Holiday Hiatus

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Given the lack of recent posts here at BlueBlackInk, this will surely come as a surprise to all of our readers: We will be going on hiatus for the holidays. To those who argue that we have already been on hiatus since October, which is quite frankly not part of the holiday season and you are both hideous slackers—where are my posts, damnit!, we say: Halloween is a perfectly legitimate holiday, thankyouverymuch. And so is “Fall.” Also we are the kind of people who play Christmas carols before Thanksgiving and also pleasedon’tleavewereallyloveourreadersok?

When we return, we will be refreshed, inspired, and just as incapable of keeping to a regular schedule as always. Happy Holidays from the both of us and, as always, we really appreciate your support.

Cheers!
Kelsey and Maggie

I know I said things would be less hectic by now, but…

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Dear Kelsey,

I have a bunch of half-finished posts I keep emailing myself to remind myself to work on them or saved to my desktop as BLOG POST TO FINISH!!! TONIGHT! THIS MEANS TUESDAY!

I have guests currently in town, guests arriving in town soon, and my book is due back to the library in two days. I’m reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post and I really want to finish it, but it’s hard to find the time to slow down and take time away from such tiresome chores as talking with close friends and family and getting excited about our upcoming plans.

Ugh.

I’m pretty sure this is one of those books I’ll (grudgingly) accept fines on in order to finish—and, yes, this eventually means a post about An Actual Book I Read Finally omg. Those were, after all, a thing we once wrote about  ; )—but I hope you’ll excuse me from a substantive post tonight. I would like to minimize the financial impact of my poor time management and maybe make it to the end of the chapter before next Monday.

…which is looking less and less likely as I inventory the cleanliness of my apartment.  But I’m sure my parents will understand.

They’re contractually obligated to love me, right?

…right?

Love,

Maggie Faber

Banned Books Week 2012

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Dear Kelsey,

I’ve been rather long-winded lately so, in honor of Banned Books week, I’m going to shush and let them speak for themselves.

Or, I suppose, let some miscellaneous internet art speak for them.

(Internet art is intended for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitution for literary content.  Any resemblance to texts, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author. No books were harmed in the making of this post.)

ALA, freadom, freedom to read, banned books week, 2012, banner, liberty, books

Banned Books display, caution tape, school library, creative display, bookstore

Why was this classic novel banned? 

Where The Wild Things Are, banned book, poster, freadom,  Harry Potter Series, Dumbledore, banned books, poster, censorship,

Alice in Wonderland, banned books, sexuality, poster,  Lord of the Rings, poster, frodo baggins, banned books, trilogy,

The worst part of censorship is, banned books weeks, funny, freedom of speech, freadom

Ban this book, comic, incidental comics, why people ban books, Grant Snider,  funny, snarky

Not sure if it’s appropriate to wish you a “Happy Banned Books Week” but “Happy Reading,” regardless.

Love,

Maggie Faber

Summer in the Bookstore

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Dear Maggie,

I’ve been a complete blog hermit this summer. Apologies for my absence! I am slooowly getting back into gear with this whole blogging venture.

Partially my absence was due to the fact I’ve been buried in books. That happens when you work at a small, independent bookstore. This summer my boss anointed me as the YA and sci-fi/fantasy buyer, which thrilled me to my toes (and I’ve already talked your ear off about). Goodness me, I have a much greater respect for book buyers now. Do you know how hard it is to choose which books to bring in, especially when you have tiny sections like I do? So hard. Much angst is involved.

Since working at Sunriver Books and Music is what took up most of my time this summer, I thought I would share some of my favorite bookstore moments, memories, and people with you:

I love book shipment days. For my boss, these days are extra stressful because she is the one who has to call New York about missing or damaged books. But for me, every week, twice a week, it felt like Christmas. Seventeen new boxes of books…for me? Why thank you!

*****

There was the day we received, I kid you not, a length of rope from Random House as a promotion for Fifty Shades of Grey. My coworker and I just collapsed in laughter. When I asked my boss what in the world we should do with it she said, “Well, just put in the closet. Rope is always useful.”

 *****

I get ridiculously excited when someone buys one of my favorite books, to the point I may have scared a few customers. I often forget my job is to sell books to, you know, bring in money. Most of the time I think my job title is “book evangelist.” My mission is to put as many of my favorite books into as many people’s hands as possible.

You can imagine my exuberant joy when a teen came up to the counter with The Book Thief and The Fault in Our Stars. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Two of my favorite books ever! Al;djal;sjkdflas;jf;lsjk!

