Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not judging the books, but their covers...

I've always found book jackets terribly interesting (especially after hearing from Chip Kidd at the CPC). So much work goes into choosing the perfect photos or graphics, the right feeling of font, colors that mesh well. So many people have a say in whether they think a certain cover will make a book sell. Publishers also face the challenge of rebranding popular books when people take a new interest in them, whether a new volume comes out in a series, or a book is turned into a movie.
I love the first two versions of Gregory Maguire's Wicked. The first (with a cool circular cut-out) gives a great feeling of the magical elements of the series. The second features the poster art of the Broadway musical inspired by the book. I'm not often a fan of media tie-in covers, but this one is just graphically awesome. It also features bright green page edges, which makes it really eye-catching on bookstore displays.

One would think two was enough, but the other day I came across the third round of Wicked covers... and it seems the publisher wants to recall "Little Witch on the Prairie." Why why why??

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scones and Sensibility (aka Pie and Prejudice)

Back at the CPC, during the book workshop, one of our tasks was to participate in a faux agent bid for a middle-grade novel called Pie and Prejudice by the fake author Lea K. Ecauldron*. We had a lot of fun with it, staging a sub rights auction and creating marketing and publicity campaigns. One of our designers came up with this awesome cover:

As it turned out, we were working on a real book, actually titled Scones and Sensibility, by debut author Lindsay Eland. We never saw the real cover, so it was really odd that both designers chose to use a silhouette image.

Scones was released today by Egmont USA. Congrats to Egmont and Lindsay!

* Get it? Harry Potter nerd alert.

Twilight insanity at Borders

What with the opening of New Moon (in the movie theater next to my store, no less), Twilight insanity has been renewed at Borders. The books have been HUGE sellers, of course, but the promotional items have gone a little too far...

The stuff comes in three varieties:

1.) This has nothing to do with New Moon, but let's slap on the movie title!

2.) Who wouldn't want to walk around/sleep in something with a creepily huge oily Robert Pattinson face on it?

3.) Well... actually I find these kind of amusing, vampire bloodsucking and all.

Blah... at least it's all good for sales, right?

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I once again sucked at updating. Going to go flesh out some ideas I didn't get to earlier...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Banning and Boat Burning

I can't believe it's been so long since I've posted! I wanted to address the topic of book banning, but for now, here is an awesome video from adorable and dorky YA author John Green:

In other literary news, somebody decided to write a book about one of my all-time favorite topics, the 2008-2009 Super Awesome NCAA-winning Season of BU Ice Hockey! (Hockey is to BU as football is to, say, Penn State.)

Burn the Boats

On the off chance anyone else who reads this blog is a fan of BU hockey, the blog in this link is the go-to source for info, especially for those of us who now live a number of miles away from Boston.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Entertainment Weekly: Double Oops

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to Entertainment Weekly regarding its misguided review of Catching Fire, the second novel in the Hunger Games YA trilogy. I certainly respect reviewers' opinions, but in this case it was clear she didn't give the book a fair look.

While not perfect, The Hunger Games is one of my favorite young adult novels. I find the plot very creative, and the characters' obstacles and thought processes well-explained. I was excited for Catching Fire, and found it exceeded my expectations. Collins took what could have been a very repetitive storyline - another go at the Games - and twisted it in a way that made it gripping all over again.

Then came Entertainment, with a book review that made me question whether the writer read more than the back cover. Among other things, the writer bemoaned the book's lack of "erotic energy," and questioned why it couldn't be more like Twilight.

My issues with this:

1.) If Twilight is the new literary standard, we should all stop reading.*

2.) There is so much more to YA than Twilight. Authors like Collins, Steve Kluger, and John Green (just to name a few of my favorites) offer quirky, lovable books that make you feel and think, empathize and cringe!

3.) Catching Fire isn't even in the same plot category as Twilight. While it does contain a love triangle, it's about so much more. This is a story about bravery, problem solving, loyalty, adventure... I could go on.

