Thursday, June 17, 2010

Careers in Publishing - Links and Issues

I'm doing my Publishing Careers post a little differently this week. I have seen some interesting posts in the blogosphere I wanted to pass along. Recently BookEnds posted about What It Takes to be an Agent, and Nathan Bransford also talked about what the majority of an agent's job is (and it's not reading unsolicited manuscripts) in his post, Agents Are Not Just Gatekeepers. I also recently found a blog that seems to me to be picking up the mantle of honesty and humor where Miss Snark left off: Editorial Anonymous. She's a children's book editor at a major New York publishing house, but is anonymous so she can tell the truth, and so she can say hilariously snarky things.

Finally there's an excellent post at ShelfTalker called The Elephant in the Room, which is about the extreme lack of diversity in publishing. This is obviously true and also obviously a problem. In my New York publishing job, I worked with several Asian-Americans, and not one African-American in 5 years, let alone any other ethnicities. At one of the very largest publishing houses, I could count the African-Americans employed there on one hand. This post also has links at the bottom to resources and other articles of interest. (The elephant images here were commissioned for the ShelfTalker post.)

And while it isn't as obvious, I think the business is also still sexist. According to last year's Publisher's Weekly Annual Salary Survey, men out-earn women by over $30,000 US, which is an improvement. The standard explanation (echoed in that article, although only half was articulated) is that men who into the business/management side while women go to the editorial side, and that's why they are paid less. Isn't the same excuse made about why men and women in general are paid differently? Women want to work in "soft" jobs like teaching which pay less while men go for the "hard" jobs like banking, which pay better. But my question is, which came first? Women going into those careers, or the low salary? Teaching used to be paid much better... and it used to be dominated by men. Is it really okay to pay our Editors less than everyone else in comparable positions in the industry, and say that's the only reason women in publishing make less money?

I don't have any solutions to these issues, but I do want people to be aware going in. Of course most every American industry has these problems, but if we don't talk about them, they won't be improved. And to that end I do want to recommend a book for women. I never, ever read business books, but I had picked up Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel for a friend. That evening, I flipped through it, just to see what it was like. I read the whole thing, in that one night. And I learned several things that I still pay attention to today. Personally these are three things I stopped cold turkey:
  • never play with your hair at work. Invest in bobby pins if it really is driving you crazy. Playing with your hair is a flirting sign, even if you don't mean it to be.
  • never sit on your leg. You don't always need to have both feet planted on the floor, but sitting on one leg is infantilizing. It sends the message that you are a child
  • never refer to yourself as a "girl". This tip is right in the title. The reason nice girls don't get the corner office? Because women get the corner office.
This book also had quizzes and sidebars which make is an easier read than 90% of business books. Now, I am still working on some of her tips, like not asking so many questions (I don't need to ask permission to make decisions about my accounts. I should tell my boss where I am on certain issues, but not ask him if it's okay.) but this book has great advice I wish I'd read when I was just starting off in the business world.

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