Thursday, January 29, 2009

Job Search Expenses Are Tax-Deductible

Thanks to professional resume writer and career counselor Cliff Flamer for the reminder that many job search expenses (such as money you pay professional resume writers and career coaches) can be deducted from your taxes. Cliff goes into some detail here on his blog about the kinds of things you can deduct. Of course, you'll have to itemize, and that's a bummer. But if you own a house, you probably already have to do that, anyway.

Cliff is a really nice guy whom I met at the NRWA conference this fall. And I'm not just saying that because, as Certification Chair, he will hold my fate in his hands when I apply to become a Nationally Certified Resume Writer later this spring!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ellen Gerstein on Social Networking at Work

Hurray for Ellen, a marketing manager at Wiley, for her stance on allowing employees to access social networking sites at work. She says it's beneficial for the company and helps broaden people's knowledge of what their customers are thinking and doing. She cites a fellow Wiley manager in the UK, who encourages her employees to spend an hour a day surfing the Web, picking up new ideas and connecting with customers in new ways.

There are plenty of Luddites out there who think that time on the Internet is wasted time. I will allow that it's easy to get off track, and those who blog and tweet about personal things while on the clock should probably not. But how are we going to understand our customers if we don't meet them where they are: online?

Here are just a few ways that using the Internet at work makes me a better editor/product manager:
  • Fact-checking: If an author uses a dubious-looking spelling of a brand name, I can go right to the source and verify it.
  • Continuing education: I have learned more about publishing technology and business from publishing blogs than I have ever learned at my own company. How amazing is it that people are willing to give free advice on what works for them and what doesn't?
  • Author search and credential-checking: When I'm proactively trolling for new authors, I can use blogs and LinkedIn to get leads. And if I'm reviewing a proposal, I can evaluate an author's profile by googling them.
  • Polling: If I have a particularly thorny question, I can poll my network and get advice and opinions.

What ways do you use the Internet and social networking to improve your job performance?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sara Nelson One of 70,000 Laid Off Yesterday in the U.S.

I've been restraining myself mightily from continuing to contribute to the employment-related wailing and gnashing of teeth, but this news yesterday really took my breath: Publishers Weekly editor Sara Nelson has been let go. The editor of Library Journal will be taking over both magazines. (See the low-key announcement here).

Edward Nowatka, blogging for the Frankfurt Book Fair at Beyond Hall 8, had this interesting tangent on the news, reflecting on how publishing is not a hospitable place for the middle aged. It has an appetite for the young, who can deal with working for pennies. When they start to want more from life (such as a home and family), they tend to move on. Of course, I have to assume that this is more relevant to those in New York. In the Midwest, a finanically judicious middle-ager can eventually buy his or her McMansion and a 1/2 acre of sod and do just fine.

So, folks, what's next? Reading all the comments and articles about how Sara didn't see the layoff train barrelling down upon her makes me even more circumspect.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Combating Pirated Content

Thar be pirates! Not the cute, Johnny Depp kind, but the kind that steal book content and put it online for people to download for free. Even worse, some of them charge people a subscription fee to download all the free content they want. The catch is that they don't own this content and aren't paying the publishers or authors any royalties.

It's usually not a matter of them somehow stealing our e-books, I don't think. They are actually taking printed copies of the books and scanning them in as PDFs. However they do it, it upsets my authors every time they get back their Google alerts on their names and find more of their content pirated online.

My husband works in foreign rights for Pearson, so he has seen his share of this happening. He has in the past advised me that all you can do is find out where the site owner lives and send them a "cease and desist" letter. But if the perpetrator is on foreign soil (and they usually are), U.S. copyright law is unenforceable. So the usual reaction is for them to ignore the letters.

Today when I got the latest piracy alert from an author, something occurred to me. Publishing 2020 blogger Joe Wikert is always saying that giving away content is not always a bad thing and that we need to loosen our grip a little. So I wondered what his thoughts and experiences have been with piracy.

"I do believe these piracy sites both hurt and help our industry. I have no stats to prove one way or the other though," he said. So although they are probably helping to build buzz, they're probably also hurting sales. Although he's entertained a few creative suggestions for halting this kind of infringement, Joe ultimately agrees that the cease-and-desist letter is probably our only practical weapon--and it's an ineffective one, at best.

