Someone asked after my last publishing post a combo question: Do I read all the books I work on and what books do I work on?
Since I began working in traditional book publishing about 8 years ago, I have worked on non-fiction (except memoir) and children’s books. For non-fiction I have worked on books on diet, fitness, history, science, etiquette, sports, trivia, humor, fashion, art, food, travel…to name a few. On the children’s side, I’ve primarily worked on books that are *more* than just a book, books with pop-ups or sound or activities or other novelty elements (think Klutz type books). I’m actually working on my very first YA novels right now–but they are a complete anomaly for my company, and I don’t expect more fiction anytime soon. I have ALWAYS worked in marketing, except for a short stint in college when I did an editorial internship and some freelance editorial work. That was also the last time that I read all the books I worked on.
My entire career has been with prolific publishers. Publishing cycles occur in seasons: spring, fall, maybe winter & summer. I’ve never worked anywhere where we weren’t publishing at least 70 or more books per season–and one memorable season we had over 150. I am a fast reader, a veritable Speedy Gonzalez of reading, and there is no way I can read all of those AND do my job. In general, especially for non-fiction, I use “short-cuts” to get familiar with the book: I’ll read the original proposal, maybe a chapter or two, the table of contents, and then? I rely on the editorial team to fill in the blanks.
Now, that’s not to say I NEVER read the whole book. Sometimes I do because I love the idea of the book so much on a personal level that I can’t wait to read it all. Sometimes it’s because I really can’t get a handle on how I’m going to market the book and I hope that the guts will give me some ideas. Sometimes it’s because it’s such a big name author that I HAVE to read it, least I get caught. But every book? Every season? Nope, not a chance.
For my job, I rarely need to read the book. There are bigger, more important ways for me to figure out how to market a title effectively. The subject matter: are there any organizations, blogs, websites, publications about that subject matter? The author: does the author have any unique ties or associations that we can utilize? The timing: are there any holidays or seasons that the book ties into? Those are the basics of where I start, and pretty much none of them come from the book itself.
It’s one of the great irritations about my life…I got into publishing because I love to read and I wanted to get to read for work…and I never get to read for work.