HarperCollins

Publishing Great Authors Since 1817

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Q&A with Louisa Hager, Marketing Assistant at HarperCollins

How long have you worked at HarperCollins and what do you do?

I’ve worked here since October of 2012 and I am the Marketing Assistant in the Academic and Library Marketing department. Basically, we market all of HarperCollins’ trade books so that professors can adopt them into classrooms.

What do you love most about your job?

I was an English major in college and that was definitely the reason I wanted to go into book publishing—I wanted reading to be a priority in my work life as well as in my free time. So I love being in an environment where I am constantly getting recommended great books to read, and that my whole job essentially revolves around recommending books I love to teachers.

What do you love most about HarperCollins?

Well aside from the books, I love HarperCollins because of the people I’ve met here. Even when I was interviewing, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the industry is less competitive than I expected. Everyone is here because they love books so it’s a really welcoming environment, especially in Academic and Library Marketing.

Do you have any favorite books or authors?

My favorite book that I read in the last year is Just Kids by Patti Smith. I just loved it. It’s about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and her evolution as an artist in the late sixties and seventies—it’s so evocative of that period in New York City.

Are there any projects you’re working on that you’re really excited about?

We are in the midst of designing our new common read catalogue for next year, and I think that’s going to turn out very well. We’re also making a website with our new and featured First Year books, and a new website for Common Core. Besides that, I’m working on our Tumblr and other social media.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading The Illusion of Separateness, which is beautifully written, and I just finished Baratunde Thurston’s hilarious How to Be Black.

Was there a specific book that made you fall in love with reading?

Probably the C. S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia series. After reading that and realizing I liked the genre, it was like a whole world opened up for me. I still love those books and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is probably my favorite one. 

How did you get into book publishing? 

When I graduated, I knew book publishing was what I wanted to do, so I didn’t really apply for anything else, even though I had heard from others how hard it is to get into the industry. I randomly sent in an application for this job, and I was surprised because I didn’t have any connections here. When I was brought in for an interview, I immediately felt comfortable.

Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing a career in book publishing?

I think that if you’re interested in book publishing, you should try to reach out for informational interviews. Persistence is key, because the job search can be disheartening at times.

What is something surprising that people might not know about you?

I’m double jointed in my right arm…I can twist it around like a circus performer.

Also, I was captain of my bowling team in high school.

Do you have a favorite reading spot?

My family has a shack in Long Island, and that’s where I would consume books when I was younger. It’s quiet and my favorite place in the world. 

What do you think are the most important qualities for someone in academic and library marketing to have? 

Well the obvious one is a love for books and reading. You can tell people that a book is good, but if you’ve read it and loved it, the way you talk or write about it is different and much more personal. Beyond that, writing skills and being able to express your ideas clearly are extremely important.

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Filed under HarperCollins Louisa Hager marketing book publishing library marketing academic marketing publishing how to be black baratunde

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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a HarperCollins Internship by Jarry Lee

Written as a tribute to Wallace Stevens (and various books), here is a tongue-in-cheek reflection on my experiences as a Digital Marketing Intern:

  1. HarperCollins Internship Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: As good as Cabernet gets. Well-structured and fully satisfying from start to finish, it has aromas of oak and black currant, subtle notes of plum, and a long, elegant finish that will tempt you to want more. This is a beautiful wine. Pairs well with books.

  2. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they published The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

  3. About three things I was absolutely positive: First, my supervisor was not a vampire. Second, there was a part of her—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for fun content for HarperCollins’ social media platforms. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with the book publishing industry.

  4. Cream colored pages and crisp novel plot twists
    HarperCollins books on Times bestseller lists
    Thousands of pageviews our BuzzFeed page brings
    These are a few of my favorite things

  5. In my younger and more vulnerable years my supervisor gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel that book publishing is dead, think again.”

  6. In the room the women come and go
    Talking of author Jo Nesbø.

  7. It was the best of times, it was really the best of times, it was the age of hashtags, it was the age of followers, it was the epoch of repins, it was the epoch of shares, it was the season of Likes, it was the season of SEO, it was the spring of retweets, it was the winter of LOL, WIN, and OMG.

  8. In a world where everything you know about books is about to change…one publishing house must embark on a journey to engage readers everywhere. Things are about to get…literary. HarperCollins: in bookstores since 1817.

