Tag Archives: Publishing

The Penultimate Day

(‘Second to last’ – yes, I’ve been itching to use that word for quite some time now.)

Tomorrow is my last day of the internship! The last two weeks have been agonizingly slow, but the past couple days have seemed like a slippery frog jumping out of my hands and I only manage to catch it for a couple seconds at a time.

Monday started the biggest yearly event in the publishing world…the London Book Fair! Just a short 15 minutes away from where I work, in Earls Court. Anthem Press had two tickets, and my boss graciously let me and another guy I work with, Rob, take yesterday afternoon off to go wander around at the LBF. We had no idea what to expect. I had envisioned a big room where publishing companies set up shop and sell their books. Wrong. Well, kind of right, but mostly wrong. It was in a big room and each publishing house had set stuff up, but I wouldn’t call what they set up ‘shop’ – more like each house created its own mini bookstore/office/lounge area. There were bookshelves filled with the most exciting covers that served as the walls between each house’s area (some of the biggest houses, like Random House and Hodder & Stoughton had actual walls), and there were little tables & chairs set up inside. It looked like a bunch of trendy bookstore-cafes got together in one room, except they didn’t sell coffee (although there were real cafes and watering holes also spread out throughout the convention center). Most people were dressed professionally in suits and the like. Basically, the London Book Fair is not so much a place to sell books, but a place where publishers can conduct interviews with desperate young bookies like myself, agents can meet authors and publishers, authors can pitch book ideas to publishers, publishers can learn about good printers, and all sorts of business meetings can be held in one convenient location. There are also talks and interviews with authors to attend. Rob and I listened in on one talk about how publishing companies need to begin the process of publishing a book with the idea that it is going to be published in different forms (i.e. a physical book, ebook, etc.), and not just create it only thinking about how it will turn out physically – not just deciding as an afterthought, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s make this an ebook, too’. I’m actually not sure that’s what the talk was about, but that’s what I got from it.

Of course, everyone in publishing is obsessed with the New Media – they’re either singing its praises or making doomsday predictions about the Death of the Book. Personally, I prefer reading actual hard-copy books. I like my books to be ‘loved’, as I call them – practically destroyed with all of the dog-earring, highlighting, scribbling, folding, and bending which I subject them to. On the other hand – as I sit and gaze at the ever-growing stack of books that must fit inside my suitcase and it hits me that the articles of clothing I brought have also magically doubled in number – a Kindle wouldn’t be too bad, you know. Yes, I do think that the inevitable future holds more ebooks and iPads and the like, but I don’t think the Book is going to die. I think it may be like writing by hand. While calligraphy is very rare as an art form and most people don’t write by hand as much as they use computers, it is still useful to know how to write by hand. As long as physical books are still useful to have (and I think they are), they’ll still be around, even if most people end up using their Kindles and Nooks or whatever for the sake of convenience. And with all that said, I think it’s smart for publishing companies to plan from the beginning of the publishing process to have an ebook version of each manuscript.

It was definitely a good experience to see the LBF and realize (again) that publishing is just as much a business industry as pretty much anything else. Books just happen to be our product. But that makes all the difference, really. I enjoy the business side of the publishing world, but I would never want to work at a bank or for Apple or for Ford or for Samsung. The business of publishing is enjoyable because I really do love the product, and I really do believe in the product.

Today is almost over… Tomorrow I expect to shed a couple tears, share a few hugs, and enjoy a round with the people who have been the principal part of my experience here in London.

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My ‘Devil Wears Prada’ Moment

There’s a scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway, as the newbie assistant to big-time fashion magazine editor Meryl Streep, is taking notes during a meeting and all the fashionistas and gurus are trying to decide what outfits will be used in the newest issue. One of the other assistants holds up two nearly identical belts (as far as I can tell from watching the movie, the only difference is slightly varied buckles) and cries, ‘Ooh, I don’t know – they’re so similar!’ Anne Hathaway’s immediate response is a bewildered chuckle (as in ‘Oh! That was a good joke’) and everyone in the room stops. And Meryl Streep continues to calmly give a bone-chilling, insert-foot-in-mouth speech about how Anne Hathaway’s character has NO CLUE about this industry and doesn’t appreciate how it impacts her life.

