Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Job Market Overview for New Grads

I would have posted about this article even if it hadn't quoted one of my authors. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the obligatory "people are graduating--will they find jobs?" article that we see variants of each year. Despite all the bad economic news, there are some bright spots to the article:
  • Starting salaries are rising.
  • Employers expect to hire 1% more new grads this year than they did last year.
  • Colleges are reporting continued interest in hiring their grads.

Of particular interest is the mention of graduating English major Andrea Zin, who plans to spend six weeks in NYC looking for a publishing or photography job, but isn't sure what happens when that time is up. "New York is just too expensive not to have a job," she says.

Kudos to my author Shawn Graham, who is mentioned as an expert in the article. He wrote the fun little book Courting Your Career, which I highly recommend.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Inside Story from a Mystery Book Editor

People love a good mystery. When I worked at the library, we had patrons who literally devoured mystery books, one after another. I myself confess to being a Trixie Belden fangirl in the '70s (Nancy Drew was a bit too uppity for me). The recent "CSI" craze is just a more grotesque manifestation of this same phenomenon.

So there's good news for aspiring editors who love mysteries: A mystery editor has a blog and is talking about what his job is like. Mysterious Matters: Mystery Publishing Demystified has begun a series on "The Days and Nights of an Editor." The writer/editor of this blog is kind of a mystery himself because his "About" page doesn't work. He goes by "Agatho," though. There's great information and excellent writing here. Check it out!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Publishing Jobs in Washington, D.C.

Recently I had a reader in Texas write for advice in finding a publishing job on the east coast—preferably Washington, D.C. My first thought was that he should check out editing jobs with the hundreds of professional and trade associations that have set up shop in the nation’s capital. A quick look yields some goodies, such as the National Potato Council and the Soap and Detergent Association. But you could probably also look for an association that’s in line with your personal interests (in case they're not potatoes and soap).

I also suggested that he look for jobs with the federal government. A few months ago I saw a posting for a writing job for the Department of the Interior. That’s got “dream job” written all over it for somebody. You can search all government jobs at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS site.

The reader noted that he’d been applying directly to companies and having no luck, so I thought I might suggest networking to him. He also asked for a recommendation of a recruiter in the area. It just so happens that I have an author in D.C. who fits the bill. Shelley Goldman of The Goldman Group Advantage is the coauthor of The Insider’s Guide to Finding a Job. She once had the chutzpah to ask Bill Clinton at a party to endorse her book. “Now, Shelley,” he told her. “You know you have to talk to my office.” So she did, and of course they declined. (Maybe we should try again now that he’s camped out in Indiana, and according to one columnist, is practically offering to carry our groceries to our cars if we’ll vote for Hillary.)

But I digress. Shelley had some good advice for the reader:

About your reader...the publishing/communications positions are highly competitive, as you know. As you can imagine, in D.C. there are many highly qualified candidates around. The best advice I can give your reader is to network very efficiently, and if this is not something they do a lot, to learn how to network ASAP. Networking with grace takes time, and in this market especially is a required activity to be noticed. Your reader should consider getting involved in any associations and groups in this field, and I realize is challenging from a remote location. They need to work with good recruiters in the field, provided that they have current experience in this industry.

One of the big stumbling blocks for your reader could be they have an out-of-state address. Most firms, when hiring for junior or mid-level positions, do not have a need to be open to an out-of-state candidate. This is particularly true when there are plenty of local candidates available. If possible, your reader should consider getting a local address on their resume. There are ways of doing this the right way, which will give the potential employer a good feeling about the candidate.

My guess is that you could set up a local address with a place like The UPS Store. Or if you have a friend living in the area, you could ask them to let you use their address.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Clock Strikes Midnight for Blog Contest Cinderella

I was just taking a break from editing and noticed that Publishing Careers' second-round matchup in the March Writing Blog Madness contest took place today. I was up against the formidable Men with Pens. You can read the play-by-play here.

In the end, their very vocal following (and their great posts) won it for them. And they truly deserve it. I never expected to be included in this contest, let alone knocking off the #1 seed in the first round. So this loss was inevitable. But I have learned a TON from John Hewitt's analyses of my blog and the others. Plus, I've been introduced to so many other really great blogs to add to my feeds.

No sour grapes here: Cinderella is content to watch the rest from the sidelines.

