Career Advice for Publishing Students from the NetGalley Team

Last month several members of the NetGalley team sat down with NYU Summer Publishing Institute students. Nina Berman, Associate Editor at NetGalley Insights, Amanda Delatorrre, QA Manager, and Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth & Development described their career paths, answered student questions, and shared the advice that helped each of them get to where they are in the publishing industry. 

The Summer Publishing Institute (SPI) is a six-week study of books and digital/magazine media in the heart of the publishing world. The program combines workshops, strategy sessions, presentations, hands-on projects and dynamic networking events. Learn more about SPI, plus NYU’s MS in Publishing.

The NetGalley team offered advice about how to network, how to position non-publishing skills and experience for the publishing world, how to carve a niche for yourself in a team as an assistant or intern, and assured the students that there are other creative positions beyond the Editor role.

You can see their nontraditional paths to NetGalley at the end of the article.

Network for the long haul, not just the job hunt

NB: When you’re making those connections, thinking about what you really want to get out of it. In part, it’s obviously that you want to be on their Rolodex so when they’re hiring or their friends are hiring they remember you. But there’s a lot of other information you can learn. And also, keep up with them! Let them know when you get a job, even if they didn’t directly help you do it. People like to feel like they’ve helped you even if just what they did was give you a few pointers generally. Because your first publishing job will not be your forever-job in the world. All of us have been helped by someone along the way. There’s a real sort of pay it forward sensibility.

Let [professional contacts] know when you get a job, even if they didn’t directly help you do it. People like to feel like they’ve helped..

AD: Networking is scary, but it’s so important. Connections that you make from here [at SPI], the speakers, including us, who come here and talk to you guys want to help, we want to give back. Taking advantage of that is really important.

KR: And if these contacts you make see that your momentum is building – that you got a job, and continue to express an interest in them and in the work that they’re doing, you’re going to stay at the top of their mind if they hear about something else that they think you’d be right for. Just sharing your interests with those people goes a long way towards helping others do some work for you and open up opportunities that you might otherwise not have heard of.

Frame your experience for the job you want

KR: Talk about your previous experience in a way that makes it relevant for the job you’re applying for. I had a friend who was interested in a career change, to get into publishing. She asked me if I would sit down with her and look at her résumé because she was applying for a marketing job. She had done work in retail and office admin. I literally just tweaked a couple of words to use publishing lingo to really draw the line between what that experience was and how it applies to book publishing. I think that was one of the most helpful things for her to get her foot in the door. And then once your foot is in the door, the interview is easy. So make sure that you’re really taking the language that you’re using in these classes and insert it into those résumés.

NB: I interned at a place called Chicago Ideas Week and wrote for their blog. Which was fun and something that kept me busy because they didn’t always have a ton of work. Eventually I realized that I needed to get on my own insurance, so I ended up getting a job as a sales assistant at iHeartMedia, which is the company that owns the radio stations that you listen to. It was in no way a good fit for me in terms of culture or the nature of the work, but I learned a lot of 9-to-5 kinds of office skills – emailing, organization, dealing with agency people, things like that. And later on, I was able to turn a part-time opening at NetGalley into a full-time job because I had a combination of editorial experience, from writing for this blog, and account management from this sales job that had been so taxing on my spirit. It was a lot of bouncing around but I found connections where I didn’t expect them, which ended up helping me. And in retrospect, finding things I didn’t think were valuable about old jobs actually ended up helping me be here at NetGalley.

Think about what matters to you in a job


Think about what your values are, what makes you feel like you can get up and go to work everyday and hold onto that as you go into job-hunting.

NB: Working at NetGalley has helped clarify what I care about in a job, which is important when you’re job hunting. Think clearly about what kind of work you’re willing to do, what are the quality-of-life things that are important to you, what size of company do you want to work for, etc. Publishing jobs are so competitive and – especially if you’re working in editorial – you know you’re signing up for what might end up being fairly grueling work, and it might be hard to make rent.

I know for me, it’s really important to feel like I have some kind of ownership over the work that I do. It’s valuable for me to see the impact of my work, and I think that is really possible at a smaller, scrappier organization. But, for a lot of other people, working at a real legacy publisher is hugely important and makes you feel like you’re in a grand lineage. I feel like I have a lot of freedom with NetGalley Insights – to develop it in the way that I want, to interview whoever I’m interested in. 

At NetGalley, our workplace culture is great. We all maintain good boundaries about working and not working, which is really important because we’re remote. We have set hours, which I think is really valuable. And I think there’s a lot of trust. And I’ve never worked with a more competent team in my life.

Think about what your values are, what makes you feel like you can get up and go to work everyday and hold onto that as you go into job-hunting.

AD: I always thought I wanted to work in editorial and, through SPI, I got an internship at Wiley that eventually ended up being my first job as an editorial assistant. When I got the title “Editorial Assistant” at Wiley, which has been a publisher since the 1800s, I was so excited, even though I had no idea what that actually meant. For me, the work there was not rewarding and I was struggling. I knew I wanted to stay in some kind of publishing house and I wanted to stay in the industry, but I was nervous to leave even though I knew I was unhappy. Eventually, I found myself in a more technology-focused role, which ended up suiting me much more!

KR: For my particular role, the fact that I have many things going on – from new product development and sales to managing my team and being an extra set of eyes for NetGalley Insights – sometimes makes it difficult to prioritize. As soon as I get really excited and focused on one thing, there’s all of this other stuff that I need to be thinking about, including what’s next for the company. But that’s also what I love about it. Our team is phenomenal, our work life balance is really great as a company, and for my particular job, every day is different. I never find myself in a rut, because as soon as I’m done focusing on something, there’s five other things that I could be looking at. Staying excited about my position has helped me stick with NetGalley for over eight years!

Explore beyond editorial

AD: When I realized that I wasn’t happy as an editorial assistant, I moved within Wiley to become a Learning Design Assistant. Learning Design is how people learn online, other than just reading your text. A lot of ebooks, a lot of dynamic stuff like that. It was a very good mixture of both editorial and technology, and I ended up naturally falling more towards the technology side. I’ve always been the person who is good at computers. I think having that job where I got the best of both worlds really pushed me to identify what was best for myself. I went back and got my masters degree in educational technology around that time, which drove my desire to change my position forward. Making that final jump from leaving everything editorial behind into this more tech-focused role at NetGalley was super scary but super rewarding. I think I get the best of all worlds now.

KR: I had an internship at HarperCollins in the editorial department at Ecco. This was a very strategic goal of mine at the time, as it is many of yours. It’s challenging to get into an editorial role. It’s really competitive and it’s a whole lot of work. I encourage you to keep pursuing that! For me, once I really experienced the editorial work, I found that it was less rewarding than some of the publicity work that I was previously doing for Hal Leonard. When a job opened up in marketing at HarperTeen, I jumped on it. I submitted my résumé, I got all of the recommendations in. And I ended up there for two years in the marketing department. That was a great way to exercise my creativity – I was writing a lot of copy for ads, back cover copy, social media posts, text that appeared on dedicated book websites, and things like that. 

At that time, and still today, HarperCollins was using NetGalley. I learned about this digital resource that would save so much time – especially thinking back to my time in the publicity department, manually stuffing envelopes and putting the labels on and stacking them so the UPS guy could come pick them up. I was intrigued by the ability to take something that had been such a manual process and make it really digital. It appealed to me in a way that sparked another type of creativity – how can we be using this better? We were [using NetGalley] kind of minimally, but it seemed like we could be doing so much more and connecting with so many more people. These questions led me to apply for a position at NetGalley in a role I never would have predicted for myself!