One consolation was that when our corporate counsel was investigating a particular site, she downloaded a virus. So I guess it's comforting to think that some of the people out there trying to steal content might meet the same fate.

Do you have any experiences with combating the content pirates that you can share?

Update: Coincidentally, GalleyCat has an article today about an author who faced just such a situation and decided that if she couldn't beat them, she'd join them. I swear I had already written my post today before I read this article. How freaky!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sneek Peek at CareerBuilder's Super Bowl Ad

Just ran across this at Cheezhead's (Joel Cheesman's) awesome recruitment blog. I'm still holding back tears of laughter over its Office Space-like premise and over-the-top situations that make my own seem just not quite so bad.

I think we can all agree that, especially in years in which the Colts are not involved (which is what, 42 of them?), the best part of the Super Bowl is the ads. Can't we?

Time Magazine on the Future of Book Publishing

Awesome article by Lev Grossman right here. It pretty much sums up all the issues that are swirling around the publishing blogosphere reagrding the state and future of the industry. Plus, it's clearly worded for the laypeople who might be thinking about these issues for the first time.

The conclusion seems to be that old-school publishing will survive alongside the new "unofficial" methods of bringing information to the people, including self-publishing. I am all for this new freedom of information that seems to defy the censorship of the priviledged few, who don't always know best what the world wants to read.

However, the article mentions often the fact so much of this material is unedited. What does that mean? Is it that people don't appreciate the value of editing? Don't have time to wait for editing? Can't afford editing? What are the implications for the future careers of editors? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Writing, Editing, and Indexing Classes from the EFA

The Editorial Freelancers Association is announcing a new slate of publishing-related courses to be offered online in the next quarter. You can see the full list here on Katharine O'Moore-Klopf's EditorMom blog. The courses last from 4 to 6 weeks each, and some of them even have (gasp!)homework. If you're an EFA member, you can get a discount on the enrollment fee.

For more information, keep an eye on this page. The courses aren't yet posted there, but will be soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Smell Popcorn...

As a reminder of JIST's quirky past, we still have possession of a popcorn machine that the founder bought for the company several years ago. They would pop corn every Friday for the employees (but I was telecommuting on Fridays from 2004 to 2007, so I missed out on the popcorn machine's heyday).
But now, this moment, I am smelling popcorn again. For a moment, it reminded me of my elementary school days. Tuesday was always "popcorn day." For 15 cents, you could get a brown bag of buttery goodness, and the proceeds went to the PTA. We'd be sitting in class and that heavenly smell would come wafting in and distract us from our textbooks.
But this Tuesday is something bigger than a mere popcorn day. It's the day we inaugurate our 44th president. In less than an hour, the dream is a reality. And we'll be sitting here eating popcorn as we watch the swearing in from the conference room. Yeah, America!

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Sulley's" Resume

Someone has managed to dig up and post the resume of "miracle pilot" Chesley Sullenberger. Check it out here at The Smoking Gun. I have no reason to suspect that it's not his own authentic resume, but I don't know that for sure.

Overall, it's a pretty good resume. He highlights his accomplishments and states but doesn't belabor job duties. Despite a long and impressive career, he manages to keep it to two pages. My biggest complaint would be the use of all caps for the entire resume. It's difficult to read and nothing stands out. But hey, I'll cut him some slack.

How Will You Watch the Inauguration Tomorrow?

I spent a lot of time this weekend writing resumes, as I did last weekend. My home office is drafty, so I set up shop with my laptop in the family room. We had the TV on all day Saturday watching CNN's coverage of the Obama train trip. (I'm being paid by the project, not by the hour, so if I slow down to watch TV occasionally, I'm not hurting anyone but myself.)

So, all the hoopla is very inspiring, as long as I'm careful not to overdose on Wolf Blitzer and the moderately hot Anderson Cooper (did I tell you that I saw him at the San Diego airport in September? I digress...). Then I had the sudden realization: I'm going to be at work on Tuesday! How will I watch the historic moment of the swearing-in as it happens?

I thought back to the first OJ trial in 1995. I solved the problem of watching the verdict live by going to Pizza King for lunch, where they had several TVs tuned to the trial. So maybe a bunch of us would be able to move a few doors down the street and watch the inauguration on one of the TVs at our local pub, Alibi's.