Yikes: A Bad Review

It's not very often that one of our books gets reviewed in Library Journal. So we were excited when we heard that Seven Days to Online Networking was going to get a review. Glee turned to glum when we actually read it: They panned the book.
My knee-jerk response to the publicist was "Oh, well, there's no such thing as bad publicity!" But I know she could see the unease behind my fake smile. Is that really true? Will we still sell more books because we got a mention than if we got no mention at all? The last time we got a Library Journal review (for Firestarters), it was glowing and marked with a red star. We sold 5,000 copies as a direct result. So it will be interesting to see what happens as a result of a less than favorable review.
The fact is, of course, that this is just one person's opinion. And I don't really think it's warranted. Anyone can pick up this book and learn something valuable about online networking. And at $9.95, the price is right.
So I'm keeping my chin up and treating this as an experiment and a learning experience.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Visiting Miss Austen's House

For all the time I've spent in England, I'm ashamed that I hadn't made an effort to visit Jane Austen's home at Chawton before now. She lived there the last several years of her life and wrote all of her novels there. It's a shrine of the first order for people like me who've read everything she wrote and consider themselves a "Janehead."

Someone once asked me why I liked Austen so much. At the time, I couldn't find the words. Since then, the word has been invented: Snark. What a delicious snark she was! But she also had engaging characters and satisfying plots. And reading her works gives such a clear picture of 17th-century British life. It's no wonder so many of us "women of a certain age" get lost in it all.

Getting there was easy. I caught a train from London's Waterloo station to Alton, a trip of about an hour. Then I got a cab that took me to her doorstep (and as luck would have it, a pair of OAPs [Old Age Pensioners--or retirees] were also going there and shared the cab with me--and then paid for it with government-provided tokens).

I spent a wonderful afternoon reading every annotation in the house, seeing family artifacts and refreshing my memory on the details of her life story. Imagine my shock, though, when I learned that she died when she was my very age--41. Creepy!

I was especially interested in the framed copy of her royalty statement. She didn't make a ton from her books in her lifetime, but it was enough to live on (in a house her brother gave her). Since she was against marrying for money, she died a spinster. But she had much family to keep her company and by all accounts was content enough.

One of the coolest artifacts was the table where she wrote all of her novels. I could almost imagine her sitting there in the sun, weaving her intricate plots.

I spent the most time in her bedroom, where she remained during her final illness (cancer, it's believed). It was humble yet cozy. The experience was heightened by the exhibit of the actual costumes from a recent production of Sense and Sensibility.

On my way out the door, I saw a sign saying "No photographs." Well, oops.

I went across the street to the Greyfriars pub and had the most delectable brie baguette (one of the best things about England is the opportunity to shove great hunks of bread and cheese into your mouth at every meal). Then I went back and inspected the barns (with donkey cart for shopping trips to Alton) and then called a cab to take me back to the train station.

My cabbie was utterly unfamiliar with Austen and her works, preferring instead to ask me what Disneyland was like. Oh, the irony.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dr. Samuel E. Longmire, 1938-2008

As Jason and I prepared to leave for London on April 9, I mentioned the fact that every time we go there, someone we love dies. I wondered who it would be this time, not realizing that as I spoke, my beloved college mentor was breathing his last.

Sam Longmire was the most remarkable person I ever knew. His depth of knowledge of literature was beyond anyone's, and his dedication to bettering those around him was astounding. He was so full of life and love and vitality that, his son and I have concluded, his death has left a gaping hole in the world that will never, ever be filled.

I have mentioned before the role he played in my career, first showing me that you can major in English and still have a lucrative career. But he also showed me that if you don't do what you love, the money will be worthless. He helped me reach for my dream of writing for a living, something a first-generation college student in small-town Indiana could have scarce dared hope for.

He was also, for a time, my very best friend. He helped me through so many imagined college traumas, always offering encouragement and quietly pulling strings for me behind the scenes, whether that be getting me an interview for a Fulbright or fixing me up with a succession of beaus.

The Longmire house was a world apart from where I grew up--a Craftsman bungalow that smelled of coffee and paperbacks, where you could always join a singalong at the grand piano or get a glass of Cranapple and a sympathetic ear. I spent as much time as I could there from 1981 to 1989.

You can read more about his remarkable life here.

When my mother told me in London that he had died, I wasn't surprised. He'd e-mailed me in November to say that his health was failing and that he'd had a near-death experience. He gave up editorship of his literary journal just a few weeks ago. I knew time was running out. Still, it was a sickening gut-punch. I was thankful that I had brought my husband and daughter to meet him in 2006, and that I had written an article about him and his novel for the University of Evansville alumni magazine last year, in hopes of helping him sell a few more books. He did so much for me--this was the least I could do in return.

