on her post.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Publishing Careers Maven Actually Hires Someone

That's right--after almost a year of going on and on about careers in publishing, I have finally put my money where my mouth is and hired someone.

This is kind of a big step for me personally because it's been many years since I hired and supervised anyone (namely, the fabulous Heather Wilcox at Wiley--you go, girl!). I've been focusing on my own little product line and haven't had the means or motivation to hire someone. But all that changed when I took over a second product line. Suddenly I am inundated and need help--fast!

I'm very excited about my new hire. I'll tell you more about him once he's given his notice at his current job and I have had a chance to talk with the people we interviewed but didn't select. But today he said yes! This is a good move for him and a godsend to me.

Meanwhile, it's been kind of a conflicted experience for me. I'm here trying to help people's publishing dreams come true, while on the other hand I'm out there dashing about 31 other people's hopes. There were so many amazing people who applied. The majority of them had some writing or editing experience (transferable skills) but no actual book publishing experience. Any one of them probably could have learned the job. But right now I need someone who can hit the ground running and immediately take over some of my projects.

So I guess it sounds like the chicken and the egg syndrome: You can't get a publishing job without publishing experience; yet you can't get experience without a publishing job. Had this job been more entry-level, I would have considered people without direct publishing experience but some other relevant experiences--say, in newspapers or college publications.

Don't lose heart. I will continue searching out ways for readers to get the kind of experience that gets them hired. And I will continue to post about other job opportunities I hear about that might be right for you.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Harcourt Leaving San Diego

A recent clash of the publishing titans has resulted in the loss of 65 publishing jobs in San Diego. Last month Reed Elsevier sold Harcourt Trade and Harcourt Education to Houghton Mifflin. The new owner is closing the San Diego office by June 30.

This article in the San Diego Union-Tribune tells a little about the local impact of this move and the history of Harcourt in San Diego.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wash. U. Students Go on a Publishing Careers Road Show

Washington University in St. Louis's career center has a fantastic program called Road Shows, in which they take a group of students on a field trip to a big city to visit employers and learn about specific careers.

Sophomore Kate Gallagher published her report about her recent Road Show trip in the Student Life newspaper. Her trip took her to the NYC offices of Random House, Meredith Corporation, Penguin Publishing, Publicis USA, and Ruder Finn, Inc. You'll definitely want to read about what she learned there, as well as her "Midwestern college student hits the big city" perspective.

Nice job, Kate! And kudos to Wash. U. for such a wonderful above-and-beyond learning experience for its students!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

World Wide Learn: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Online Education

World Wide Learn is a site I discovered several years ago. It's just packed with information about online degree programs, and a bit about careers. If you're considering furthering your education, I suggest you check here for more information about the degree you're interested in. (I didn't, however, see much about degrees in publishing, which are rare.)

WWL is based in Calgary, Alberta. They've been sending me a pretty lackluster newsletter for years (one of these days I'll expend the effort to unsubscibe--our IT guys love me). But today I discovered their blog, which looks cool.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Decisions, Decisions: Where Should I Go This Year?

As part of his job as Foreign Rights Manager for Pearson, my husband goes to Europe several times a year for book fairs. Most of the time I get left behind (and not without a little resentment). Somebody's gotta stay home with the kid. But I can't complain too much: In the past five years, I've been to Italy, England, and Portugal with him, and always on his frequent-flyer miles.

So he's decided (and I agree) that this year I need to plan to tag along on one of his trips. The problem is deciding which one. A lot depends on what trips I need to go on for my own job (two or three domestic trips to industry conferences) and when we can get a grandmother to help us. (I'm a glutton for punishment, but still haven't gotten up the nerve to take a four-year-old on a transatlantic flight.)

Here are my choices. Which would you choose?

  • London and Moscow in early April
  • Warsaw and Thessaloniki in May
  • Frankfurt and a mystery destination in October

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Butler University Children's Literature Conference

A week from Saturday, the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis will be abuzz with people who make--or aspire to make--kids' books. The big draw for this year's Children's Literature Conference seems to be an appearance by Arthur Levine, billed as the American editor for the Harry Potter series. Although the other speakers are impressive as well, I'd love to hear what he has to say in particular. (But I have a standing gig at home, reading Curious George to my own kid-lit fan.)

It's $85 per person to attend the events, plus another $45 if you want Mr. Levine and others to critique your manuscript or portfolio. The general public is invited to attend the free Meet the Authors Gala on Friday night (1/25) at the new Central Library.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Story of One Office Closed by McGraw-Hill

One of the great things about the Internet is that through it, you can usually find the pieces of just about any information puzzle. In this case, while we wonder where people lost jobs in the wake of McGraw-Hill's 600-plus layoff, a local newspaper in Maine has identified five of the victims.

The Knox County Times of Rockport, Maine, reports on the closure of the International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press office. Five people are losing their jobs. Two editors are staying on to continue publishing a reduced list from their home offices.

This last bit is the significant thing I wanted to call your attention to. This seems to be a common result of an office closure. If the company doesn't want to spend the money to keep an office open, sometimes they will ask some employees to continue working for them from home. It happened here several years ago when Thomson (now Cengage) closed the Indianapolis office of Prima (now Course Technology). Several key employees continued to work for the company from their homes. As a matter of fact, last I heard, some of them were still doing that.

So an office closure doesn't necessarily mean then end of everyone's employment. Acquisitions editors, it seems, are the most bullet-proof because they know the product, have the contacts, and are difficult to replace with freelancers.