See yourself as a peer

KR: I interned at Foundry Literary + Media, a literary agency. I did a lot of slush pile reading for them, writing summaries and recommendations to the agents, and writing rejection letters. But what I found most interesting was that the agents were most impressed with the way I could sit in a meeting with them and have a conversation. I heard various comments from them like, “It’s really clear that you’re not right out of college like some of the other interns.” What they were really commenting on was not my age, but the way in which I was able to talk with them confidently as a peer. This is something I would impart to you. Remember that your ideas and opinions are valuable and think of yourself as an equal to all of the people you’re meeting and talking to.

Find opportunity in data & strategy

No matter what your job is, the data is really important. If you know what indicators of success you’re looking for, you can have a better idea about what’s going to work the next time.

KR: Data is something you should be thinking about, even – especially! – those of you who are interested in editorial. No matter what your job is, the data is really important. If you know what indicators of success you’re looking for, you can have a better idea about what’s going to work the next time. Or, if you tried something and it didn’t reach the goals you were trying to reach, data helps you to assess why and try something else. We live in an age now where you have to do that to stay competitive. 

Strategy is one of those things that I think is undersold. A lot of authors especially are still figuring it out. The marketers and publicists at publishing houses often fall into the trap of, “Well this is the way we’ve always done it.” Or, “Sure, somebody told me I should try this thing and I’m going to do it, but in a really minimal way.” One of the biggest challenges of our job at NetGalley is to help people think about their job in a way that really is data-driven, that helps them be a little more agile in the way that they are considering the audiences that they’re reaching and things like that.

NB: A lot of the publishers we work with, especially those that are smaller or run a tighter ship, say that they always wish they were able to spend more time with NetGalley data. That’s an opportunity for those of you who end up in smaller publishing houses. Whether it’s NetGalley that you’re working with or something else; whatever else it is that other people are too busy to work on, make that your thing. Get really good at it, learn a lot about it, be able to incorporate it into your work, and be able to build yourself a little niche that’s really valuable. We’ve seen people start as an assistant who is clicking buttons within the publisher’s account to approve NetGalley requests, then get really interested and becoming great users of the service. They’re then able to leverage that in their own careers to demonstrate that their understanding of this data is valuable in a higher position, or bringing NetGalley wherever they move next.

It’s a good lesson that the things that people generally know that they should be doing, but might not have the resources to do, can be great opportunities for you as an assistant or intern to find something and make it your own.


Thank you so much to NYU’s SPI students for their thoughtful questions. We wish them all the best of luck as they finish out their program and get started in the industry! We are more than happy to speak to more student groups and consider other speaking engagements. To inquire, email insights@netgalley.com.

Transcript has been edited for clarity & length.

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Proven Strategies: Compelling eBlast Copy and Design

Tips and success stories from NetGalley’s marketing experts

The NetGalley marketing team loves collaborating closely with our clients.  We’re working with publishers and authors every day to help put their books directly in front of the NetGalley members who are most likely to read, review, and advocate for them. Since our clients are so diverse (from the “Big 5” houses to self-published authors, and publishers of all kinds of books—bestselling fiction to nonfiction and academic, religious, graphic novels, children’s and YA, cookbooks, and beyond) our marketing team has seen first-hand which strategies have worked to engage many different kinds of readers. 

Our first Proven Strategies post covered how to grab a reader’s attention with a strategic subject line. Now, our marketing team is sharing tips for the next step: optimizing the design and content of a dedicated eBlast, one of NetGalley’s most popular marketing programs. 

Design

Not every publisher or author has the budget or bandwidth to create unique eBlast designs in-house. That’s ok! You don’t have to design an eBlast in order for an eBlast to succeed. NetGalley’s marketing team has a standard eBlast template that can easily incorporate any art or assets. For example,  images you’ve used as Facebook or Twitter covers (like The Bromance Book Club), or graphics from your website or from the jacket art itself, to match the book’s overall branding and achieve a more cohesive look.

The call to action (CTA) should clearly tell the recipient what to do next—and should fit your goal for that campaign. Before creating your eBlast, think about what you want from the recipient: requests, limited-time downloads, wishes, reviews, pre-orders, purchases? Highlight the CTA with color, placement and text treatment. We use standard “button” images that mirror the recognizable action buttons of the NetGalley site, so that recipients can easily spot where to click in the email. 

Plus, make sure to preview your email design across multiple devices and email clients, so you know how it will render for recipients who are reading your email on mobile devices, on their computers, or elsewhere. Our team will help test, too!

Content

Remember that, like all of us, the recipients of your eBlast  are busy and have short attention spans. It is highly likely that they won’t spend very long on your email, so it’s key to design that email with efficiency and readability in mind. Keep the CTA “above the fold” so the recipient can see it without having to scroll too much. Can the recipient answer what, why, and how after just a few seconds of looking at the email? 

And, be sure to include the book’s pub date prominently so they know the best time to submit and post their review. Bookish’s Executive Editor Kelly Gallucci told NetGalley Insights: “My pet peeve is definitely when emails don’t contain enough information. It’s most helpful for me when the author, book title, genre, and pub date are as up-front and clear as possible.”

When writing the content of your eBlast, keep in mind that less is more. Including an entire book description will likely overwhelm a reader, or increase the chance they will lose interest before taking action. Readers scan emails quickly for info that is relevant to them, so divide text into short paragraphs. And remember that a prominent headline (at the top or center of your eBlast) is your second chance at a strong first impression (after the email subject line). Is your headline clear, impactful, intriguing?

Don’t forget to leverage high-profile relationships. Highlight if your author is already a bestseller, or if there are any exciting crossovers into television or film. And if you have quotes from industry professionals or big-name authors, include those but keep blurbs brief

We also recommend considering your secondary goals for the campaign, in addition to the main CTA. For instance, in addition to driving requests on NetGalley, do you also want the book to get more nominations for LibraryReads and the Indie Next List? Include a nomination reminder with deadlines (but only if the eBlast is being targeted to librarians and booksellers). Or, in addition to driving Pre-Orders, do you also want to build an author’s brand and social following? Consider including a short author bio, plus a photo and social media links. Do you want to increase brand awareness for your company or imprint? Make sure to highlight your logo and link to your publisher page on NetGalley so members can “favorite” you. 


Have questions or need advice? Ask NetGalley’s marketing team – marketing@netgalley.com! We’re here to help, and want to help your book succeed. And, be sure to subscribe to NetGalley Insights so that you don’t miss our next Proven Strategies post.

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Stephen Sposato: Curating for 1.7 million patrons at Chicago Public Libraries

Anyone who works in the book industry is, in a sense, a content curator. But a curatorial eye looks different for different segments of the industry: for agents, marketing departments, booksellers, critics, and influencers. 


Chicago Public Library – Harold Washington Library Center

Stephen Sposato, Manager of Content Curation at Chicago Public Libraries told NetGalley Insights how he and his team think about their roles as curators for their community, and which resources they use to make sure that they are best meeting their patrons’ needs. 

Unlike an independent bookstore, which caters to the current interests of a neighborhood, librarians need to consider a wider demographic and a different set of needs. With 80 locations, over 2.6 million books in circulation, and 1.7 million patrons, Sposato and his team are curating for a massive and diverse community.  