Missing the memorial service always puts a mourner at a disadvantage. Luckily, I'll be speaking with his son Warren (an instructional designer at Apple) later this week and hopefully we can work toward closure together.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quickie: Two New Blogs

I meant to blog today about either my visit to Jane Austen's house or about the death of my college mentor, two big events from last week. But I left my supporting visuals at home. So real quick, here are two new blogs I wanted to mention to you. We'll talk about the other items later this week.

First, I was happy to see that freelance permissions editor Julie Cancio Harper, whom I profiled a while back, has started her own blog. A lot of it is about food (nothing wrong with that). But it also gives you an idea of what her life is like working at home. So be sure to check out Learning to Eat. She's an exquisite writer.

Also, today I discovered that my friend Stevie Puckett, a career counselor in Georgia, has started her own blog. Visit and find out how to be a Careerillionaire. And thanks, Stevie, for the plug for this blog! Look what she said about it:

I love the way she has built the blog around the central theme of an informational interview for those interested in the industry. This instantly sets her up as an expert. It also leads to numerous ideas for topics to write about as she discusses her own career journey and daily activities. She also interviews others in the industry which greatly furthers her professional networking activities and exposure. Brilliant!

I'm blushing. But she's right: I never anticipated what amazing networking opportunities this blog would create. If you're on the fence about starting one of your own, keep that aspect in mind. It's priceless.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Impressions of the London Book Fair

My time at the London Book Fair this year was fleeting. I primarily went to meet our new parent company's foreign rights rep and give him some insights on some of my books. But I also walked the whole floor of the place fairly quickly and got a feel for the scope and scale of this fair, one of the main events in the yearly calendar of book fairs.

The big publishers were there as usual with their giant "booths," which are bigger than my first apartment.

Here is a picture of my husband in his place in Pearson's booth. He was booked solid with 30-minute appointments all three days of the fair, from 9am to 6pm. He didn't even schedule time to eat. I was able to join him and some of his customers and coworkers for a couple of dinners in London, which is always an experience.

The London Book Fair didn't seem to be as rife with over-the-top publicity ploys as BookExpo always is (although one Turkish publisher was passing out gift bags full of Turkish delight to anyone and everyone). (I brought some home for our little Narnia fan.)

The only "celebrity" I spotted was Sara Nelson of Publishers Weekly. She was busy talking to someone, so I vowed to come back later and ask her to be interviewed for the blog. But when I returned, she was gone. I think I'll still try to get in touch with her at some point. Meanwhile, you can read her more cogent overview of the fair here.

Had I not been getting sick, I would have dug in more deeply; but under the circumstances, I feel I just skimmed the surface of this year's fair. It was huge, and this photo just barely gives you an idea of that:

Next up is BookExpo in L.A. next month. I'll be more deeply immersed in that fair since several of my authors will be there and we'll be promoting some "big books" (for us).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Need a Vacation from My Vacation

We just got back home after midnight last night, and it feels like I was gone for six months. Internet access at our hotel was $40 a day, so we decided to skip it. So, sorry for the long absence.

It was overall a wonderful experience. But about halfway through the trip I contracted a devastating respiratory virus and felt miserable the whole time I was in Russia (that's me at left, just after crawling out of my sickbed and into the cold, wet air). Add to that the intense culture shock of this unbelievably foreign place, and let's just say I'm ready to stay home for a couple of years.

As the week unfolds and I get back into the groove, I'll share a few relevant stories (such as the London Book Fair and Jane Austen's house).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's a March Madness Miracle!

I went to bed nervous last night because I knew my blog would be fighting it out overnight against the #1 seed in the March Writing Blog Madness contest at the Writer's Resource Center. So it was with trembling mouse hand that I logged in this morning and read this: I won the first-round matchup against Writers Write! I found John's critique of both sites fascinating and I thank him for the kind comments as well as the constructive criticism.

But in an even bigger miracle, I've also walked away with some money in the office NCAA pool! Even though I gave too much credit to Butler and not enough to Memphis (my sister's alma mater), I pulled ahead in the last round by picking Kansas to win. So overall pointwise, I came in 4th place. I wagered $5 and won $10, so that's a pretty good way to start my last day in the office before my big European vacation!

I'll try to post tomorrow morning before the flight, but I'll likely be scurrying around gathering last-minute necessities. I hope to have some Internet access over there at some point, so I'll try to check in and let you know how it's going.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More About Penelope's Grammar Rant

I had some time to think about this post more last night and think I should have said more about it.

