Category Archives: Publishing Industry

Taylor Pitts on the Brooklyn Book Festival 2016

The following is a guest post from Production Assistant Taylor Pitts on this September’s Brooklyn Book Festival.

The only thing better than being surrounded by books is being surrounded by fellow book lovers—and where better to experience this than at the annual Brooklyn Book Festival?

Sunday, September 18th was my first time attending the Festival. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d been to book events back home in Kansas City, MO, and they left something to be desired. Here, I figured there would be a couple of booths and a modest crowd. After all, the industry is shrinking, and who still reads, anyway? I prepared myself for disappointment.

So I was pretty surprised when I showed up to waves of people—all of them perfectly happy to take time out of their lazy Sunday afternoons to stop by a few booths spreading the word about small and big presses alike or to attend one of the many, many panels offered throughout the day.

When I say “a few booths,” what I really mean is a few hundred booths. I work in publishing. I like to think I have a pretty good idea of who’s out there playing the game. But I have to admit: I had no idea so many publishing houses, literary magazines, and agencies even existed. This festival was eye-opening for me because not only did I get to see how many people still enjoy reading books, but I also got to see just how many people make up the book business itself. Yes, it’s an ever-shrinking industry—but it might not be quite as small as you think.

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YPG volunteers, from left to right: Elizabeth Stranahan (PRH), Taylor Pitts (AMACOM), Emma Kantor (Children’s Book Council), and Grace Rosean (Macmillan.) Says Taylor: “We did not plan the stripes.”

I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Young to Publishing (YPG) booth, which also represented the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Young to Publishing is a fantastic organization–you can read more about it here: http://youngtopublishing.com/

 

When someone seemed interested in our booth, we asked them if they’ve ever considered a career in publishing. And many of them answered with a resounding, “Yes, actually! How do I get into something like that?” It was fun to see just how many people are passionate about the book industry, and it was nice to be in the position to actually give the advice rather than take it (though, let’s be honest, I still ask for advice all the time). In addition to giving tips, we also handed out flyers for the Get Caught Reading program, sponsored by AAP, and we had a craft area set up where kids could color their own bookmarks.

Outside of volunteering at the booth, I did get a chance to attend a panel. It wasn’t the one I had hoped to see—Margaret Atwood’s talk was at full capacity after I stood in line for all of five minutes—but I’m really glad I went. The panel was called Obsessively Funny, and it featured bestselling authors like Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and Goldy Moldavsky (Kill the Boy Band). Humor in YA is something I’d always been curious about (i.e., How do you market it? Is there a big niche for humorous YA? What about YA that has humor but doesn’t focus on it?), and the authors were able to answer my questions and make me double over in laughter at the same time. So, while it wasn’t Margaret Atwood speaking about her venture into graphic novels, the panel was entertaining and informative, and I’d do it all again the same way.

The Brooklyn Book Festival of 2016 was a success. I can’t wait for next year’s!

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AMACOM Sales Conference 2016

What happens in a publishing sales conference? Since I’d never attended an official sales conference until this month (Sales & Marketing Assistant Janine here!), I found myself asking this question many times until the day itself last Wednesday. On the one hand, our sales conference is quite simple: we present our upcoming list to outside sales representatives, so that they have all the information and enthusiasm they’ll need when pitching our titles to booksellers around the country. On the other hand, the work that goes into sales conference preparation can be anything but simple.

Jenny Wesselmann Schwartz, AMACOM’s Director of Trade Sales and Marketing, oversees the entire conference and the long lead-up to the day itself. Her previous blog post on the topic proved invaluable to me in my first full sales conference cycle. In that post, she discussed book packaging from a sales perspective as well as the specific elements we create for our sales representatives:

As we get closer to sales conference, we start creating the tip sheets for the sales reps. Each includes a short summary of the book followed by bulleted sales handles, relevant specs, an author bio, and an overview of competitive books. We try to give the sales reps all the key information they might need on a sales call on one sheet of paper that they can leave with a buyer, if needed. The sales kits also include the tables of content, excerpts, endorsements and reviews, relevant articles, publisher and author marketing plans—everything we can think of that will help someone understand the book and its potential.

The sales reps also offer comments, if they see fit. This time, for our Spring/Summer 2016 List Sales Conference, one representative saw so much potential for one of our books that she suggested a much larger first print run–I wish I could tell you which book! On the flip side, a rep who also happens to be a surfing aficionado suggested a different cover for July 2016’s Make Your Own Waves. Turns out we New Yorkers picked a pretty unrealistic surfer image, and it’s a relief that he caught that. (Actually, Creative Director Cathleen had also questioned whether it was a realistic move for a surfer, but, she joked, she “didn’t want to make any waves!”)