Sposato told Insights, “We’re expected to provide access to books for a lot longer (sometimes even after they’re out of print). We also tend to offer materials people need for short term help but don’t particularly want to own, such as resume books, SAT prep books, or books on dieting and fitness. The public expects us to offer access to all books in perpetuity, but the reality is we have limited resources and must make choices every day about the collection, and so librarians are curators in this sense.”

Here are the resources that Sposato and his team use to curate the offerings for Chicago Public Libraries.

Data

“We actually order most new mainstream books because we serve a large city and we can count on wide demand. For us the trick is to correctly anticipate the level of demand and to order the right number of copies. We check the previous track record of the authors of new books and look at the performance of similar books. We are committed to stocking a collection that is “current, diverse and responsive,” as it states in our library’s most recent strategic plan, and at the same time we need to be fiscally responsible with our funding.”

Industry recommendations

“We stay on top of the coverage of forthcoming and new books pretty well. Aside from the opportunities I just mentioned, publishers work with library distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor who helpfully create lists of forthcoming titles each month. And librarians across the country also discuss forthcoming titles on social media and contribute to the monthly LibraryReads list of the top 10 titles recommended for readers each month.”

*Librarians from NetGalley can nominate books for LibraryReads directly within their account!

Library Marketing teams 

“We don’t have as much direct contact as we could ideally, but the bigger publishing houses and some of the mid-size publishers have staff devoted to library marketing, and we receive regular email newsletters from them, as well as notices about forthcoming books, including some access to advance copies. When we can attend professional conferences, there are often opportunities to see them present forthcoming books in person and meet with them in exhibitor booths. We also receive some catalogs by mail. Our publisher reps also tend to be extremely helpful when we contact them with requests by email.

We’ve had great success with publishers sponsoring author visits, and we’ve even started experimenting with “book buzz” events for the public as when Penguin Random House came and pitched new books directly to our patrons or we invited smaller local publishers to showcase their newest titles. We also had the opportunity to partner with Macmillan recently who worked with a mystery book club at one of our branches to promote some new mystery titles.”

Sposato hopes to expand his collaborations with publishers. “With the demise of some big [bookstore] chains over the last couple decades, there are fewer physical places for people to discover new books, movies and music.  We see libraries playing an increasing role in discovery, and we think that’s of long-term benefit to publishers, so more dialogue would be great. I’d also like to see more proactive inclusion of libraries when launching books of local appeal: we need to know about big Chicago books before anyone else. And while book stores tend to be found in the wealthiest neighborhoods in order to have the best chance of survival, we have a presence in more diverse neighborhoods. We love it when publishers are open to discussing the needs we see throughout our entire society.”


How do you or your marketing team work with regional librarians? Email us at insights@netgalley.com. We’d love to feature your strategies!

Stephen Sposato is the manager of Content Curation at Chicago Public Library, overseeing selection and readers’ advisory. He has over fifteen years of experience in collection development and readers’ advisory. He has written for Library Journal as a reviewer and as a contributor to the Reader’s Shelf column. He has provided extensive RA training, given presentations at BookExpo, the Illinois Library Association and the American Library Association, and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for LibraryReads. You can find him on Twitter at @stephensposato.

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Sourcebooks Shares 7 Strategies for Successfully Redesigning Books

Repackaging books with new covers, new back cover copy, or even a new titles is  one of the tools in a publisher’s arsenal to give a book more life. Whether making decisions about the trade paperback design after the hardcover has been on sale, or discussing changes to a backlist title that’s been acquired from another publisher, Sourcebooks uses a lot of data to support their repackaging efforts. 

Sarah Cardillo, Director of Publishing Operations at Sourcebooks shares how she and her team use sales numbers, comp titles, and audience responses to guide their redesign strategy.

1. Consider a book’s total positioning, in addition to sales

When we are looking at the trade paper edition of a hardcover release, we start by looking at sales – how many [books] did we actually sell, what percentage of the inventory sold through within the first 6-8 weeks, and did it sell at the level we had expected it to sell? We look at retail sales [as well as] library sales. Sometimes a book might not sell at our expectations at retail, but may have landed very strongly with the library markets.

If we are looking at the cover for a book that was previously published by another publisher, or perhaps self-published, we look at how the book was positioned as a whole. So, we start even further back than the cover. We think about the title, the story hook, or positioning, and the category the book will be shelved in. Even if the book had relatively strong sales, some of these other factors may give us insight into how to launch the book at a new level for Sourcebooks.

Hardcover
Repackaged as a trade paperback

2. Involve everyone in the process

Since we start by looking at sales, the decision begins with the sales department and the marketing team. The marketing team weighs in with what they were seeing at the point of launch. Did they get the reviews they’d hoped for, the media placement they’d planned? Do they think the media had an impact on the sales (or lack thereof)? We may also discuss what the consumer reviews look like. Sometimes we see that consumers are most excited about a particular aspect of the book that we did not position against – that we didn’t address on the cover or with the back cover copy. 

If this was a previously published book by another publisher or self-published, then the conversation may start with editorial – again though the editorial team starts with how they want to publish the book for their list – once they determine that positioning, the art director will review and make a recommendation on the cover direction.

In most instances, the design team is brought into the conversation when there’s already a recommendation on the table to repackage.

3. Pay attention to comp title performance 

We rely heavily on data – and comp titles provide data. We may see that a design trend has faded or taken off and so we rethink our packaging to fit into that trend. We research the categories and subcategories in depth to provide expertise on what works (and what doesn’t) when positioning a book into a certain category. We want to make sure that the consumer who reads a particular type of book knows at immediate glance that this book is for him or her. We want to make sure that our cover fits within the design space of similar books, but also stands out or stands above the other books. That the consumer sees it and knows it’s what they like to read, and that they care enough to pick it up.

4. Listen to your audience

I would say most repackages are driven by external market considerations. If we believe the current cover didn’t help sell the book, a new cover has the chance to reach a different audience – where your hardcover may have been packaged more like a romance, but your reviewers really like the mystery in the story – a repackage could lean toward the mystery aspect. So it’s still based on content, but now external factors are telling us to reposition against other aspects of the content.

A good example within the romance space was a repackage we did for a book that we published as a trade paperback title – The Curl Up & Dye by Sharon Sala.  Sharon Sala is a New York Times bestselling author in the romance space, but this trade paperback did not land the way we had hoped. But when we released her second Blessings, Georgia book, I’ll Stand By You as a mass market romance, we saw that her numbers were very strong in the mass market space and that people really loved her Blessings, Georgia setting. So we then repackaged The Curl Up & Dye as a mass market romance with a new title, You & Only You. It was already set in Blessings, Georgia, but we did not market it that way for the original trade paperback release. When we put it in mass market we made sure to communicate to the consumer via the packaging that this was set in Blessings. The one thing about mass market books and authors is that they often write within a “world” and the consumer is trained to look for copy on the cover (or in online metadata) that indicates a particular book is part of a particular series, or world. The success of I’ll Stand By You showed opportunity and a market – but more specifically that her customers were in that space already – she had success with other publishers in the mass market space, and keeping her where her customers were but then also packaging her new titles in a cheaper format allowed her to grow her reach both with existing customers but also with customers who read similar mass market titles by other authors. Plus, the lower price presented less of a barrier for entry for new customers. 

