By Callie Oettinger | Published: November 18, 2016
When it was my publishing house’s turn to present its Fall/Winter line of books, I was introduced as the senior editor. One of the quick-witted sales reps quipped, “If she’s the senior editor, how old is the junior editor?”
I was 22 years old, attending — and presenting — at my first sales conference, and not yet a full year into being an editor.
My first job out of college was as a junior editor for a small publishing house in Florida. Within a few months, my boss said goodbye to the senior editor and I was promoted. This was a mom and pop operation, so I went from editing sales copy, sending manuscript rejection letters, and answering the phone, to acquiring and editing manuscripts, packaging books, writing marketing materials, negotiating author and vendor contracts, managing relationships with authors and vendors, and developing and implementing publicity campaigns — while still editing sales copy, sending manuscript rejection letters, and answering the phone.
Lots of time alone in the office, operating on instinct and a prayer.
It ended up being two and a half years of shooting the rapids, of going solo, of working from the gut.
I emerged on the other end confident in my gut’s instincts, but I also emerged doing PR, something that had never been an itch to scratch. I wanted out of Florida and a publicity job offer helped make that possible, so… I headed north.
Within the first month, the questioning started. I didn’t do what the other publicists did. Was I wrong? Was there a better way? The publishers my employer represented all expected top-tier media coverage — and when I advised a publisher that it was a waste of money to promote the book to the top-tiers, that the book wasn’t well written and wouldn’t be picked up by the outlets she wanted it pitched to, I learned that I had landed in a world where Reality was on permanent vacation. Publicists weren’t honest with publishers — and publishers believed the same approach could (and should) be applied to every book.
I needed a paycheck, so I pitched cardio-kickboxing to Bill O’Reilly and Wiccan rituals to Howard Stern. I mailed dozens of books to the New York Times and Washington Post book reviewers — and I attended conferences, and conventions, and expos, where dinosaurs manned booths and roamed the aisles.
Here’s my secret:
I hated it then — and twenty years later, I still hate it. Every time I write a column for this site I feel like a fake, because I’m not passionate about everything I write about. I don’t enjoy learning about MailChimp or Google Analytics or following Twitter’s next move.
So why the hell do I do this?
It makes me better.
The stuff I don’t enjoy is the yin to the yang of my passion. One provides knowledge and thus the ability to self advocate, which allows the other to soar to greater heights.
Here’s how it plays out in the rest of my life:
This weekend includes replacing the flapper in a constantly-running toilet bowl, reinstalling a bathroom tile, replacing the hardware on two dangling cabinet doors, and removing the base of a broken lightbulb that’s stuck in a socket. I don’t want to do (or learn how to do) these things, but . . . If I know how to do them I’ll save money by doing the work myself — or if I hire someone else, I’ll know exactly what’s involved, how much the service should cost, and how it should be done.
There this, too:
I get high on seeing stories I’m passionate about take flight
So, that means focusing on things I don’t enjoy spending time learning about — and then implementing what I’ve learned, writing about what I’ve learned, and sharing what I’ve learned, because there’s a high in seeing others learn from my experiences, too.
Back to my secret.
I hate doing the same things I often suggest that you do. You’re not alone, mucking your way through all the crap that can be PR/marketing. I’m not a fan either.
Here’s what helps me move along:
On the other side there’s Joy.