Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Field Trip!

At lunch today, I got an offer I couldn't refuse. My coworker needed to go to the Pearson offices to pick up something for her spouse. She invited me and another coworker along for the ride. Of course, I've spent plenty of time there bugging my hubby. But he's not even there today--along with a good percentage of the employees, who were enjoying their privilege of working extra hours during the week so that they can take off summer Fridays. (Quite honestly, it's the thing I miss the most about working there.)

This time I was struck by the cool professionalism of the place--more than just a notch or two above the small company where I work. Covers of so many exciting books were all over the walls. For a moment, I was envious (okay, maybe I still am).

As we went down the rows, I read the name tags: some unfamiliar, but many I had worked with before. The names even included some of my blood relatives and a guy I knew in elementary school. Familiarity is nice; too much, however, is not.

Soon, the object of our quest was retrieved and we were back in the parking lot. We dined at La Margarita, one of my favorite haunts when I'm on that side of town. It was nice to get out of my daily routine and shoot quickly down memory lane.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Bookless Bookstore

Through a circuitous Twitter path, I discovered this blog post from author Moriah Jovan. In it, she shows a sketch of her vision of the bookstore of the future: a coffee shop with ordering kiosks and instabook machines (called Espresso). Order the book and then it will be printed on demand while you sip your espresso. Astute readers already know that this magical machine is not fantasy. Several Espresso machines are already in operation in several libraries and universities throughout the world.

I think this could very well be one of the ways we are headed. Think how many problems it solves, such as the one we struggle with daily: whether to reprint a marginal-selling book or to let it die. Instead, we'd just make the PDF of the book available to Espresso and anyone who wanted it could just print themselves a copy. No more worries about getting stuck with too much stock or paying exorbitant unit costs on small print runs (granted, the unit cost is probably pretty high for an Espresso edition, but maybe the price to the consumer goes up as well).

The benefit to authors (longer availability of their books) would have to be weighed against the negative of maybe never being able to get their rights back from the publisher because the books would never be declared out of print.

I have a suspicion that Moriah isn't thinking about big reference titles and glossy, four-color coffee-table books. I don't think any quick-print machine is going to be able to match the quality and feel of a really nice offset-printed, heirloom-quality book. As long as we all recognize that going in, that's fine. Maybe the manufacture of those books will be left to specialists.

Of course, this is just one path our industry is likely to take. There's still the issue of e-books and which reader/format combo is going to emerge as the book version of the iPod. There will always be people who prefer their books printed (at least until we die off in about 40 years). But growing numbers of people will prefer getting their content electronically. So maybe eventually even the espresso/Espresso store will fade away as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


If you haven't seen this yet, you might get a chuckle out of this photo of the field of contestants for the annual Hemingway look-alike contest in Key West. Very funny!

Meanwhile, I just realized that my last post was post #500 on this blog. Woo-hoo! We need a cake or something. Thanks for coming along with me on this amazing ride. I'm sorry I'm not posting as often lately. Let's call it summer mode. I promise to get back to regular postings as soon as I think of something to say that I haven't already beaten to death.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Untangling My Social Media “Strategy”

On this blog, I've done a lot of talking about online social media—partly because it's an important aspect of job searching, and partly because I'm so fascinated by it. But all the options become a little overwhelming sometimes, don't they? I thought maybe if I wrote about my various online presences, it might start to make a little more sense to me (and you).

First there's the blog. I keep the blog very narrowly focused on its topic: careers in book publishing. Very rarely I'll stray into something tangential, but not too far afield. I think everyone agrees that a well-written, professionally focused blog can only help your career efforts. It can raise your profile and make you an instant "expert." And if you blog most weekdays, you can really get great search engine visibility.

Then there's LinkedIn. Every professional should have a profile on LinkedIn. It should put forward your most important experience and accomplishments and be able to stand in as your resume, if necessary, because some people will judge you by it. When choosing contacts to link to, I now skew toward job-related contacts. True, you never know where an opportunity will come from, but LinkedIn has become less of a social sphere and more of a get-down-to-business place. I'm not using the built-in apps much anymore. TripIt tells me when Joe Wikert is going on a trip (which is, like, all the time), but that's about all. The discussion boards seem to be way too busy with people who want something.