Trade paperback
Mass market romance

5. Remember your deep backlist

Sometimes we look at titles that were published 5-10 years ago (or more) and think about bringing them back out with new covers as a way to boost sales.  Especially in the young adult and the romance space. Since those audiences (especially Young Adult) turn over to new people so regularly and trends change so quickly, a successful book with a fresh cover can easily find new readers, and the accounts are happy to take the book because it was successful in the past with the previous audience. We are seeing a lot of illustrated covers in the young adult space right now. 10 years ago covers were all photographic. So we are looking at our backlist right now and seeing what books sold well but could get new life with an illustrated cover direction.

Photographic cover
Illustrated cover

6. Capitalize on the success of a repackaging campaign

If the sales increase, we can attribute part of that to the cover, of course, but we know other factors may play a part, too. The change to a more affordable format and the repositioning of the back cover copy are also important. When we see a repackage working really well, we’ll consider what we did and if there were elements that we can use from that repackage to guide the cover for the author’s next book or similar books in the same genre.

7. Think about repackaging at all stages of the publishing lifecycle, including acquisitions

Our goal in repackaging the Poisoned Pen Press backlist titles [which Sourcebooks acquired in 2018] was to give them a more cohesive look across authors and series and to have more immediate recognition for consumers.  We wanted to make sure that the consumers who devour mystery titles but have never heard of Poisoned Pen would recognize the books as mysteries that they’d want to read. We felt that, while there were many strong covers on the books, there was room to help drive consumer awareness even more. To use our experience designing for this market to increase sales.


Sarah Cardillo is the Director of Publishing Operations at Sourcebooks, one of the 10th largest publishers and the largest woman-owned trade book publisher in North America. She began her career as a production editor with Publications International (now Phoenix International Publications) but since joining Sourcebooks twelve years ago, she has grown her professional reach exponentially. As director of publishing operations, Sarah oversees numerous key departments, including the award-winning art and design department, and the production, manufacturing, and editorial production departments. She utilizes her project management and change management knowledge to build workflows and increase efficiencies across publishing operations. At the onset of the digital transformation, she rebuilt the standard bookmaking process to seamlessly integrate ebook production into the workflow. Her passion for organization and process has transformed the way departments communicate within Sourcebooks. Sarah has both a bachelor’s degree in written communication and a master’s degree in corporate communication and change management. 

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V.E. Schwab Reflects on Her Publishing Journey: “In Writing for Myself I Found My Readership”

Originally published on Bookish.com.

Earlier this year, V.E. Schwab’s debut novel The Near Witch was republished with a brand new cover and bonus short story. For the readers who have flocked to Schwab’s Shades of Magic and Villians series, it’s been an exciting opportunity to visit their favorite author’s first book after falling in love with her other work. For Schwab, it’s been a time to reflect on The Near Witch’s initial run and how it ultimately impacted the way she told stories. Here, Schwab opens up about finding her readership, writing for herself, and the advice she gives to all debut authors.

Bookish: Your debut novel The Near Witch was recently rereleased with a brand new cover. What’s the rerelease been like for you?

V.E. Schwab: It has definitely made me more introspective. I’m proud of how far I’ve come. A decade has passed between writing that book and my work on my next novel, The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue.

I assumed that The Near Witch was going to roll out very quietly back into the world. Instead, Titan, my UK publisher, took a book that never really had a fair chance and they’ve given it everything debut me would’ve dreamed of. They treated it like a new release and gave it so much attention and fanfare. I’m elated.

This is, of course, the great paradox. Debut me never would’ve gotten any of these things.

I’m very honest about that to aspiring writers. Nothing about this book changed. Everything about the way this book was treated changed.

Bookish: In the book, the Near Witch rises up after being buried. It seems to mirror this book’s journey.

VS: I’m calling this book tour the resurrection tour. It’s very weird and surreal. It’s hard for me to talk about with any objectivity. I’m so grateful.

I’ve come a long way but it wasn’t a straight line. The Near Witch is a quiet book that originally came out at a time in publishing when everything that was being touted was very loud and it wasn’t finding an audience. I now have a weird, dark, morbid audience and I’m very fortunate to have found it, but it took time.

Readerships take time to build and publishing isn’t always great at the long con. After The Near Witch and the two books in The Archived came out, I was very jaded. I was falling out of love with writing because writing is beautiful and publishing is not. I said, “I’m doing everything I can to make other people happy and it’s not working. I don’t know if I have a future in publishing but I’m not going to go down on someone else’s ship. I’m going to write what I want to read. Audience of one.” What happened was Vicious, a book that was never supposed to be read by anyone. Because of that I didn’t pull any punches. I made it weird, mildly sadistic, and as morally complicated as I wanted… and that book found its readers. What I discovered is that in writing for myself I found my readership, my dark, devoted readership. My rule from then on was I write for an audience of one first, I write what I want to read. If I do that and it appeals to other people, that’s wonderful. It it doesn’t, I will not feel like I wasted any time. I never looked back after Vicious.

My rule from then on was I write for an audience of one first, I write what I want to read. If I do that and it appeals to other people, that’s wonderful.

Bookish: Are there any elements of The Near Witch that you now recognize as a hallmark of your work?

VS: In The Near Witch, you can see the motifs I would go on to explore a decade later. I was on a panel several years ago with Melissa de la Cruz and she said that she had been told that writers tell one story. That no matter how many books you write, you as a writer are exploring one story. If you look at all of my books, they’re about insider/outsider culture and feeling like you don’t belong. That motif is in every single one of my stories. It’s interesting to look back at something like The Near Witch and see that 21-year-old me had a very tentative touch. I was just starting to learn and just starting to push. The difference between Lexie in The Near Witch and Marcella in Vengeful is the difference between 21-year-old me pushing back against society and 31-year-old me burning society down.

Bookish: This rerelease of The Near Witch is going to introduce some of your readership to your debut novel, while other readers may be picking it up without having read your other work. For new readers, where do you recommend they go next?

VS: It’s so hard. There’s the Marvel velocity where I’m like go in order: The Near Witch is the first one and none of the other books would have happened without it. I also have a tweet that says if these are things that appeal to you read this—it’s like a choose your own adventure game.

It’s also hard because books are static and people are not. If someone reads my work at 20 versus 30 they’re going to come to it with a different set of life experiences. I have to be the right version of myself to write a book, someone has to be the right version of themselves when they read it. As a writer, I will only ever bring half of the equation, the reader brings the other half. Everything the reader brings will determine if they enjoy one of my books. I want everyone to try everything knowing they’re not going to love everything and equally that something might surprise them.

Bookish: You have some stellar first lines. What do you think makes a good first line and how do you go about crafting yours?

VS: I spend a lot of time on first lines. I think it goes back to my poetry background. I don’t judge books by their covers, their titles, or their jacket copy because authors usually don’t have a say in any of those. As a reader, the first thing you encounter that an author has complete control over is the first line. I judge books very strongly by their first page because I want to get a sense of the voice. The first line needs to tell me not only something interesting, kind of like the opening line of a joke, but it also needs to tell me the tone of the book.

I will agonize over a first line. I’ve tried very hard to make the first line in each of my books be a microcosm of the first page in that I want them to tell you what kind of book you’re stepping into. The first line of Addie La Rue is “This is how it starts” and that becomes the first line for each of the sections of that book until we reach “This is how it ends.” I’ve always really wanted to begin a book with that line.