  9. If you’re having marketing problems, I feel bad for you son
    I’ve got 99 problems but a pitch ain’t one

  10. PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.
    GANDALF: End? No, book publishing doesn’t end here. E-books are just another path, one that we all must take.

  11. It was a pleasure to learn. It was a special pleasure to see things published, to see things acquired and changed.

  12. It’s Friday, Friday
    Summer half-days on Friday
    Everybody’s lookin’ forward to more acquisitions

    Publishin’, publishin’ (Yeah)
    Editin’, Marketin’ (Yeah)
    Fun, fun, fun, fun
    Lookin’ forward to the book sales

  13. HarperCollins: A Novel: I could not recommend this book more highly. The characters in HarperCollins are some of the most passionate, well-rounded characters I have ever seen. Simply the best.

In all seriousness, I’d like to give a huge thank you to Julie Blattberg and the rest of the Digital Marketing team at HarperCollins for an amazing internship experience.

—Jarry Lee, New York University (class of 2015)

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Filed under HarperCollins internship Jarry Lee book publishing marketing intern BuzzFeed digital marketing publishing Julie Blattberg

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Q&A with Heather Drucker, Director of Publicity at HarperCollins

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How long have you worked at HarperCollins and what do you do?

I started at HarperCollins in September 2006. I am a Publicity Director in the Harper imprint. I also work on Harper Design, Ecco, and Harper Paperbacks titles. I’m the mystery/thriller specialist in my group, but also work on a great deal of debut fiction titles, as well as nonfiction in every genre, including science, psychology, and memoir.

What do you love most about your job?

I genuinely enjoy talking to people about books and authors. In publicity, we “sell” the idea of the book and author – the “why is this book and author noteworthy or important” angle. In my opinion, it’s the perfect way to talk about books. I feel really lucky that I can do this on a daily basis at HarperCollins.

Do you have any favorite books or authors?

I am a big Edith Wharton fan – I’ve read most of her novels. My favorite is The House of Mirth. I recently read Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes – I thought this was a fantastic memoir. I read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson twice. It had a spiritually calming effect on me like no other book. I absolutely loved Just Kids by Patti Smith – when reading it I felt jealous that I was not a fly on the wall. HarperCollins author Elizabeth Haynes’s Into the Darkest Corner was a favorite psychological thriller. It’s incredibly scary and really delivers on the “keeps you up at night” claim. I also missed a few subway stops reading this one.

Are there any projects you’re working on that you’re really excited about?

I just finished working on The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – it’s a riff on the New York immigrant story where two magical creatures meet in the Lower East Side in 1899. I also really enjoyed working on Dr. Carl Hart’s High Price – a memoir, science, and policy book on our current drug war. It made me rethink how I feel about drugs and addiction. I am starting to work on Phillip Margolin’s historical thriller Worthy Brown’s Daughter which comes out next year. I’ve worked on several of Phil’s books. He is known for his action-packed legal thrillers that feature misbehaving politicians. This one takes place in 1860, in the new state of Oregon, a year before the Civil War. He explores issues of slavery and how law was practiced at that time. I am looking forward to seeing how his audience grows with this new one.

What are you currently reading?

Right now, I am reading The Beatles: The BBC Archives which comes out in November from Harper Design. I’m also reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook which is his third and most prescriptive work. For my next book club meeting in early September, I chose Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. I love historical fiction and Bernard Cornwell recently referred to Mantel as “a goddess” so I expect to enjoy this one. And just for fun, I started reading Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, which I’ve never read before. I was inspired by an event I recently attended called “Books Under the Bridge” on the Brooklyn Waterfront where four writers, one of them Paul Auster and one Harper’s Nom de Plume author Carmela Ciuraru, read from the book.

Was there a specific book that made you fall in love with reading?

Although I was always a big reader, even as a small child, my all-time favorite book from junior high was The Once and Future King by T. H. White. When I read that book, I actually believed all of the stories and legends. I was kind of crushed when I found out that much of the Arthurian legends were just myths. It was as if I’d been told there was no Santa Claus.

How did you get into book publishing?

