Category Archives: editorial

>Office Hierarchy

>I’ve begun to get a handle on the hierarchy of employees here. The top-guy for financials, it appears, is the publisher. TF’s editorial and publicity offices are arranged along one very long and very narrow hallway. The publisher’s office, a huge behemoth, is situated at the end of the row in the only place which could accommodate such a big office while allowing it to have ample windows. I find it interesting that, save for one, the only man in the imprint is in the top position. Call me hysterical, call me paranoid, but I do wonder if this has anything to do with a glass ceiling. I’ve read, in more than one source, that the “glass ceiling” does not exist in book publishing because of the ratio of women to men. In a different industry, like law, for example, a woman might be prevented from emerging at the top because she needs to prove herself so much more than a man might need to. Sounds awful, sounds like fifty years ago, I know, but it’s true! Here in the publishing world, however, most of the employees are women. I have interacted extensively with not a single male. I know the names of three, as opposed to knowing the names of three times that many women. But the publisher doesn’t appear to rule over the women (and one man) under him, exactly. He appears to be a well-educated man who knows that to be a leader you must interact, cooperate and work with your inferiors. He appears to do a very good job of this. Also, the editor-in-chief, who I’ll get to in a minute, is also a high-boss, while being a woman. Down in human resources, the director (or top guy) is a woman. So I’m leaning toward agreeing with the sources that say there is no glass ceiling in publishing. At the other end of the long editorial half of the hallway is the editor-in-chief’s office which is also quite huge. The EIC is the big-girl for all things editorial. What I can’t figure out (and don’t have the nerve to ask) is who is whose boss there? I want to say that technically the publisher is the EIC’s boss because of his title, but that’s not exactly cut-and-dried. Judging by their interaction with each other, I’d say that their relationship goes one of two ways: either he is her boss and they work very, very well together (no barked orders or anything like that) or neither is the other’s boss and they are horizontally responsible for the imprint. Perplexing.Outside the EIC’s office, sits Danielle, who is my boss. I think. She’s an assistant editor, which means that she’s an editorial assistant with a bigger paycheck, only one editor to work for and the freedom to take on projects of her own. The editor Danielle works for is that EIC, and Danielle appears to have an immense amount of work to do. She also acquires her own books to edit, even though she’s technically an assistant. I believe this is because no one gets too comfy in Danielle’s position. The idea is to move up to be an editor and the EIC is helping her to do that by giving her (or letting her get for herself) a project much like those an editor will handle. Danielle is a step above an editorial assistant who rarely takes on projects of her own, but handles a lot of work for her editor. The editorial assistant I’m sitting next to, seems much less busy than Danielle and probably a little less knowledgeable. Hence, I suppose, the distinction between “assistant editor” and “editorial assistant.” I know the difference between these two titles sounds like simple semantics, but despite the subtleties, believe me, there is a big difference. Danielle seems to be a wealth of knowledge while the editorial assistant seems to be just learning. And then, of course, there’s me. I’m at the bottom and I receive work from anyone who wants to give it to me. I don’t get nearly enough work to do, but I love every piece of it that comes my way. I feel like every new task is a way for me to prove that I’m intelligent, too. I can handle these tasks. It is important to me that I impress my superiors here, because one day, when I’m out of college, I might wish to apply here as an editorial assistant so that I may continue to stare blankly during editorial meetings, absorbing all the information. If I consistently do my best in every menial task I perform, maybe they’ll remember me.

