Off the Beaten Path: Sarah Twombly

With the increasing fluidity among industries, it’s not unusual for executives to leave traditional publishing roles in favor of new business ventures. In this Off the Beaten Path series, we asked four former traditional publishing professionals how their publishing experience affects their roles in their current companies and what they miss about their old stomping grounds.

Sarah Twombly

Senior Strategist, Blue State Digital;
former Literary Agent at Joy Harris Literary Agency

How has your publishing experience been helpful in your current job/industry?

The number one thing publishing taught me to do was advocate for myself and the projects I believe in. Having a point-of-view is one of the most important things you can do, across industries, and in publishing in particular. Writers need you to understand their voice and have a vision for how their project not only fits in a given market, but how it stands out in that market. To create something different and new is an uphill battle. In publishing, you have to have an unyielding belief and confidence in your POV. It’s what has made great editors great — Nan Graham, Sunny Mehta, agents like Binky Urban — what they all have in common, among other things, is a unique sensibility and POV, and the smarts and confidence to advocate for what they know is in a book’s best interest.

What can publishing learn from your current job/industry?

Across the board, trade publishers have been slow to adopt and adapt to new technologies. The way we interact with the written word, what we want from content, it’s changing at a faster clip than any other time in human history. And yet the web teams at publishing houses are incredibly small. Often times social media and email are managed by a team of only two or three—for publishing houses that publish at least 2,500 titles a year. People are reading more than ever before. There are unending opportunities to not only engage readers, but widen the purchase funnel. Imprints need to function more like sub-brands that are part of a master brand. There’s a missed opportunity to differentiate one house from another. Right now, you’d be hard pressed to find a consumer who could tell you the difference between S&S, Random House or Hachette. Even more so between Atria, Knopf, Delacorte and Little, Brown.

What do you miss about publishing?

I miss the authors. They were always the best thing about the job. It’s an honor to help usher someone’s words into the world. A joy to develop a rapport and understanding of their craft. A privilege to foster creative genius and help unlock an artist’s potential. That’s what always kept me going, and what I continue to miss.

What do you like about your current industry?

I love digital strategy because it moves at a fast clip. You know immediately if something is working. It’s cheap and easy to change course, and best of all, you can interact with your consumers in an authentic and meaningful way. Social media and email aren’t PR megaphones. They are channels that can make the case for your unique brand proposition, build loyalty, and gain invaluable insights about what your consumers want and care about. I love working to understand what drives behavior, what inspires someone to care, and how to harness this understanding in a way that helps our clients meet their goals.

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 12/9-12/13

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

A study released by The Pew Internet and American Life Project illustrates how Americans value public libraries.

With ebook prices at an all time low, how can publishers convince readers to pay full price for new bestsellers?

Trident Media Group co-founder Robert Gottlieb thinks that the role of the literary agent is expanding and changing.

Booknet Canada releases data on the sales boom of Alice Munro’s work after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In response to Wall Street Journal‘s “See Grown Ups Read,“ Publishers Weekly offers a counterpoint on the so-called trend of adults turning to middle grade books for pleasure.

To the Rescue: An Interview with the League of Assistant Editors

FINALlogo04282011This article was originally published on our sister site for young book professionals, Publishing Trendsetter.

By Samantha Howard

There is a dearth of publishing blogs for young people, but one of the most spirited and celebratory accounts of ambitious young publishers comes from The League of Assistant Editors, a group dedicated to connecting young agents and young editors to ensure that they aren’t missing out on a piece of the publishing pie. They launched onto the internet scene in August and have since then hosted a sold out Dealmakers event at Housing Works Bookstore and Café, held public “office hours,” and written impressively honest  accounts of their time in publishing for all to see.  Trendsetter had a few questions for Meredith Haggerty, and Allyson Rudolph, the two women behind the League:

Publishing Trendsetter: If you don’t mind, give the folks at home a little background on each of your respective paths into publishing:

Allyson: My first publishing jobs were in my hometown, Washington, DC—I worked in managing editorial and editorial at academic and association presses before deciding to move to New York and try my hand at trade publishing. I started in NYC as an intern at Markson Thoma, then worked at Hyperion as an editorial assistant, and now I am an assistant editor at Grand Central Publishing.

Meredith: I went to college in New York, and interned at a literary agency. After graduating I got a job at another, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, where I worked for two years. From there, I became an editorial assistant at Grand Central Publishing, eventually being promoted to assistant editor. I currently work as the Associate Features Editor for HowAboutWe Media where, among other projects, I help to secure excerpts.

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PT: What made you two decide to start the League?

Allyson: The decision to start the League actually followed the decision to host the Dealmakers speed networking event. I had been playing with the idea of nonromantic speed-dating for agents and editors ever since she moved to New York and began to understand that building a professional network can be a slow and inefficient process. Meredith is a master of Making Things Happen and got in touch with Housing Works about hosting a speed networking event, and then all of a sudden we were on the Housing Works calendar with a bunch of event tickets to sell. We didn’t want to be hosting as just Meredith and I and it seemed like there was a bigger professional support need to fill—there are a lot of challenges for young editors and agents that we think can be addressed with a little ingenuity and persistence—so we picked a name and started a Tumblr and the League was born. Our goal is to provide the agent/editor community with events that solve problems. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 12/2-12/6

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

Amazon‘s drone delivery service is big news this week, but some factors will keep it from happening for a while. 

The stigma of adults reading middle grade fiction seems to be lessening, which may be leading to changes in the genre.

It may seem that ebooks are taking over, but many start-ups and technological advances are helping ebooks stick to the features of printed books. 

A quarter of the Top 100 Books on Amazon were from indie publishers, showing how these publishers/platforms are being more prominent in the industry.