I went to Vanderbilt University where I majored in English and Psychology. Even then, I had a love for books, but no one advised me to go into book publishing as a profession. After college, I decided to get a job in a bookstore while I figured things out. I thought it would be short term, but I ended up staying for almost eight years at the Borders store in Buckhead, a neighborhood in Atlanta. I very much enjoyed working with book lovers and hand-selling books. I moved to NYC in 1996 when I realized that I wanted to work in book publishing. My transition job was in the events department at the then brand-new Borders at the World Trade Center. I’ve worked as a sales representative and as a publicist at City & Co. Publishers, Tor/Forge, Kodansha, and Bookspan before coming to HarperCollins.  

Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing a career in book publishing?

If you love books and reading, a position in book publishing may be your calling. There are many positions to apply for, but starting out you can apply for book publishing internships or for summer publishing programs. To get a sense of what kinds of positions there are in a publishing house, you can go on informational interviews with people who work in the industry. Media Bistro, PW Daily and Publishers Lunch are invaluable resources for job listings. 

And, I advise young people to think of their life as a series of experiences, and this goes for work as well. I’m the perfect example of a person who tried a few different careers before I found my niche. I feel that my bookselling experiences were incredibly important, and the friendships I made working at bookstores are still going strong. Zen Buddhists talk about the importance of slowing down to learn something. I believe this is true. The journey is just as important as the destination. 

What is something surprising that people might not know about you?

I went to culinary school and I have a degree in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta – at one point, I thought I wanted to be a chef. When I worked for Borders in Atlanta, I worked part-time at a few restaurants, made wedding cakes, and did some light catering. I no longer cook professionally but I enjoy cooking for myself, my husband, and for friends and family. One of my signature dishes right now is fried, stuffed squash blossoms (which, BTW, are currently in season) – it’s a southern riff on Mario Batali’s recipe.

What do you think are the most important qualities for a publicist to have?

You have to love books and want to talk about them. Your exuberance for books needs to shine through. You can’t be afraid to talk to people on the phone (although at first it can be intimidating), and you need to try to make appointments with media and events coordinators on a regular basis as those meetings are always extremely beneficial. It’s all about creating relationships. We get so used to email that we forget to pick up the phone and call someone to talk about a book and author. It can make a big difference.

Filed under HarperCollins Heather Drucker publicity book publishing Harper Design Ecco publishing

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Q&A with Katie Levine, Assistant Manager, Corporate Communications at HarperCollins

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How long have you worked at HarperCollins and what do you do?

I have worked here since November of 2012, so not that long. I work in the corporate communications department. 

What do you love most about your job?

I like how being in corporate communications means I get to see a little bit of every part of the company. You get to have an idea of what all the different departments are doing, what they are working on, and how they all work together. I also like how what I do changes all the time—I do a lot of different things, depending on what is happening, and that variety is fun.

What do you love most about HarperCollins?

I think there is a great vibe here—the people are great, and the culture is a good fit for me.

Do you have any favorite books or authors? 

One of the things that made me most excited about coming to work at HarperCollins is that I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, so I was very excited that we publish her! It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I would say that Agatha Christie is close to my heart because her books were some of the first adult books I started reading. I’ve always been a big fan of mysteries and thrillers and she is the quintessential mystery writer. 

What are you currently reading?

I am reading A Storm of Swords, the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.

Was there a specific book that made you fall in love with reading?

When I was a kid, we were at the beach on vacation and I was sitting there reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. I was totally obsessed with the plot, and when my mother told me I had to go into the water because it was too hot out, I took my book and stood in the ocean. All the other kids were around me playing, and I was just reading my book. I think I had always been in love with reading, which is why I did that, but that moment sticks out in my mind as a turning point.

How did you get into book publishing?

When I graduated college, I attended the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU, which covers both books and magazines. When I finished the program, I actually started working in magazines. I worked at Condé Nast for a couple of years, and then at HBO for a little while, before I saw the job opening here. I’m in now, and it feels perfect because I’ve always had book publishing in mind.

Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing a career in book publishing?

I think that in this day and age, many people will have the same skill sets and even the same experiences, so something that could set you apart is attitude—what kind of attitude you have, if you’re willing to go above and beyond, if you’re enjoyable to work with, etc.

Do you have a secret talent?

I can touch my tongue to my nose.

