Our sister site, Publishing Trendsetter, posted this great Book-Jobs Not by the Book interview today with Laura Hazard Owen, former Editorial Manager here at Publishing Trends and current book industry journalist for paidContent. Always honest and accessible, Laura’s interview is just as informative as her articles, which cover everything from the DoJ case to Penelope Trunk. The full interview can be read here on the Trendsetter site, but here is an excerpt below:
What is the biggest challenge in your current job? In what ways did your previous jobs prepare you for what you do here?
The biggest challenge is the fast pace. I usually write at least two stories a day and it is challenging to make sure they are well-written, authoritative and interesting. (And sometimes they aren’t those things! But I try.) My previous jobs prepared me for what I do here by teaching me about how book publishing works. Then when I was the editor of Publishing Trends I obviously wrote about publishing. The pace there was not as constant but I got practice interviewing people, finding topics and explaining things clearly.
The other challenge is email and information overload. I get hundreds of emails a day now and it is time-consuming and stressful to weed out the stupid press releases and pitches while not accidentally missing something big. But at Publishing Trends I learned a lot about discerning what is and isn’t a good or interesting story and helped me get a little better at filtering and being like, hmm, is this worth my time or should I just pass on it.
Finally, a good reporter should be comfortable reading court documents and SEC filings and earnings reports. I’m getting better at that but I’m not totally comfortable with it by any means. But in all of my previous jobs I’ve had to pay a lot of attention to detail and be able to do close reading and that practice certainly helps when I’m analyzing these types of documents.
What value has this job brought to the way you think about book business as a whole and your own relationship to books?
Doing this job has given me a more objective view of the book publishing industry as a whole. I am not employed by either a book publisher or by a publisher competitor, i.e., I don’t have any “obligation” other than to be thoughtful/honest/objective and productive. My job is to write about how the entire environment is changing. I don’t feel pressure to be a cheerleader for the book publishing industry but I also don’t feel pressure to write “Amazon is killing publishing” or “Print publishers are dead” stories (even though stories like that tend to get a lot of traffic). I have the space to kind of observe and write from a neutral standpoint, which is what a journalist is supposed to do. That said, I am also a blogger and my personal opinions totally enter my stories. For example, I support agency pricing and I have written about why. But I’ve also written about things that Amazon does that I think are cool.