Monday, April 27, 2009

Leaving for the Career Management Alliance Conference

I'm leaving tomorrow for the Career Management Alliance annual conference in San Antonio. I'm looking forward to mingling with leaders in the careers industry, learning about emerging trends and techniques for helping people find jobs. Clearly, this is an industry in the spotlight right now.

When I return, I'm sure to blog about what I've learned. But if you want to follow along on Twitter, be sure to follow @CMA09, or search for the #careers09 hashtag. Barbara Safani and Deb Dib, two of the most respected careers professionals, will be tweeting "highlights, insights, and a-ha moments."

See you next week!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Wild: An Indie Bookseller I Love

Yesterday I got an e-mail that looked like a tear-jerker: "RIP Little Lady." "OMG," I thought. "Somebody's little girl has died." Dutifully, I opened the message, which came from the independent children's bookstore in our small town of Noblesville, The Wild.
As it turns out, the deceased was a hissing cockroach named Louise (and yes, that is her, "lying in state," at left) who lived at the store with her partner...wait for it...Thelma. Hard to get too choked up over a roach.
The Wild is more of a happening than just a mere store. It's situated on Noblesville's historic square, one of my favorite places to hang out anyway. But the quaint and narrow space is crammed with kids' books and games and toys as well, making it a destination in and of itself. Add to that the constant stream of special events (my daughter has gone there to meet snakes and pigs, for example) and you've got a store that has won my heart and will always get my business (except today, because I have a B&N gift card to spend).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Egg on Face

Yesterday I dutifully repeated the pronouncement of WSJ writer Mark Penn that there are 452,000 professional bloggers in the U.S. (He also implied that if you get 100,000 unique visitors per month, you automatically get a $70K income.)

Well, guess what? Lots of people are contesting his post. Most were just skeptical (with comments such as "huh?" and "I would like to think this is true, but I doubt it"). The most interesting response I've found yet was this one by Patricio Robles on the Econsultancy blog. He points out that this is an illustration of how quickly misinformation can spread if we trust the source (in this case, the Wall Street Journal, for crying out loud). Mark Twain is enjoying a good laugh at our expense.

Even our favorite train-wreck blogger, Penelope Trunk, found a constructive way to blast the report (see here). Her message is good: Don't blog for the money. Blog for the career opportunities it might produce. (I might add, also blog to help people and keep your writing skills sharp.)

Penn had to post a response to explain hs numbers further, but it reads like a lot of blah-blah to me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blogging for a Living

Nice article in today's Wall Street Journal about blogging. It quotes MediaBistro's report that 452,000 people are getting their primary income from writing blogs. Of course, that leaves 1.7 million more of us who are getting mere pocket change from it, and more than 18 million others who are doing it for free. Nonetheless, it's inspiring to me to see it emerging as a legitimate occupation. I concur with the assessment that bloggers are becoming "the fifth estate."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Comic Sans: The Font We Love to Hate

I got a big kick out of this article in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. It's the backstory behind the invention of the Comic Sans font, the clownish one that looks like, well, a comic book. I laughed to read all the strange places this font, which nobody can take seriously, has turned up.

To this day, people still use it on their resumes, and I can't imagine what they must be thinking:
  • Hire me, I'm friendly!
  • I laugh at you and your company.
  • It was either this or Times New Roman.
  • My emotional development stopped at age 9.
  • I am a clown-college graduate.
  • Working with me is like spending every day at Disney World!

I'm sure you can add to this list.

I hate to be elitist, but that font just doesn't send the right message in professional correspondence. I feel for the guy who invented it because he has to watch it be used in so many ways he never intended. Don't let your resume be one of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Am Not Going to London--or New York, Either

Jason left for the London Book Fair this morning. Twice in the last three years, I went along with him, even though our part of the company does virtually no foreign-rights business. (I've always been hopeful we could change that, but we haven't.) I mainly went as a tourist and made a one-day appearance at the fair.

But this year I am not going. Last year I started to get the feeling that I have been going to London too often (not that one could ever tire of London--just ask Samuel Johnson). I just think it would be more special if I spaced out my visits more.

Meanwhile, my in-laws are going with him--their first trip overseas and a dream come true for them both. I can't wait to hear how they like it.

I have also decided not to go to Book Expo this year. Last year we took a big contingent and sank a lot of money into it. And I don't think we got a thing in return. So I decided to save us some money and volunteered to stay home. A lot of other publishers are also scaling back, and some are not going at all. There is talk that this show is dying out. I don't know what it will take to save it, but I do hope someone figures it out. Book Expo is an amazing experience for those who have never been: what could be more wonderful than an entire exposition hall devoted to books and the people who make them?

Meanwhile, I am instead gearing up for the Career Management Alliance conference at the end of this month in San Antonio. Seven of my authors will be presenters, and many more friends and potential authors will be there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon Stirs Controversy--Again

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a soft spot for Amazon: low returns and a future-thinking business model (compared to the brick-and-mortars, at least). But today they have apparently crossed the line. Are they really effectively censoring books and favoring heterosexual porn over homosexual literature? Read Kasia Krozser's open letter to them here. Twitter has been so abuzz with the various protests over this move that I saw my first "Fail Whale" today.

Last week they had independent authors in an uproar over their policy to arbitrarily start deleting any book reviews in which the writer also mentioned their own book title. Book marketing expert John Kremer called Amazon "incredibly stupid, stupid, stupid." I had to agree. How else do you establish a reviewer's credentials than to name them as the author of a related book?

And before that, Joe Wikert told CEO Jeff Bezos to turn off the Dirty Dancing VHS and open up the Kindle to content from other providers.

I don't like where this is all headed. Amazon needs some image triage--stat!

