Tag Archives: working

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.

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! 

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!