Bookish: Out of all of the characters in your other books, who do you think The Near Witch‘s Lexi would get along best with? What about Cole?

VS: Oh god. Let me think. I always joke that I make female Slytherins and male Hufflepuffs.

I tend to write this female transition: You watch Lexi become Mackenzie from The Archived and Mackenzie grows up a little bit and becomes Kate from This Savage Song, Kate evolves into Delilah Bard from Shades of Magic. I’d like to put Lexi with Delilah Bard. I feel like Delilah Bard would show Lexi her next evolution.

In the same way, This Savage Song’s August is the Super Saiyan version of Cole. He’s the glow up. But not in a pretty way, he’s a glow up of feelings. Cole was my first shot at the very emotionally aware boy and August takes that to 11.

Bookish: Is there any piece of advice that you don’t see being given to debut authors that you wish you could give them?

My advice is to work on your next book and remember that for the vast majority of us, careers are not made by a single novel but by a body of work…You can’t predict which book is going to blow up.

VS: My advice is to work on your next book and remember that for the vast majority of us, careers are not made by a single novel but by a body of work. The more pressure you put on a single novel, a debut especially, the worse it is going to be for you. You can’t predict which book is going to blow up. Shades of Magic, my most popular series, starts with my eighth novel. The seven books that came before that were instrumental in building my career. Every single one of those books was a brick in the wall.

Publishing has a really high mortality rate and you need to develop healthy habits. I’m an ancient veteran now. My debut year had 196 young adult and middle grade debuts, and there are fewer than a dozen of us publishing now. Only three of us are bestsellers. The curve is not in your favor as a creative. I think it’s best for everyone to have more information, more balance, more support across publishing generations.

You have to go in armed with knowledge. Publishing is very short-term minded and that’s very often to the detriment of books. It’s the nature of the industry to only be interested in the shiny and the new. As a reader, I find things that are five, ten, 20 years old. I don’t come to them when they’re brand new. We’re missing out on a lot of really great things in the interest of always trying to chase the new. It’s unfair because nine times out of ten the books that don’t get a chance are by diverse authors. It’s becoming even more vital to have passionate bloggers, reviews, and sites that are devoted to finding really good stories whether that story is a day old or a decade.

Bookish: On social media, you’re open about the challenges of being a writer and the demands of the industry. How did you get to a place where you felt comfortable sharing that?

The problem with not being honest and open in a creative industry is that when you begin to struggle, and we all do, you take it as a reflection of you, not of the fact that creating is hard.

VS: I’m very fortunate that I’m still in this industry and can have that kind of retrospective. Transparency and openness have always been my policies because I started out so young. When I wrote The Near Witch at 21, it was a time when no one was being honest. The problem with not being honest and open in a creative industry is that when you begin to struggle, and we all do, you take it as a reflection of you, not of the fact that creating is hard.

That’s what was happening very early on when The Near Witch wasn’t going well. I thought it must be me. Then I went to a writing retreat and all of these authors who were only talking about the positives online were sitting around talking about how hard everything was. I remember thinking that if I had known these other authors were also struggling, I would have felt so much less alone.

I meet a huge number of aspiring authors and authors new to the industry who come up to me and say thank you for making me feel less alone in how hard this is. And that’s really the only reason that I do it. There’s this pressure to romanticize the creative process. I didn’t want to perpetuate this myth. I wasn’t going to let anyone else come up feeling as alone as I felt.

Bookish: You’re currently working on a book called The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue. How’s it going?

VS: It’s trying to kill me on a daily basis. I hit this point in every single one of my book processes where I want to delete the book and move to Iceland to raise goats. But Addie is a really specific beast in that I’ve been working on it for so long and it’s lived in my head for so long. I needed to wait to write it until I was emotionally and craft ready, and I am those things now, but it’s the longest a story has ever sat with me. When you’ve had the first draft in your head for eight years, you want to do it right the first time which is not possible.

The internal pressure to do it right is way higher than with any of my other books. I’m trying to smooth the concrete before I pour it. As a writer, I revise as I go. I will work on each chapter until it’s ready. As a result, what I turn in to an editor looks very polished, but the story isn’t flawless. I’m very fortunate to have editors who can see past the polish, and while it sucks to have to tear things down to studs even when there’s really nice wallpaper, I think it is important to have strong editors who can see through that.

Bookish: Are there any books you’ve read that were quietly released into the world that you wish received more attention?

VS: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s wonderful and I want the world for it. It flew under the radar but I love everything about it. I recommend it constantly.


Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the #1 NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and the New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

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5 Tips for Newly Signed Authors from a Senior Literary Agent

Literary agents bridge the space between editors and authors, working with both to shepherd great books into the world. Because they work closely with both editors and authors, they have a unique vantage point within the industry. They know what editors expect, and how authors can best set themselves up for a successful working relationship. Here’s what the Nancy Yost Literary Agency’s Senior Agent Sarah Younger wishes every newly signed author knew:

1. You don’t have to be on every social media platform known to man

In fact, for fiction, you don’t have to be on social media at all. Sometimes publishers like to see authors supporting their book publishing efforts through social media, but you don’t need to have a robust following while you’re in the querying stage. You may not even need to have a big social media footprint when or even after your book is sold. Social media can become overwhelming, take away from writing time, and be a source of frustration to authors who aren’t innately inclined to visit the platforms. This is okay. However, social media can be a place where you find community and friendship. It can also be a way to communicate with your fans and readers, not to mention a fun way to support your books. Ultimately, when it comes to social media you have to find your own personal comfort level. If it doesn’t feel natural, don’t force it.

2. Get ready for edits

Yes, the author has the final say on their story, and their writing, and their book. But you should be prepared to work with your agent on possible revisions before manuscript submissions and know you’ll eventually get feedback and edits from an editor, copy editor, possible beta readers, and critique partners. They all want to help make your work stronger. And help you tell the story you want to tell. I know that the first response writers have when faced with revisions is not always LET’S GET TO WORK, but having a good attitude about those revisions will go a long way in establishing and preserving a great working relationship with the enthusiastic team behind you.

3. Create an author website

While you don’t need to be on social media, I do think it’s a good idea for authors to have an author website. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but having a place with your pen name, or your real name, and a bit about your books or your works in progress will be helpful when your readers want to find out more about you, your books, and your future projects. Before you shell out money for a website domain though, be sure that it is the name you really want to use. I advise using your name or pen name as your domain name. But, if that name is already taken, think about adding book-related words to the end. For example, if my name was taken, I would try adding “books” or “novels” or “author” or “writer” on the end to see if that domain is available instead, like this: sarahyoungerwriter[.]com  

4. Explore professional organizations.

Joining a professional organization could be a great way to find community and educational resources. However, membership fees are typically involved with these organizations, so know that this isn’t a requirement for your success. But, if the budget’s there, I advise authors to look into professional organizations in their genre of choice. (If they’re writing across genres, it can be helpful to be part of multiple organizations.) For example, I work with a lot of romance authors, so RWA (Romance Writers of America) is a helpful professional organization for romance writers, both published and unpublished.

5. Expect and prepare for rejection. This industry is not for the faint of heart. An author and agent will see and experience many more rejections than offers and success stories, particularly when they are starting out. However, receiving a rejection, or multiple rejections, doesn’t mean that this career isn’t for you. Just keep swimming! (Yes, I appropriated that quote from Dori.) But it’s true, just keep moving forward. Just keep writing. Just keep going. It only takes one YES!