*Yes, I read them. Yes, they were entertaining. Yes, I will probably see the movies. No, the writing isn't good.

In addition to all of this, the reviewer mixed up several plot points. See these two great blogs for more details:

My CPC friend Carlie at
Liz at

So back to the review....

I was very excited when I received an email from EW, confirming my name and hometown so they could print my letter. While they did get the spelling right in the actual issue, they plopped my info under a review I didn't write. The text in print belongs to Liz Burns (of the above blog), who happens to be a friend of a friend. Weird! Anyway, I emailed the magazine and hopefully they'll print a correction.

My letter:

I never thought I’d find one of the more negative hallmarks of back-to-school season – students hastily skimming through summer reading selections at the last minute – right in the pages of EW. In her review of Catching Fire, Jennifer Reese not only mistakes plot points – Katniss’ costumes play a brief role at the beginning of the competition, but certainly not while she fights her competitors – but also spreads the unfortunate view that Twilight is the only piece of YA literature worth noting. Catching Fire does not, nor should it, seek for “erotic energy.” An antidote to all the Twilight wannabes lining bookstore shelves, it is less a love story than a tale of survival, trust and loyalty.

Liz's letter:

To read Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire as if it were a romance (particularly a romance like Twilight, which further narrows expectations) is to do the book a disservice (Books section). It means Jennifer Reese did not read the dystopian novel before her but rather read the book she wanted (or assumed) it to be: a Twilight-style romance. No wonder she thought the book failed.

Oops, EW.


Amusing Twilight review
Discuss Catching Fire

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Looking back, I was a little harsh on Twilight. The writing isn't horrible, it just isn't as wonderful as that of some of my other favorite authors, whose work sometimes falls to the wayside. Though I think the Twilight craze is a
little silly, I did enjoy the books - and so did my mom, my aunt, my sister, and a few of my college-educated female friends. Also, I have respect for any book that gets more book-wary kids to think, "Hey, I just read hundreds of pages - maybe I can do it again."

Monday, September 7, 2009

A library without books

This Boston-area school library has taken away all its books. They claim too few students check them out, but I still think this is extreme... I'm all for updating technology in schools, but why throw out all your books??

A library without the books (

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lookalike covers

This site tracks covers that look eerily alike... some because they used the same photo shoots!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Penguins v. bombs

I recently came across Unshelved, a fun library-themed web comic (thank you, Librarilly Blonde). This strip struck a chord. I've always thought the fact And Tango Makes Three was on the "banned" list was sad. It's an adorable, wonderfully illstrated picture book based on the true story of two adult male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who take in a parentless baby penguin. It's come under controversy in school districts across the country for supporting same-sex relationships and adoption, and rose to #1 on the American Library Association's list of most-challenged books. I think picture books about animals provide a great, fun way to teach children about ideas and situations they'll encounter in the real world. Unfortunately, much of America seems not to agree.

And Tango Makes Three

ATMT on the ALA Challenge List, 2007
ATMT on the ALA Challenge List, 2009
Some other challenged titles

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dorky literary t-shirts

For your favorite book lover or grammar freak

Support your local library (with ice cream?)

A group of library lovers is campaigning for a book-themed Ben & Jerry's flavor. My favorite suggestion: "Gooey Decimal System." Though one must not ignore "Marian the Librarian Rasberryan"...

While I enjoy this fun idea, it unfortunately comes at a time when many local libraries aren't getting the funding and attention they deserve. I cannot say enough about the importance of public libraries, both for opening minds and offering free reference and recreational reading materials to all. They offer computer training and book clubs, author talks and discussions. They're one of the few municipal offices to truly embrace technology.

If the recession isn't reason enough to start visiting one's local library, I don't know what is. Most libraries are part of larger library systems, which allow visitors to order books, movies, and CDs from a huge collection. iTunes and NetFlix are great for songs and movies you must have immediately, but what about that CD you've always been meaning to listen to, or the television series you're catching up on? Every once in awhile, I go into my online library system and type in 20 things I want to watch or listen to. Every few days, I get an email saying one of my choices has been delivered to my local branch, and I go pick it up.

