Tag Archives: business

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Bernadette Jiwa on technology, Maeve Binchy, and curiosity

When I was young, Maeve Binchy was one of my favourite writers. She had this knack of creating characters who came alive. You somehow felt the people who owned the shops and arrived late for mass were real, and you knew them. I learned later from listening to interviews with Binchy that they were—at least their conversations were real. Binchy told stories of riding buses every day just to listen to snippets of conversation. On one if these bus journeys she overheard a young woman telling her friend she was going shopping for a silver wedding anniversary card for her parents. The friend marvelled that at the longevity of her parent’s marriage. ‘They’re miserable as sin together,’ she replied. ‘The worse the marriage, the bigger the card.’ That conversation went on to inspire Binchy’s successful book, Silver Wedding. Hearing the author’s story reminded me of the hundreds of missed opportunities to notice something that might just spark our next big idea every day. Like Binchy, I grew up in Dublin. The population at the time was around a million people. But it somehow always felt more like a village than a city. I think that’s because permanently curious Dubliners love to talk and exchange stories. It’s not unusual to stand at a bus stop and to suddenly get into a conversation with a stranger. Within minutes you’ll be hearing about where they’re going or coming from and what the doctor diagnosed them with that morning. I miss those days—the pre-smartphone era when we looked up and into each other’s eyes and saw something unexpected there. Now we play pedestrian pinball as we try to avoid bumping into each other, palms up, eyes down, earbuds in, minds diverted and hearts closed. We’ve stopped being curious about the world outside our curated feeds. We’re neglecting to nurture the very things that make us more creative and imaginative and more human. I often wonder what Steve Jobs would think if he were transported back to earth almost six years after his death. Is this what he would have wanted his ‘ding in the universe’ to be? Big ideas start out as whispers in unexpected places. Sometimes they happen while you’re sitting alone in a bathtub or under an apple tree. Other times they are gifted to you on a crowded bus during rush hour. It’s your job to be listening out for them.   Learn more about the book here:
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Penguin Press’ Scott Moyers on Yvon Chouinard and Let My People Go Surfing

As Penguin Random House continues its ongoing commitment to social responsibility, today we’re featuring an interview with Penguin Press Vice President and Publisher Scott Moyers.  He worked closely with world renowned environmentalist and Patagonia co-founder Yvon Chouinard on his book, Let My People Go Surfing; a 10th anniversary fully updated trade paperback edition was published by Penguin last fall. In this interview, Scott offers insights into Mr. Chouinard’s book, business philosophies, core values, and environmental activism as well as the “contagious success” of Patagonia, whose primary mission is “to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  The recent news on the Earth Setting a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year reminds us all of the urgency of global warming and the importance of how we consider the environment.
Scott Moyers

What brought about your initial contact with Yvon Chouinard and how would you characterize the experience and process of working with him as his book editor and publisher while presenting all aspects of his life and business?  Yvon Chouinard is powerfully inspiring because he has stubbornly refused to do anything with his business that does not advance its core mission: “to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  You can’t be in partnership with him without learning that, one way or another.  I was submitted the book by his agent, Susan Golomb, in 2004 or 2005, and I knew enough about Patagonia’s brand halo, as they say, and was sufficiently taken by the voice on the page, which even in proposal form had that thrilling ring of authenticity and irreverence, that I went for it, and was fortunate enough to prevail in a heated auction. But really diving off the deep end with him was something else entirely.  First, everything was slightly irreverent, and counterintuitive – what business leader calls his memoir “Let My People Go Surfing?”  Which is from the company policy that when the surf’s up, employees should feel free to hit it.  And he wanted to do an oddball trim size, with all sorts of funky sidebars and a lot of art.  And he and Patagonia nudged us over to using a different kind of paper, recycled, of course.  And on and on.
Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard

But what really hit me was the story of the business itself.  Just one story for now: there came a point when Patagonia commissioned a holistic environmental impact study of their entire business.  What came back surprised and dismayed them: the worst thing they were doing to the planet was using so much factory-farmed cotton.  As you can imagine, cotton shirts, etc., make up a big chunk of the business.  What did they do? They pulled all of their cotton products, reinvented their supply chain, sourced their cotton ethically and in such a way as to catalyze environmentally responsible cotton growing more generally… in short, they used their market power to be a force for good and not ill.  And ultimately, in the long run, they were more profitable by doing so!  In the short run, of course, they had to absorb a tremendous hit to the bottom line.  Needless to say, if they were a publicly held company, this might have been impossible, even unimaginable.  Though thanks in no small part to Patagonia’s example, there’s been a change in consciousness, and perhaps it’s less unimaginable than it was.  I hope this book has contributed to that; I think it has. How does Let My People Go Surfing, divided into a History of Patagonia and eight Philosophies sections, best inform and inspire readers through key takeaways from this environmentally-responsible businessman/adventurer and his company?  I think the bottom-line takeaway for your own life and work is that, in area after area – design, production, distribution, marketing, finance, HR, management, environmental stewardship – if you don’t blink, if you keep fear at bay and keep your focus on the most quality for the least harm, you will be a magnet for talented, big-hearted colleagues and customers, and your story will carry.  Every time this company took a short-term hit to innovate in the direction of greater responsibility for the state and fate of the earth, the more successful they have been in the long term. How transferable are Mr. Chouinard’s approaches to business, life and the environment to other industries and individual readers?  No one wants to leave their values at home when they come to work. Yvon Chouinard never did, and his company has been an enormous force for the good. We all are part of the problem that is the global sustainability crisis, including global warming, one way or another.  Activism and capitalism don’t have to be opposed, in fact they can’t be, if we’re going to keep this planet of ours and all the creatures on it. What factors were involved in the decision to produce a new edition of Let My People Go Surfing on the 10th anniversary of its first publication and what are examples of some of the most significant new content?  Back in 2006, “sustainable business” was just emerging as a concept in mainstream terms.  Part of the good news of the past decade is that sustainability has become cooked in to the mix of business education, at the MBA level and down, and Let My People Go Surfing is widely taught.  The past decade has been a period of great growth and thus change for Patagonia, and it has also really doubled down and then some on its environmental activism, so there was so much more to tell. Yvon added a good 20% of new material to the book, including an entirely new chapter on environmental activism, and Naomi Klein has added a passionate new foreword.  There are revisions throughout the book, my favorite being that it’s now in four-color and Yvon and Patagonia have added many wonderful new photographs.  One way or another, all of the additions only sharpen the point, which is that, as Naomi Klein puts it in her foreword, “This is the story of an attempt to do more than change a single corporation – it is an attempt to challenge the culture of consumption that is at the heart of the global ecological crisis.”  And to have fun doing it!  Contagious fun, contagious righteousness, contagious success – that’s Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia, and that’sLet My People Go Surfing, now cleaned up for the next 10 years, and then some. Learn more about the book:
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Writing Tips from Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!   After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write? My writing generally weaves together three strands of content. There’s some nugget of scientific research that I think is interesting and useful – maybe a study that I’ve just read about, or something which I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. Then, I also want to be clear on the practical advice that’s implied by that scientific insight. But there’s also the story or example that illustrates the topic. And my route into a new article or chapter can be any of those three; I start with whichever piece feels easiest and most exciting to get down on paper. When it’s the anecdote, I usually focus first on scraps of vivid language that an interviewee or client has used to describe a difficult situation. For the science and the advice, I will usually write in bullet points first – what my consulting colleagues used to call a “dot-dash” – to check the flow of the argument and ideas before I start investing in the bounce and feel of the language. Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking? Absolutely. One thing that really helps me is to put on large noise-cancelling headphones. They dampen ambient noise and reduce distraction, allowing me to think more clearly. But they’ve also become something I associate with really getting into deep thinking mode. As a result, simply putting them on sends a clear signal to me that I’m about to focus on my work – making it easier to dive in. (I write about the science behind this in chapter 3 of my book, for those who are interested!) And I’ve had three writing soundtracks in recent years. There was a period where the only thing I listened to was Haydn string quartets. For a long while, I’ve worked with a playlist of rather sparse and instrumental “deep house” music. (I think the two genres have a lot in common, but that’s for a different type of interview.) But sometimes nothing but silence will do. Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author? I always loved writing as a kid – especially science fiction, which I imagine was a surprise for my English teachers in the 1970s – and I was editor of my college yearbook and newsletter. I drifted away from writing as I built a career in economics. But after a few years, I had a job which was as much about writing as thinking: authoring the Bank of England’s Inflation Report. This was a publication analyzing and describing the state of the economy, so the writing was dry – yet I still loved it. And I learned many things that have served me well as a non-fiction writer. For example, the publication was so influential that bad syntax in a key sentence might end up moving financial markets in the wrong direction – so I learned the value of precision and clarity, and I learned what made a sentence easy or hard to read. (We even had to put our writing through a computer program to test the reading age required to understand it.) After reconnecting with my love of writing, I took every opportunity to write in real sentences rather than relying on PowerPoint slides. And once I’d written a couple of articles for the McKinsey Quarterly, I realized that it was time to bring writing back into the center of my life. That’s when I started work on the book, writing a four-page outline of something I wouldn’t finish for another four years. What’s the best writing advice that you have received? Lynda Gratton (Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, and author of 8 successful books) told me early in the process of writing my book that I would eventually need to make it my full-time job – at least for a few months. She was right; there really does come a point where you simply have to stop doing absolutely everything else, and say “right now, I am a writer, and my job is to write.” And her advice helped me recognize when it was time to disappear into the writing bunker. Meanwhile, Matt Lieberman (neuroscience professor at UCLA and author of Social) told me to look after myself physically while writing, reminding me to see exercise as an investment in my mental and emotional sharpness. What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound affect on you? At least four books encouraged me toward writing How to Have a Good Day. Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely. To see such a book capture people’s imagination made me excited that behavioral economics was coming of age. Moreover, I saw that it was possible to make academically rigorous material fun and engaging. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. I loved the cross-disciplinary approach of this wise book, drawing from psychology and neuroscience and even ancient philosophy. Also, my husband wooed me with it – it was the first present he ever bought me. Your Brain at Work, by David Rock. This put neuroscience in the context of the workplace, and it was the first book that I’d seen do that. Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. It was inspiring to see that such deep scientific concepts could excite a broad general audience. It helped too that I had heard him say that he’d found it tough to write the book. Since he’s a brilliant Nobel Prize laureate, that made me feel that it was okay for me to experience the occasional rough patch! And of course, it was all worth it. (I’m sure he feels that too.) Learn about how to Have a Good Day here.
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Penguin Random House Internships – The Inside Scoop, Part 2

