Thursday, March 27, 2008

Caroline Roop: Editing for Harvard Business School

One of the coolest things about this blog is that it gives me an excuse to get in contact with old friends and acquaintances and ask them about their jobs. Caroline Roop, whom I worked with at Macmillan Computer Publishing, was kind enough to let me interview her for today's post. She is now Assistant Director of the editing function at Harvard Business School. Today she shares her career experiences and advice.

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I went to Loyola College in Baltimore and studied English.

What was your first publishing job and how did you get it?

My first publishing job was at MCP as a proofreader in the production department. I responded to a newspaper ad, which they say never works, but it did!

How long were you at MCP and what jobs did you have there?

I was at MCP for 8 years in a variety of jobs. I started in production as a proofreader and compositor, then moved to editorial and was a production editor and then managing editor. Finally, I moved to marketing and found that experience to be very enjoyable because I’d hadn’t worked in a marketing department before, so I was learning something knew each day. It was also a valuable opportunity to be exposed to another part of the publishing business—outside of editorial and production.

In 2000, you moved to Boston to work for Argosy, a book packager. Why did you decide to make the move?

I had worked with Argosy while at MCP—they were a vendor of ours so I was able to get a sense of how they worked and got to know some of the people. Argosy was a small company (about 10-15 people) with a lot of potential—forward-thinking owners and a very team-oriented atmosphere. After spending 8 years at MCP, I was ready for a change—in terms of both a job and city. It was also a great opportunity to be in a job in which I was involved in many areas of the business—project management, production, marketing, and even sales! No two days were the same.

When I joined Argosy, we provided art-creation, composition, and project-management, and editorial services to trade and higher-education publishers. It has now expanded to also offer animation, full-service project management, and content-creation services for mainly the K-12 school market.

What did you do at Argosy and how long were you there?

For about 4 years, I built the project management staff to 5 full-time staff members. I hired, trained, and managed the project managers who each handled anywhere from 10-15 full-service projects at one time. I was also managed the compositors’ and artists’ schedules and assigned projects and recruited outside editorial talent. During the last two years at Argosy, I moved into business development. At this time, the company wanted to move into the K-12 market and away from trade publishing as most of that work was being outsourced. I was involved in meeting with potential clients, making cold calls to develop more leads, generating quotes, etc.

After 6 years at Argosy, you were hired as Managing Editor for the Harvard Business School. How did you land that job?

I actually saw the position posted on the HBS job board.

What’s your current job description?

Most of the case studies at HBS are what we call field cases. The HBS faculty produces about 400 cases per year (over 6,000,000 cases are sold each year). A field case is written about an actual company, or country, that is facing some sort of dilemma. Researching cases like these requires the faculty member to go on-site and interview company representatives or government officials in addition to traditional research. In order for these cases to be distributed on campus and sold through HBS’s publishing division, releases and permissions have to be secured since the cases can contain sensitive information about a company or person. So our office handles all aspects of this process—securing releases, seeking permissions from third parties, editing course materials, and processing new cases. I directly manage the processing and editing of new cases (5 full-time staff members) and have dotted-line responsibility for ensuring that all necessary permissions and releases have been secured.

What publications does your office produce?

We produce various course materials for the faculty: cases, teaching notes (to aid other professors in teaching a particular case), journal articles, papers, book chapters, etc.

How does academic publishing compare with the other types of publishing you’ve done? Was the transition difficult?

It’s difficult to really tell the difference because my role is within Harvard Business School itself and not with its publishing division, HBS Publishing (HBSP). My office produces and edits the cases while HBSP sells and markets them, so the pace and overall environment may be different there. The main differences I notice are that we have more time to produce the materials and the editing budgets are not as tight as they might be in trade publishing, for example, so we are really able to focus on delivering detailed, high-quality services to the faculty.

What do you look for when you hire editors?

We look for editors who have a broad range of experience editing various types of business publications, mainly journals, books, and cases. Some of our faculty members also request developmental editing, which we provide so we have a separate group of editors who are able to provide editorial support beyond line editing.

What advice would you share with people who want to get a job in publishing?

My advice would be to talk to people who are currently in publishing (through informational interviews) and learn about the various opportunities available and to see what area might be of interest. If you are making a career change from another field, consider taking a publishing course at a local university—or joining a professional association focused on communications or publishing to meet people. Associations often have job boards too! Also, look at the Careers sections on various publishers’ web sites to see what opportunities are available.

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