Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Story of Hope: Marian Uses Online Social Media to Land an Awesome Job

I met Marian Schembari through Twitter last week. She discovered my blog and was excited to find someone else who has been writing about getting a job in publishing. So she followed me on Twitter, I followed her back, and we ended up chatting over e-mail. I checked out her blog and was mightily impressed: Here was someone who had used online networking sites in an innovative way to break into the publishing industry—at a time when, let's face it, jobs are hard to come by.

So I asked her to tell her story here. Check it out and get inspired!

I really wanted to get into publishing. Like, a lot. Never mind that the industry is slowly dying, the economy sucks, I had zero experience and the pay is (and always will be) crap. No, I'm a book lover, and in my naïve - but enthusiastic - mindset, I thought that was all I needed.

So I spent the three months after my May graduation carefully editing my resume, crafting the perfect cover letter, and applying for every single job at every single publisher in New York. I stalked mediabistro and bookjobs, made a ton of contacts and... well, that was pretty much it. I had one interview in 3 months.

I got bored of that real fast. Even though I was working all day every day, I just felt like I was waiting... So I took out a ton of books (of course) from the local library on finding a job, marketing yourself and personal branding. I designed a website with my resume, references and writing samples. Then, with Facebook's enormously helpful targeting options, I was able to post an ad on the profiles of people at places like HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Rodale, Macmillan, etc.

And I got responses! At least one person from every publisher I focused on emailed to say they passed on my resume, wanted to meet, or even just to say they liked my idea. The encouragement was fantastic, and within a week I had four interviews and a freelance gig.

Of course, advertising yourself to get a job is a little weird, I have to admit. It's one of those stories you hear about people wearing their resume on a t-shirt or taking cookies to an interview. No one wants to be that person.

Except I was that person. And an article written about my search on the HarperStudio blog resulted in a lot of lovely and encouraging comments (many of which said they weren't hiring. Figures). Only two people were cynical, not much liking my use of wording, but the ad generated much more positive feedback than negative, so I'm over it.

After the novelty of the ads wore off, though, I knew I needed something different to get people's attention. So I started a blog, chronicling my search and talking a little about publishing and where it's headed. Then I (reluctantly) signed up for Twitter, which 1 week later landed me a sweet interview at Penguin.

One month later and I'm employed. Long story short, a woman at Rodale saw my ad, emailed me and thought I should consider book publicity. She passed my resume on to an old employer who ran a book PR firm. One thing led to another and I'm now in my third week as associate publicist.

I couldn't be happier now that I'm officially "in" publishing. I also know I'm enormously lucky. The thing is, I don't actually know one person who's gotten a job the old-fashioned way. Sorry HR, but it's true. Plus, it makes for an interesting story. My campaign made me consider a career I had never considered and now I'm loving it. All in all a pretty successful endeavor.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Week in Review

My, what a long week it's been. My little girl was home sick Monday through Wednesday. I took a sick day Monday, Jason worked at home Tuesday, and I worked at home Wednesday. Even with taking time to take her to the doctor, I still got more done than I would have in the office (I reviewed third pass of a 450-page book and first pass of a 370-page book). That disruption in my routine really stressed me out, though, so it's good to be back in the office and gazing at the prospect of a free weekend with a well child.

Meanwhile, lots has been going on in the publishing careers world. Let's see if we can get up to speed now:

  • DOJ Gives the Google Book Settlement the Thumbs Down: In a nutshell, the Department of Justice is urging the New York court to reject the Google Book Settlement and have the parties modify it to comply with antitrust and copyright laws (see a good compilation of news reports on the subject here). This is actually good news. Even though I had put some work into getting my company ready to claim its rights, it was still a daunting task that I don't have time to tackle now. Also, I had reservations about whether the settlement was fair to publishers. So it's all good.
  • O'Reilly to Distribute Microsoft Press Titles: See the press release here. Microsoft Press, which has long suffered as not much more than a marketing tool for Microsoft, will get a big leg up in the trade and e-book markets. It's unclear what ramifications this will have for the editorial staffs in Redmond and Sebastopol, but it bears watching.
  • Professional Resume Writers Converge upon Annapolis: The annual National Resume Writers' Association conference is wrapping up today. I decided not to attend this year due to budget issues (and with a sick kid, I might not have been able to go, anyway). But I have been able to follow several people tweeting notes from the conference.
  • National Punctuation Day Excites the Twittersphere: In celebration of National Punctuation Day, throngs of grammar gurus (and plenty of wannabes) tweeted punctuation song titles (like "Comma Chameleon"), made question-mark-shaped meatloaves, and made the day a trending topic on Twitter. I especially enjoyed this confession of an ellipsis abuser.
  • Frankfurt Is Coming Up Soon: My husband leaves in just over a week for his 10th trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair. As usual, he's tacking on a side trip to an exotic locale. This year: Cyprus—his 40th country to visit. (Next year might be Sicily, and I might actually be invited!) Meanwhile, he's keeping up the annual tradition of torturing me over how many customer account sheets he needs to do and how little time he has left to do them. He always gets them done right under the wire, but the drama is almost too much for me.