What do you think are the most important qualities for someone in corporate communications to have?

This may sound obvious, but I think it is important to be a very good communicator, when speaking and in your writing. I think it is also important to be able to explain whatever you are trying to get across to your audience. Writing and grammar are critical basic skills.

Filed under HarperCollins Katie Levine corporate communications book publishing publishing Agatha Christie

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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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Q&A with Jennifer Klonsky, Editorial Director at HarperCollins Children’s Books

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How long have you worked at HarperCollins?

I joined HarperCollins in October 2012, but I’ve been in publishing since 1991 (before there was email or e-books!). While I am fairly new to the company, I feel very much at home already.

Tell us more about what you do.

I am the Editorial Director of a group of six editors, ranging from Editorial Assistant to Executive Editor. Essentially, I have two basic functions. One, I help all of my editors do their jobs by assisting with negotiations, acquisitions, covers, copy, tip sheets, and title sheets. I also edit and acquire my own select list. We are publishing mostly into HarperTeen, and we are expanding into tween as well.

What do you love most about your job?

I love my job because I’m working on books! The market and therefore our content is constantly changing and very distinct. Everything about this business is interesting to me. I’m a book person, like all of us here are, but children’s books are really special. The teen years are incredibly visceral, and shape one’s identity. They are such intense years. I always say that I wish I could feel as strongly about anything the way teens feel about everything. So I just love to tap back into that sensibility, and seem to be able to connect back to my own inner fourteen-year-old which can be extremely fun and also painful. Through our books we get to bring that kind of relevant, authentic content out into the world every day. And of course, I get to work with so many extraordinarily creative and intelligent people, and I love that too.

What do you love most about HarperCollins?

I find the team here—both my own team and the executive team—to be a group of incredibly talented people who all have a very distinct and informed point of view. I’d like to think I am an effective mentor to the people who work for me, and I know that I am very well mentored by the people above me. There is just a wonderful information share in both directions, and I’m inspired by how quickly and fully HarperCollins can commit to a book and an author and a series. I’ve seen it happen so many times already in the short time that I’ve been here. When we collectively decide we want to support something, we do it 100%. It happens fast, and it happens efficiently, and I really love that.

Do you have any favorite books or authors?

That would be like choosing between my children! I have long been a fan of realistic contemporary YA, and luckily for me, that’s back in vogue and my group has loads of fabulous realistic fiction coming out. Most recently, from other publishers, I loved Eleanor & Park and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Are there any projects you’re working on that you’re really excited about?

The first book I acquired and edited here is coming out in Winter 2014. It’s called Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor, and it is a wonderful, very sad (but ultimately hopeful) story of friendship. I’m also publishing a book in Summer 2014 called 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen, a debut author. I love this book! It has romance, there’s a moving backstory, and there is an interesting friendship at the foreground, but mostly it’s a book about self-discovery.

Reboot recently went on sale by Amy Tintera, which is a masterful book filled with action and romance and an extremely unique premise. The sequel will be published in Summer 2014.

I also love Kasie West. She has two linked books that are not reality-based, Pivot Point and Split Second (Winter 2014), and she also publishes contemporary romances, so she is well-rounded and super talented.

We also publish Kat Zhang, who is an exciting young talent. Her book What’s Left of Me is the first of a trilogy. The series has an incredibly unique premise and atmospheric writing driven by an intense plot.

Jodi Lynn Anderson’s writing is gorgeous. Peaches, Tiger Lily, and the upcoming The Vanishing Season are not to be missed.

Claire LaZebnik is the master of the modern retelling. She focuses on Jane Austen, so please look for Epic Fail (Pride and Prejudice), The Trouble With Flirting (Mansfield Park), and next summer’s The Last Best Kiss (Persuasion). And speaking of modern retellings, watch for Sara Beninsaca’s sexy, twisty Great (a retelling of The Great Gatsby).

Next fall I’ve got a really unique book on my list called Rites of Passage, about a teenager who’s part of the first class of girls in a military school, where a secret society is dead-set against seeing her succeed. It’s a strong debut by Joy Hensley (who may or may not have entered military school once…on a dare….).

Teens will love Sophie Jordan’s new duology that starts with Uninvited in Winter 2014 and Claudia Gray’s new Spellcaster series.

