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Harping on HarperCollins: A Summer Intern’s Thoughts by Alexa Mechanic

            Picture this: me, a 21 year-old Hopkins student, slumped on the couch in my Baltimore apartment, holding a pity-inspired Nutella cupcake. It was the beginning of May, and I had just been turned down from an internship opportunity. I saw my dreams of interning in a New York City publishing house crumble before me, almost as quickly as the cupcake that a good friend thoughtfully delivered on hearing the news. What would I do, where would I go? I pictured myself in a chlorine-stained lifeguard uniform for a seventh consecutive summer and tried to reconcile the situation by imagining the bountiful paychecks I would receive and the (very uneven) tan that would gradually settle into my skin. Internships, internships. It seemed to me that everyone had one, that lifeguarding by default would make me less marketable to enter the “real world” we all speak of as college undergrads. I began to accept it, even reasoned it would be easier – but then, a few days later, I received the call that would change my summer plans.

            It was a “917” area code, which only meant one thing – New York City. I was sitting at a group study table in the library, reviewing a slew of cases for my law psych final exam that afternoon. Too nervous to answer, I typed the phone number into my Google search bar as fast as my fingers permitted. Links for HarperCollins started popping up. HarperCollins. Harper. Collins. I listened to the voicemail and jumped out of my seat as the HR Representative’s upbeat voice informed me to please call her back regarding an editorial intern position with Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. She sounded authentically proud to represent the company, and today, I sit in my cubicle on the 8th floor of the HarperCollins building entirely grateful for the day I spent moping around following a rejection from the final round of an internship interview. Until now, I have been rather skeptical about the internship culture that has developed in the timeline of upcoming and recent college graduates’ lives. I felt that I was submitting my resume into thin air, that I had to have a connection to the company to have a shot, that I would be drooling over the less glamorous tasks. I admit these things now, only because my experience thus far with HarperCollins has changed my perspective on what an internship is for and how it stages you once the gig’s up.

            So, what exactly do I do? The program is ten weeks long, and interns work Monday through Thursday, from 9-4. On a typical day, I get here around 8:45 and settle into my cube. At 9:00, I go downstairs and say hi to Libby, my supervisor and a wonderful editor, and the other people on the 7th floor. Libby makes sure I am learning – I have transposed edits of Russell Banks’ stories onto a clean, chronologically correct, version of the compilation, read manuscripts, written reader’s reports and drafted rejection letters. I love sitting in on the weekly Ecco meetings, as so much learning stems from listening to a group of intelligent, successful people discussing new buys and departmental updates. The most important thing I have learned thus far is that sales is entirely intertwined with the creative departments. It doesn’t matter if a book is simply good – it has to be marketable, from its storyline and content to its cover. Tampa, one of Ecco’s risqué and controversial books for this summer, has a fuzzy book jacket; it’s easy to overlook the influence that such marketing techniques carry. My lunchtime activities range from weekly lunch and learns, a program that brings all of the interns together to network and listen to guest speakers from different departments, to food adventures in Midtown. I even went on a welcome lunch to Bombay Palace, an Indian restaurant complete with a buffet, with Libby and Eleanor, Ecco’s new administrative assistant. I felt more like a pampered employee, scarfing down plates of curry-spiced chicken, Naan and rice pudding, than an intern.

            I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon the Ecco imprint when applying to HarperCollins. Job applications are intimidating in the first place, but confronting the question of which imprint you’d like to work with and why is tough. How could I know what these imprints stand for, beyond the material they publish? The best I could do, I thought at the time, was to research. Not just the company profile, but the imprint’s history. I found the following description of Ecco on Wikipedia: “Ecco Press is a publishing imprint of HarperCollins, who acquired it in 1999. It was founded in 1971 by Daniel Halpern as an independent publishing company…[and] was the publisher of the literary magazine Antaeus.” I opened new tabs on my search engine, and I googled “Daniel Halpern” and “Antaeus.” Ecco’s foundation as a literary magazine intrigued me, having been involved with a number of literary magazines on campus from both the editorial and authorial sides. After I learned I had an interview, I will admit I was guilty of reading Ecco’s entire Twitter feed and anything about the imprint I could find. One of the first things Libby asked me was how I knew about Antaeus, and I knew that my research had paid off. 

            If you come away with one piece of advice from my musings on internships and New York City and how I got to cubicle 835 on the 8th floor of HarperCollins Publishers, it is surprisingly not that Nutella cupcakes can solve any kind of problem. Know your company. Know your interviewer. Know that you could be a great asset to an employer and still not be happy. I’ve always told myself that I want to be happy to go to work. It shouldn’t be something that you dread doing, something that you only stick with for the sake of your résumé and your bank account. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the people make or break a company. And, at a place where authors are the center of everything they do, HarperCollins employees know that networking, building connections and forming positive, authentic relationships are keys to success that cannot be purchased or paralleled.

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Filed under HarperCollins ecco editorial internship publishing book publishing ecco books

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The #1 Indie Next Pick for June is The Son: A Novel by Philipp Meyer!
“Epic yet intimate, Meyer’s The Son is the best kind of historical fiction. Vivid characters and great storytelling bring to life a distant time and place, while the themes and issues explored are completely relevant to our time. The interwoven perspectives of the three generations of the McCullough family create a counterpoint as each comments on the others, their mores, and their expectations and how these change over time. This is what great literature should be: a page-turner with a serious moral purpose.”
—Scott Kinberger, Books Inc., San Francisco, CA

The #1 Indie Next Pick for June is The Son: A Novel by Philipp Meyer!

“Epic yet intimate, Meyer’s The Son is the best kind of historical fiction. Vivid characters and great storytelling bring to life a distant time and place, while the themes and issues explored are completely relevant to our time. The interwoven perspectives of the three generations of the McCullough family create a counterpoint as each comments on the others, their mores, and their expectations and how these change over time. This is what great literature should be: a page-turner with a serious moral purpose.”

—Scott Kinberger, Books Inc., San Francisco, CA

Filed under HarperCollins Ecco Books Philipp Meyer historical fiction book club indiebound

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Janet Maslin says, “Ron Rash’s new short story collection, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ is this Appalachian author’s best book since his 2008 “Serena.” 

Everyone has time for a short story, no?

Janet Maslin says, “Ron Rash’s new short story collection, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ is this Appalachian author’s best book since his 2008 “Serena.”

Everyone has time for a short story, no?

Filed under Ron Rash HarperCollins Ecco Books

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National Book Critics Circle: National Book Critics Circle Announces Its Finalists for Publishing Year 2012

nationalbookcriticscircle:

Ben Fountain’s wise, surprising Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco), Michael Gorra’s expansive Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece (A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton), and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai…

With special shout-out to Ben Fountain and the team at Ecco Books for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk!

Filed under Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Ben Fountain Ecco Books

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Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty Space by Lisa Randall

New from Harvard University Professor and author of the New York Times bestseller Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Lisa Randall: Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty Space!

On July 4th, 2012, one of physics’ most exhilarating results was announced: an entirely new kind of particle had been discovered at the Large Hadron Collider. The particle—a Higgs boson—is the key to verifying and understanding the Higgs mechanism that underlies elementary particle masses. Lisa Randall, one of the world’s most cited and influential theoretical physicists deftly explains both this epochal discovery and it’s startlingly beautiful implications.

An e-book original from Ecco Books. Very very cool…

HIGGS DISCOVERY by Lisa Randall

Filed under Higgs boson Lisa Randall science Ecco Books