Girl: Me too! I’ve actually already read them but I have to own my own copies.

Me: Have you read John Green’s other books as well?

Girl: Oh yeah! But The Fault in our Stars is my favorite.

Me: Me too!

Girl: Wait…are you a nerdfighter?

EEEeeee! I met a nerdfighter in real life! We were both a bit stunned and lost for words by the fact, to the point that I forgot to tell her “don’t forget to be awesome” when she left. But nevertheless, it made my day.

*****

In August I received, as the official fantasy buyer, a box of The Hobbit promotional materials, the jewel of which was a big glossy catalog full of all the various Tolkien editions. I just sat at the counter slowly flipping through the pages, squeaking to myself. Yes, I brought in new versions of all of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. So pretty.

*****

There was the day a little tot came up to me and asked, “Where are the tiny books?”

*****

A shy middle schooler came in asking for The Wizard Heir, which we were out of so I had to apologetically send him away. He came back on shipment day and bought it out of the box before we had a chance to put it on the shelf and then returned two days later for The Dragon Heir. Voracious Kid Readers: You Rock.

*****

Early in the summer, I decided to bring in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer because the movie had just come out. My boss, a devout literary fiction reader, just couldn’t believe it. “What will the regulars think when they see I let that into the store?” All I said was, Fifty Shades of Grey.”

*****

A mom came in and proceeded to gleefully embarrass her son, who was away at college. Apparently, he loves YA and his mom wanted us to send him a book care package but she didn’t know what he’d already read. She called him up and started the conversation with, “I’m standing in the bookstore right now and this cute girl is helping me pick out books for you…” and then put her hand over the phone and mock-whispered to me, “I’ve embarrassed him.” She later put me on the phone to get his dorm address. Those rascally moms.

*****

I was so lucky to get a new coworker this summer who happens to like all the same kinds of books as me. Now we have two people on staff that read YA and sci-fi/fantasy! She turned out to be an awesome handseller as well, so I’d bring in the books and she’d sell them. You know you’re a good handseller when you can convince customers to buy The Way of Kings. I think Brandon Sanderson is an awesome author, but give me a break! The Way of Kings has a cover that is so stereotypically EPIC FANTASY it can probably do magic itself. And it is 1,280 pages long. 1,280 pages!!  She sold it not once, but multiple times. My sections wouldn’t have been nearly as successful this summer without her help.

*****

Of course, like any job, it isn’t always butterflies and rainbows (I could tell you customer stories you wouldn’t believe). But it is lovely moments and people like these that keep us going.

I’d like to send out a big THANK YOU to all of you who buy books from real-life indie bookstores. We love you!

Love,

Kelsey

How to Get a Job in Publishing: Thoughts From Behind the Interview Desk

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Dear Kelsey,

We did it.

We finally hired someone.

I think I speak of all of us at the office when I say “YAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!”  Yes, I’d venture a guess that even our Editorial department would sanction this many exclamation points. (It’s only a guess, mind you.)

Even though I’ve been working in publishing for OVER A YEAR now (as of…last Wednesday. Whatever. It still counts!), I still feel like I should have been on the other side of the interview desk through most of this process. So, naturally, I couldn’t really help myself from taking preemptive competition-scoping notes in case I’m ever shopping around for the entry-level position I just vacated. (I didn’t say it made sense. I just said I did it.) 

I threw together a quick list after our second round of interviews, and have been mentally (and occasionally physically) updating it as the process progressed. Now that we’ve finally (FINALLY, HALLELUJAH!) finalized the decision, I wanted to share the much-reduced-and-much-generalized version of it. Reduced because, at the time, I felt like budding publishing hopefuls desperately needed tips like “don’t be a moron” and “don’t make me miss my 20-minute interview day lunch break.” But now at last my faith in our candidates and new hires has been greatly restored : )

(…although, if you’re considering either option: Don’t.)

I’m also ever-so-slightly long-winded. I know. I know. Who would have guessed? But since nobody really wants 8 pages of my snarky interview notes, I’ve cut it down to 5 generally-good-to-know tips. It was a Herculean effort, no doubt, but I got there.

…Also maybe I’ll do a follow-up post sometime AND NOBODY CAN STOP ME.

