A book industry veteran describes the publishing world to aspiring editors, sales reps and production managers.
In this debut career guide, Siegfried uses both her own experience working in the industry and comprehensive interviews with other insiders to present a balanced, thorough portrait of the world of books and publishing. The book targets readers in the early stages of their careers, particularly college students and recent graduates, and begins with a detailed overview of the departments found in most publishing houses, from editorial and publicity to subsidiary rights and sales. Siegfried warns readers that it can seem like everyone dreams of being the next great editor, and she suggests that other, less well-known career paths can provide professional fulfillment as well. Although there is some discussion of smaller publishers, the book focuses heavily on the industry’s Manhattan core (“Eventually, you can move away from New York City if you’d like”), and while much of the book’s advice is also useful to those trying to break into publishing in other locations, readers will not find an insider’s perspective on topics like university publishing or the options available in Minneapolis or San Francisco. Siegfried is clearly knowledgeable, and the book addresses many of the structural changes the industry has undergone in the past two decades, though her description of the retail side of the business draws on her experience at a chain bookstore and seems less applicable to the careers available at other book retailers. The book’s discussion of the job-search process is directed specifically at the needs of recent graduates—a line-by-line analysis of several job postings is particularly helpful—and offers advice that can be applied to cover letters and interviews in other industries as well. A detailed glossary at the end of the book explains everything from flap copy to first serial rights.
A thorough introduction to the publishing industry.
In Blair’s debut novel, African-American Freddie Edwards’ life story unfolds across history as a complex tapestry, leading up to his arrest for the killing of a 75-year-old man.
This superbly crafted, intricately detailed story is by turns joyful, sorrowful, frightening and uplifting. Blair draws readers in by establishing a mystery, as Annabelle Mann, the staid, white widow of a respected judge, is called to testify as a character witness for Edwards, a black man with a criminal record who’s accused of murder. The story then exquisitely details the childhoods of Mann, Edwards and his sister, Ruby, in 1930s Tampa, Florida. The post-Depression economy has forced Mann’s family to live on the edge of a black neighborhood; her father is a philandering salesman, largely absent from her life, while her mother is an open, generous woman. In graceful prose, Blair takes time to develop the children’s friendship: Ruby and Annabelle hit it off immediately, but Freddie distrusts the new white girl. Annabelle recognizes his innate intelligence, however, and lures him into friendship by lending him books. Freddie loves stories about knights, hence his self-proclaimed nickname, “the Black Knight,” a moniker he lives up to by always rescuing the mischievous girls. As Blair further develops the characters, as well as the time and place they live in, she toys with the overarching mystery. Chapters vacillate between past and present, and the narrative gradually drops hints about a strange, rich, neighborhood white man. Overall, this fine book offers well-drawn, human characters and logically flowing action, all written in a striking style: “Two silver-haired women walked together on an otherwise empty beach, its pristine white sands stretching endlessly around them, its peaceful quiet broken only by the sounds of waves lapping at the shore and gulls calling overhead.”
A must-read story of relationships, prejudice and bravery, and a vivid paean for justice.
The first book of a planned trilogy chronicling American-led relief efforts in Belgium during World War I.
Just in time for the Great War’s centennial, this valuable narrative reprises a dramatic chapter of world history that rarely takes center stage in history books, as it’s often overshadowed by subsequent wars. Specifically, Miller (Facing Your Fifties, 2002, etc.) focuses on the Commission for Relief in Belgium, a multinational humanitarian organization that saved 9 million Belgian and French civilians under German occupation from starvation. Led by future U.S. president Herbert Hoover, then 40 years old and living in London, the CRB was the first mission of its kind, establishing precedents that shaped current policies regarding universal human rights and international humanitarian intervention. Miller shows how Hoover navigated German and Allied opposition, co-opted competing humanitarian groups and improvised a distribution network that deployed young Americans as neutral “delegates” across Belgium’s provinces. Miller’s grandfather Milton M. Brown was one of these delegates, and he married Erica Bunge, a wealthy Belgian native whose family is integral to the overall story. Their diaries, letters and photos, bequeathed to the author in the 1980s, sparked Miller’s interest in the period, and it’s obvious that this book was a labor of love. The narrative covers only August through December 1914, and readers contemplating 397 pages of text (plus sources, notes and an index) about a mere six months of wartime may fear a tedious journey. But instead, the pages fly by, thanks to Miller’s consistently smooth prose and careful scene-setting. He effectively captures the human drama, with exquisite descriptions of how characters looked (“With his rimless pince-nez, he had the appearance of a scholar or professor and, just like one, he longed for the solitude of the writer’s garret”) and why they behaved as they did. He quickens the pace with short chapters that bounce among Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, London and New York. Readers who only associate World War I and Herbert Hoover with trench warfare and the Great Depression (or the Hoover Dam) will discover meaningful contexts for both in a tale that personalizes extraordinary times. Miller writes that his goal was to write for people “who never read history books”; he accomplishes that splendidly, while also creating a work that scholars will admire.
An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians.
A peculiar family of cryptozoologists confronts the tides of change in this young-adult fantasy.
Shein and Gates (Being a Normal Family Is a State of Mind, 2014) deliver the second entry in their well-received Monsterjunkies saga set in Foggy Point, Maine. Cromwell “Crow” Monsterjunkie can’t stop looking over his shoulder, and for good reason: His nemesis, the bullying Ruth Grimes Jr., won’t live down the humiliation he suffered at Crow’s hands not long ago. But for Crow, whose family’s mission is “to find, protect, and study unusual, rare, and thought to be nonexistent species,” Ruth is the least of his worries. For instance, there’s Crow’s friend Beauregard—a highly intelligent sasquatch living under the Monsterjunkies’ care—who yearns to leave the family estate and seek his origins. Crow’s sister, Indigo, has grown petulant as college (and her future) looms. And Crow can’t find the words to tell his renowned professor father that inheriting the family legacy isn’t exactly on his to-do list. When they’re not caring for pterodactyls, sea serpents or shape-shifting gargoyles, the Monsterjunkies struggle with issues that are nearly universal among teenagers and young adults. Like all teens, Crow and Indigo learn—however unwillingly—that with time comes change. The animals they’ve nursed to health and loved like pets must eventually be reintegrated to the wild; their friend, Winter, crumbles before their eyes while attempting to cope with her mother’s death; and, perhaps most traumatically, they come to realize their parents aren’t infallible. As Crow’s fears mount, his father advises him: “It’s how you learn to know, to find out who you really are, what you feel, what you like and don’t like, what you need, what you believe. You may have to start by just listening.” Readers learn by listening, too—this tale of identity and self-approbation is accompanied by enough scientific facts and environmental philosophies to double as a high school textbook. Insightful but not overly self-righteous, it encourages compassion and a deference to the unknown.
A well-wrought sequel with more than a few excellent messages for young readers.