Jessica Faust on Getting a Job in Publishing

BookEnds agent Jessica Faust (whom I have worked with as both an editor and an agent through Alpha Books) recently posted her advice to recent graduates hoping to get a job in book publishing (read it here). Basically Jessica says you need to move to New York City, where the big houses are, and also consider applying for jobs with literary agents. You know how I bristle at the first point, but fair enough. Your odds probably are better there--although the downturn and the digital revolution are turning all that on its head.

Commenters added another good point that I have mentioned before: Work in a bookstore. We're suckers for people who can profess to bring us knowledge of how booksellers think.

Friday, April 10, 2009

20 Books for Freelancers

It's always been a popular aspiration--to have control of your own time and more variety in your work by becoming a freelancer. But these days, more and more editors and writers are finding themselves starting freelance careers as a means of survival after a layoff. And many of them will make rookie mistakes.

Freelance writer, proofreader, and blogger Steph Auteri calls herself a greedy consumer of how-to career books. She took a minute out from reading to share her list of the most influential books she's read on starting and optimizing a freelance career.

I'm ashamed to say that although I am aware of many of these books, I haven't read a single one of them. From this well-rounded list, I see at least a couple that I need to get my hands on (not the money-advice ones, though; nobody pinches a penny harder than I do).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

20 Facebook Apps for Your Job Search

Oh no! Someone's trying to turn the Facebook party into a work party! Amid all the fun and games, it seems there is real professional networking value to be found on Facebook. AskBINC, a recruiter/technology blog, becomes the official wet blanket with this post: 20 Facebook Applications to Assist in Your Job Search.

A quick skim reveals that all the major job boards and aggregators will let you put a jobs feed on your page--helpful, I guess, if you use Facebook like a home page. I'll have to study all of these further; for now, the idea of adding a link to my LinkedIn profile, which I've worked much harder on, sounds like the biggest winner of the bunch.

Lest you pooh-pooh the idea of the professional value of networking on Facebook, I have to brag that yesterday I was able to connect a friend in need of legal services with a relative who is a lawyer--all because of Facebook. There is wheat among the chaff!

Thanks to @lindseypollak for her timely tweet on the subject just minutes ago!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My New Hero: Swiss Army Librarian

Brian Herzog is a reference librarian at a public library in Massachusetts. In his awesome blog, Swiss Army Librarian, he chronicles the adventures of an intrepid public servant on his quest for sometimes-impossible-to-find information for his grateful patrons. It's very entertaining to see the lengths to which he will go to get answers for people, and the joy he expresses upon achieving his objective.

What compelled me to finally share him with you was this post that somehow bubbled to the top today, in which he talks about the ways he learns about new books to buy for the library. Yes, he still thumbs through Library Journal and publisher catalogs, just like Miss Judy used to do at EVCPL 22 years ago. But he also has some more creative and high-tech ways of discovering new titles, including those that don't ever get reviewed in LJ (which is most of them).

Three cheers for Brian, who shows that technology plus old-fashioned information passion equals one handy person to know.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dooce Is on the Loose

Dooce is Heather Armstrong, best known as the first blogger to be fired for blogging. But hey, it turned out pretty good for her: Her personal blog is so popular that now it supports her whole family. And now she's out on the road on the last leg of her book tour to promote her blog-based book, It Sucked and Then I Cried. The catch? She's seven months pregnant and hurtling toward immobility.

Heather is controversial--no doubt about it. She's got a legion of haters who have polluted her book's Amazon page with tags like "read blog for free," "people exploiting their children for money," and "get over yourself." But I love Heather because she is honest, hilarious, and brave. I am going to buy this book because I, too, had a less-than-blissful post-partum emotional experience. I never threw a milk jug at my husband's head, but don't think I didn't think about it.

As to the comments that the book is nothing more than a rehash of the blog, that's okay with me because I have only recently discovered her. I have some catching up to do, and I don't want to sit in front of my computer to do it. Besides, whatever happened to supporting artists who entertain and enlighten us? If we continue to expect to get all our content for free, eventually it won't be there.

Also, look for Heather on Oprah today. She wasn't in the studio, but she did join the conversation via Skype. The book already made the NYT best-seller list. Today's appearance won't hurt its ranking a bit.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm Just Sayin'...

It goes without saying that if you're applying to be an editor, there shouldn't be a single typo in your resume or cover letter, right? Do I also have to say that you should not write your cover letter in lolcats dialect? Somebody forgot to tell this guy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tee-Hee: Publishing Careers Are Glamorous

It's not even 9am and already my day is made: Alison Flood and Lindesay Irvine at the Guardian in the UK have put words to my own musings about how the media glamorizes a career in book publishing. Read their quick and fun summary of some well-known examples here. It seems Sandra Bullock is about to star in a new romantic comedy in the role of an editor. (I got excited, but then saw that they think it looks dreadful.)

Ah, yes, the world at large thinks what we do is so exciting. Nevermind that most of us never work with "celebrities" (and those who do often find them to be insufferable). Nevermind that the bulk of the jobs in publishing are repetitive and constrained by so many "rules" as to kill all semblance of creativity. Thanks to Jackie O, a career in publishing is deemed to be the ultimate party, and just the right place for a lady with brains and style.

Well, you know, there's still a lot to love about working with books and words and ideas and smart people, so don't get me wrong. Just know that, as with most other careers, the reality is a lot more down-to-earth than the fantasy.

But oh--what's better than a bookish movie with Hugh Grant in it?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Most-Borrowed Career Books from Library Journal

A nice surprise this morning: The release of Library Journal's list of most-borrowed career books. Of course, no surprise to see Parachute in the top spot, and all those pesky Knock 'em Dead titles hanging around in the top 6. But JIST has captured the #3, #4, #7, #8, #10, #11, #14, #17, and #20 spots with a gaggle of reference titles and a couple of our best trade hits, including