  1. Know what you want and why you want it. You should have a clear understanding of the field you’re applying to, even if you don’t have a lot of experience. We don’t expect you to walk in knowing everything (and we don’t really want someone who thinks they do), but we do expect you to know what you’re interested in.  “Editorial,” by far the most common answer I received, covers a lot of ground. Do you want to work on the micro level, checking grammar and running heads? Do you want to work on the manuscript as a whole, making sure everything that should be there actually is? Do you want to work in Marketing? Rights? Design? Each department has a different approach to “working with books,” and even if the job you’re applying for does not match your ideal exactly, you should be able to speak to what you want out of the position.
  2. Know what will be expected of you (and what won’t). I had a candidate describe what he thought editors did as “sitting behind their desk all day reading books.” If that didn’t make you snort with disbelief, please please please do some more research. There are many many blogs about publishing. There are programs to help educate you. People are willing and eager to give informational interviews.*Read a book on the subject—hell, just read the goddamn job description.

    If you’re selling yourself for a position we don’t have, we will wish you the best of luck and hire somebody who fits what we’re looking for. If you’re applying for a job in production and all you’re asking about is foreign rights, we will wish you the best of luck and hire somebody who is interested in what we need them to do. It is OK to ask questions about other departments and about “interdepartmental congeniality” (yes, a direct quote), but make sure your interviewer knows that you know what you’re applying for.

  3.  Be Excited and Responsive. Maybe this particular position isn’t your dream job or the area you absolutely want to end up, but I can guarantee that it is for many of the other candidates you’re up against. I don’t mean to suggest that you need to be bouncing-in-your-seat excited either—probably that would be creepy—but we definitely want to hire somebody that wants to work with us.Also, respond as soon as you can to emails or phone calls. Just do it. It’s completely likely that we were later than we said we would be in calling you back (I don’t think any of our hiring managers made every “we will contact you by…” deadline) but the more it’s dragged on, the more we want it settled. The longer you wait to reply, the longer we’re sitting at our desks worrying that you don’t really want the job, that you’re weighing the pros and cons and you will ultimately just suffer through your time here. And we definitely don’t want that.
  4. At the same time, be Realistic. Starry-eyed idealism is not professional (though it is flattering). Publishing is work. There’s not a lot of money in this industry and everybody is doing, essentially, a job and a half. If you go on and on about the smell of the pages or the delicate symbiosis between author and editor, we’re probably going to move on. Not because we don’t feel the same, exactly—we all have our book-sniffing moments—but because working in publishing not a utopia and we don’t want to deal with your disillusionment. (Or, if we do, we at least want to know that you’ll keep doing your job at the same time. Not because we’re soulless, but because we’re busy). Authors can be amazing, but they can also be a royal pain in the arse. Knowing that the job isn’t going to be perfect but knowing why you still want it will absolutely make you stand out.
  5. Ultimately, it’s not about your answers. It’s about you. I think this career advice is about as cliché as “don’t judge a book by its cover”—and as routinely ignored. But it’s true (and not in a lovey-dovey “be yourself” kind of way). Try to present yourself as somebody we could enjoy (or at least tolerate) working with. Of course you’ll be nervous, but we are, too. We’re deciding who we can depend on and work in close quarters with for indefinite and substantial amount of time. If you’re uncomfortable to be around, or misleading-to-dishonest with your information, if you trash your previous coworkers or flirt aggressively during an interview, we won’t want you around. Maybe we’d get to know you and find out it’s just nerves, or your quirky sense of humor which—for all we know—may grow on us. But we don’t really want to take that chance.
    A quick illustrative story: A handful of candidates applied for more than one of our open positions, and I always tried to ask them which one they were more interested in. Obviously the right answer was mine. Obviously.  But my favorite candidate told me point-blank that she would prefer the other position over the one I was interviewing for, and I still loved her. Because she was honest, and realistic, and friendly, and nice.

    And you know what? She got the job.

    (Did I mention the “YAAAAAYYYY!!!!”?)

BONUS “That’s right: I snuck in a 6th point because I can TIP Some answers are like a rite of passage. “I want to work in publishing because I like books,” for example, or “I want to work in ‘Editorial.’” I know these feel like the real answer, but it’s also completely uninformative to your interviewer. We know you like books because you’re applying for a job in publishing. And It’s not like saying “I like books” is going to hurt you in this industry, but it squanders an opportunity to stand out. Almost every single candidate said these in some variation or another and after a while (…like the second time I heard it) it was the interview-answer equivalent of radio static.

*And, if you’re suffering a lack of interviewees, my email address is over on the left ;)

Love,

Maggie Faber

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