Monthly Archives: July 2013

The veil has been lifted: The secret behind The Cuckoo’s Calling

Of course while I’ve been immersed in study, the dynamic world of publishing has gone through many twists and turns. Suffice it to say, I’m well aware that there is much industry news to catch up on, including the most intriguing story of the pseudonymously authored The Cuckoo’s Calling. I know that I’ve certainly missed the boat on the “breaking news” aspect of this delightful story, but as an ardent fan of Ms. Rowling, it would be impossible for me to not write a gushing post about her exciting new venture into the world of mystery. An apt weaver of interlocking stories, with an uncanny skill for tying the most seemingly unremarkable tidbits of information into an intricate overarching tale, I am certain that Rowling’s mystery will thrill and delight with the same intensity as her fantasy.

When I first read the news in Publishers Weekly that the author of the series of books that had the most formative impact on my childhood, youth, and let’s face it adulthood was authoring a new series my book lover’s heart gave a distinct flutter of joy. I had to smile at her statement to BBC News that “being Robert Galbraith [was] such a liberating experience.” She also spoke of the joy of “publish[ing] without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure of getting feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.” A celebrated novelist with worldwide acclaim, she did not want her latest work to be picked up based on the notoriety associated with her name and her previous literary successes. Instead, she wanted to inspire that exquisite curiosity and hunger in readers, to ignite their bookish passions based solely on the innumerable merits of her artful mastery of the written word and to discover the world created by a seemingly unknown author. I find this to be yet another feather in her cap as a true writer.

Under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling made it into the hands of approximately 500 people, according to Publishers Weekly. Once her secret was out however, Rowling’s mystery skyrocketed in sales by “5,000 places to top Amazon’s sales list.”  Of course there was something quite suspect about a novel crafted with all the telltale signs of a veteran, purportedly authored by a novice and she was certain to be found out sooner or later. The hype surrounding The Cuckoo’s Calling emptied bookshelves across the nation. The original 10,000 print run was clearly going to need some serious augmentation, and publisher, Little, Brown did just that when they went back to the presses for an impressive and merited 300,000 print run.

I am overdue for a trip to the bookstore to purchase my copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling and sink into Rowling’s intriguing new tale. A master of language, characters, and plot development Rowling is certain to have woven that indefinable literary brilliance that is so distinctly her own into the tale of war veteran turned private detective, Cormoran Strike and his quest to unearth the truth behind the death of a famed model. With book in hand I will retreat into a hibernation-like state, ignoring all those around me, completely engrossed in the world of Rowling’s creation. The immersive and absorbing quality of her writing is what makes her such an incredible writer, and my personal favorite. I’m predicting another series that will take the reading world by storm, that will add fuel to the passions of ardent readers, kindle the flames of lapsed readers, and ignite the curiosity and excitement of new readers. How can I predict such a phenomenon? The Cuckoo told me so.


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MIA Blogger Returns: SPI Part II

qs0gghAfter the close of the magazine program with presentations to top industry professionals, it seemed impossible to think that we were back to square one and at the start of another three-week adventure. Yet there we were with all the first day of school jitters again, albeit armed with a wealth of newly acquired publishing knowledge. I felt like a fledging apprentice awaiting the instructions of the master I had been apprenticed to–filled with nerves, passion, and an earnest desire to learn the trade.

Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster came to speak to us that day. To hear her speak of the vision of her publishing house and how their goal is to ensure that each author’s work reaches as many readers as possible spoke to me as an ardent lover of words and books. She spoke of publishing as a vessel through which author’s works were disseminated into the world and that at Simon & Schuster each work was taken on its own merit and its own timeline no matter how long-lasting it may or may not be. In these words, I heard confirmed what I have long known–that publishing is truly where I belong. The program continued to enchant and enthrall me as we heard from more incredible speakers, including Madeline McIntosh, President and COO of Penguin Random House, Reagan Arthur, Publisher of Little, Brown, Jennifer Loja, VP Associate Publisher of Penguin Books for Young Readers, and many more top professionals from “the Big 6”, newly “the Big 5”, as well as literary agents from highly regarded agencies Levine Greenberg, ICM, Writers House, The Gernert Company, and Howard Morhaim. Their knowledge of the industry is boundless and during their presentations I tried to absorb every ounce of the wisdom they were imparting. By the end of the three weeks I am certain I resembled an extremely saturated sea sponge.