For book lovers, snagging a summer internship in publishing is a very big deal. Now that it’s almost time to head back to school, we asked our interns about their experiences at Penguin Random House. 

Speakers Bureau Intern: Sara Chuirazzi 

To be completely honest, when I found out that I would be interning with the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau this summer, I had no idea what that entailed. Even so, I packed my life into two suitcases and flew from my small Ohio town to New York City. It’s only been a month or so, but I’ve already learned so much about the business of publishing, and the speakers bureau, in particular (in addition to everything I’ve learned about city living!). Essentially, the speakers bureau represents authors in the world of paid speaking engagements–which I’ve found out is a vibrant, fast-paced industry. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a varied clientele base (libraries, corporations, schools, etc.) and large group of talented authors. Because the bureau represents the entire company, I am lucky enough to work with multiple imprints and types of literature. Not only does working in this capacity keep me up-to-date on new book releases, but I also feel well informed about current events and topics in which there is a demand for conversations, such as LGBT rights, leadership skills, and other social issues. It feels good to know that I am playing a small role in facilitating these important conversations by helping to send qualified, enthusiastic speakers into the world! This week, one of the agent directors from the speakers bureau presented at our intern lunch meeting and I was overwhelmed by how proud I felt to be part a of this close-knit, hardworking group. Beyond that, I was filled with gratitude for having the opportunity to work at a place that has such a healthy corporate culture and that places such a high value on mentoring. One of the most important things that I’ve learned in my time here is how special it is to connect with people who share your passions. How awesome is it to discuss books and writing with people all day?! What a great foundation to build a career on! I’ve also learned how important it is to get to know the people around you. It’s more than just “networking,” which young people are encouraged to do as frequently as possible. If you’re not actually interested in something, networking doesn’t work. You need to be genuinely interested in how people ended up where they are today, what they love about their jobs, and how you can create a career for yourself that is equally fulfilling. Here’s to an equally wonderful second half of my internship with Penguin Random House! Random House Publishing Group Art Intern: Arielle Pearl Arielle Pearl These past five weeks at Random House have been really educational and productive. I am interning in the Advertising/Promotions department, as well as the Art/Design department for the Random House Publishing Group imprint. Even on my first day I could tell that this was going to be a valuable experience that I would enjoy. Being an intern can be intimidating, but this is not the case at Random House. Everyone who works here is extremely humble, and friendly, and is eager to teach beginners the works of the business. It is an environment where teamwork is fostered, and the success of books is priority. In the Art department I am being supervised by Paolo Pepe, the SVP & Creative Director. I have been reading manuscripts and learning how to design book covers using Adobe Creative Suite and hand illustration. This process has been really challenging because everyone involved in the process has a very specific image of how they think the cover should look. One book that I am working on has been in the cover development process for almost a year. It has been really interesting learning about the process from such talented designers, as well seeing the selection process from the publisher’s point of view. For the art department, I’ve also been creating mechanicals using Adobe Creative Suite, and creating templates for e-books. In the Advertising and Promotions Department, I am being supervised by the Sr Director of Creative Services, Annette Melvin. For the department I have been using Adobe Creative Suite to create advertising materials for upcoming books, such as social media banners, and print ads. I’ve also been writing copy for upcoming book’s advertising campaigns.
Interns at a Networking Event

Digital Video Intern: Katie Susko 

Before I started interning at Penguin Random House, three things came to mind when I thought of book publishers: books, books, and more books. I never would have guessed that the things that I would be handling when working at a book publisher would be mobile apps and YouTube videos; and yet, here I am. And coincidentally, these two things are exactly what I want to be dealing with. An outsider may be confused as to why Penguin Random House hired an intern to report sales in the App Store, or analyze the audience retention of a video of Aziz Ansari at Book Con. But from the inside, this makes perfect sense. I am an intern for the app development and video production departments. My daily activities are centered on apps that we have created to accompany our books and brands, such as Fodor’s, Game of Thrones, and Cat in the Hat. My activities also involve our YouTube videos that promote our books, but also get people excited about reading in general. My day-to-day tasks are challenging because they are completely new to me (I’ve only had experience in editorial), but that makes my internship exciting. I never know what I’m going to do next. Aside from learning the ins and outs of a book publisher (from both my supervisors and from the amazing brown bag lunches), I now have knowledge in video production, marketing, sales, audience involvement, app design, and so much more. But in book publishing, there is always more to learn. Luckily, my supervisors and co-workers have encouraged me to get involved in as many aspects of publishing as I can while I’m in New York (we just don’t have the same opportunities back in Michigan). With this overwhelming encouragement, and inspiration from brown bag lunches, I hope to look more in depth at the art and editorial departments. I have studied these two subjects in school and would love to see how they are executed at an actual business (and then I can go back and brag to my professors). But you may be wondering: if I’ve been studying art and editorial, why are the app and video departments “exactly what I want to be dealing with”? I have always been fascinated with the way that others are able to take traditional ideas and transform and innovate as our world evolves. And that is exactly what my department is doing. Videos and mobile apps are not what you’d expect from a book publisher: and that’s why I want to be here. I am so blessed to be working with some of the most innovative and creative people I have had the pleasure to meet, and it has only added to my desire to be in the book publishing industry. For the rest of this internship, I hope to learn as much as I can about apps and videos; from the design and editing to, ultimately, the users’ interaction. I am so lucky to have this internship this summer (and the free books aren’t so bad either). Thanks to all our interns for all your hard work! You’ll be missed! 
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Penguin Random House Internships – The Inside Scoop, Part 1

