March 23, 2010

So...Long Time, No Update

Okay, so I’m a little behind—A LOT behind—on my blog posts. I’d tell you all the reasons but I don’t think that they really matter; let’s just say that my real life got in the way of my online life. For right now I’m looking forward rather than back and thought you all might like to be clued in.

I started a new (part-time) job! No, it’s not in publishing. If only…but it’s a job at a really nice company with really nice people. I’m working as an administrative assistant for a few afternoons per week to make a little money. There are some great pluses to this job—it keeps me interacting with people, using new technology, coming into the city and it’s at a great location: the Empire State Building. You just don’t get a better view of New York City than that. It reminds me of one of the reasons I’m working so hard—to make a life for myself here. Such an amazing view reminds me every day that even tiny, small-town me can have gigantic, big-city dreams.

I did end up cutting back on my hours working at Astle Literary, which is sad. I’ve transferred much of my responsibilities to a new intern. I’m only working with YA now (rather than all fiction, which I used to handle) which has drastically cut down on my involvement at the agency. Since I do most of my work independently, I don’t see as much of the boss and feel much more like a freelancer. It’s a neat but scary feeling—I help train a new intern, get a commission for clients, choose YA authors to sign, and only see the boss for weekly meetings. So exciting—I can really see myself in this life one day. Of course, I need tons more experience before I can really break out on my own (aka years and years) but I’m starting to feel more like I belong in this life and less like I’m playing a part.

Even while working at my new part time job, I haven’t given up applying for a full-time job in publishing. I have amazing people in my life that are helping me make the contacts that I am sure will one day land me the job of my dreams. I can never thank you all enough for your support—my blog readers, yalitchat community, and twitter peeps—and inspiration. I don’t know what I would do without you!
I haven’t given up on the book challenge either—I’m still reading the books that changed your lives! Expect blog posts about them in the future.

For now, this is my life. I hope you’re all still writing/editing/agenting/working hard! I don’t think I could get through the day if I didn’t believe that good things come to those who work hard and pay their dues. Not to those who give up. You have to keep moving forward, even if “forward” is interning a thousand times until the economy gets better and someone can afford to hire you. I know I’m going to be sticking around as long as it takes…even if it takes quite a while.

January 13, 2010

PubPt: Market Yourself & Books While You're At It

Dear Readers,

I just got back from a really great event given by the Publishing Point (#pubpt) called “Market Yourself! (and books, while you’re at it)” held in the conference room at Simon and Schuster. And I found the place on my first try! However, I did stand across the street in frozen terror for a few moments when I realized that I was entering THE Simon and Schuster. (Yes, I am a dork. Nothing marks a wannabe like an action like that, but I couldn’t help myself.)

Due to excessive planning, I arrived quite a bit early and spent over an hour searching the neighborhood for a coffee shop with free Wifi (there weren’t any—I asked 6 within a 4-block stretch). I finally gave up and just waited in the Metro CafĂ© across the street. And at T-1/2 hour, I made my way in.

So of course the guard couldn’t find my name on the list. I was able to convince him to let me in anyway (I swore I had no plans to disrupt the magnificent work of S&S) and after getting up to the 14th floor, I wandered around a bit, not wanting to burst into the wrong room. (Why, oh why, did I arrive a half-hour early? I really thought people would come early to mingle, but alas—this was not the case.)

I was the first one there and waited uncomfortably , feeling like an intruder on the inside workings of the Publishing Point & the wonderful Maggie Hilliard (@MaggieHilliard), Susan Danzinger, and others, for at least 20 minutes until people started to arrive. And there were plenty of people. They encouraged us to tweet during the event but I couldn’t get a Wifi connection (what is it with me and Wifi today?). I didn’t want to mess with my phone and have my notes suffer, so I just turned my phone off and focused on the guest speakers.

After a roll call—I wish I could remember everyone who came but it just went by too fast!—we went over a little bit of what the Publishing Point does. Check out their website: and be sure to sign up for their group on to find out! They have lots of useful info to share and you’ll get to learn from the best.

The first speaker was Max Kalehoff (@MaxKalehoff). He’s an expert on developing brands and, whether we like it or not, to get anywhere in publishing we each need to be a brand. So what does that ACTUALLY mean? To explain this, he used a case study about his own company, Clickable. Maybe, to make this easier, I’ll use myself as a case study.

Everyone is selling something. In publishing, we’re selling books or a book idea or a manuscript of a book. Online, we’re basically selling ourselves. The first thing you need to figure out is: What are your goals? Using myself as an example—What I hope to get out of being online is connections. I want to establish myself in the literary community and have all the privileges and responsibilities that come with it. (I’m already on my way with all of my blog readers—you guys are the best!)

Next step: Figure out the core insight into your niche—what is this group missing? Is there a problem that could do with a little fixing? For me, a problem I see is that everyone trying to get into the publishing industry wants to appear perfect and fearless. This makes authors unable to relate to them and the young professionals themselves seem…inhuman. How can an author relate to an agent that isn’t human, that doesn’t convey passion for their work? What’s wrong with showing how eager you are to live your dream? With saying you are nervous on your first day? It may not be a huge problem, but I think the lack of honest, firsthand journeys into the publishing world is a niche that should be filled.

The next step is to question where you can fill in: What can you contribute that they’re missing? What can you do more or be better at than everyone else? In my case, I’ve decided to be completely honest about how hard it is to get into the publishing industry and be embarrassingly personal. I’ll tell you about how I get lost or flub someone’s name or get really excited when I should be cool—because I think sometimes the publishing industry could do with being a little more human. Therefore, I think I can make connections by contributing my personal story—both the wins and losses.