During the book section of the program we also got the opportunity to visit publishing houses. Another early morning in Woolworth spent lined up, sizing up my competition to the left and right as I prepared myself for the stampede that would occur when the sign-up sheets were posted. We truly turned into a herd of wildebeests when those sign-up sheets were out; it was as if all rational thought fled from us and we reverted to our primal instincts. I got the opportunity to visit HarperCollins and was more than a little giddy standing in the lobby waiting to be taken up to the gilded halls of book publishing. I was certainly not disappointed when those elevators doors opened. It was a strikingly beautiful office and the fact that I was in the hallowed halls that held so many powerful books, a repository of knowledge, depth, beauty, vibrancy, and stirring imagination was nothing short of breathtaking. As we sat in the conference room and heard from editorial, art, and subsidiary rights directors I couldn’t help but feel a certain dreamlike quality overtake me. After all, it has long been my aspiration to be a part of this industry and to actually to be in the office of one of the Big 5 publishing giants was overwhelmingly wonderful. I felt a strong desire to head deeper into the office, seat myself with the other employees and begin diligently working–perhaps if I was quiet and efficient enough they might not notice that I was an imposter.

As if there were time for anything other than raptly listening to presentations of publishing gurus, fanciful thoughts dancing in my head, and visiting publishing houses and indie bookstores, we also had an imprint to create. I was a part of the romance imprint, which we christened Ardour Press. At first I was a little disconcerted about being a part of the romance imprint, but as I began writing my three book ideas prior to the start of the program I actually found myself enjoying the genre. My ideas of course were all woven in the vein of my favorite genre, historical fiction, but nevertheless they were romance novels. One of my ideas, my favorite in fact, was chosen to be one of our imprint’s titles. Exquisite Talent: Love and Ballet in the City of Light, set in 1920s Paris, tells the tale of a fiery and tumultuous romance between prima ballerina, Caterina and her rival Luka. Filled with passion for the arts from ballet to the literature of The Lost Generation, this story aligned perfectly with our imprint’s mission to share love stories through the vein of people’s passions in life. We wanted to steer clear of the stereotypical bodice-ripping romance titles and bring something more intelligent and multi-dimensional. It was such an exciting adventure to see three books coming to life, and one of them my own. My zeal for book publishing increased further as did the passionate conviction that I am on the right path.

All too soon, the six weeks came to a close. We had made it through our crash course into publishing. Looking back on the program now I am so thankful to have been a part of it because it has given me such great insight into the industry and experiences and memories that will never fade. This is most certainly the first step in a new chapter, and as the door of SPI closes, I can only hope that the next door to open will be that of my future position in publishing!

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MIA Blogger Returns: SPI Part I

qs0gghAfter seven long weeks of hibernation, I am finally reemerging to first catch up on what I have been up to and then get back to blogging about the intriguing industry of publishing that I am so earnestly seeking to be a part of. During the course of the past seven weeks I have been on a whirlwind ride of a deep and intensive immersion in the world of publishing. NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute was the most absorbing and wonderfully challenging experience, as evidenced by my lengthy stint away from my beloved blog. This is of course by and large my fault for not continuing to blog during the program. However, always the consummate perfectionist, I poured myself into the program and was completely disconnected from the outside world.