For book lovers, snagging a summer internship in publishing is a very big deal. Now that it’s almost time to head back to school, we asked our interns about their experiences at Penguin Random House.  DK Publicity Intern: Lauren Díaz Morgan After moving to New York City in hopes of beginning a career in publishing, I was overjoyed to be accepted to Penguin Random House’s Summer Internship Program. But when I found out that my summer assignment would be in Publicity with DK, a nonfiction imprint for children and adults, I grew a bit nervous. Though I had experience interning at my university press back in college, I knew nothing about publicity, and I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be to work with nonfiction titles. To my surprise and delight, I have found myself to be very happy both with my department and with DK. Lauren Morgan As a publicity intern, I am involved in reaching out to media outlets and generating interest in our books. This generally consists of brainstorming and researching outlets to which we can pitch our books; writing a press release that gives a brief summary of the book and explains why it is interesting, useful, or important; and mailing out a copy of the book along with a press release to each outlet, hoping that they will find it interesting enough to review. This can be especially fun at DK, where we publish such a wide array of titles. In one day, I can put together a press release and mailing for a book on cheese, another for a book about the Pope, and a third for a children’s sticker book. While I spend most of my time on the steps of this process, there are new tasks that pop up every day, whether they be helping to schedule an author tour or assisting with our holiday gift guide. Publicity is a new field for me, but I’ve learned so much in the past five weeks, and I’m glad to say that I’m really enjoying every day. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity with DK, and I’m eager to learn more as I continue working this summer.

Young Readers Production Intern: Denise Conejo

As an intern, working in production is like taking in the view from the top of the empire state building watching and observing the busy, bustling crowds below. I get a breadth of the publishing arc, I get to see it all happen and know the logistics of how it happens. While some may not appreciate the more business and formulaic side of publishing that production may well be it happens to fulfill my compulsive side to be neat and organized. A lot of my day to day tasks include working with excel sheets, excel sheets and some more excel sheets. They’re like the veins that keep production pumping. I help maintain sheets for estimates, royalties, trim size/page count, as well as updating statuses on SAP and Filemaker Pro for titles being reprinted. Denise Conejo And then there’s digital, one of my favorite parts of production. This really surprised me because I’ve always hated reading books from a tablet. Regardless, I found that I enjoyed the immediacy of seeing the end product. It takes about a month to see a turnaround for an e-book, while it takes 6-9 months for a printed title! My tasks with digital production include writing memos to Aptara (the company who puts together the e-books) giving specific and detailed instructions on what we want the final product to look like. Once the files are made and returned to me, I check it to make sure it is exactly what we wanted. Afterwards, I circulate it to various departments where they give the “OK” or tell us what needs to be worked on. Easy! I’ve learned so much about the process of publishing already, so for the next and last 5 weeks of my internship I can only imagine how much more I will gain from the people who make this department work so smoothly.

Thanks to all our interns for all your hard work! You’ll be missed! 

Listen: Jon Acuff, “Never Trade 50 Weeks of Misery for 2 Weeks of Vacation, That’s Terrible Math.”

Jon Acuff, author of Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck, stops by the studio to talk about how to love what you do for a living. His hilarious and inspirational book is perfect for anyone, no matter your profession or career level. Read more about Do Over here. Subscribe to Beaks & Geeks on iTunes, visit us on Soundcloud and follow us on twitter: @BeaksandGeeks