Friday, January 11, 2008

An Eloquent Defense of Majoring in Liberal Arts

Furrah Qureshi is just a freshman at Drexel University. Yet she has written a fantastic article for the campus paper The Triangle discussing the career merits of a major in, say, English. When I was a freshman, I can assure you I did not have the conviction that she has. And yet, it turns out that she is very, very right. Majoring in a liberal arts subject does not set you up to starve. Liberal arts is good preparation for many "stable" careers that will keep your parents from hyperventilating.

I will go a step further and say that if your heart is in the liberal arts but you study engineering to make your parents happy, you're not going to be as happy as you could be. Many people start out in a lucrative field and discover down the road that they would rather be doing something more artistic (remember the Monty Python sketch in which the accountant wants to be a lion tamer?). But by this point, it's often difficult to switch fields without taking a huge pay cut. Some people just can't get their heads wrapped around this concept and end up staying.

Publishing can be a great bridge job. Say you've studied biology and now you want to be an editor. You've got a leg up on jobs with science and medical publishers. Still, you'll need to have evidence of your writing and editing skills and some sort of related experience (non-paid is OK).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

McGraw-Hill Cuts 611 Jobs

Ouch. It always hurts to hear things like this. You can read the full story in Publisher's Weekly here.

But here's the part that got me. According to the article, the job elimination "reflects the shift toward the production of more digital products." What are they saying? That in the future, as more products are done digitally, it will take fewer people to produce them? This is a scary thought, indeed. I guess I had always been comforted by the thought that even though the method of delivery is changing, information is even more valuable now than in the past. I maintain that there will always be a need for people to edit and package information. But this is worrisome.

At the Prentice Hall sales conference, scuttlebutt has it that McGraw-Hill is cutting its independent sales reps who call on college campuses. I think this is a bad move. There will be vultures who will swoop in to take their place. I don't think you can sell as well over the phone as you can in person. So ultimately I think this will hurt them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Inside a Book Reviewer's Head

Jeff Salamon is the books editor for the Austin American-Statesman. In this revealing article, he tells a little about what his job is like: a lot of administrative tasks and very little time actually spent doing what you'd imagine a books editor does: reading books.

Salamon also laments that he is a slow reader and that he doesn't often retain what he's read. And he, like most of us, buys (and is sent) more books than he can possibly keep up with. I find that endearing.

Thanks to freelance editor and writer Helen Ginger's Straight from Hel blog for pointing me in the direction of this article.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

15 Publishing Trends to Watch in 2008

Mike Shatzkin of Publishers Weekly posted this very interesting article yesterday with his predictions for the publishing industry in the coming year. I'm still digesting it myself, but thought you might be interested to see his thoughts on what's in store for this ever-changing business in 2008.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Editorial Anonymous: A Blog of a Children's Book Editor

I was very excited yesterday to discover the Editorial Anonymous blog. Fiction editing is something I know very little about but get asked about all the time. So now I have someplace to refer people.

Editors' blogs are surprisingly rare, as opposed to writers' "how to get published" blogs, which are everywhere. So that makes this blog even more valuable and interesting. And to top it off, she's a children's book editor. Imagine what her "slush pile" of unsolicited book proposals must look like. I mean, only a small fraction of people think they have a resume book in them, and my pile is bad enough. But who among us hasn't thought "Hey, I could write a children's book!"? I'm sure she sees some crazy stuff.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Adventures of Pneumonia Girl in Vegas

Just returned from the sales conference at 1am and am still trying to wake up and clear out my ears. Overall it was a good trip and a nice diversion from the raw first-week-of-January blahs.

We left Indy at 6:45 Wednesday morning (which meant we--the 10 people from JIST making the trip--all got up at 4am, on the coldest morning of the year). The flight was uneventful, and we were deposited at Bally's by 9am (Vegas time). Meetings didn't start until 12:30, so what to do? Hit the slots, of course! I was struck by how many Jazzie-bound oxygen users were already up doing the same thing. I was also struck by the fact that the almighty quarter no longer has a role in Vegas. Machines won't take anything less than a $1 bill. And when they pay out, they give you a slip of paper. No more ecstatic clang-clanging or hands made filthy by coins and tokens. No more plastic casino cups in which to tote your winnings. It felt decidedly empty.

After a nice lunch with our Paradigm counterparts, we had meetings until 5:30 on the sales force's new contact-management software and future acquisitions strategies. Afterward, several of us walked over to Bellagio for an overpriced dinner. We opted for a sit-down place after observing the hours-long lines at all the buffets. Then we watched the fountains dance to the accompaniment of something classical, and then "Viva Las Vegas." Because I'm still recovering from my Christmas illness and had been awake 20 hours, I turned in early. Too bad, because some of my coworkers went to see an excellent Prince impersonator.

The next day we spent the day learning about new products in the health care textbook line, as well as the online instructor's resource that goes with all Paradigm textbooks. Then several of us trekked down the strip to M&Ms World, a stunning course in just how far you can go in merchandising a brand. Then we stopped at the Harley Davidson Cafe for good burgers and BBQ. Another look at the Bellagio fountains, another $10 lost at video poker, and I retired for the evening. Again, I missed out. Had I stuck with the sales folks, I could have seen Big Elvis. Had I caught up with the marketing people, I might have won $1,100 at craps like they did.

The final half-day of the conference included our presentation. Our goal was to get them fired up about selling our products, which is a new line for them. I think we generated some real interest by carefully targeting our presentation to what we figured they were most interested in: where to sell our books and how to make the most money doing it.

We all made it home early this morning, still buzzing from all we had learned. Since the people who make up Paradigm are scattered all over the country, meetings like this take on a new importance.