As far as books... as much as I support the bookstore industry, and realize that library nuts don't do much to support sales, I think it's even more important that everyone support the proliferation of reading in any form. Support your local library!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Borders: a section just for teens

It seems that Borders is extending its YA sections in most stores. Though I don't totally agree with the branding (a place to showcase *more* things Twilight?), I appreciate the general idea. I have so much respect for quality YA novels - many of which are more thoughtful and creative than adult books - and think it's great that they're getting more attention.

Borders Ink

When I started reading YA books, the teen shelf of my local library was shoved into a corner of the adult fiction section. The librarians knew that teenagers wouldn't want to be seen in the children's room, among the picture books and art projects, but realized this wasn't a great solution, either. There was no way to showcase the books, and no person other than the general reference librarian to offer suggestions to browsers.

Over the next few years, the staff was able to secure a much more inviting space for YA. Low shelves were set up, and several great choices were pulled out and propped up top. The children's librarian created a teen book club (TBC, if you thought you were cool), inviting discussion about different issues in these books.

Libraries have gotten the idea with separating YA, but bookstores still have a ways to go. Borders is making a good move, I think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harry Potter: respecting the fans

It's been so long! I just completed the second CPC workshop, which took over my life for a bit. I was the Executive Editor of a fictional technology website for teens called Wirefly. Favorite article idea: "How to Erase Your Ex: Why detag when you can Photoshop?"

In other news, I saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. However (though this situation should never occur), I can't imagine how people could understand the plot and characters without having read the book. I suppose they're banking on the idea that everyone is familiar with the story by this point.

Though I'm more impressed with the adult actors in the movie (Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman... so good), there's something to be said about the professionalism of the three kids. None of them has done anything off set that would mar the Harry Potter experience, even though I'm sure they've had the means to. They take their jobs seriously, and don't complain about the papparazzi and extremely enthusiastic fans, like certain stars of certain other huge book adaptations tend to do.

I just love this article. A little girl with the Scholastic News got the opportunity to interview Daniel Radcliffe, and he went out of his way to talk to her...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book links

How would Jack Kerouac deal with Microsoft Word? Editing on a computer, where one deletes instead of crossing out and going back to different passages, changes the writing process.

Culture snobs and the Kindle - With digital readers, nobody on the subway can see you're reading something smart and pretentious.

Awful Library Books

Borders starts a book-based online dating system
The Guardian things this is a terrible idea

Monkeys taught to recognize bad grammar

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Hunger Games

The book everyone's talking about in our little YA-loving sub-community at the CPC is definitely The Hunger Games. I was in line to borrow someone's copy but eventually decided to just buy it myself (wanted to find a nice little indie bookstore but it was 10pm and had to go for the closest B&N...). Totally worth it!

A future society, in what was once North America, consists of a filthy rich capital and twelve dirt poor districts. The districts once tried to revolt against the capital, but failed miserably. As punishment, the capital forces each one to send two children to the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death scenario televised live to entertain the rich. People are enthralled by the drama and bloodbath that always occur, and treat this like an extreme version of "Survivor." The games go on until only one child survives.

I will say I had a few editing qualms about the book, but the narrative was just fantastic.

The sequel comes out in September, but I thankfully have a librarian friend who got her hands on an advanced copy. So instead of waiting months to find out what happens, I only had to wait about two days! The Games are over, so I'm not sure what to expect in this book... but I've heard it's great.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Our book covers!

Our designers did such an awesome job with the book covers, whether they were approximating images that would theoretically be drawn by our chosen illustrators or starting fresh with graphic design.

(Believe me, I've gotten sick of all this "approximating" and "theoretical" and "fake" and "would-be" language, too, but we've needed to use it when contacting people all week. Apparently, the program ran into a little trouble once when an author or agent thought a project was real, and turned down something else.)