Sarah Younger is a Senior Agent at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. You can find out more about the projects she’s sold and the genres she represents here. Additionally, you can find her on Twitter.

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Giving Publishers the Data They Need: Developing Eloquence on Alert

Firebrand Technologies’s newest service, Eloquence on Alert, gives publishers more access to data about their titles across retail sites than ever before. Through EoA, publishers can keep tabs on any changes to their title information, including changes to sale price, product pages, buy buttons, and third-party seller activity.

Catherine Toolan, Director of Eloquence Services at Firebrand, gave us an inside look at how Eloquence on Alert developed, and some of the surprising ways that publishers are already using it.

What were the origins of EoA?

Eloquence on Alert came out of a simple need for publishers to determine if and how their products were being displayed on retail and reviewer sites. Publishers send out metadata to trading partners and there is very little feedback from those trading partners once the metadata is received. This simple mission planted the seed and from there we have discovered that there is a lot more information we can provide to make it easier for publishers to help their products succeed.

A lot of the impetus for EoA came from Eloquence on Demand users. Many of our clients were sending out the very best metadata that they could on the industry recommended schedule but they were still having issues with the data or the timing of updates on some sites. They also encountered situations where their titles did not appear on some sites at all. As you can imagine, publishers with a large list cannot check retail sites daily for the presence or absence of their titles. Eloquence on Alert grew out of a need to help publishers tackle these and similar problems.

Eloquence on Alert was conceived in 2016, with the first data collection in July of that year.  We released an “alpha” Title Management-dependent version of EoA in 2017 and quickly realized that we needed to pivot and build a SaaS model (software as a service) that would allow for independent product growth.

How does EoA interact with other Firebrand products like Title Management and Eloquence on Demand?

Eloquence on Alert is a standalone product and does not require the use of any other Firebrand products. We will be working to integrate EoA with Eloquence on Demand and NetGalley in the future.

How does EoA fit in with Firebrand’s overall vision around publishing and data?

Firebrand’s flagship products, Title Management and Eloquence on Demand encourage publishers to develop workflows and data management practices that help them to provide some of the best metadata in the industry. Eloquence on Alert takes this a step further and helps publishers fine-tune their practices by drawing attention to trading partner behavior in relation to their metadata content and delivery schedule. The best metadata in the world does not do much for you if your partners are not using it.    

What need does EoA meet for publishers?

Eloquence on Alert monitors critical factors such as fluctuating list and sale prices, changes in sales rank, missing product pages, missing buy buttons, third-party seller activity, marketing assets, review count growth, and audience sentiment. EoA is committed to continued product development and enhancement to meet emerging industry needs.

We know that a select group of publishers have been using EoA in beta. How have you seen them use EoA?

Each of our beta customers is using EoA in a different way. This was somewhat of a surprise! Some are using it primarily to monitor third-party seller activity, some are using it to track missing product pages or price data fluctuation, and some are using the data in their own Business Intelligence systems to augment their internal data analysis.

Did any of them use it in ways that surprised you?

Yes, there are several uses that have surprised me. One that seems obvious to me now but did not initially is the use of EoA to track products that should not appear on certain sites. When certain products appear for sale on a specific site it is a violation and their product management team is alerted so that they can contact the site to have the product(s) removed.

How do you hope publishers will use EoA now that it’s more widely available?

I hope that EoA will become a “first thing in the morning” activity. The EoA results can be used to let you know if there will be any burning issues to deal with today, if any of your products are on the move, or if all is status quo for the day. A simple check-in with EoA can do a lot to inform your priorities.

Where can readers learn more about EoA or see if it’s a good fit for their goals?

The best way to learn more about Eloquence on Alert is to see it in action – words cannot really describe it! Readers can contact our Sales and Marketing department at info@firebrandtech.com to schedule a demo.

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Proven Strategies: Strong Subject Lines in Email Campaigns

Tips and success stories from NetGalley’s marketing experts

Every day, NetGalley’s marketing team works with publishers and authors to help put their books directly in front of the NetGalley members who are most likely to read, review, and advocate for them. Through years of collaborating closely with clients of all types (from the “Big 5” houses to self-published authors, and publishers of all kinds of books–bestselling fiction to nonfiction and academic, religious, graphic novels, children’s and YA, cookbooks, and beyond) our marketing team has seen first-hand which strategies have worked to engage different kinds of readers.

Dedicated eBlasts are extraordinarily successful and NetGalley’s most popular marketing program. Clients see outstanding results with a custom, highly targeted email campaign to meet their goals. The success of any email can be measured by both the Open Rate and the Click Through Rate (CTR). The Open Rate is determined by how many people open the email, and the CTR is determined by how many people click on a link within the email–for example to Request, Read Now, or Wish.

Today’s Proven Strategies post will focus on the first step to a successful eBlast: A strategic subject line. Remember that the subject line is your chance at a strong first impression, and it will determine whether the recipient will either open the email to find out more, or ignore it (or worse, mark it as spam). Here are some crucial tips:

  • Think about the recipient: Why are they receiving this email? Think about what your recipient is looking for, and use that to guide your messaging to ensure it resonates. Does it give them what they want?
  • Be clear and concise: The subject line should be 10 words or 50 characters max. This helps ensure that the subject line won’t get accidentally cut off on specific browsers or mobile devices.
  • Stand out: Inboxes are cluttered! Be sure your subject line catches a reader’s eye with an emoji or first name personalization.
  • If you can’t decide, test: Torn between two subject lines and unsure which will perform better? Run an A/B Test on a small percentage of the overall recipient list to see which subject line yields a higher open rate, and then use that as your subject line for the rest of the recipients.
  • Target strategically: Make sure the email is being sent to the right people. NetGalley can target specific member types, preferred categories and genres, comp titles and authors, and more. Our marketing team can help you determine which of our members will be the best fit for your book, your goal, and your budget.

Now, let’s see some of these tips in action with some recent successful subject lines. According to Mailchimp, a marketing email from a media or publishing company will have an average open rate of 21.92% (which is slightly higher than what Mailchimp sees as an overall average of 20.81%). Keep that baseline in mind as we look at these examples:

This custom eblast for Berkley’s Those People had an open rate of 51%! The knife emoji adds drama and flair to an inbox, and the question is engaging. This concise subject line also immediately gives the reader a clear idea of what kind of book this is. This eblast was targeted to a highly engaged, genre-specific recipient list who had already interacted with the author’s previous book.

This subject line for NetGalley’s Spring Young Adult Newsletter used a bit of reverse-psychology as a result of an A/B test. Our marketing team first tested this subject line against “YA books to add to your TBR right NOW” and found the “DO NOT OPEN” subject performed better in the test. It’s no surprise–it was attention-grabbing with that emoji, too! This newsletter ended up with a 46% open rate, and was sent to a highly engaged list of members who had previously interacted with similar emails.

This concise, compelling, and slightly mysterious subject line for I Am Yours from Amberjack resulted in a whopping 55% open rate! It responds to a recipient’s desire to connect in a meaningful way with a compelling new voice. The custom targeting for this eblast reached fans of comp titles, and readers who had interacted with promotions in the same genre.

Bonus Tip: Consider using a preheader, which is the preview text that follows the subject line in the inbox display. This can be just as important as the subject line! Make the preheader a call to action or use it as a short summary of the email content (we recommend a 35-50 character limit).