On the surface I agree that people should not spend their time pointing out blog typos in the comments section and using these typos as their "evidence" that the writer is a moron. These are the same trolls who spend all day making snarky comments about newspaper stories online and sniping at each other about their typos. They're the same ones who send me letters about a typo in a book. It makes them feel superior, I suppose.

I also agree with her when she says that perfectionism is a sickness. Lots of people make themselves plenty unhappy about things that just don't matter in the big-picture scheme of things (I knew a guy who had a heart attack and died because he was so upset over a reorg at work). But I also must raise a voice and say that hundreds of thousands of people have used that "sickness" (or talent, or compulsion) to earn good livings as editors. We all come to this world with a different talent, and all those "dash it off" writers need a good editor to look after the details for them. Call it a symbiotic relationship.

Penelope's post would seem to be calling for an end to editors--especially for those who can't afford to hire them. Don't worry. I think accuracy is important enough to people that we won't devolve into a culture whose communications all look like text messages.

When it comes to the printed word, though, I think we need to be held to a higher standard than on blogs. There, presumably, we have the benefit of more time and more vetting to help weed out more errors. But there will always be some that slip through.

And when it comes to your resume, unfortunately, there's no room for error--especially if you are applying for a job in publishing. If you aren't good at proofreading, you'd darn well better ask everyone you know to read it over and point out the typos they see. Many employers will automatically disqualify anyone whose resume has a typo on it.

I know that sometimes Penelope posts things just to get a rise out of her readers. This post certainly seems to have done that. At this point, 121 mostly intelligent people have contributed their heated opinions on the subject. Read those comments--they're fascinating.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not Another Grammar Blog!

Last night’s installment of ABC’s World News Tonight closed with a segment on Jeff Deck, who’s on a mission to travel across America and fix all the typos he finds. When I saw the report begin, I said, “Oh, and I’ll bet he’s got a blog about it.”

Of course, I was right. Big yawn. Like we haven’t seen this before. Lynne Truss mentioned years ago in her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves that she goes around editing bad signs. The Grammar Vandal is also out there in Boston fixing poor public grammar. We’ve all done it at one time or another, haven’t we? But I guess none of us has taken it on the road like Jeff has. So if you’re interested, you can catch up with Jeff and his Typo Eradication Advancement League here.

But let’s not forget all those others who toil in the name of fixing (or just making fun of) typos. To whit:

Ironically, though, the best-named blog out there, Grammar Police, apparently isn’t about grammar so much as it is about art. Go figure.

Last week Penelope Trunk railed against those who squabble over grammar in the comments section of her blog. She’s got a point—don’t we have better things to do with our time? I’m as much of a stickler as anyone else, but typos do still escape me on this blog from time to time. The blogging medium is immediate, fleeting, and ephemeral. So I feel like the occasional typo should be forgiven and forgotten. I’ve even left a few that I later discovered.

So, having primed you with that, maybe you’re ready for this: I Can Has Cheezburger follows the exploits of a bunch of grammar-challenged cats. I don’t even like cats, but find some of this stuff pretty cute.

Friday, April 4, 2008

On Agents and Advances

Everyone's abuzz this week because a blogger got a $300,000 advance to write a book (that's money borrowed against the book's future earnings). I dislike stories like this one because it raises everyone else's expectations about how much book advances should be. Joe Wikert does a good job of showing why this kind of advance is a losing proposition for the publisher. Odds are, the book might not even break even.

My first job as an acquisitions editor at a small company is to manage author expectations in terms of advances. If someone has a really unrealistic idea of being entitled to a six-figure advance, I generally cut my losses right there and don't waste time on them. If they are trained to think that everyone gets six figures, they'll never be happy when I offer them four figures--or nothing at all!

It all sounds very stingy, but it doesn't make good business sense to give away big dollars we'll probably never recoup. And if I'm wrong and the book does very, very well, the author will get their fair share--later, when the publisher does, too.

And how does this tie back to agents? The Rejector has a post today about why editors love and hate working with agents. Often an agent will push for a higher advance. That's the very reason I've avoided working with agents for the most part (although I have negotiated contracts with several agents). They help raise the expectation of a bigger advance because they need the cash up front to keep their business working.

So if you're trying to get published, close your ears when you hear stories of people getting big money upfront. Unless you're already a high-profile person or have something really compelling to write about, you'll probably be disappointed by the advances you are offered. And if you get a huge advance and your book doesn't earn it back, nobody will want to publish your next book (but if you're on the beach in Bermuda, you likely won't care).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

London/Moscow Plans Are Falling into Place

We're leaving for our great European jaunt a week from today, and I think we are almost ready. The Russian visas and our passports are on their way back to us. Jason's appointments are all set. I have a couple appointments as well, both for work and for fun.