>First Tasks in Publishing


Evidently, I have proven to TF that my skill set exceeds that of a chimp, because this week I have taken a siesta from the deliciously mundane and tedious book-like tasks that used to be my only purpose here. The reader might think I’m speaking in oxymorons, but truly, I love the mundane work of this industry: photo-copying, emailing, mailing, logging submissions, filing, etc. These tasks are those that take little skill, so they allow my already-overworked brain to relax. Brain vacation, you might say.
But I’ve been allowed, beginning this week, to take on more important tasks. Now, the editors and assistants are commandeering me for “projects”. These projects are fascinating to me, the dork who finds such things fascinating, because I’ve been imagining for a long time now what my day-to-day experience in the publishing world will be like. For me to finally see the day-to-day workings here is comparable to one of those people who read Star actually seeing one. Giddy hysteria. I try to remain calm.
Shawna, Zach’s editorial assistant, started it all with a request to conduct some investigative work on a potential author. Basically, I just googled the author’s name, absorbed all of the information and spit it back out at Shawna in an email. She said thanks and that was that.
Apparently my skills as a private eye pleased her, because yesterday, Zach approached me with not one, but three projects. Sitting in his cushy office overlooking one of Rockefeller Center’s rooftop gardens, Zach asked me about my goals, how I landed myself at TF, blah, blah, blah. The first project was to find out information about Sig Hansen and his brothers, who are ship captains on the enormously popular reality TV show, Deadliest Catch. There was an awful lot of information and I made certain he got as much as I could give – even MySpace friend-counts. The second project was much like the first, with a different person, someone uninteresting and not famous.
Finishing those two jobs, Michelle, another senior editor approached with a new project. Maybe Zach told her I did a good job, maybe it was just a coincidence. I like to stay hopeful, though. Michelle is editing a baby-name book, which, by its very nature, has few selling points aside from the actual count of baby names. Expectant mothers will choose the book with the most names so they don’t miss the perfect name. Makes sense. Unfortunately, the book is almost finished and no one bothered to count the names. This is what I’m here for – the crappy task net. Anyway, Michelle took pity on me and suggested that instead of hand-counting all of the names in this three-hundred-page book, I could simply take a sample of pages, say 30, count all the names and multiply that by 10. Then, she would conservatively make an estimate. Smart lady. Unfortunately, I have this ridiculous tendency to open my mouth when it belongs wired shut – in the shape of nice, compliant smile. But since I’m a complete fool, I suggested back to Michelle that, since she had a count of all the base names (not variations, which are many), we could count the variations of each base name in a sample and average it. Then, we could multiply that average number by the number of base names. She looked very confused and after attempting to seriously consider my idiocy, she said very diplomatically and gracefully, “Well, let’s give this a try. If it’s not working and you feel there’s a better way, I would love to hear it.” At least then I had the sense to shut up. Her way was much easier anyway.
To make up for acting so crazy, I placed my results as neatly and comprehensively in an Excel spreadsheet, totaled it into subtotals and a grand total and emailed it to her with a smiley face. She thanked me both in person and in an email. Yay!
It went downhill from there, however. As his third project, Zach asked me to “take a look at a manuscript.” I didn’t really know what that meant and I didn’t want to ask, so I decided to wing it. I read the first three chapters of the manuscript, which were absolutely awful, and wrote down all my thoughts. Then, I emailed them to Zach. He has yet to get back to me. But, now that I’m reading further into the manuscript, I realize that some of my initial thoughts are set to rest by further information. Next time, I’ll wait until I’ve read the whole thing. Maybe that’s what the problem was. Or maybe he just wanted a simple, “I like it” or “I hate it” instead of three typed pages of the intern’s inexperienced, jumbled thoughts on a manuscript. I guess we shall see. At the moment , I’m completing yet another of Zach’s projects. I’m trying to log into BookScan and can’t. Fabulous. Now I have to show him how incompetent I can be and email him this problem. More next week.

>First Day in Publishing!