My main concern heading into the sales conference: my two speeches. I presented The Healthy Workplace and The Essentials of Finance and Accounting for Nonfinancial Managers, Third Edition, and felt nervous for days before. Fortunately, the former theater kid in me emerged just as I reached the podium, and I remembered just how fun it is to deliver a performance (even a very direct one about, you know, finance and accounting). It should be fun–because, as Senior Editor Stephen S. Power pointed out to me, it’s all about transferring enthusiasm.

“Maybe 20 years ago, the agent Jim Hornfischer published an essay on ‘the chain of enthusiasm’–that is, the author transferring their enthusiasm for a project to their editor, the editor transferring it to sales and publicity, sales transferring it to the buyers and publicity transferring it to readers,” said Stephen. “So that’s my goal with speeches: to transfer the enthusiasm through one story, two numbers and, hopefully, even more humor.” (If you’re interested in the original essay, it’s available on the Hornfischer Literary Management website!)

So stay tuned for our forthcoming Spring/Summer 2016 Catalog! Our authors are excited, we’re excited, our sales reps are excited–and you will be too.

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Andy on Why Bookstores Matter

The following is a guest post from Managing Editor Andy Ambraziejus, about the important role of bookstores as physical spaces for book lovers and readers.

Photo of City Lights Bookstore exterior

City Lights Bookstore courtesy of Andy Ambraziejus

I got a deeper insight into why the existence of physical bookstores matters.  And why browsing in a bookstore offers some things that online browsing can’t replicate – at least so far.

It started with a recent visit to City Lights Bookstore in the North Beach section of San Francisco. The bookstore was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and a partner to sell paperbacks, which weren’t easily available in bookstores at the time.  City Lights became a haven for such writers as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady, soon labeled as the writers of the Beat Generation.  As the website of the bookstore puts it, they and other writers came by and “sat, read, rapped, and hung out without being hassled to buy anything.”

Ferlinghetti also began publishing small editions of poetry in paperback.  In 1956 the bookstore gained notoriety by publishing Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems.  Howl caused a sensation for its depictions of drug use and homosexuality.  Legal action and a trial followed.  The threat of censorship and arrest was real, but in a precedent-setting case Howl was declared not to be obscene.  The publicity surrounding the trial made Howl an underground best seller, and the bookstore itself a symbol of free expression.  The bookstore grew, both in size and reputation, and in the summer of 2013 celebrated it’s 60th anniversary, doing great business.

Photo of City Lights Bookstore interior

City Lights Bookstore interior courtesy of Andy Ambraziejus

Posters celebrating Howl and other works by Beat writers, as well as posters of protest and other paraphernalia, are prominently displayed on the ground floor of the bookstore.  Just seeing the posters and being reminded what took place here gave me a little thrill: Yes, being in publishing mattered, and publishing books mattered, and this place was a good reminder of that.

The second floor of the bookstore is now specifically dedicated to poetry.  After perusing the shelves on the ground floor, I went upstairs. It was like walking into a church or temple. The feeling of being in a sacred place — that’s the only word  I can use — was palpable.  There were a few people in the room sitting on chairs and reading. One person was leafing through a copy of Howl. Others were intensely concentrating on different books. No one was speaking. The silence and sense of history were even stronger than on the first floor.

Can social interaction online replicate that experience?  With the same intensity?  Perhaps being in City Lights is a unique experience, but isn’t every visit to a bookstore or library similar, if less intense?  Being with other people who are enjoying the same activity you are is a very affirming and nurturing experience. We’re social creatures, after all.  For those of us who like to read books, the bookstore or library is our gathering place, where we not only find books but get that affirmation and nurturing.

In one of his recent blogs, publishing guru Mike Shatzkin made the good point that a bookstore display does a much better job of displaying books than online pages do.  As he says, “It isn’t hard for somebody in a bookstore to look at hundreds of books in a few minutes. It’s nearly impossible online. This either requires the consumer to spend more time shopping to see the same number of titles they used to see in a store, or to make a decision having seen fewer.”   What?  The old-fashioned way is more efficient? And what about hand-selling and the social aspect of knowing your local bookseller and asking him for recommendations? Is that a reason why independent bookstores are making a comeback in some quarters?

Sure, book discovery online has other benefits, and can be so much more focused and wide-ranging.  But I think of it more as work. Going to a bookstore, on the other hand, is more often than not closer to play for me. “Like being a kid in a candy store,” as some of my friends have said, when I asked them what they enjoyed about browsing in bookstores. Many of them emphasized that notion of play and sense of childlike adventure and discovery.  “I can more easily see the books available to me.”  “The books are more real than online.”  “It’s a place where I belong.”