Have questions or need advice? Ask NetGalley’s marketing team – marketing@netgalley.com! We’re here to help, and want to help your book succeed. And, stay tuned for more best practices and success stories in our next Proven Strategies post.

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The Future of Poetry with Kirsty Melville, President & Publisher of Andrews McMeel

Andrews McMeel Publishing is a major player in poetry’s resurgence with a new generation of readers. Their list includes bestselling poets like Rupi Kaur and amanda lovelace (whose most recent title, the mermaid’s voice returns in this one has over 400 reviews on NetGalley). With a focus on young, digitally-engaged poets from all over the world drawing upon their diverse backgrounds and experiences, they connect with audiences who may never have seen themselves reflected in poetry before.

In honor of National Poetry Month, we sat down with Kirsty Melville, President & Publisher of Andrews McMeel. In this interview, she tells us what she thinks is behind poetry’s current boom, where she’s looking for new voices, and what trends she sees on the horizon. She describes how the publishing industry is becoming more responsive to what readers are looking for, and how booksellers can use poetry to engage with new customers.

What do you think accounts for some of the popularity behind popular poetry from a diverse group of poets, especially among millennials?

The impact of technology, really. The ease of being able to connect and communicate online has opened up sharing. The ability for people to share their work online, and to share their books. And then for the books to be available at retail so that [readers are] having an experience online and then able to buy a physical book. Poetry lends itself to the experience of reading in short form online. You have that short, shareable mechanism that something like an Instagram distribution platform provides. It also provides building awareness. People want to read poetry privately and it’s a form of reflection, so you see them purchase the same poetry in a book so they can experience the same work.

One of the things that I’ve found most exciting about the poets that we publish is that it’s a global phenomenon.

One of the things that I’ve found most exciting about the poets that we publish is that it’s a global phenomenon. Lang Leav was this poet we published. She was born in a Thai refugee camp — she’s Cambodian originally, raised in Australia. She started posting her work on Tumblr. I saw that she had this fan base in Asia; young women in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines were reading her work. I saw this community of young women who were totally involved and interested in what Lang had to say.

Young women see themselves reflected in [these] poets. So, you have someone like Rupi who is Punjabi-Canadian and she’s a brown woman. So suddenly brown women are seeing themselves reflected in the work of poets and spoken word artists. And then you have someone like K.Y. Robinson who’s from Houston and who’s African-American. She’s writing work and young women are seeing themselves reflected in her work. Or you have Upile Chisala who’s from Malawi; she’s speaking to African women. I think what’s happening is that the internet is facilitating young people seeing themselves reflected in the writers of today and responding to that.

People can finally have poets who are not dead white men writing about things that are relevant to them. Poetry has always been the form of talking about the meaning of life and expressing emotions around life and loss and trauma and understanding the world. All that’s happened is that the Internet’s facilitated that sharing.

Where are some of the places that you and your team are looking to keep up with emerging voices, emerging trends, or communities that you hadn’t known about before?

I think because I’m Australian, I’ve always had a global outlook. Last year I went to the Sharjah International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates. One of our authors, Najwa Zebian, who is Lebanese, was on the panel there. I was fascinated to see the Arab world responding to poetry. Rupi had been there 2 or 3 years ago and had a similar response.

I was in Sydney in Australia and we are publishing a young aboriginal boy who is 13 years old who won the Australian Poetry Slam a year ago called Solli Raphael. And he writes about some of the issues that he, as an aboriginal and indigenous young man growing up in Australia [deals with]. Environmentalism, for example.

I’m looking in communities who haven’t had their worlds expressed.

I think a lot of young people see the world as a place they communicate, so I’m looking everywhere. And I’m looking in communities who haven’t had their worlds expressed. amanda lovelace, the author of the princess saves herself in this one, she has a strong feminist orientation and LGBTQ fan base.

What’s your strategy for moving poetry away from its reputation of being intentionally oblique or rarified, broadening the perception of poetry as something that is for a lot of different kinds of people?

This resurgence in poetry is providing an awareness of the power of poetry in people’s lives. I actually think that we as a culture are committed to poetry as a genre. At Foyles in London you can see Rupi Kaur next to John Keats in the poetry section. It’s bringing more people to poetry, bringing them more to discovery. Once you’ve read one type of poetry it can lead you to another.

Rupi recently wrote an introduction to a Kahil Gibran edition of The Prophet that Penguin Random House is publishing. [Young people are] interested in the genre and people want to write poetry. So there’s this great canon. [But] there’s room for everyone.

What trends do you see emerging in poetry for the rest of 2019 and beyond?

I think a lot of the themes that we’ve seen around feminism and self care and personal expression and identity and immigration.

We’re publishing a book next year with Ahmed Badr who was a refugee who started a platform called Narratio, which is about helping refugees write poetry about their experiences. He’s worked with the United Nations and so he’s been working with refugees to help them express their experiences through poetry. He was an Iraqi refugee who wrote a poem about the experience of having a bomb dropped on his house. He read it at the United Nations. He’s a student at Wesleyan, actually. He had launched this website in part because he wanted to be able to help others write about [the refugee] experience.

Greenpeace has enlisted Solli Raphael to be a spokesperson for their latest video. It’s pretty amazing how young people are embracing spoken word poetry as a means of communicating.

Anything else you’d like more people to know about poetry publishing?

One of the things that I have always been passionate about advocating for is booksellers to bring poetry out front. Young people are going into bookstores and buying poetry. So, poetry in the front. Put it on the cash rack. Have a display! It’s National Poetry Month now, so there probably is. But make poetry relevant again. Bring it back. I think it’s a way of bringing more young people into the stores.

It sounds like what you’re saying is that it’s less about booksellers making poetry relevant, but booksellers realizing that poetry is relevant and that it is what the next generation wants.

Yes, exactly. Poetry has always been there but for some reason gets a bad rap. But if all booksellers could treat poetry the way they treat fiction bestsellers… Put the poetry up front and see what happens! They might sell more than they realize. I think a lot of people are looking to break away from their digital lives and poetry is a form of self-care. I think that the things a lot of people are looking for are for nurturing and reflection and time for themselves. And reading a book of poetry is the way to do that. To be more human again.


Bio: Founding publisher of Simon & Schuster Australia, Kirsty moved to the U.S. in 1994 as Vice President and Publisher for Ten Speed Press and led in its transformation from a niche publisher into an internationally recognized, award-winning company. She subsequently departed Ten Speed to work as Publisher for San Francisco’s University Games, was appointed Publisher and Executive Vice President of Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2005, ultimately being named President and Publisher in 2009.  

Known for best-selling humor, poetry, inspiration, entertainment and children’s books, Andrews McMeel is home to an extraordinary and vibrant selection of writers, artists, poets and comic storytellers. A global, independent, and integrated media partner, Andrew McMeel distributes creator content through global syndication; book, calendar and greeting card publishing; digital consumer experiences; and entertainment licensing. Under her leadership, Andrews McMeel has published many #1 New York Times bestsellers including Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, with more than 7 million copies sold, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman, more than 1 million copies sold, the Big Nate children’s series by Lincoln Peirce, over 5 million copies sold, and Posh puzzle and coloring book program with more than 10 million copies sold.  Since 2013 she has been at the forefront of changing the way poetry is perceived and marketed, helping grow and expand the poetry category for readers worldwide.

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Preeti Chhibber: Making publishing more diverse and dynamic

NetGalley Insights chats with writer and publishing professional Preeti Chhibber on her career path, her mentors, and the other people making publishing a more inclusive industry.