Writers who choose self-publishing over traditional publishing may have different goals and ambitions than other authors, as revealed in a Digital Book World study.

And as a bonus: Waterstones combats Amazon’s announcement of its drone delivery service with the following video:

People Roundup, December 2013

PEOPLE

Daniel Nayeri will join Workman on December 18 as Director of Children’s Publishing, succeeding Raquel Jaramillo who has been named Editor-at-Large. He has been Digital Editorial Director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, prior to which he was an Editor at Clarion.

Flatiron Books has hired Liz Keenan as Associate Publisher, starting January 6. She is currently Executive Director of Publicity for Hudson Street Press and Plume. She will be responsible for planning and executing all marketing and publicity for new nonfiction line, which plans to begin publishing in January 2015.

The American Booksellers Association announced that Matthew Zoni has been named Manager of its ABC Children’s Group. Zoni served as Manager of Event Marketing and Business Development at Barnes & Noble for the past 11 and a half years.

Mark Landau has joined National Geographic Book Publishing Group as Director of Special Markets. He was formerly Sales Director, National Accounts at Publications International, Ltd.

Sarah Pekdemir has joined Crown as Senior Marketing Manager, Crown Trade.  Jocelyn Cordova joins Crown Business on December 16th as Director of Marketing and Publicity, after spending the last eight years at Wiley as Associate Director of Publicity.

Michael Signorelli has joined Holt as Senior Editor, where he will focus on crime fiction while continuing to pursue a broad range of nonfiction. He had been an Editor at HarperCollins for over 8 years.

Sean McCarthy has left Sheldon Fogelman Agency to start his own agency, Sean McCarthy Literary Agency. He can be reached at [email protected]. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 11/25-11/29

number_5_redEvery week we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

A new study from Voxburner finds that young people prefer physical books to ebooks.

Thad McIlroy explores the ease, or lack thereof, of discoverability of this year’s National Book Awards winners‘ works.

Do college campus bookstores still have a place for trade books?

The release of Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal begs the question, are some books too private to publish?

Some independent bookstores are returning their book machines, making some wonder if book machines are right for independents.

International Bestseller Lists, November 2013

Every month, Publishing Trends runs fiction international bestseller lists from four territories–FranceGermanyItaly, and SpainThis month, our four regular territories are joined by two more: Argentina and Egypt.

Those books that have been published in English are listed with their official English-language title. All others are translated as literally as possible from the original. Where applicable, the US publisher is listed after the local publisher, separated by a “/”. The lists are taken from major newspapers or national retailers, which are noted at the bottom of each list.

BestsellerNovember2013.France (1)

BestsellerNovember2013.Germany (1)BestsellerNovember2013.Italy (2)BestsellerOctober2013BestsellerNovember2013.Argentina (1)BestsellerNovember2013

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week, 11/18–11/22

number_5_redEvery week, our sister site, Publishing Trendsetter, recommends 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. To continue that tradition here on Publishing Trends, we will be recommending 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

Disney faces challenges in the mobile game business, trying to both increase revenue and respect their young audience.

Could the slowing in eBook sales be a blessing in disguise that indicates a stabilizing market?

Can OverDrive continue to expand and dominate public library eBooks as other segments of library lending open up?

A survey on publishing salaries shows worrying trends about starting salaries and the stability of publishing jobs.

eBooks are growing in popularity as a gift for this holiday season, leading to more sales of eReaders too.

And as a bonus: Macmillan CEO John Sargent gives a TEDxTimesSquare talk called “The Decision Point” about making decisions with little historical context, as he did with partnering with Apple to create the iBookstore.

Introducing Partners’ Corner

As a new monthly feature, we will be posting “Partners’ Corner,” a place where the principals of Market Partners International can share their observations of the publishing industry for the month.

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Market partners logoWe’ve been doing a lot of searches at MPI this year, and having read more resumes and met more publishing people than most of you might meet in a whole career, we’ve been noticing something new: In the good old days, most trade publishing people stayed in the department where they started so their career advanced upward, but rarely could you make a switch from sales to editorial or rights to marketing. But those barriers seem to have fallen somewhat and a recent look at current resumes reveals some surprising career tracks.

Take, for instance, these real examples: From Promotions Coordinator to Senior Editor at a Teen Magazine to senior roles in the Publicity Department; From Editor to Associate Publisher to Editorial Director of Digital Publishing to Publishing Director at an internet start-up; from Editor to Agent to VP of Business Development to Publisher; from Foreign Rights to Domestic Rights to National Accounts Manager to Director of Sales to Director of Client Services; from Editor to Licensing Manager to Packager to Editorial Director.

Then there are the seismic shifts, from music to books; from book publishing to national nonprofits; from books to magazines and vice versa; from digital startups to books and vice versa.

None of these may seem radical, but they do point to a definite change. Employers now embrace a resume that has variety, which could mean different companies, job descriptions, or even – increasingly – industries.  Digital initiatives transcend departments, requiring skills and knowledge regardless of one’s primary responsibility. Editors, encouraged to create original content, must understand the world of licensing in order to exploit the potential of their creations. Even sales, once the clear domain of people on the ground and in the field, is now redefined as ebooks go automatically to platforms in the sky.

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week, 11/11–11/15

number_5_redEvery week, our sister site, Publishing Trendsetter, recommends 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. To continue that tradition here on Publishing Trends, we will be recommending 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

The number of self-published books on work on the market rose 59% in the last year.

HarperCollins and Hachette are seeing rises in their eBook sales, which raises questions about whether or not the eBook market is flattening out

Do publishers need to start partnering with start-ups like Scribd and Wattpad to keep up with entrepreneurial spirit and new technologies?

A lot of the latest big novels have been surprisingly lengthy–some thoughts on why this might be.

This infographic, based on Nielsen research, gives some insight into teen reading trends.