Photo of bulletin board at City Lights Bookstore

Bulletin board at City Lights Bookstore courtesy of Andy Ambraziejus

I wonder how the people who seem to be tethered to their devices these days feel about shopping in a physical bookstore as opposed to online. Do their gadgets represent drudgery? Fun? Both? Nothing?  Will these people miss things like browsing in a physical bookstore if bookstores slowly disapper? Or will they even notice?  And will they get their sense of community from social media and not feel they’re isolated or lacking something if they don’t visit a place where books are displayed?

I wonder.

Andy Ambraziejus is AMACOM’s Managing Editor. He started working for AMACOM in August 1999. He runs the Production Department, which includes the Associate Editors who work on the editorial side of things getting the books copyedited, proofread, index, and designed. You can follow Andy on twitter at @AndyAmbraziejus.

Earlier Posts:
Discovering the Library and the World
Frankfurt Dispatches: Andy Discovers Bad Soden
Introducing AMACOM… Andy

AMACOM Editors on Books They Wish They Published in 2013

Ellen Kadin, Executive Editor

In this past year I wish I could have published Grain Brain (Little, Brown and Co.).  Written by an esteemed neurologist, this remarkable book explains in easy-to-understand fashion the science behind the enormous damage that so-called “healthy whole grains” (especially wheat) and other carbs do to our brains and neurological systems—and how changing one’s diet to one that’s dominated by good fats (Fats!!  Thank you, doctor!)  and very low in carbs can not only relieve many common ailments and diseases—without drugs!—but also dramatically decrease our risk for many catastrophic illnesses.  I consider this book so important that I’ve already bought half a dozen copies for friends and family—with no end to purchases in sight.  (I was also compelled to write to the book’s agent, Bonnie Solow—with whom I hadn’t corresponded in years—just to congratulate her on this magnificent work and its well-deserved bestselling success.)

For 2014, my publishing wish is that fine chefs will get with the program and create gourmet cookbooks whose recipes exclude the common, toxic ingredients that I and my fellow Grain Brain believers are now strongly determined to avoid.

Bob Nirkind, Senior Editor

Jacket image, The Everything StoreIf there were one business book I wished I could have published in 2013, it would be Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Little, Brown and Co.). It’s hard to think of any contemporary founders and companies outside of Steve Jobs/Apple and Bill Gates/Microsoft who’ve had the impact on business on a global scale as Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. Setting aside MacKenzie Bezos’ one-star review on her husband’s site, criticizing Stone’s “numerous factual inaccuracies” and his ‘lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon,” the book provides an authoritative, in-depth, and utterly fascinating look at a business visionary and the company whose innovations such as the Kindle, third-party selling, cloud computing, overnight delivery, and a customer-first sensibility have been a godsend to millions, if not billions, of consumers worldwide while at the same time striking fear into the hearts and $ouls of companies such as Apple, Google, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble—not forgetting the publishing industry as a whole. While I don’t agree with Astra Taylor’s assertion in the December/January issue of BOOKFORUM that the book “is written for all the wannabes who dream of starting a company and getting rich,” her point is well taken that for a more critical evaluation, “We will have to look elsewhere if we want to understand Amazon’s cultural and economic significance.” In the meantime, this is a good place to begin.

The one book I would have liked to have seen published this year was a definitive study of the urban nightmare that is Detroit, the first major American city (but likely not the last) to have declared bankruptcy. There have been a number of books over the past few years, and especially in 2013, that have offered a combination of historical perspective and personal views of the city, including Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy, Mark Binelli’s Detroit City is the Place to Be, Scott Martelle’s Detroit: A Biography, and Paul Clemen’s Made in Detroit, whose book was ahead of the curve when published in 2006, but no one yet has gotten to the core of what happened there and where the blame lies (there’s plenty to go around, from auto company execs to self-serving politicians to the city’s white residents who were well on their way to the suburbs before the ’67 riot sent its tax base out of town). Was Thomas J. Sugrue to bring his incisive The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit up to date and widen his focus, this would be the book many Detroiters and ex-Detroiters like me have been waiting to read.

Stephen S. Power, Senior Editor

Jacket image, Jim Henson: The BiographyMy choice is simple: Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (Ballantine Books). The author had incredible access to the Henson archives, and he’s a great writer. Jim Henson is the equal of Charles Schultz in his effect on American popular culture. And when was a kid I watched the Muppet Show every night. When I met Alice Cooper, I said, “You were awesome on the Muppet Show” (as the Devil’s proxy, he tries to get Kermit to sign over his soul). He laughed, clearly not expecting such a comment, and said the show was a lot of fun. I was the underbidder for the biography. I was very glum after I lost, but I’m glad I did. If I hadn’t, the project would have been caught up in my former employer’s sale of my line to another publisher, and I think the publication would have been seriously compromised.