There’s a lot of talk in the publishing industry about efforts to address diversity and inclusivity. We’ve listened to panels all year long from Tech Forum to London Book Fair. Preeti Chhibber is one of the people doing the work to make it happen.

Frankly, she does it all! She points out where the publishing industry is falling short in terms of representation, both at a systemic level and in the titles that are being published. She produces content to make the industry more diverse, like her contribution to A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and her podcast Strong Female Characters. And with her Marginalized Authors & Illustrators database, she is giving publishers no excuse for a lack of diverse hires.

She spoke with NetGalley Insights recently about how her career path evolved, her mentors and collaborators, and the other players who are making publishing a more inclusive and dynamic industry.

Tell us about your career trajectory: What was your path from children’s publishing to being a professional cultural critic and enthusiast, a podcaster, and all-around advocate for a more inclusive pop culture?

It wasn’t so much a path as it was something that happened side by side. My work in children’s publishing inspired my advocacy because I was noticing a trend of our kid lit to be very monochromatic. It was rare to see books by and about people of color. Then I started realizing that we work in an industry where we can affect what is and isn’t published, and if I was going to be vocal about books, why not look at the rest of the media landscape as well? I had a vested interest, after all. In terms of the criticism and podcasting, I’ve always written about pop culture on my own time – I grew up on the internet and in the era of blogging and WordPress, so when I realized I could get paid to do this, I had a portfolio ready to go when I started pitching.

What brought you to book publishing and what were your early days in the publishing industry like? What piqued your interest? What challenges did you face?

Book publishing sort of happened by accident. I don’t mean that in a “I fell into this job” kind of way but rather  “I can’t believe this is a real job.” I was, as so many young South Asian American students are, pre-med when I was in undergrad. And I was struggling because I am terrible at math and science. I’ve always been more of a reader. My brother was in New York at the time, and he met a woman who worked at Tor and he facilitated a phone call between us where she told me about her work, and I was flabbergasted. This isn’t an industry discussed in the Indian community at all. We get doctors, lawyers, engineers. Publishing? What is that. But as soon as I realized that I could be a part of something that got books into readers’ hands… that’s all I wanted.

Chhibber contributed to this 2018 short story collection reimagining the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia.

Early days were interesting. I got my start in kid lit at Scholastic in 2008, and it was just when the industry was starting to think about how we were being impacted by the Internet. I saw the rise and fall of several e-readers and e-reading apps in the span of four or five years. It was so frustrating to watch as an entry level position without the power to say anything!

It’s always a challenge in publishing to disrupt the status quo. The industry is so old and so slow to change, but it needs to change. When I started, it was so difficult to get noticed without knowing someone (I only got my job by meeting someone at NYU who put my resume in for her position when she left). Publishing is not an equitable industry, and it’s something that needs to be addressed. The pay is low, the work is intense, and you have to come from some kind of privilege to be able to afford to work. I heard an HR rep on a panel once brag about an entry level assistant who had to work an extra job in addition to her work at the publishing house in order to afford to live in the city. I’m… still mad about it.

Who were mentors and colleagues who inspired and encouraged you along the way? How did they help you find your path?

In 2015 I started working for a woman named Ann Marie Wong, who was the boss that I think people dream about. She was so supportive and encouraged new ideas – together, we started the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) partnership with Scholastic Book Clubs as well as a Young Adult initiative. I also want to shout out Sona Charaipotra, who co-founded Cake Literary, a book packager for commercial, diverse children’s literature. She, as a fellow desi woman in publishing, has always been available for conversations about new jobs, or negotiating, or in my case, quitting the industry to write full time for a year. It can be difficult to navigate the business side of some of these old companies, and having women of color around who have done the Thing and can use their experience to help guide you is invaluable.

What has it been like to go from working on behalf of other people’s books to being a writer yourself? Was this always the goal or was it something that developed along the way?

Writing is definitely a goal that developed along the way. It was just so far out of my understanding as something that I could do. Growing up, I had Arundhati Roy or Jhumpa Lahiri as examples of Indian women who were writing for a living. And… I am not either of those women, who are literary bastions of excellence. Early on in my career, an executive said that it was so important to understand the line between Writer and Publisher, and knowing what side you stood on. I know now what a ridiculous thing that is to say, especially considering how many of my colleagues are incredible writers… but when I heard it at the time, it stuck with me for years.

But, as I started noticing what books were being published, I thought I had something to say, a book to write for the kid I’d been. The kind of stories I wished I’d had. So here we are.

It’s been an interesting experience, because I know the publishing side so well, but I’m not as familiar with being a writer… and none of those writerly insecurities are stymied by knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. They might actually be exacerbated by the fact? Like, I can imagine what the meetings are like discussing a book which is not helpful, ha!

We know that moving forward is a collective effort–who have been your biggest supporters? Who are some others that are doing important work to make publishing more inclusive?

I already mentioned Ann Marie Wong and Sona Charaipotra above—but I’ll add women like Dhonielle Clayton, Ellen Oh (who were our colleagues on the side of WNDB when we launched the SBC partnership). In terms of who is doing good work right now to make the industry more inclusive? Patrice Caldwell and her People of Color in Publishing organization, Alvina Ling was an inspiration when she started the diversity committee at Little Brown. And honestly, every single publishing professional who speaks up about the inequity of the industry, many of whom I’ve had the privilege to work alongside like Kait Feldman, Celia Lee, Cassandra Pelham, Trevor Ingerson, Eric Smith, Jennifer Ung, Cheryl Klein, Nancy Mercado, Namrata Tripathi, Zareen Jaffrey. And so many writers (including the aforementioned Ellen, Dhonielle, and Sona) who won’t let publishing coast, like Daniel José Older, Justine Larbalestier, Laurie Halse Anderson, Heidi Heilig, Kayla Whaley—I could go on and on and on, this list is by no means exhaustive, but there are so many incredible people doing the work. We’d be here for hours!

Tell us about the efforts you have made to create communities in publishing, like your Marginalized Authors/Illustrators Database.

Yes! I created the marginalized authors/illustrated database because there is a thing in publishing called IP (intellectual property) – where the publisher will come up with an idea and then hire an author to write the book. I was noticing that editors tended to keep going back to the same list of cis, straight, white authors and I wanted to do what I could to equalize the playing field as much as I could… so I created a resource for editors to find a more diverse group of possible creators. It throws the excuse of “Well, I just can’t find any” out the window. Here! They found themselves for you!

[To request access to the database, fill out this form!]

Bio: Preeti Chhibber is a YA author, speaker, and freelance writer. She works as a publishing professional. She has written for SYFY, BookRiot, BookRiot Comics, The Nerds of Color, and The Mary Sue, among others. Her short story, “Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers” was published in the anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (HarperCollins, 2018), and her first book, Peter and Ned’s Ultimate Travel Journal comes out this year (Marvel Press, June 2019). You can find her co-hosting the podcasts Desi Geek Girls and Strong Female Characters (SYFYWire). She’s appeared on several panels at New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con, and on screen on the SYFY Network. Honestly, you probably recognize her from one of several BuzzFeed “look at these tweets” Twitter lists. She usually spends her time reading a ridiculous amount of Young Adult but is also ready to jump into most fandoms at a moment’s notice. You can follow her on Twitter @runwithskizzers or learn more at PreetiChhibber.com.


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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