Next comes Twitter. I joined it really just to keep up on the information that the experts were putting out on it—usually tiny tidbits that might not be worth a blog post, but still quite enlightening all the same. Often Twitter is my first heads-up to information that blossoms into bigger news—for example, the recent Gannett layoffs. I occasionally retweet the most compelling info I see related to publishing and/or careers, especially if it's relevant to Indianapolis. Without even trying, I've got 123 followers (if you want to be one, find me at @loricateshand). Hope I don't bore them!

Might as well mention Plaxo here. I fixed it so all my blog posts get put into Plaxo. But I'm no longer updating my status there or actively checking it. But it's there if I need to contact any of my connections there.

Last, of course, is Facebook. I resisted joining because I knew it would derail my life. And it has. I often catch myself narrating Facebook threads to my husband and others, and wonder just how crazy I sound. All the experts warn against putting things on Facebook that will destroy your career. But here is the place where I let my real personality show—as much as I dare. Yeah, so, I'm a closet Trekkie. I like British music. I dote on my kid. If someone doesn't want to hire me because of all that, so be it. I also feed my blog posts into Facebook, and I get a lot of comments there from publishing friends who wouldn't have read the blog otherwise. But mainly, it's the place where I have found all my lost best friends and am holding pinkies with them in cyberspace.

So where does this leave us? I don't know. I'm sure I could be managing all of this better. I know that the blog has suffered from a little neglect since I found Facebook and Twitter. I'm sure there's another social media outlet that I am not using but should be. But this is where I am right now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Roger Ebert on Being a Critic

Not too long ago, after many years of obsessively plundering his movie review archives on the Chicago Sun-Times website, I discovered that critic Roger Ebert writes a blog--a fantastic one, at that. Unlike in short reviews published in newspapers, he's allowed to write as much as he wants. And it's brilliant.

This particular post caught my eye last week, in which he discusses the viewpoints of commenters who disagreed with his negative review of Transformers 2. Roger uses the opportunity to talk about what goes into being a critic, but also answers his hecklers: "We should respect differing opinions up to a point, and then it's time for the wise to blow the whistle."

What is fascinating here is to read his thought process in judging films. To those who say he is an elitist and a brainiac, they might be right. But that's why I love him so. Let others get their movie news from tabloid T.V.; I like being able to compare my own opinions to those of another snarky smartypants--albeit one with decades more life experience (did you know that he and Paul McCartney were born on the very same day?).

Several years ago I had the good fortune to meet Roger at BookExpo in Chicago. I waited in line for his autograph on a free copy of the preceding year's edition of his movie yearbook. I was tickled at the opportunity to meet a like-minded soul and tell him how much I've appreciated him all these years. But when I stepped up to him, all I could muster was "I love reading your reviews!" The look he gave me was sheer "you gotta be kidding me."

So, Roger, if you ever stumble upon this, what I meant to say was thank you for being the voice of art, literature, and intelligence in an industry that's based on flash and cash and big explosions. You've got the world's most awesome job (except, of course, when you're forced to go see movies like Transformers 2), and nobody does it as well as you do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hey, Unemployed Journalists: Join the Dark Side

Last week's Gannett newspaper layoffs were upsetting in many ways. It was tangible evidence of an evaporating career field, not to mention a blow to the quality and depth of the local news in nearly 100 U.S. cities. I began to wonder what will happen to all the journalists, left free-falling without an abundance of desirable career options. (And always in the back of my mind is the idea that book publishing is not far behind on the continuum.)

But along comes David Meerman Scott, writing for, with an idea of how to use your journalism skills at private corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and government agencies (see the article here). Although media relations has always been a good tangential option, that's not what he's talking about. He's talking about using your storytelling skills to create internal and web content that educates and informs various audiences. And he says your skills are badly needed now.

Scott admits that many journalists will see working for a corporation as selling out, but argues that it doesn't have to be like that if you adjust your thinking and align things correctly.

He doesn't go into great detail about how to get these types of jobs, however. But for now, maybe it's enough just to open the door a crack and get people thinking in that direction. Work your extensive networks and try to set up meetings with people in charge of corporate communications and web content at companies you admire in your area. Be open to the idea of working as a contractor for more than one company. Open your mind and explore your options.

Meanwhile, if you're feeling cynical about journalism, enjoy this modest proposal, from Richard Sine in the Huffington Post, who says we need to close the journalism schools and stop cranking out more gullible media hopefuls into a dying industry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pearson Now Tops List of World's Biggest Publishers

My post last year on the subject of how the world's publishers stack up against one another is perhaps one of my most consistently popular posts (not because it was any stroke of genius on my part; it's just a popular subject and I have wicked-good SEO).