My first official day of work at Simon and Schuster’s Touchstone/Fireside imprint began in the waiting room of the HR department. A fellow intern, Adriel, and I exchanged small talk and some pretty scant industry knowledge while we perused through catalogs and waited for the human resources coordinator to arrive. It was 9:05 AM, and both Adriel and I were itching to start our careers in book publishing, his in marketing, mine in editorial.
Orientation sounded more like an auction than an introduction to an industry and a company. I must have heard over twenty different policies, related to just as many different topics, in maybe eight to ten minutes. It was in written form in front of me, but I tried to follow what the coordinator was saying anyway. Internships at the Big Ten of the book publishing world (McGraw Hill, Random House, Harcourt, Holtzbrinck, Scholastic, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, Harper Collins, John Wiley and Simon and Schuster, as of 2001) don’t necessarily come along easily, and I wanted to have all the tools and resources to make it worth my while.
S&S has a business casual dress code, which can be ambiguous without clarification. For men, it’s easy: wear a suit. You can’t go wrong. Khakis and a dress shirt work too, though. For women, it’s a minefield. You can’t go wrong with a dress shirt and slacks or skirt, but I’ve seen so many different variations on the people at S&S that it’s difficult to articulate an actual policy. For example, a skirt is almost inarguably dressy. But what if it’s denim? Dress code flexibility appears to come with seniority. To be certain I wasn’t violating an unwritten political rules, I usually wore dress pants and button-down, collared shirt. However, I did commit my share of dress-code transgressions. I wore open-toed shoes, once. They were very dressy and quite conservative, saving for the toes. Everyone stared at my feet all day. I became so self-conscious that I made an effort to stay behind my desk all day. While I suspect their staring was a subconscious awareness (two of these things are not like the other ones!) my paranoid and overworked mind kept screaming that they were doing it deliberately to punish me for violating the dress code. Yikes. But I digress.
I was pleased, half-an-hour after orientation, to be seated at my new desk, in my little corner of S&S. I was even more pleased to learn the desk was dedicated to me, the intern (or “slave” if you prefer). I had a name plate (okay, so it was a paper one) just like all the real employees. I took a picture with my BlackBerry and hoped no one would notice. I had voicemail, which I promptly set up, making sure I sounded like I really worked at S&S. I also had an email address – and email messages! One was from Irene in IT, informing me that my ID to Rockefeller Center was ready for pick up. Already, I was important enough to have email.
I was astounded. I was relatively new to the city and did not know that 1230 Avenue of the Americas was the address to one of the Rockefeller Center buildings until I opened that email. In fact, I hadn’t even recognized the buildings on sight, or noticed the advertisements for Top of the Rock. When I’d visited S&S the first couple of times, I had been too busy gazing longingly at the Random House skyscraper, which is in the opposite direction, but essentially right across the street. So, Simon and Schuster had a great view of the back of my head. As if it cared. Like every other publishing industry hopeful, I had read that feature in BookNews about Random House being the best possible workplace in book publishing. And it hadn’t been retired to the back of my mind with all the information I acquire from reading so much.
When I returned from picking up my ID for the Rock (already I’ve picked up the lingo. Does that make me a progressive, or a dork?) I was very pleasantly greeted by every single person I work with. It was as if they all waited until I officially had an ID. Each person, from the lowly assistants to the publisher of Touchstone/Fireside himself, told me they were happy to have me, asked what school I attended, commented on Pace and wished me luck. I was impressed by this show of kindness by nearly all of the people for whom I’d be working two days a week. It suddenly seemed very unimportant that I was working for nothing, when I had the joy of working with these kind and sparkly-eyed literati!
Until they returned to their desks and promptly proceeded to ignore me. Had I done something wrong? I’ve always been a bit shy and introverted. Perhaps I’d been overwhelmed by all the attention and didn’t smile when I should’ve, or nod at the right moments when editor so-and-so recanted her own internship experience. Had I somehow committed a social faux-pas, miraculously insulting all my coworkers at once and thereby ruining my career in book publishing before it had even begun? To salvage my career and popularity in the business, I began to grin toothily at each passerby. The result, each time, was a polite, tight-lipped smile and quickly diverted eyes. Eventually, they stopped making eye contact. Fabulous. They probably thought I was Pace University’s class idiot come to pester them…or worse, someone with poor social skills! [enter maniacal, blood-curdling scream].
Oh, stop it! I scolded, giving myself the equivalent of the cinematic slap-across-the-crazy-girl’s-face. They think you’re weird, because you are being weird. You’re trying too hard. No one else is running the I-can-impress-the-world marathon, so why are you? Just chill out, for goodness’ sake. Stop the constant worrying and trying to impress these people with your knowledge. Besides, do you really have that much knowledge? I resolved to focus on my work and be myself…not a blithering, grinning idiot. That’s right, work. The stuff I’m here to do. Now, if only I could figure out where they kept the work. My co-workers were all typing away with intelligent and well-read expressions on their faces, or chatting on the phone with literary agents. Oh, how I longed for their jobs.

And then, after working pretty hard to become a sophomore in college, I was sitting just outside the door to a senior editor’s office and listening to her business. It was a wonderful experience to be able to learn from what she said in her conversations, even if it is technically eavesdropping. For example, I now know that in a galley (a pre-print of a book used for final editing before it goes to the press) the table of contents might not necessarily match up with the actual page numbers in the book. I know that a series page goes in the front matter of a book along with the title and copyright pages. I know that if some book only sells 10,000 copies it could be considered a loss. I also know that it is extremely rare for a proposal or manuscript to make it all the way to publication if its point of entry is a publishing house’s Slush Pile which is a pile of submissions from people who think they can write but don’t have an agent. Generally, if they can’t get an agent, they can’t write. And no one, to an agent’s dismay, can be taught to write.

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