And of course, our beloved Pretty Little Liars continues on and is a fan favorite!

What are you currently reading?

I’m always reading submissions from agents. My pleasure reading tends to double as competition reading, so I just started Rick Yancy’s The 5th Wave. I’m usually also in the middle of an upcoming book on our list that’s been edited by someone on my team.

Was there a specific book that made you fall in love with reading?

Most editors were once kids with their heads buried in books. I was actually a bit of a reluctant reader as a child. I was always a strong reader, but it wasn’t always my choice of entertainment. So the books I remember really loving are especially important to me. I was (and still am) a big fan of Judy Blume. I loved The Count of Monte Cristo. I was surprised by how exciting it was for a book that looked kind of “classic,” and I loved the revenge plot. I also loved A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Later on, I gravitated toward very commercial teen and adult fiction.

How did you get into book publishing?

When I graduated college in 1991, the job market was much more open that it is now. It was a very different time! I knew that I wanted to do something involving publishing, but I didn’t know if I wanted to go into book publishing or magazine publishing. At the time, there was an employment agency focused on publishing, so I connected with them and they sent me on a few interviews. I started on the adult side at Bantam Doubleday Dell, where I realized the place I really wanted to be was in children’s book publishing.

Do you have any advice for students interested in becoming editors?

Despite my own experience, I think it is important to be someone who can’t go without reading, who genuinely loves books. There is so much reading involved in this job that it has to be the thing you love to do the most. When I am looking to hire someone at an entry-level editorial position, I am not focused on candidates who have a lot of literary magazine experience, believe it or not—that’s interesting to me, but more than that, I’m interested in someone who can critically and intelligently think and talk about books. The rest of the editorial bag of tricks can be learned on the job. I think of the editorial track very much as an apprenticeship. So I am interested in people who are book lovers through and through, know why they like or dislike certain books, and know what kind of books they ultimately want to work on. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s very important. If you love poetry and adult nonfiction, I would not recommend pursuing anything but that, because you will be better at that. I also like book people who have administrative experience. I like people who have worked in offices, in retail, just anyone who understands how an office or a retail space works. It tells me that you know how to work as part of a team and understand how important administrative work is. As I said, the rest will come.

Do you have a secret talent?

I can say the alphabet backwards very fast. ☺

What do you think are the most important qualities for an editor to have?

I think you need to have a lot of confidence in your opinion. That took me a long time to learn—I used to sway with the group even if it wasn’t what I truly thought, but that does not add anything to the conversation.

Adding to that, you need to amass a critical knowledge of books currently in the market. And you need to become a critical reader—again, know why you like or dislike a book, and be able to speak about that intelligently.

You also need to be able to take a whole book and distill it down to one sentence, because you will have to think of every book you work on that way: you’ll need to write metadata, title sheets for the sales and marketing teams, pitch it over and over in-house, write the book-specific copy, and use this line of thinking to contribute to the cover concept. Without the ability to have a topline understanding of how the book fits in the market, you will not be an effective editor. Oh, and you should be pretty comfortable with public speaking, as there’s a surprising amount of that in-house!

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Filed under HarperCollins Jennifer Klonsky editorial publishing books children's books HarperCollins Children's Books

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Q&A with Molly Birckhead, Associate Director of Marketing at HarperCollins

How long have you worked at HarperCollins and what do you do?

It will be four years in August: I was at HarperOne in San Francisco for three years, and I’ve been with William Morrow paperbacks since October of 2012.

When I started at HarperCollins, I was the Online Marketing Manager at HarperOne and I was in charge of launching their social media platforms, so I got them up and running on Twitter and Facebook. I worked closely with all of the HarperOne authors to build up their social media following and to get their online presence in order. One of my biggest initiatives was launching the official C. S. Lewis Facebook and Twitter accounts, which are massive now. While there, I had a lot of latitude to try new online marketing tactics, so depending on the book, I would leverage SEO, Google Adwords campaigns, content creation and syndication, and would work on producing book trailers, mobile websites, QR codes, and  banner advertising.

