While our last post gave us an opportunity to engage our new editors in a discussion about a popular topic here on Trendsetter, we thought we would further introduce you to our new staff. Samantha Howard graduated from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan with a double major in English and Women & Gender Studies. She moved to New York City in May of 2011 for an internship at W.W. Norton and Company and came to Publishing Trendsetter/Market Partners International after working for a couple of literary agencies.
What was your first exposure to book business and what were the most important things you gained from it?
I was an intern at W. W. Norton and Company in the trade editorial department. It was a wonderful experience because it gave me a good snapshot on what was going on in trade publishing in that time. I worked with an assistant editor, an editor who worked with mostly modern literary fiction, and then an editor who focused almost exclusively on pop culture-y non-fiction. It forced me to work on two different things I was fairly unfamiliar with at the same time, having just finished up all of my English major coursework. It threw me right into the middle of things, and I had to learn quickly.
The most important thing I gained was to be able to witness each step of the publishing process. I saw great books get shot down in editorial meetings, editors critiquing jacket copy, piles of finished books being mailed out for publicity, and everything in between. Even though I didn’t land in a publishing house, I still value seeing that process for myself.
How do you explain your current job to people?
I often say we’re professional problem solvers and observers of the publishing industry. Since Market Partners International is a consultancy, I think of us just being those friendly folks who are there to help and offer an outside or wider view of something going on in publishing. If that doesn’t explain it, I say I work in an office of publishing wizards and leave it at that.
In what ways did your previous jobs or internships prepare you for what you do here?
After my internship, I worked in two different literary agencies, which is a very different world than a publishing house. My time in the agency world made me a quick problem solver, a good gatekeeper, and able to call up just about anyone (including some celebrities), and made me more comfortable handling all kinds of different tasks at once. It also helped me expand my network of connections across the industry. It’s given me the beginnings of being a people person within publishing, something that I’m looking forward to expanding even more while I’m here.
What value has this job brought to the way you think about book business as a whole and your own relationship to books?
This job makes me appreciate the many, many facets of this industry. It’s more than the lifecycle of a book, or how a proposal gets submitted to editors, of course, but I’d never really had a firsthand view of any of the inner workings of a publishing company before and it truly makes me appreciate how many people and departments have to come together for one book. It’s accounting, royalties, human resources, subsidiary rights, so many things come together to keep things working. It also illustrates the wheels that keep turning after the book comes out too, scouting, film agents, continued publicity efforts, it never stops! Now I know that each book is a product of an impressively sized machine.
Working in the industry also makes me do funny things when I get a book like actually read the acknowledgements section to see what names I know or recognize, I admire raised lettering on book jackets, and I wonder how the editor and author decided on a cover image. It’s a whole new set of things to think about.
Do you miss anything about working for an agency? How do you see this transition out of agency work playing a part in your longer term career goals?
I miss the authors. They are some of the most fun people to talk to, and I was gatekeeper in both of my offices, so I got to know quite a few wonderful authors, many of whom I am still in contact with. But one of the most incredible things about agency work is that you learn a little bit about a lot of different facets of the industry. Even as assistant/office manager I got crash courses in publicity and marketing, audiobooks, the submission process, the editor/author relationship, event planning, contracts, foreign rights, and magazine submissions. I don’t want to get high and mighty, but chances are, you name it, I’ve had some kind of experience with it. The thing was, the more time I spent in agencies, I realized I don’t have whatever muscle agents have. I’ve worked for some of the most successful and impressive agents in the business, and I just don’t have whatever they have.
So with those skills, combined with the projects I get to work on here, I am priming myself for some kind of encyclopedic job in publishing that combines a little of this, and a little of that. I’m not sure what exactly that will pan out to be, but I’ve only been here a month.