Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The little things

by Lauren
As I’m slowly readjusting to my return home from vacation, I’m still reflecting on the best moments of last week. Chief among them seeing old friends; strolling down streets I walked down every day for more than a year; eating honeycomb ice cream (why don’t we have that here??); and watching QI (see previous parenthetical). I sort of prefer vacation to be more like living an ideal life for a week than doing fancy touristy things, and an ideal life would include more honeycomb and Stephen Fry.

One of the best moments was actually work-related: finding a book with my name in the acknowledgments on the shelves of the bookshop I used to work in. The last job I had before Jane brought me on here as her assistant was at a fantastic book store in Galway called Dubray Books. So naturally, one of my first stops when I arrived in town was to see my old coworkers and browse through the shelves. I think I may actually have scoured every shelf in the store that had a remote possibility of containing a DGLM title—spotting a few here and there, a couple editions I sold the rights for, some others where I sold translations but not international English editions, still others I had nothing to do with at all but felt proud to see nonetheless. Because of the speed with which publishing moves, especially international publishing, and the fact that not every title is going to find its way into Ireland’s relatively small market, I wasn’t sure that anything in which I was acknowledged would be there. And then I found it, Richelle Mead’s Spirit Bound. I’m not her agent, of course, but I’ve sold rights for her internationally, and she graciously thanked me for doing that. (Thanks, Richelle!) So I got to stroll around the store, book in hand, showing off my name to friends and former coworkers. It meant a great deal—a marker of how far I’ve come professionally in the 5 ½ years since I was stocking those shelves—and a comfort when I was feeling pangs of regret for having left a city I love so much. My desire to work in publishing is, after all, the primary reason I always knew I’d come home to NY after grad school.

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen a book I had a hand in out in the wild, and years into this job, I still seek them out. The first thing I did after work on pub day for the first of my books to hit the shelves was to go to the B&N where I spent 3 1/2 years of my working life and see the fruits of my labor. Every time I find myself in a bookstore with family members, I make them endure this little ritual. Just a few weeks ago, for the very first time, I saw one of my own books being read by a random person sitting across from me on the subway, and I think I may have just sat there beaming till I got off the train. These moments are why I’m in this business: getting to help books get into the hands of readers. I could never write one, and I can’t singlehandedly buy them all, but I can help keep this publishing ecosystem going in my own small way.

I think that there are small moments throughout the process for each of us here that really make us proud to get to work with our fantastic clients and help them make their dreams come true. This morning there were 185 emails in my inbox not counting the queries, spam, and things I was copied on or forwarded as an FYI. 185 things to respond to and take care of and think through and take action on, during a week in which my colleagues and many of the people I work with didn’t get in touch because they knew I was away. Plus the 10 or so contracts in my mail pile, the voicemails, the things that I have to follow up on now that I’m back. At the end of the day, we do all that because we get to be a part of something that’s pretty magical. The odds are so stacked against any book that there’s something really special about having the privilege of seeing them on the shelf and knowing that we helped to get them there.

So thanks, authors, for letting us be a part of that!

P.S. I bought Moab Is My Washpot at that very bookstore.  Can't wait to read it!


  1. I imagine seeing a reader enjoying one of your titles is wonderful. Though I don’t receive an acknowledgement on pieces I ghost write, it’s fulfilling when I get feedback on how readers are taking to something I was a part of. Being involved in any part of the writing and publishing process is special.

  2. Great piece, Lauren. (I love the line about honeycomb and Stephen Fry.) I can imagine how gratifying it is to see a random stranger reading one of your books. It makes all the slog worthwhile.

    Off on my own vacation soon. (Vancouver, B.C.) Can't wait to trawl through some Canadian bookstores.

  3. I would dearly love to have that same experience with Borders, where I worked after college like many other liberal arts majors. To go to my old store in Tampa, browse the shelves, pick up a copy of MY book, and leave it in the coffeeshop to be reshelved like most other customers do :-)

    Or go to the info desk, and ask for "that new book about that guy, the one with the green-ish cover?" And eventually get led to the book on the shelf by the bookseller, as I had done many a time before.

    You can never go home, but you can certainly visit!

  4. I feel your pain about QI... I LOVE that show, and always scour iTunes for it, just in case BBC America has seen the light. I would ask for dvds to be sent, but I'm not sure my dvd player would play UK dvds. *sigh*

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