I haven't had a chance to scan them in, but these are photos from our book jacket art gallery. All covers are property of Andi Paul and Alex Myerson, as well as the people from whom they borrowed graphics and art.

**These pictures were created for an educational exercise, not for any commercial purpose. While we made a valiant effort to contact everyone, we needed to use a few names and graphics from people we weren't able to get in touch with inside one week. While this project was as realistic as possible, we had to take a few liberties because the real-world timetable and budget for an illustrated book wouldn't have worked in our context. All author/illustrator combinations were invented by my group and do not symbolize real book deals.**

The workshop - looking back

The book workshop was probably the hardest project I've ever completed. We worked on it for a week straight, in literally every moment of time that wasn't spent eating or sleeping... and even that's a stretch, because I slept for about four hours each night, and we talked about the books while we ate. There were a lot of ups and downs, but in the end I'm happy with what we came up with.

Out group created a children's book "company" called Boomerang Books. I was the CEO, which meant I had to oversee ten other people in editorial, design, production, publicity, marketing, business, sales, and subsidiary rights. As a team, we came up with six books for children of different ages. This sounds so much easier than it was... in fact, it felt like we came up with 100 ideas, but 94 of them fell through or were rejected by the editors who came to help with the program. One of the hardest things was to avoid "author-driven" book ideas, and instead come up with things that realistically could be committee-created. (We worked on the Alloy/Gossip Girl model).

To make the workshop realistic, we had to call authors, illustrators and agents and ask if they theoretically would take our offers. We were turned down by quite a few, which was incredibly disheartening, but it was pretty exciting when things came together. We also took part in and won an auction for a middle-reader fiction title that's actually coming out with Egmont next year. When we finally cemented our book ideas, each person had to come up with a marketing/publicity/sub rights/etc plan, while the designers figured out the book jackets. Every time an illustrator or writer fell through, we had to start over.

Thinking of titles is harder than it seems! We had such a tough time with our YA book series, which was about four quirky freshman girls who meet when their high school mandates participation in after-school athletics. We tried everything - going with a softball theme, a friendship theme, a high school theme, etc, etc. We started out with "The B Team," which was already taken. Then "Second String," which we all liked but our review committee rejected. Batting Average... The Benchwarmers... The Curve Ball Club...Second Base... The Fly Ballers... this was only a small sampling our late-night ideas, which ranged from not-quite-there to laughably bad. Finally, one of our team members came up with one we could get behind: "Pitchin' and Moanin'." Thankfully, many other people thought it was amusing, and it stuck.

Our simplest book - about counting, for children ages 0-3 - was surprisingly the toughest logistically. "Elevator 1-2-3" involved a boy who learned to count as he went up an elevator, floor by floor, to visit his grandmother at the top. We knew this had to have a really interesting format, because the idea was so simple. First we decided it would be accordion-style, with one more number revealed as the child opened up each section. We tried creating it out of paper, and scrapped the idea when we saw it wouldn't really work. Our next plan was to make a book that rolled out, one page at a time, to reveal another floor of the building, going up. We wanted to end up with a physical representation of the ten-floor building. But it didn't quite make sense, because our boy character would still be seen on each floor, rather than on one at a time. To fix this, a visiting (and wonderfully helpful) librarian suggested we forget the "unfolding" ideas and use a die-cut format to show that the child was on one floor at a time. We almost went with this idea, but after our production manager called a book production consultant, we ended up with a fantastic sliding-panel configuration, a great representation of an actual elevator. Somewhere in this process, we also went from "boy visits grandma and meets a new party guest on each floor" to "boy visits rooftop circus and squeezes into elevator with crazy animals."

