Carin Siegfried

Q&A and Blog

Carin Siegfried's Blog

Blog: Caroline Bookbinder — Book Reviews, the Book Business, and Books in general

Q&A on The Insider's Guide to A Career in Book Publishing

About the Writing

Was there a particular event that prompted you to write this book?
I wrote the blog posts that made up the bulk of the book several years ago, but I thought of putting them together for a very practical reason: my business has ebbs and flows and the slow times are a bit unpredictable. I needed a project to work on in between clients' projects. I also wanted to go through the entire self-publishing process, like a lot of my clients do, to experience it for myself.

Have you done any other writing prior to this book?
When I was a preteen I wrote what are now called fan-fiction novels based on The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin (although I did not use the same characters, just the same format and the same setup of a club of babysitters). In high school I wrote a YA novel that I now realize was so long, it would have been the War and Peace of young adult had I pursued it. That was it for me! The majority of the writing I do is in emails and other work documents.

Did this book come out of personal experiences or in-depth research?
Both. The sections on editorial and sales and buying and bookselling came from personal experience. However, when it came to departments I'd not only never worked in, but also only had marginal interaction with, such as marketing and production, I had to do a lot of research. I prefer not doing research, but I do hope those chapters are accurate as I tried hard to figure those jobs out!

About Publishing

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?
Think before I talk! (or email.) I am impatient and have been known to do stupid things like ask the VP of IT in a big meeting of two departments with 50+ people in attendance, why he kept lying to us about when a new program was going to be ready to be used (in my defense, he'd been saying it would be ready "next month" for over two years. And I was young.) And at a later job when I was very frustrated with a co-worker I had to work with a great deal, my frustrations came through although we mostly emailed. I decided not only to wait to respond to her, but I had to figure out a real way to be nicer. My eventual plan was to pretend that instead of emailing Ms. Incompetent, I was emailing my best friend who had just made this giant mistake/screwed up a huge order/neglected to do anything I had asked her to do all week. It completely changed my tone and our relationship improved (although her follow-through did not) and most importantly, my boss noticed.

What was the biggest risk you took in your career?
It might have been quitting my job in New York City and moving to Charlotte without a job, just an excellent contact in HR of Baker & Taylor, the second largest book wholesalers, and the knowledge that people with my background and skills in this industry aren't common in this area.

Or it might have been after I got laid off when I turned down a job offer from Ingram Book Group (which involved relocating and I own a condo and it was the bottom of the real-estate market) and instead opened my own business, something I always said I wasn't the least bit interested in doing. While I didn’t relish all of the jobs that come with owning your own business (HR and bill collecting!) I did greatly enjoy the benefits and it was much more fulfilling than I had hoped. That's mostly due to the power of networking. You never know when people might be a help to your business or career.

Which phase of your life was the most influential in your career?
I definitely learned the most during my five years in New York working in editorial at St. Martin's Press. St. Martin's is a company know for dumping you in the deep end (meaning, you don't get a lot of guidance and will have a lot of responsibility right away) but that's what I wanted since I wasn't coming straight out of college. I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do from my boss. I'm glad I worked in a house where books weren't put on a pedestal and worshiped, instead we were encouraged to see them as products and this as a business. (Everyone who sticks around in this business comes to this realization eventually, It's just nice to have that band-aid ripped off right away as it always hurts less that way.) St. Martin's also isn't known for its big advances, so the big, high-profile books went to other houses. We had to think differently, and a little more creatively, to get more bang for our buck, which is also a good lesson to learn early.