Next step: Establishing outbound connections. This means helping people for nothing. The only thing you need to do is remember to leave your name. I know all you readers are good people, so you already do this the same way I do. Answer questions on other people’s blogs, crit. other people’s manuscripts, be generally helpful. This rule boils down to karma (see @jamieharrington’s blog for a nice post on karma in the publishing world)

Then comes the big step: Inbound engagement--setting up your own blog, Twitter, participating in chats, forums. When you do this, be sure to have some sort of theme that you will blog on—it’s very confusing to have someone who talks about random subjects every time they sign on! People want to know what to expect when they come to see your page. Make sure you are reaching out to the people who are interested in your product (product = you! your book! But be careful—if you intend to write several books, calling your blog after one of those books could trap you). For example, the theme of my blog is right across the header—my journey to break into the publishing industry. I share insights that I gain, stumbles that I make, and I hope that others will also share their insights.

The sharing of content is linked with the last step: educational and marketing assets—keep them coming back for more. The second speaker, Stephen Baker (formerly of Business Week) also talked about offering things of value. Don’t talk at, talk with. Be present.

Stephen Baker also discussed his experiences using his blog ( and Twitter (@SteveBaker) to promote his book, The Numerati. He also discussed his use of social media and how, at the time he was writing, certain publishing houses were still unsure of how to use this tool, afraid it destroy the mystique of the author. I guess we’ll see how far we’ve come when we find out how much he is allowed to tweet when his next book comes out.

Both speakers said that it’s hard to measure success in blogging since no one knows which numbers to look at, but the idea is to have something show up once you are googled. I absolutely agree with this. I know talking to you all is like preaching to the choir but it can never hurt to hear it again. Having a personality is just as important online as it is offline. I promise, when I seriously consider a manuscript I also seriously consider the author and I know that publishing houses do as well. Seeing someone who is taking their career seriously by promoting themselves is a great sign that they will be committed to promoting their book once it is published.

Almost forgot to mention that I met some really great people there, some employed and some looking for employment. I ran into Elana Roth (@elanaroth) in person—yay!

Whew, that was a long one! Sorry about that, but the event was full of info! I have another great event tonight (different sponsor) so off I go again. I hope you found that helpful and until next time…

January 7, 2010

1 of 52- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

First of all, I just wanted to thank everyone who gave me a book suggestion—I don’t have 52 yet but I’m on my way!! The first randomly-selected book is…

ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card, suggested by Jenny! (jmartinlibrary)

What she didn’t know was that this one was already in my library bag. You know, the huge bag full of books I carted home from the library to read over my winter lull. I’d been intending to read it for some time (like, since I was 12?) but for some reason, I just never got around to it.

There isn’t going to be any sort of plot summary. If you want one, go here.
What I want to talk about it my reaction, what the book meant to me. So here’s my reaction.

This one really hit the spot. You should know that I’m a big fan of SF so I was a bit predisposed to love Ender’s Game. First, I love the freedom SF gives an author to explore universal themes unhampered by modern issues. Second, I was raised on SF. Once I consumed all the children’s books in my house and began to complain that there was “nothing to read,” my father sated my appetite with the books from his basement library—all classic science fiction. Even though it takes place in the future, Ender’s Game took me back to my childhood.

Ender’s Game takes place in a futuristic society that is really not so unlike ours today—children work at desks (laptops), people talk on nets (the internet), and use discussion boards. Pretty impressive for someone writing in 1977. And that’s only one of the things that makes this book so amazing. Card develops incredibly compelling characters (most notably Ender) by not forcing them into any neat slots. Though he writes about children, from the beginning he promises that THESE children will be special—neither adults nor children—and then remains true to that promise. This is one of the things I was most impressed with—characters that had the ability to be children and grow without losing their essential personality.

Although there was very little description in this book, it didn’t seem to need it. The story seemed to function well as an exploration of themes and characters, not really relying on what things looked like or where they were located. Usually a lack of description is a big problem, but here I was able to see it as an element of style rather than something that was lacking. Interesting. The only major negative I can say about the book is that I found the ending to be weak and stretched out, but that’s a matter of personal opinion.

My rating system requires a bit of explanation. How do I give a book stars? Are those like the stickers your teacher used to give for doing your homework? No. I refuse. Every book is worth more than stars. The easiest way to explain my rating system is to say that it has several levels of “like.” If I turned each of those “likes” into a number/description, here is what it would look like:

0 stars- “Hell, no.” Burn it. Burn it to the ground. Donnie Darko evil burning thoughts. (I have only ever used this to rate Hemingway, Melville, and certain Dickens pieces. Great Expectations, you know what you did…)
1 star - “No, thank you.” I am going to tell people how much I didn’t like this book. But politely. Please don’t ever make me read that again. It was not my cup of tea.
2 stars - “What?” Did I just read something? Something about this experience annoyed me.
3 stars - “Okay” Meh. I probably won’t remember this in a month or two, but it was okay.
4 stars - “Like” I’m glad I read it. I won’t forget it any time soon and I’d like someone to talk to about it. Maybe I’ll read it again at some point.
5 stars - “LOVE” If a book was worth reading once, it is worth reading again. SOMEONE DISCUSS THIS BOOK WITH ME BEFORE I EXPLODE AND/OR STOP PEOPLE ON THE STREET TO GIVE THIS BOOK TO THEM. I will BUY this book with change from the sofa if I have to. This deserves a place of honor on my shelf.

I’d give Ender’s Game between “like” and “LOVE”—I really liked it and plan on buying it. Thank you so much, Jenny, for sharing this!