Jason is taking no such chances. He's taking a TV (plus converter box) to his office tomorrow. I consulted with the ops/party-planning crew here and it looks like someone will be setting up our conference room so that we can watch from there while we brown-bag it.

If you're not lucky enough to be working at home, what are your plans for seeing the swearing-in tomorrow?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Be Careful What You Tweet

A cautionary tale from Peter Shankman's blog yesterday. A high-paid consultant went to speak at FedEx's corporate office in Memphis about social media. He urged them all to get on Twitter and Facebook, and specifically told them to "friend" him. Someone did just that and discovered that the consultant was talking smack about Memphis on Twitter. The employee's reaction probably just cost the consultant millions of dollars (not to mention endless embarrassment).

I told my sister, who was in the aforementioned presentation (and enjoyed it overall), that this is the very reason why I cannot Twitter. I'm a smart-alec at heart. In such a fast-paced medium, odds are that I will eventually say something I regret. Better to sit on the edge of the pool a little longer, methinks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My High-Tech Time-Management System

You're looking at it: a $14 wire-bound notebook from Staples. And thank heaven, my 2009 edition just arrived today. (It's my fault for procrastinating. I've limped along the past 13 days with free calendar pages I printed from the interwebs.)
I used to use the Franklin system, on which you could spend hundreds for a binder and another $40 for new pages each year. And although I still like to go to the mall store and fondle the buttery leather binders, I just couldn't justify the expense anymore. Probably nobody else can, either, because they have been seriously dropping their prices.
This cheap-o planner works just fine for me. I write my occasional appointments on the left side of the page and my to-do list on the right side. I use the "notes" lines at the bottom to record the hours I can charge against book projects, and then later I enter them into our Bookmaster system, where the costs are amortized over three years. (Don't get me started on what a painful transition it continues to be from our old publishing-management system to this one.)
Now, the elephant in this particular room is why am I not using some sort of electronic system to manage my time? I think the answer is pure stubbornness. I like being able to pick up a pen and check off tasks as I do them. My little book is portable and doesn't need batteries or wi-fi. It's kind of the same argument we use when we say traditional books aren't going away. It's a tactile experience that I am loathe to give up just yet. Besides, if I don't keep using a pen occasionally, I will forget how!
What time-management system do you use? Why do you like it?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Author Solutions Buys Another Competitor

Indiana-based self-publishing company Author Solutions has recently purchased Xlibris, a high-end self-publisher based in Philadelphia (see the IBJ report here). Xlibris has 500 employees and Author Solutions has 400. VP Terry Dwyer, a Macmillan Computer Publishing exec from way back, says he doesn't expect any layoffs as a result.

The report says Dwyer expects this to be a strong year for the company. I can see his point--to a point. If traditional publishers are cutting back acquisitions and reducing advances, many more people who might have gotten a deal before will take a closer look at self-publishing. But how many other people might be putting their self-publishing dreams on hold a little longer because they can't raise the capital it takes to engage a self-publisher's services?

Just a few weeks ago, Author Solutions put out a general call for freelancers of all types. Here are the details on that:

Requirements: This is a flexible, freelance position that is perfect for those looking for regular work or for projects to work on when they have free time.

Author Solutions, including iUniverse and AuthorHouse seeks experienced book editors and manuscript readers. Experience with major traditional book publishers preferred. High-speed Internet and Microsoft Word required.

Applications welcome from candidates with hands-on book experience in manuscript critiquing, proofreading, indexing, copyediting, line editing, content editing, developmental editing, book doctoring, and ghostwriting. Applicants with backgrounds as acquisitions editors, book reviewers or agents also welcome.

About Our Company: Author Solutions is the leading supported self-publishing service provider using POD technology to provide authors with professional, affordable, and fast service.

Contact: Editorial Freelance Coordinator,
Author Solutions Editorial Department
Address: 1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, Indiana 47403

Special Instructions: Please send cover letter and resume to

Monday, January 12, 2009

What Every Author Needs to Know About Indexing

Alan Rinzler has an excellent post today on his The Book Deal blog. He explains why every non-fiction book needs an index. Then he interviews professional indexer Sylvia Coates, who explains how she goes about creating an index.

