In this series we’re talking about the fascinating world of publishing—highly skewed toward the editorial side of things. So far we’ve talked about The Publishing Process, What Editors Do, and Editing vs. Proofreading.
Like any good English major, I came out of college knowing how to write a scholarly paper better than the average Joe, with a library full of classics and a deep love for literature and learning. But I wasn’t ready to work at a business. And no matter how romanticized it might be, we can’t forget that publishing is a business.
I was so discouraged when, after college and despite a few great internships, I didn’t immediately get a job in publishing. I worked at a non-profit retail store, Starbucks, and even spent three months as a temp in Accounts Payable. During that time, out of boredom and lack of inspiration, I started this blog. I didn’t put those experiences on my resume—but I probably should have.
Because those experiences taught me skills that have been incredibly valuable in my career since in publishing.
I don’t know everything there is about blogging or websites. I have a very rudimentary knowledge of html. But I’ve experimented on One Little Library, and I’ve done lots of research. I’ve learned a few things. This was probably the most surprising skill I brought to my job. Part of my job is making websites to provide extra resources to go along with books, and my blogging experience has helped me incredibly here. I also started the company blog!
I truly believe that online publishing is an undervalued skill, and comes in handier than you’d think.
I was so excited when I was hired not to have a customer service job. The joke was on me! I still do customer service, I just don’t call them “customers.” They’re probably more appropriately described now as “stakeholders.” The people I serve now are my authors. Thankfully, though, my authors are also my partners. We work together in collaboration and with mutual respect. I also have internal “customers”—the other departments and team members that I work with. The customer service skills that I learned in retail—staying calm in a crisis, going above and beyond for the customer—have helped me out many times in handling printing mistakes made, orders not shipped on time, and any number of crises.
Innovation (aka problem solving)
There are so many things I do now that I had no idea how to do a year ago. Publishing is a changing business; it’s no secret. Publishing faces some major challenges, and it requires every one of its employees to be trying new things. How can you be doing your job better, more efficiently, and with maximum results (aka profit-making products)? I’ve been pushed to innovate by many of my brilliant authors. They come to me with an idea, and it’s my job to make it happen.
This is probably the most important skill I’ve learned. I’m a very practical person, and I don’t like taking on any projects that I don’t know I can do well. I always want to impress and exceed expectations; I’m cautious and conservative in that way. My first assumption when I’m asked to do something I don’t know how to do is usually that I won’t be able to do it well; therefore, I don’t want to do it. But that’s not really an option. So I’ve learned to take risks, find answers, and not shy away from great ideas. Instead of shutting down ideas out of my own fear, I’ve learned to be open and (cautiously) optimistic.
I know… this series is way too skewed toward editorial, so tomorrow I’ll talk about all of that other stuff that happens in publishing. 🙂