Though I regret my absence from my blog, I cannot begin to articulate what an incredible experience I had throughout the course of the program. We were lucky enough to have leaders in the magazine and book publishing industries take the time to come and impart some of their wisdom. It was, I must admit, a bit unnerving to be sat in the same room as Editor’s-in-Chief and Publishers of some of the most high-profile magazines and publishing houses in the industry. The most amazing thing was their willingness to be a part of the program and to invest their time in aspiring young professionals. It is a testament to their dedication to the essence of publishing and to their desire to ensure that the up and coming members of the publishing world are filled with the same passion that they have. Passion was the theme that ran throughout the six-week course. Credentials, experience, networking etc are all important elements, but it is the passion that we have for this industry that keeps it alive. To me it is incredible that an industry that touches people all over the world can be fueled on passion. As a reader, writer, and let’s face it, a bit of a romantic, this touches me.

It’s difficult to encapsulate in one blog post a six-week program that certainly included at least a semester’s worth of information, but I will attempt to give a good snapshot. In the interest of making this blog post a manageable read I am going to split the magazine and book sections into two posts, otherwise I will surely loose readers’ attentions along the way. The magazine program was a high-speed operation from day 1. It was certainly what I would call trial by fire. It was time for us to all show what we were made of as we set out to launch a new magazine in a mere three weeks. We were guided through this process by industry experts from editorial, marketing, publicity, web development, and finance who shed light on the complex world of magazine publishing. If we were magazine illiterate at the start of the program, we certainly had a new vocabulary to show off at the end, complete with acronyms such as CPM, P&L, FOB, and many others that at the start seemed like a foreign language.

As we sat in the freezing classroom in the historic Woolworth Building, publishing giants Pilar Guzman, Editor-in-Chief of Martha Stewart Living, Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst Magazines, Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire, and David Granger, Editor-in-Chief of Esquire, gave us a glimpse into that magical, glamorous world of magazine publishing and the behind the scenes actions that breathe life into the books each month. We were also fortunate enough to get to go on visits to magazines’ headquarters, and the foodie that I am I eagerly scrambled through the crowd of students to sign my name for the Bon Appetit visit. As I walked through the test kitchen where scents of pecorino risotto wafted through the air I was overcome by how surreal the whole experience was. We continued our tour through the art department where the creative gurus were deep in discussion about an upcoming issue and wanting to push the envelope with a certain design technique. We passed the Editor-in-Chief’s office where Adam Rapoport sat engaged in a meeting detailing his creative vision. We truly were in the midst of a magazine at work, seeing the heart and soul of the people who work tirelessly each month to create an exquisite issue that provides readers with  much more than just incredible recipes.

Of course it was easy to get engrossed in all the wonderful presentations and tours, but there was the small nagging detail of that magazine we had to create in three weeks. I was selected as the Editor-in-Chief of my magazine group, a role that I was equally excited and terrified about. Falling in line with my love of food, I was in the food group and couldn’t have been happier. After many hours of brainstorming, bandying ideas back and forth we settled on creating a wine magazine. This would not be your typical wine magazine, however, this magazine would be for twenty-somethings to thirty-somethings that were interested in learning more about wine, but were put off by the snobby culture surrounding it. And thus, Genuwine: Wine Without the Snobbery was born. During the next three weeks I certainly got much less sleep than is advisable and may have forgotten to eat a meal or two. This may sound hyperbolic, but for anyone who has been a part of an intensive graduate program they know that they mean intensive.

It was the most challenging, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding project to see our amorphous idea come to life. We began with our name, mission statement, and reader as the foundation of our identity and then built the magazine from there. From writing articles and creating a design aesthetic to developing a publicity and marketing plan and creating an online and social media presence, and don’t forget the money side of things advertisers and finances, we created a full-fledged magazine that we were incredibly proud of. As I stood bleary-eyed and stomach-aflutter in Fed-Ex the night before presentations and watched our magazine emerge from the printer, I felt tears wet my cheeks. I will admit to being a sentimental person, but this experience truly warranted my tears. It was another surreal moment to actually see all the hard work and late nights come to fruition. What had started out as merely a vision dreamed up by 13 aspiring kids had somehow turned into a beautiful, tangible magazine.

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July 23, 2013 · 3:58 pm