Last year, Pearson was #2 on the list, behind Thomson. According to this article on, Pearson has taken over the top spot, with more than 7.4B in annual revenue. Here are the world's new top 10 publishers. (I've taken Bookseller's list and converted the euros to dollars.)

  1. Pearson (UK): $7.4B
  2. Reed Elsevier (UK/NL/US): $6.7B
  3. ThomsonReuters (Canada): $5.1B
  4. Wolters Kluwer (NL): $4.96B
  5. Bertelsmann (Germany): $4.38B
  6. Hachette Livre (France): $3.17B
  7. McGraw-Hill Education (U.S.): $2.6B
  8. Grupo Planeta (Spain): $2.59B
  9. De Agostini Editore (Italy): not available
  10. Scholastic (U.S.): $2.2B

You can see the whole list of the world's top 50 publishers here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gannett Delivers on Promise of Layoffs

Last week I tweeted the news that Gannett was planning to lay off up to 1,000 people in its various local newspapers across the nation. Looks like it's all going down right now. Worst hit at this point are the papers in Detroit (132), Cincinnati (up to 100), Nashville (60), and Tucson (about 60), although people are also reporting that four people have been let go from the Indianapolis Star. (When I find out who, I'll let you know.)

For the very latest, check the comments at the unofficial Gannett Blog. Tomorrow that blog shuts down, though, and you'll need to visit the layoff tracker at Gannettoid.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 Shames Me

Professional resume writer Teena Rose's blog on becoming a resume writer recently featured, a site that will spell-check entire websites for typos. You pay for various levels of access, but can check 100 pages for free. This is useful because once you have content on a site, it's tough to go back and spell-check each document on it.

I decided to give it a try with this blog. Yikes, people. You didn't tell me I used "everytime" 27 times, as well as a couple dozen other howlers. It also looks like I have a particular penchant for "youself."

I've said before that bloggers should get a little slack because of the nature of the medium. But come on: I'm supposed to be the eagle-eyed editor, here. The problem is that I have been working without a net by composing all my posts directly in Blogger. No more, folks. From now on, I'll be typing things in Word first before publishing them into the blog. (I also just discovered, the hard way, that the new version of Word won't let you copy and paste into Blogger; instead, you compose posts in Word and then hit the Publish button.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Responses to the Freelancing Question

A few weeks ago I wrote this short post, asking what people were seeing in terms of the recent availability of freelance editing work. I had heard from too many people that they didn't have much--if any--freelance work to do. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that the majority of people saying that are people who work for Pearson.

But others wrote in with various opinions on the situation and advice for those seeking work:
  • Greg Albers of Hol Art Books agreed that things might be slacking up now because of the recession, but that in the long term freelancing will become a way of life for many more people. He also turned me on to his cool publishing concept, in which editors and others volunteer to work on book projects in exchange for royalties down the road. It's a gamble, of course, but one that could pay off if you choose your projects well.
  • Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said that in her specialized field of medical editing, things are hopping. She's still having to turn away the occasional project.
  • Susan Hobbs said that she learned not to put all of her editorial eggs in one basket, so she keeps a diversified client list. She's stayed consistently busy over the last several months but has noted that some publishers that used to pay in 30 days are now taking 60 and even 90 days to get a check out.
  • Tim Huddleston is always busy and attributes that to his flexibility and being able to do many different kinds of editing work.
  • Susan Cox, a lady I played in bands with back in the early '80s, recommends the Writer's Market as a good source of leads on publishers. (Tim and I concur.)
  • John, a freelancer in Columbus, Ohio, has seen work dry up from a major client. If anyone has leads for him, let us know in the comments.
  • Marc, a local writer, says the work is fairly cyclical: It gets heavy after layoffs and then gets "dodgy" again later.

Any other observations or tips?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bad Vibes: Longstanding Hip-Hop Magazine Shut Down

Every day we hear of another print publication shutting down--declining ad revenue cited as the primary cause. So it was not out of the ordinary to hear that Vibe magazine is ceasing publication immediately after 16 years. But what stopped me cold this time is the fact that Vibe is owned by the same private equity fund that owns us. I'm not drawing conclusions here; I'm just sayin'.

Up to 50 people are losing their jobs. The magazine's original founder, Quincy Jones (who was already having a bad week), is making noises about buying it back and putting it exclusively online.

If I hear anything more, I'll update you in the comments section.