I Work in Book Publishing

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Me, age 5, the day the West Branch Library opened.

Today I read an amazing manuscript. A book that emotionally devastated me in incredible ways. This is the best part of my job.

I work in book publishing.

I started in New York with a handful of unpaid internships, and was eventually hired on as an assistant to two literary agents at Writers House. From there, I went to Harold Ober Associates. I had to put my career on hold when we moved to Minnesota, but I did some freelance reading here and there, and always knew I’d get back in the game as soon as I could. Now I work at Llewellyn Worldwide dabbling in all three imprints there. I handle all contracts, do lots of typical administrative tasks, and I also read books.

I am a reader from way back, from the beginning. My mother read aloud to me when I was young and even when I was not-so-young. My father says that when I was little I used to ask for “two books and a ball” every Christmas.1 Reading is so much a part of who I am that I have trouble talking about it.

All the things that people say about books are true. Books are revolutionary. They are transformative. They offer escape, they offer validation, they offer criticism. They are beautiful and terrible and important.

There is the expectation that the publishing industry is the same. Most of the time it isn’t.

Most of the time, I have an office job. I read and write a lot of emails, make photo copies, and live and die by excel sheets. I gather and sort data. I draft contracts. I submit paperwork requesting payments. I track and record everything I do.

I keep my workspace extremely organized and neat (which does not come naturally to me at all) because I have learned the hard, hard, hard way that piles of paper make a sharp, dry grave.

Yes, the contracts I am drafting are for authors. For people who write books. And the joy they have upon getting their first book contract is unparalleled. It’s a great part of my job, to be the person who mails those contracts out with a post-it that says “we can’t wait to work with you!” But, I mean, I’m still mired in legal jargon. And I still have to tell people “no” much more often than I’m able to tell them “yes.”

Mostly, my job is an office job. I do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that helps get books published.

But there is a part of my job that is about reading. There is a part of my job that allows me to say, “I get paid to read books!” And a lot of the books I read are bad. And a number of the books I read are very good.

But sometimes…

Sometimes I get to read a book that wakes up every nerve in my body. A book that is so great that I don’t know how I’ll be able to get through the rest of the day after reading it. A book that haunts my thoughts for weeks to come. A book that has me so excited that I lie awake at night and think about how I can’t wait for that book to be real, to go from a word document on a computer screen, or a 300 page print out, to a real bound book that I can crack between my hands. A book so fantastic that it makes me want to read every book I’ve ever loved all over again.

Sometimes I get to read a book that is so damn wonderful that it makes me feel honored to do what I do. It is the very best part of my job.

 

 

  1. Was that not the most precious thing you’ve ever heard, or what? So cute it’s gross!

About Kelly

Kelly grew up in the suburbs of Boston, mere minutes from the Atlantic ocean. For several years she lived in New York City where she found the two loves of her life: Publishing and David. She moved to the Twin Cities for her husband, and eventually managed to pick up the pieces of her career as well. Although she’s learning to appreciate lakes, she misses the ocean ferociously.

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