It's bizarre, but we thought about each book as if it were real. This week was sleep-deprived and stressful, but it did get us to consider issues that actually come up at a publishing house - creating content appropriate for certain ages, dealing with changes that affect every department, coming up with ideas that haven't been exhausted in the market, etc. I will say I'm glad I'll never again need to do it all in one week, though.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This is not my group, but here's an example of what we've been doing:
Author contacted by the CPC

Monday, June 29, 2009

Roadblock frustration

Ellen's agent did respond, but said that she's too busy with other projects. One of our illustrators also dropped out. Blah...

Right now we have 4 titles that are great, but we need 6 fantastic ideas by 8am. Going to be another long night..


Oh, one thing - our fictional book company is trying to get Ellen Degeneres to agree to (theoretically) "write" us a book.

Follow us on @BoomerangBook (no "S")
Mention this to her on @TheEllenShow

Not so much sleep...

This workshop is hardcore. Like "24/7 minus essentials like a bit of sleep" hardcore. At least last night I didn't return to my apartment while the birds were chirping (not far off, though)... Anyway, I won't post anything long for awhile.

But these are both interesting:

Alice Hoffman trashes book reviewer

John Green on author advances

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Publishing workshop

The book portion of the CPC commences with the (dun dun dun scary music) Book Workshop. In groups of 10 or so, we are tasked with creating a publishing company from the ground up, producing a collection of worthy books, designing the covers, marketing and publicizing each title, getting them "accepted" by Barnes and Noble, and keeping ourselves financially afloat.

My group is creating a children's book publisher. Today our task was to come up with a mission statement and company title, and think of twelve book ideas. Turns out we needed many more ideas, because our publishing mentors rejected most of our initial thoughts!

This week proves to be stressful, but hopefully it'll also be fun. Deep breath...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I ate lunch with JK Rowling's editor!

I'm incredibly impressed with the collection of speakers the CPC has put together. Since my last post, we've covered all sorts of topics, under the guidance of a bunch of bigwigs in the publishing world. We learned about the business aspect of the industry from the CFO of Bloomsbury, and about bookstore sales from the chief Barnes and Noble fiction buyer. We covered marketing and publicity, and met editors from a variety of large and small publishers. There were presentations on book jackets, graphic novels, textbooks, and university presses.

Honestly, everything has been interesting. It's cool to learn about different segments of the industry that see the same book at various stages in the publishing process. For example, one presentation was from the marketing folks at Penguin, who hyped up a certain book that's coming out soon (before the program, we all read it and wrote our own marketing plans). Later on, we heard from the head fiction buyer at B&N, who told us how the store is going to position the book, and how much she thinks they'll sell. Great stuff.

Also, I ATE LUNCH WITH J.K. ROWLING'S EDITOR. And met Stephenie Meyer's. Awesome awesome awesome.

Some highlights...

Children's books with Megan Tingley, head of Little, Brown Young Readers division - Ah, the wonderful world of children's books. Megan oversees several imprints that produce everything from picture books to YA novels. She spoke about discovering new writers and illustrators, and what it felt like to take chances on things that could have been "the next big thing" or could have crashed and burned. Her outcomes were typically of the first variety, especially for a little book about vampires called Twilight. She showed us some of the rejected book jackets for the first book, talked about its place in YA literature, discussed some of the more controversial plot points, and shared a few stories about working with Stephenie Meyer. So interesting! Think what you will about the series, but nobody can doubt that it's a phenomenon.

The school secretary in the Arthur book series is named after Megan. I officially have a new life goal.

Lunch with Arthur A. Levine, publisher of an imprint at Scholastic, American editor of Harry Potter - While most of the program involves lectures, discussion sections, and Q&As, this part was special. Arthur invited a group of CPCers who were especially interested in children's publishing to come to lunch at Scholastic. It was great to actually go to an office, and speak informally with a very cool editor. He entertained our uberfan Harry Potter questions, but also taught us a good deal about recognizing quality children's books, working with editors in other countries, and getting into the industry. Both he and his editorial assistant are CPC grads, which was encouraging.