So, that's the big stuff. Next week I'm looking forward to introducing you to another blogger who has been writing on the subject of careers in publishing—and scored an awesome job as a result. Meanwhile, my resume writing business is picking up now that school is back in session and people are getting serious about their careers again. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Be Nice to Everyone, Because You Just Never Know

Last Saturday I went to my salon to get a long-overdue haircut. I've gone to my hairdresser, Kevin, for over a decade. He does a good job; however, the reason I keep coming back is that I like him. He's smart, he's funny, he's edgy. He's also got two little girls, one of them my daughter's age, and we share stories of their precocious escapades.

During the conversation he asked whether I could recommend any good DVDs to rent ("Uh, 'Monsters vs. Aliens'?" I offered). Later he mentioned that his wife, also a stylist, had just returned from New York. She was styling hair for a photo shoot related to Fashion Week.

"Funny thing happened," he said, almost casually. Jen had spent the shoot getting chummy with an older woman whom she didn't recognize. They hit it off quite well, so at the end of the shoot she asked the woman, "So, what do you do?" "I'm the editor of Vogue," she returned.

At this point in the story I nearly jumped out of the chair. "Anna Wintour?" I exclaimed.

"Yeah, I guess that's who she was," Kevin said, somewhat surprised that I knew anything about the fashion world.

"Holy cow, do you know who she is?" I yelled. "She's the one they wrote 'The Devil Wears Prada' about." (Suddenly I did have a video-rental suggestion for him after all.)

"Well, she did have a herd following her around," he said.

Anna was fresh in my mind because I have been reading about "The September Issue," which is a documentary about her and a day in the life of Vogue. Various reports have said she's been showing a nicer side lately, possibly related to the movie release. But I never thought she'd spend a moment being nice to a hairdresser from Fishers, Indiana.

My point? I guess I already said it in the title of this post. You just never know who you might run into in the course of doing your job or looking for work. Being consistently nice might help additional opportunities come your way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Post-Launch Euphoria

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've been hearing tweets and squawks from me about our big trade launch meeting today. Well, it's over now and I am taking a second to catch my breath.

I instituted the tradition of biannual launch meetings at JIST 7 or so years ago. It's a chance to get everyone around one table and talk about the new books that will be coming out the following season. I do my sales job on the salespeople and try to get them as pumped about the books as I am. We critique the working covers. We bounce marketing ideas off one another. It's a good thing--but somewhat stressful in the run up to it.

The day after a launch, I have to start thinking what I'm going to present at the next launch. First I plan the revisions--new editions of our best-selling books. I have to time the releases to coincide with stock depletion and optimal market conditions (it's best to avoid times of the year when people aren't thinking much about their careers, like summer and Christmas).

Next I look at existing series and see whether there's room for another book in the series. Since our topic area is so narrow, I've already maxed out most of the slots, though, so this gets harder each year.

The icing, then, are the totally new books on edgier topics. I've got three of them on this list. (I'm going to wait a few more weeks before I get too specific about them here, though.) These are the ones that are the biggest risk because they don't have a sales history behind them. They could stick and become mainstays. Or they could sell 2,000 copies and fade away.

Meanwhile, my boss is going through the same process for her reference list, which we also sell into trade.

There are myriad details to attend to before these ideas can be presented as books: contracts, paperwork, competitive research, sales research, outlines, author schedules, cover designs, catalog copy...just a lot to do. Finally we get it all nailed down and ready to present at the launch (and usually without more than a few days to spare).

After doing these presentations for so many years, I'm no longer nervous about them. But I'm still an introvert, and it still zaps my energy to be "on" for three hours like that. So right now I'm feeling quite a sense of relief--until tomorrow, when the whole process begins again. And that's not to mention the fact that now that I have signed all these books, I have to make sure that they get done!