William Helms, Associate Acquisitions Editor

Jacket image, EconomixAlthough it was published in 2012, I came across Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work), in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr at Abrams’ booth at BEA this past year, it’s the sort of book I wish I could have published this year. Obviously, over the past 4 or 5 years, the economy and how it impacts the job market has consistently been on almost everyone’s minds; but how much does the regular person actually know about economics and how the American economic system works — or sometimes doesn’t really work? The book manages to explain the historical and intellectual foundations of our current economy and of our current economic problems through the use of comic books – oops, “graphic novels.” I remember taking economics courses back in college, and thinking that it was probably the dullest and most difficult thing I had ever bothered to take but the book excels at making economics fun and approachable, all while, making a valuable connection — that knowing how our economic system works will make you a better, more informed citizen.

Lynsey on How to Get a Job in Publishing: Some Unofficial Advice

With cap-and-gown season quickly approaching, Rights and International Sales Associate Lynsey Major offers job search advice for members the class of 2013 interested in pursuing a career in books.

Why hello there liberal arts graduates—you who chose to pursue Faulkner over Pharmacology. Good news: there is a place in the world for you, where you can showcase your bibliophilia without shame (instead of hiding it like that copy of Fifty Shades of Gray you’ve secretly been reading). Welcome to the illustrious field of publishing! Now, I should issue a disclaimer that I am not an HR professional, and I have had my share of flopped interviews. But, here are a few things that I have learned along the way that may help you in your own career search.

1. Everyone wants to work in editorial…at first. But, don’t limit yourself to one area until you understand what each department does.

I began my internship at AMACOM in Rights and International Sales—an area that I didn’t even know existed before I began. However, I was fortunate because it suited my temperament perfectly. (Let’s just say I can be detail-oriented to the point of knowing every type of tree without ever noticing I was in a forest.) Besides if everyone worked in editorial, who would do the marketing, publicity, or sales? Yes, we would have fantastic projects and finely edited books—no typos here! But they would have no chance of being found by readers because someone has to come up with those pithy titles, gorgeous covers, publicity campaigns, and work with distributors. Every department has its perks so don’t just assume you’ll be knocking back drinks with Cormac McCarthy, if and only if you’re an editorial assistant.

2. Find the right fit: both in terms of product and office culture.

Keep in mind that it’s not celebrity authors that make your job worthwhile—instead it’s the people you are surrounded by on a daily basis. You should also consider what type of books you want to work on. If you have never read a romance novel, Harlequin may not be the right fit for you. Alternatively, if you love thrillers, Norton may not give you the best chance to flaunt your knowledge. At the end of the day, you need to be enthusiastic about your books.

3. You should move to New York. Seriously.

Even though there are publishers and literary agents throughout the U.S., New York has more publishing opportunities than anyplace else. Plus, it’s just a fun city, unless you have to commute during rush hour—like a million or so other folks— and then it can be the worst place ever. Have fun with that.

4. Intern as soon as possible as often as possible.

If you don’t have an internship, stop reading this and go get one right now. Every employer prefers you to have experience. And with all this belt-tightening, publishers need interns too. Some will offer money; some transportation and lunch; and some just the pleasure of their company!

That said, I do know several folks who have attended the Columbia Publishing Course, and this has helped them gain access to job listings sooner than the general public.

5. So now that you have a sweet resume loaded with skills and experience, an over-priced Brooklyn studio apartment, and a sense of the type of books, publisher, and department you want to be involved in, start the job-hunt. Try these sites for starters: PublisherMarketplace, MediaBistro, and the job opportunities/career pages of individual publishers.

6. If you want more advice, there are plenty of books out there from professionals that can help you land your ideal gig. Ahem, here are a few from AMACOM:

Jacket image, This is How to Get Your Next Job by Andrea KayThis Is How to Get Your Next Job: An Inside Look at What Employers Really Want by Andrea Kay

Jacket image, I Got My Dream Job and So Can You by Pete LeibmanI Got My Dream Job and So Can You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Ideal Career After College by Pete Leibman

Or, check out all our career titles here.

7. Once you have your dream job in publishing, check out this site, Life in Publishing. One day it will be all too funny.

Thanks Lynsey!

Earlier Posts:
Lynsey on Preparing for the Frankfurt Book Fair
Celebrating the Cover Art of AMACOM’s Translated Editions
Summer Reading: Lynsey on Beach Reads as Diverse as Grains of Sand