So… my situation wasn’t that bad. It actually wasn’t bad at all. It went rather well, in fact.

My boss invited me in his office to discuss a marketing project I was working on, and we started talking, but then he stopped suddenly as if just remembering something and smacked two absolutely identical books down in front of me.

‘Here – just feel these and tell me which one you like better’, he said.

‘Oh, erm, um, ok’. Highly wary of such tests, I took each book, flipped through the pages, felt the cover, wracking my brains thinking, ‘What am I looking for?!’ There were slight differences (or maybe my desperation to find differences tricked me into believing they were there), so I picked one the one whose hardback cover felt a little thinner and whose pages were a bit silkier to the touch (at least – I think they were).

‘I like that one’, I said.

‘Do you?’ he asked. Ahhhh stomach-twisting anxiety. I picked the wrong one!

‘Oh, that’s interesting’, he continued. ‘Yes, I like that one, too. This other one’s a little nicer with the rubbery finish on the cover and the binding is glued in such-and-such a way… but I think this one is fine, too. Thanks’.

And that was that.

I guess the lesson I learned here was that when a publishing house writes in a job description that they want someone with an eye for detail, they mean: someone who does not let ANYTHING pass them by. It’s a good lesson to learn now, and I’m definitely trying to look at the text and the books with a more critical eye.

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Welcome to March!

Almost three weeks in now, and I’m still loving it.

I keep thinking, “I could really get paid to do this?” I have to say, I think I’ve finally found something that I can see myself doing as a career.

I have now finished copyediting two more books, a biography and a collection of short stories. Obviously, the short stories were such a treat. How I had made it this far in life—especially as an English major—without reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Scandal in Bohemia,” I have no idea. I guess that’s the part of this job that I am enjoying the most—the chance to read so many things: things I’ve always wanted to read, things I never wanted to read (but have the chance to be pleasantly surprised by), and things I never would’ve even known about otherwise. I have so many opportunities to enrich my mind.

My other responsibilities have increased as well. I’m in contact with many more authors, asking them to peer review books. And I’m helping my boss with a couple online projects. First, I’m helping to develop the site plan for the website of a new imprint called Thames River Press. For those of you who don’t know, Anthem Press is a small branch or “imprint” of the Wimbledon Publishing Company. While Anthem Press focuses on academic and serious material, Thames River Press will focus more on “trade” books: fiction and non-fiction. I’m part of the team brainstorming what the Thames River Press will become—I’m writing the mission statement and the “About Us” page. Maybe I’m putting more pressure on myself than needed (does anybody really read that stuff anyway?), but I feel like this is a big responsibility and I want to do it well. This directly deals with how the company appears to the public.

Second, I’m also helping to develop the Anthem Press blog. This is exciting because now I feel like there is another reason for me to keep working on this blog, to learn all I can to make the Anthem Press blog the best it can be. I’m also really glad I had experience in charge of the Sigma Tau Delta blog at Azusa Pacific University.

I’m really flattered that I’m being allowed such a role in the company. Maybe it’s really just what everyone does and it’s nothing special, but it’s certainly more than I expected to be able to do. I love that I’m getting real “hands-on” experience that’ll look good on a resume.

But more than that, I’m also really enjoying the other interns. The sad part of this internship is that people are coming and going, so I’m not sure how many really meaningful relationships can be made. Yet so far I’ve enjoyed getting to know a British girl named Katie, who’s been doing graphic design, and a British guy named Rob, who’s the other editing intern (besides me). Most of our conversations have centered on the differences between American and British culture (always a funny topic), but we’ve started getting to know each other and become comfortable. Katie’s last day is tomorrow, but I hope we can stay in contact.

I’ll write again sooner next time, I promise.

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