In thinking back upon these last two, it's interesting to note the topics of conversation. Megan was asked a lot of questions about working with Stephenie Meyer, because we're all familiar with the issues surrounding her, her background, the book, and the odd way she sometimes comes across in interviews. When we met Arthur, we asked a lot more about the process of putting together HP in the US. We all trust JK Rowling, and (plot- and editingwise) only question what we, as fans, feel truly deserves to be discussed.

Book covers with Chip Kidd, author of The Learners, art director at Knopf/Random House - What a hilarious guy. As an art director and also a freelancer, Chip Kidd is responsible for a slew of awesome book covers. He took us through some of his successes, and also a whole bunch of covers that editors and authors flat-out rejected. His work includes the jackets for Jurassic Park and Schulz and Peanuts. More covers.

Manuscript reviews with Bob Weil, Norton- Though this section didn't have quite the star power of those listed above, it was interesting nonetheless. Before the program, we were each mailed a manuscript and asked to write a reader report on it. We didn't know if it had been accepted or rejected by a publisher (it turns out they're all being published). This week, we got to meet with the editor of the piece, and discuss why he/she chose it, how it would be marketed, etc. My group's guide was Bob Weil, editor at W. W. Norton, which publishes nonfiction and very literary fiction. It was definitely helpful to see what changes he thought still needed to be made, and why Norton accepted it.

Global marketing strategy with Caroline Pittis, HarperCollins
- I was so impressed with this presentation. Caroline went from the basics of marketing to the specific ways HC is tracking its online presence, from author websites to Twitter, from how to make money by offering things for free to the future of ebooks. Very, very informative and well planned out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I had an interesting discussion today with an international student about the phrase "New York Times bestseller." In Spain, he said, publishers simply write "sold 400,000 copies" (or whatever number) on the front cover of a book to show that it has done well. I've never give much thought to why people go specifically by the NYT list... I suppose it's because the Times is one of the most followed newspapers in the country (perhaps the Post is too political and the Journal is too focused on business?) and because the publishing industry is strongest in New York.

One topic we've covered a bit in the last few days is the NYT children's bestseller list. It actually came about because of Harry Potter, which took up three or four spots on the regular list during its heyday. People were ticked that these books took up so many spots, leaving little room for other "adult" bestsellers. With HP and Twilight both still selling strongly, the NYT went even further, creating a third list of only bestselling children's series to accomodate them and leave room for other books to rise.

While the two phenomena still techinically get props for their success, this brings up an interesting conundrum of comparison. How does one know if Twilight is outselling the #1 title on either the children's list or the adult list? Or if Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, specifically, is still making waves years after its debut? There are other lists in Publisher's Weekly and the like, but not in places nearly as widely available to the public as the Times.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Slam poetry love

In honor of the career counselor telling us how we should not speak....

I give you the awesome Taylor Mali, slam poet extraordinaire:

Like Lilly Like Wilson
Totally Like Whatever

And also: The The Impotence of Proofreading

Another great one (though unrelated): What Teachers Make

Poem text

If you don't know what slam poetry is, fix that now.

Dorky literature topic of the day...

I had a conversation with two other CPC students about how our favorite Disney character has always been Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" because

a.) She has brown hair.
b.) She likes to read.
c.) She gets to have a library with books up to the ceiling and a rolling ladder to get to them!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 2

This morning we heard from Morgan Entrekin, publisher at Grove/Atlantic, a midsized independent publisher. Independents have grown significantly in the last 25 years or so, benefiting from (close your ears, indie bookstores) the explosion of, Barnes and Noble, etc. This trend, he said, has put smaller publishers on an even playing field with the publishing giants. Previously, small companies lacked enough of a sales force to effectively sell books to stores across the country. Now, they can meet with four or five buyers and cover most of their consumers.

Next was a presentation by career counselor Ellen Reeves. She is without a doubt the most straightforward and effective person I've ever heard give advice. So many things to mention... but you should just check out her book, Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? It answers virtually every question a person entering the job force out of college would think to ask.

