My Education: BA in History and English, Loyola University
My Prior Experience: I started my career as a writer and editor of a small newsletter for American women overseas. Upon returning to the US, I did freelance travel magazine articles as well as regular newspaper columns for a number of years. I began working as an acquisition editor for a mid-sized publisher, who then hired me as their General Editor. After several years, I left the company and started my own book publishing company which grew to a mid-size business.
My Company: My company is a traditional book publisher, which means that when we are contracted for a book, the author would grant us book rights in return for a royalty. We also produce books for other publishers.
Job/Career Overview: As a book publisher, I have the entire responsibility of the company on my desk. I find and choose manuscripts which are suitable for publishing in our line of books. In our industry, only one in eight books makes back the money it costs to produce it. I then work with editors, typesetters, artists, and the author to bring the manuscript into book format. The entire process, if we receive a completed manuscript, takes about 3 months of work in house before we ship the disks of the formatted book to the printer. While the book is being printed, I work with my marketing people to create a marketing plan for the new book; we will have already talked somewhat about the book before production, but now is the time we start getting the book out to the public, to the wholesalers, and to the book stores.
Sometimes an author will come to me with an idea for a book. We will look at the project and see if it has commercial possibilities (again, remember that the book has to pay for itself). If so, we commission the author to go and write the book, and we will again look at the project when done.
An interesting trend in my business is the advent of the e-book readers (Kindle, Nook, etc). This is completely changing the manner in which we produce books. We no longer will have to have a warehouse filled with books on pallets; production will be significantly reduced. Authors are pleased because of the larger royalties and so am I, as we receive more money for an e-book.
More Insights: I found, as a book publisher, that I am very well prepared to produce books. What I am lacking is managerial and other business skills. These I have had to learn on the job and have made some big mistakes because of my lack of knowledge sometimes. I wish that I had taken more business courses while I was in college, and I think it would've made me a better manager on all levels.
I rate this career 8 out of 10.
The best part of my career is the creation of a book. To do this, I have a vision, I work closely with the author, with artists (for cover and interior artwork), with the typesetter, and together we take those words on a page and make them into a book. It is quite satisfying to see that book with its beautiful cover for the first time.
The worst part of my career is the plagiarists that I have run into. This has only occurred in the past 15 years; before that, people seemed to respect the work of others and not copy it (or at least I did not run into them). These people steal the creative work of others and claim it as their own. They are the thieves of the written word and are a scourge on all of us.
Tip 1: Because of the recent changes in the book publishing world, I would prepare myself differently today. I would still have a strong background in liberal arts, but I would also become very tech-savvy. Everything we do now is on a computer; as more books become e-books, you must be prepared for this new development.
Tip 2: I would be prepared financially to struggle for the first few years I work in writing and publishing. Entry level jobs are difficult to find and pay poorly. However, you will not be a good editor or book publisher unless you "pay your dues" -- in other words, learn everything you can about the industry while you work within it at all levels.
Tip 3: Not all writing/editing/publishing is glamorous, but it will probably produce income for you. Don't be afraid to do the "bread and butter" writing, usually non-fiction. That way, you are writing and making contacts within the field.