Since I joined William Morrow as Associate Director of Marketing, I’ve been combining many of the digital tactics with more traditional marketing, which includes outreach to booksellers, outreach to readers through sites like Goodreads, and brainstorming with authors on promotional materials that we can send out to get people talking about books early on. I work with Jennifer Hart, the Associate Publisher of Morrow Paperbacks, on things like book club outreach, day-to-day publishing activities, getting the authors up to speed on social media, scheduling the seasons, communicating with the sales staff, and promoting our e-books.

 

What do you love most about your job?

I really love how digital marketing allows so much tracking. It’s rewarding to look at the metrics from a successful program and see how many people have clicked or viewed our ads. With some vendors we’re even able to see how the campaign has directly driven sales. I also really like to research the authors’ audience and find out who they are, their ages, what else they like to read, what their other interests are, etc and then use that information to inform our advertising campaigns. The more we know about readers, the better we will be able to target them in the future.

Of course, I also just love books and reading so being this close to what I love is a huge privilege.

 

Are there any projects you’re working on that you’re really excited about?

We have a whole line of new adult fiction—romance novels with characters that are in their early twenties, which is a cross between erotica romance and YA. It’s a completely new genre, and it’s huge in e-books. We have about eight authors now that we recently acquired, and working closely with them has been wonderful. They’re extremely innovative and engaged with their fans. They love to tease content from their upcoming books so it’s fun planning out cover reveals and excerpt reveals. We’ve also been creating tons of materials for them to take to their crazy-well attended events like a life-size photo backdrop of one of their cover boys, postcards, a printed sampler of whole New Adult catalog, banners; we’re even doing pillowcases this fall.

 

What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell, which is a book that Ecco published, and it was amazing. I’m a fan of his music and the book was an incredible resource for the origins of punk and the 1970s music scene in New York. Aside from that, I’m now reading Etched in Sand, which is a memoir that we have coming up from Regina Calcaterra. It’s a really inspiring story and she has already been getting rave reviews. I’m also reading The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen.

 

Was there a specific book that made you fall in love with reading?

I started reading at a very young age and my favorite book from childhood was "I am cherry alive," the little girl sang. It’s an illustrated poem by Delmore Schwartz, and I was just fascinated by it. It’s actually sort of existential, and the philosophy was probably way over my head, but I loved it anyway. I also loved The Phantom Tollbooth, and some of the first books my parents ever read to me were the Uncle Wiggily books about an elderly rabbit who could drive.

 

How did you get into book publishing?

I was lucky. I was a publicist in the music industry for about five years, and then decided I was more interested in the online marketing side of things, so I switched to online marketing for film and television, and did that for another four years. Because I lived in Southern California it was very common to work in entertainment but my true goal in life, since I was maybe ten years old, was to work in book publishing. Getting to New York from out West was difficult for a lot of reasons but I finally made up my mind to try it. I searched online and found that HarperOne in San Francisco was looking for an online marketing manager so I sent them a note and a month later I was an employee of HarperCollins.

 

Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing a career in book publishing?

Internships are always, always great. I remember being a student and having absolutely no idea of what it meant to go into work every day and what might go on inside an office. The best thing you can do is see for yourself and get a feel for professional culture.

In addition, for someone going into book publishing or any media industry, it’s great to have really strong writing skills. Beyond majoring in English or communications, maybe do some writing for a school newspaper, write for a blog or start your own, contribute your work elsewhere, and try to get publishing experience. If anything it will help you build a profile that will demonstrate that you are ambitious and will give a potential employer an understanding of the way you think.

 

What is something surprising that people might not know about you?

When I was three years old, I was the kid on the toy box for the Mattel See n’ Say. Also, I have fake front teeth because I’ve broken them three times skateboarding.

 

What do you think are the most important qualities for someone in online marketing to have?

Imagination because even though over the last ten years online marketing has become more and more a part of traditional marketing, it’s still very much an open landscape. If you have a unique idea that’s unproven, it’s usually inexpensive to try it and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, the consequences are not so great. But if it does work, you may have just put together a model for other people to replicate.

Also, I think you need an entrepreneurial spirit because you may end up having to teach yourself how to code or design or build something you’ve never built before. Maybe no one has. When you’re dreaming up your own ideas you’ll need to be ready to do the legwork as well. It takes a little confidence and sometimes a lot of time but if your finished product is successful it will have been worth the effort.

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Filed under HarperCollins William Morrow HarperOne Molly Birckhead publishing books