This evening, we had the opportunity to ask questions of Elizabeth Straut, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her book of interrelated short stories, Olive Kitteridge. This was especially cool because Olive is a book I came across at S&S UK last year (though it's under Random House over here). Rather than concern herself with publicity specifics and book reviews, Straut focuses almost entirely on the content and quality of her writing. When a book flops, she's disappointed that she doesn't get to spread her message to readers. She said she didn't even know she was up for the Prize, and it came as a complete surprise. It was nice to hear from someone on the writing side of publishing, and to come across a person with an unconventional view of success.

Fun fact: 80% of all jobs are "hidden" (not advertised publicly)

Quote of the day: "Try not to be the person who states the obvious with a sense of discovery."

Books to add to my ever-growing must-read list: How I Became a Famous Novelist (spoof on publishing by a 30 Rock writer), Olive Kitteridge, Amy and Isobel, something John Updike, something Sarah Vowel


I get weekly emails about local author tours, and today Lauren Conrad ("The Hills") made the list. Who let her write a book?

Monday, June 15, 2009


Morning lecture - Our keynote address was given by Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little, Brown & Company. He talked about the history of publishing, which was interesting, and addressed what we were all wondering - Is publishing dying?? (Answer: no.) He brought up other points in history when people thought books were disappearing, and ended up being wrong - which was just the kind of news we wanted to hear. We all know we need to embrace the internet and the digital book reader, and think of new ways to get with the times, but it was very nice to hear from someone who wasn't all doom and gloom. LB&C is actually doing quite well, even in this economy. After the lecture, I was in the right place at the right time, and got to sit at his table for lunch, and ask more questions.

Afternoon lecture - Here began the "too many of you think you only want to do editorial" section of the course. We heard from John Fagen, directory of many things marketing at Penguin. We learned all about how publishers market hardcovers and paperbacks, and decide how much money to spend on each project. He spoke a lot about marketing online, and how the whole staff is learning how to make author videos and book trailers. We learned the difference between marketing and publicity, as well as promotion and advertising. Some books with very interesting personalities behind them benefit from author tours, while others are aimed at certain demographics and special interest groups. He also brought us some awesome Penguin tote bags! Free advertising? I don't care - it's a great bag.

Evening lecture - Bob Gottlieb, editor at Knopf (Random House). Bob has edited such things as Catch 22 and Bill Clinton's autobiography, and had great stories about the authors of each (for one: "I'm not working for you. You're working for me." The other: "It was like working with another surgeon on the same patient." You decide.) He has confidence that most good authors are eventually recognized by the public - even if their first book doesn't sell, they will eventually hit the right note with readers.

As a side note, I've enjoyed meeting the other students. BU didn't have a publishing program, so I've never been around this many people who want to work with books (or magazines, in some cases). It's a little strange comparing stories with people I will potentially be competing for jobs with, but for the most part it's been helpful to hear about everyone else's experiences, and fun to meet book-type people.

Quote of the day: Publishing is "making public your enthusiasm."

Phrase of the day: While some people are "automatic writers" (write it, get it done, don't need to edit), I am an "automatic editor" - I always feel the need to correct everything I see.

Fun fact: Stores like Target and Walmart account for half of Dan Brown's sales.

Fun fact: Tina Fey's publisher accepted her upcoming book without even reading a proposal - she's such a good writer and has amassed such a following that they were confident she would succeed regardless.

Books mentioned that I have read: The Lovely Bones, The Da Vinci Code, The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Books to add to my ever-growing must-read list: The Historian, The Horse Boy, Julie & Julia, The Piano Teacher, Shadow of the Wind, Fun Home, Infinite Jest, The Chosen, The Golden Notebook

Free stuff count: 4 books, 1 tote bag

Columbia publishing course

After graduating in January, I did not have much luck applying to publishing jobs in Boston or NYC. I decided to apply to two summer publishing programs, one at Columbia and one at NYU. While I debated accepting my admittance, I felt that I really needed to take a proactive step toward the career I knew I wanted. I looked into both, and was impressed with how well planned the Columbia program seemed, and how connected the director was.