I'll just give you a quick, day-by-day rundown:
  • When we arrive on Friday morning, Jason will head to the Pearson offices in The Strand to finalize details for the Foreign Rights Summit he hosts there every year for his department's foreign publishing partners. I'll be hopping a train to Lincolnshire. I have a 2pm appointment to tour Harlaxton Manor, my home-away-from-home 22 years ago when I was in college.
  • On Saturday, we've arranged a bus tour to Stonehenge. Jason's never been there before, so we'll be taking an early train to Bath and then hopping a tour van for a day of sightseeing among the ruins of ancient Britain--with time for shopping, of course.
  • Sunday I'm planning to head out to Chawton to see Jane Austen's house. Jason thinks it's funny that I have to take a bus from the Alton train station to a place called Alton Butts, and then walk to Chawton. Meanwhile, Jason will be at his summit in The Strand.
  • Monday I'll be lunching with Sally, a friend from 22 years ago. She's picking me up at the train station in Peterborough (as she did on my last visit two years ago) and we'll be hanging out with her eldest son, Max, and maybe spending some time in Stamford, where they filmed the last Pride and Prejudice and some of the Da Vinci Code.
  • Tuesday I have an appointment to meet EMC's foreign rights rep, Wolf, at the London Book Fair. I'll be telling him about our books and their rights potential. Then I'm going to see the King Tut exhibit.
  • Wednesday we leave for Moscow. Jason's Ukraininan publisher friend Gennadiy will meet us there, and his wife Helen (who has been to our house a few times) will accompany me as I crawl around Red Square for a few days while Jason works.

So we're going to be plenty busy. But I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"This Book Would Be Perfect for Oprah!"

Oh, if I only had a dollar for every time I've read this sentiment in a book proposal. (An equally popular one in the career book biz is "What Color Is Your Parachute has sold eight million copies, so that means my job search book will, too!")

Everyone's now caught onto the fact that if, by some miraculous chance, Oprah features (or even just mentions) your book on her show, you will sell hundreds of thousands of copies. So many aspiring authors dream and scheme for a way to get her to notice their book. But let's face it—the odds are against them.

A lot of freelance publicists lure clients with just such a promise. But it's my belief that the one true way to get on the show is to have a story that everyone wants to hear (the equivalent of the "gee-whiz factor" that journalists used to employ when deciding what was news and what wasn't).
So it was with no surprise that I heard last week (while confined to the couch fighting off a brutal sinus infection and spending a little quality time with George and Wheezie) that a book by some authors with an Indiana connection will be featured on Oprah today.
Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope tells the story of two Taylor University students involved in a fatal school van crash—one survived, one didn't, and the coroner (and their families) couldn't tell the difference between the two. It was already a tragic story before the twist was revealed—that a family had buried someone else's daughter, and that another family was caring for a girl who wasn't theirs. Then it just made me gape. And wonder. And grieve for them all.

So now it's a book. The families have already been on all the network morning shows. Since last week it's been ranked between #2 and #5 on Amazon every day. So in essence, they don’t really need the PR they'll get from Oprah. But I'm sure that will push it to #1 and keep it near the top for a long time.

Compared to that, I guess a career book, no matter how revolutionary, can't really hold a candle.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

We're Launching the Fall 2008 Trade List Today

Another season, another frontlist. Today we're officially rolling out 12 new titles that will be arriving in bookstores starting in September. This launch marks the official start of the sales and marketing cycle for these books. We'll have lunch and do presentations on each of them, showing their newly designed covers.

As always, the list is a nice mix of exciting new single titles, such as these:

New books added to existing series:

  • 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs
  • The Career Coward’s Guide to Job Searching

And some new editions of better-selling books:

  • Top 100 Computer and Technical Careers, Fourth Edition
  • Next-Day Job Interview, Second Edition
  • Top 100 Careers Without a Four-Year Degree, Ninth Edition
  • 100 Fastest-Growing Careers, Tenth Edition
  • Best Jobs for the 21st Century, Fifth Edition
  • 200 Best Jobs for College Graduates, Fourth Edition
  • 200 Best Jobs Through Apprenticeships, Second Edition
  • Gallery of Best Resumes for People Without a Four-Year Degree, Fourth Edition

After having presented at these launches for six years now, I'm not nervous about it. I know my books well and my enthusiasm will be contagious. My only worry is whether my voice will give out or I'll lapse into another of the coughing fits that have plagued me this past week.