Thursday, January 19, 2017

Reading by Publisher

I have mentioned elsewhere but in case you missed it, I was let go from my job at the very end of Sept. Since then, obviously I've been interviewing. For a lot of these interviews, just beforehand I cram and read a couple of books published by the publisher, to have talking points in the interview, to better understand their publishing philosophy, and to show I'm making an effort. I did that with Workman a couple of months ago when I was a finalist for a position there.

I still remember way back when I was an editor at St. Martin's Press circa 2004 and I got a call Friday for an interview on Monday at NAL, where if I got the job I'd mostly be working on romance novels, which I had barely read before in my life, let alone edited. I went straight to B&N from work on Friday night, bought 4 recent NAL books that covered a variety of romance genres (historical, Regency, contemporary, thriller). And sure, I've read a book in a day lots of times. But I had to read 4 books in 2.5 days. I still remember the very odd feeling on Saturday when I finished one book, and didn't even get up from my chair, but picked the next one right up and dove in.

Then a couple of years ago when I was a finalist for a job at Knopf, in a very long drawn-out hiring process, I spent about three months reading almost nothing but Knopf books. It was an interesting experience, mostly I didn't enjoy it (I hate being forced to read books), but in the end it was eye-opening in a lot of ways. Even when I worked at a publisher (St. Martin's), I never read only their books, so it was strange and I learned a lot reading just one division of one publisher for several months.

Last week I had an interview at Hachette and so I read 3 Hachette books in 3 days. I hope to have a second interview so I'm reading a 4th one now and I have a 5th one on tap. And there's a S&S position I would love to interview for, so after the Hachette books, I thought I'd read a few S&S.

Then I remembered, in December every year I do a year-end wrap-up and this year I added two new fields: books I read for work, and number of different publishers (not imprints) that I read. Well thanks to the second one, I was horrified to discover I hadn't read a single HarperCollins book in 2016. Partly that's due to me reading a bunch of Soho books last year which I hadn't of course anticipated at the beginning of the year, partly it was due to my stress and more or less being in a reading slump most of the year. Mostly it's just randomness. I like HarperCollins's books, in fact when I worked at Ingram, I exclusively worked on Morrow and Avon (and Henry Holt), and I was the backup for the HarperCollins coordinator, so I got every Morrow and Avon book (Harper bought their parent company, Hearst, at the end of 1999 so those are all Harper books now) and I could get any Harper book I wanted just by asking the rep. That's another publisher where I'd like to work. So once I'm done with the Hachette and S&S books, I need to read a few Harper books. One thing I don't need to do is read more Penguin Random House books as I've read an absolute ton of them last year. And when I realized all of this, I was both reading a print and listening to an audio Random House book.

Finally, I decided that I need to kind of formalize this. So here's my plan:
5 Hachette books
5 Simon & Schuster books
5 HarperCollins books
5 MacMillan books (for good measure, after all they're the last of the Big Five publishers that isn't PRH. And I started the year with a St. Martin's title which is why they're last.)
5 "other" books.

So, unless I get an interview at an obscure PRH imprint that publishes narrative books that I somehow haven't read, or if my book club picks a PRH book, I'm going to try to skip them for the next few months. They really dominate the publishing world but I want to see a little more of what else is out there.

Luckily, this project won't be any hardship at all—I have a ton of great selections from all of these publishers that I am really looking forward to. Here are some options:

For Hachette I have read/am reading/am about to read:
  1. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
  2. Class by Lucinda Rosenfeld
  3. You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein 
  4. Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film by Alexandra Zapruder (currently reading)
  5. Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland (to read, for my book club so not going to change)
For Simon & Schuster I'm currently thinking I'll read:
  1. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery 
  2. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper 
  3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
  4. He's So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott 
  5. Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America by David O. Stewart (for my book club so not going to change)
For HarperCollins I'm currently thinking I'll read (interestingly, these are all nonfiction):
  1. Marrow: A Story of Love, Loss, and What Matters Most by Elizabeth Lesser 
  2. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
  3. There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe, Emily McDowell
  4. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
  5. Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Watching '80s Movies by Jason Diamond
For MacMillan I'm currently thinking I'll read:
  1. Rise: How a House Built a Family by Cara Brookins
  2. The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams
  3. American Girls by Alison Umminger
  4. Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz
  5. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
For "Other" I'm currently thinking I'll read:
  1. Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan (Milkweed)
  2. Garth Williams, American Illustrator: A Life by Elizabeth K. Wallace, James D. Wallace (Beaufort Books)
  3. Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss (Vanderbilt University Press)
  4. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (Haymarket Books)
  5. The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon (Bloomsbury USA)
  6. Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France by Craig Carlson (Sourcebooks)
  7. Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud by David Dayen (The New Press)
Obviously for the "other" category, I'm missing some of the bigger players (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, WW Norton) and I have more than five books listed. This category will likely see the most change, especially if I were to, for example, get an interview at Oxford University Press or something like that.

I'm excited about this mini challenge and it'll be interesting to see if, at the end of a couple of months of no Penguin Random House titles, I notice anything feels different about my reading.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Love your post.

You are amazing to read all those books in such a short time.

Best of luck at the interviews.

Keep us posted.

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