So now, I find myself at 115th and Broadway, living for six weeks on the Columbia campus. My family lives about 40 minutes away, so I'm familiar with the city, but I've never lived here and am excited to find out more.

It seems like most of my exploring will be done on the weekends, because the CPC handed us a schedule chock full of presentations and group meetings. Each day, we have three presentations from people who are huge in the publishing field, and we're invited to ask them questions about their imprints and experiences. We have three weeks of book talks, and then two weeks of magazines and a week of digital media. To some degree I wish this were all about book publishing, as I took many magazine classes and workshops in college, but it is interesting to compare the two. The last week should definitely be worthwhile, as we'll all be expected to use the internet in everything we do, once we get jobs. A segment of the course also addresses things like interviews and resumes, which promises to be helpful.

Before the course, we had a bunch of assignments. I had to list my favorite books, read an upcoming novel and write a marketing plan for it, read a manuscript and write a reader report, and create a book idea of my own. Each of those will be commented on by real professionals in the field.


How I got into publishing

Last year, when I decided to study abroad, I signed up for the London Internship Program. Through a placement agency, BU matches students up with UK companies, and we get two months of almost-full-time work experience. I signed up for the Journalism track (my major) but didn't realize that the category was actually very broad. I decided to go the way of book publishing, instead of magazine publishing (which I already had experience in) and voila... I found a career path I loved!

I was placed at Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, the British branch of a large US publisher. I assisted the junior editing staff - the junior editor for fiction, nonfiction editorial assistant, and youngest of the commissioning editors - and did everything from editing book jacket copy to distributing copies of books that had just been printed to replying to unsolicited manuscripts (Dear Mr. Smith. We don't accept these. Sorry. Regards, S&S). Even when I was just making copies, I loooved being around books and people who also loved books. Plus, it was incredibly exciting to send things to some of my favorite authors who happen to fall under the S&S UK label. One of my favorite parts of the internship was attending meetings - editorial, sales, jacket, and production - and learning how everyone else contributed to the publishing operation.

The next semester, I wanted to try something a little different, so I interned at Barefoot Books, a children's publisher in Cambridge, Mass. I've always loved kids, and I really liked the idea of encouraging them to read by creating high-quality content. Barefoot publishes beautifully illustrated books (works of art, in many cases) about different cultures, anthologies, and fairy tales. I spent much of my time reading submissions (you'd be amazed how many people wrongly believe they can write a children's book... or submit content completely inappropriate for children) and editing marketing and production materials. I was very interested in how children's publishers work to pair authors and illustrators, and ended up writing a research article for class about illustration as a teaching tool and an art form.

Publishing internship number three, this past semester, was at Kneerim & Williams, a literary agency. I learned about a whole new side of the operation - these are people who represent authors and try to sell their books to publishers like S&S. I got to read a variety of manuscripts, principally in general fiction and women's fiction. I also had the opportunity to read some young adult (YA) submissions for one of the K&W agents in NYC, who was starting the firm's children's line. I fell back in love with YA, a genre I haven't read since I was much younger (if I can say "much" at 22), and started reading tons of YA books in my free time. I was incredibly impressed with the original plots and amazing characters I found, and began considering looking for a job at a YA imprint.

Fun fact: The "Simon" of Simon & Schuster is Carly Simon's dad.

Pub fact: S&S UK does not publish exactly the same books as S&S US. Each has a different market, and therefore a different collection, to some degree.

Pub fact: Most children's book authors do not come in with an illustrator for their stories. Editors choose artists that best fit the feel of the content, and the look they think would work best.

Pub fact: Almost all large publishers have stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts - there were simply too many to go through, and too many of low quality. This is why authors need agents.