One interesting point made is that most book contracts specify that the author pays for the indexing of his or her book, yet the publisher hires the indexer and supervises the work. Often authors will try to save that chunk of money (about $1,000) and ask that they be allowed to provide the index themselves. The post explains why that's a bad idea.

My company's contracts do not specify that the author pay for the index, and it has been our policy to absorb that cost ourselves. That way, we can control the quality and the schedule and don't have to constantly explain to authors why they can't index their own books (except, of course, in the case of Gallery of Best Resumes author David Noble, whose wife is a professional indexer, editor, and librarian; I'm always happy to let Ginny do his indexes).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Writing Speculative Cover Letters

Robert, who blogs about his quest for a publishing job in the UK here, just asked a good question in the comments of an earlier post:

I was just wondering what you think the best way to go about writing speculative cover letters is. I am wrestling with a general approach and saying I am organised, can cope well with pressure etc, and here's why...(where I would give examples) versus "I want to be a Rights Administrator (for the sake of argument)" and giving examples of my skills that fit this role.

I have chosen to focus on five publishing companies I would really really like to work for so that the letters can be tailored and genuinely come across as enthusiastic as opposed to generic. However this is a new approach for me as I've always written cover letters with specific roles in mind, which have been met with a certain degree of success in terms of securing an interview. Do you think it would be enough to say: "I really love your company and what you do. I am available for any entry-level job you have going" ?

My gut response was that you're going to have better luck if you can tailor your letter to a specific opportunity. If none are posted, you should work your network to try and find those "hidden" jobs. But if all else fails and you just want to get your name in front of a company and let them know you are interested in them (and maybe to get yourself into the company's resume database), the authors of Cover Letter Magic have some advice for doing that:

You might choose to write cold-call letters to companies to express your interest in employment opportunities, without knowledge of specific advertisements or opportunities. Your challenge in writing this type of cover letter is to give your reader a broad introduction to your skills, qualifications, employment experience, achievements, credentials, and other notable traits that you anticipate will trigger their interest in you and make them offer you the opportunity for an interview.

However, the authors are pretty clear that you need to have some idea of your job objective and communicate that:

When writing this type of letter, it is critical that you clearly identify who you are. Are you a sales professional, an accountant, a retail manager, a production operations manager, or a chemical engineer? A Java programmer, a health-care administrator, a management executive, an advertising director, or a graphic designer? Who are you and how do you want to be perceived?

Just as important, you must communicate what type of position you are seeking. No one is going to take the time to figure this out. Do you want to continue to work as a purchasing agent, or is your objective a purchasing management position? If you're a technology project leader, are you looking to make a lateral move, or are you interested in an IT management position, perhaps as CIO or CTO?

When writing a cold-call letter, it is critical to quickly identify who you are, what value you bring to the company, and what type of positions you are interested in. No one is going to take the time to read between the lines and make assumptions. Spell it out!

So, they advise against the approach of just saying "Hey, here I am. I love your company. Where do I fit?" You need to be able to show them what you want to do and how you can fill a need for them.

Hope that helps! :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pondering Publishing at Disney World

We're back from four days in Orlando, and it was splendid. Yesterday I was in the pool and it was 80 degrees. Today it's 32 and everything is grey and covered in slush. Talk about a rude awakening!

If you're planning a trip to Disney World, don't miss the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot. Call it cheesy, lame, or naive if you like, but I love it. You board "futuristic" cars and ride up into the giant silver sphere that is Epcot's landmark. Along the way, animatronics depict significant moments in the history of human communication: cave paintings, Phonecians, Michaelangelo, Gutenberg, Walter Cronkite on radio, watching men walk on the moon from a 1960s living room, and a room-sized computer operated by a girl in kicky go-go boots.

The highlight for me was the new addition at the end of the character tunnel: a young Bill Gates tinkering in his garage, paving the way for the PC revolution (love the orange Vega parked outside!). How many years will it be before they have to depict some sort of e-book reader as well?

At the end there is a new interactive quiz where you get to input your preferences and see how technology can improve your future. It told me that in the future I would be able to do work while commuting because my car will drive itself! (Apparently even the enlightened folks of the future can't figure out a way to eliminate commuting altogether.)