What It Takes

What It Takes

My Secret

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.

No training.

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.


Posted in What It Takes

20 Responses to “My Secret”

  1. November 18, 2016 at 6:19 am

    It’s weird when I would Post on What It Takes or Writing Wednesday asking myself what business do I have even Posting not being in the same arena. I question myself [when taking my stand] not having any degrees that I can put after my name. What do I know? What I know is many years, many hours of doing the work and what it takes being in my arena; daring greatly and on the Road swinging my authentic swing. What now moves me along is when I say “to all of them” DAMN, DAMN, DAMN YOU – but THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for helping me to “find my Self” after being so lost. The Good News, these years of work were never a business; nor did I need to do any marketing it was/is simply sharing an experience and what I have learned along the way. Many have called me a fake, called me crazy and “ousted me”; but such is LIFE.

  2. November 18, 2016 at 6:39 am

    Thanks for this. I’m in that dark place now — of learning from others while getting ready to launch BURNOUT and fighting the dragons of my own weak confidence in this strange foreign territory. I’d never had to ask anyone for anything before, and I was seeing marketing as worse even than that. But now I’m older, on the down side of the mountain — longing to share parts of my path so others don’t feel so alone — and the retired teacher in me reminds myself daily that my weird indie project is a delightful experiment in learning what works and what doesn’t with where I am now — a beginner. Accepting what IS and allowing myself to be that beginner has just gotten easier from hearing your story this morning. Thanks!

  3. November 18, 2016 at 6:42 am

    I doubt Michael Phelps loves all six hours of swimming per day, six days per week. He might like parts of it, but not all six.

    My entry into adulthood has been to learn how to do the things I don’t like, which is 99.9% of things. I feel your pain.

  4. Mary Doyle
    November 18, 2016 at 6:45 am

    This is such wise advice! I managed to learn this lesson myself, although I wish I’d learned it at age 22. Thanks Callie!

    P.S. Good luck with that weekend “to do” list!

  5. November 18, 2016 at 7:00 am

    So interesting, Callie! Thanks.

    Writing — or recording another installment of the radio show — is a relatively small part of my week. The rest? Blech. It’s the price I pay for the fun, though — and I’ve always looked at it as a bargain.

    And from Darrell: If you can’t shut the power off to the light socket to remove the bulb base safely, get a cork that will fit inside the socket. Press it up into the socket (make sure it’s snug), and you should be able to twist it out.

    • John Arends
      November 18, 2016 at 7:14 am

      And if a cork isn’t handy to use in extracting the broken light bulb, use a baking potato. Fits well in the hand, cheap to use and throw away, socket, glass shards and all.

      And by the way, on the stuff you’re passionate about, Callie? Rock star, you are. Thank you for elevating all of us lucky enough to read your takes and learn from your thinking and experience.

      • November 18, 2016 at 7:25 am

        A potato would work, but just make sure there’s no power running to the socket or you’ll have more than a hot potato.

        That’s from Darrell, too, by the way. This is why I should stay off the Internet! :)

  6. November 18, 2016 at 7:05 am

    What a timely message for me. I have been fighting that familiar rebellion pushing to dominate my actions. Delayed gratification. How I hate that term, yet the truth in it cannot be refuted. Okay okay I hear ya. Sigh. Thank you and never stop sharing!!

  7. November 18, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Great post Callie. We all have a love/hate relationship with this lifestyle… it’s good to see even the “big dogs” do too. (Not sure if you’d consider yourself a big dog, but hey, you have a bigger soap box than I do…!)

  8. Glenn Dyer
    November 18, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Callie: Wonderful post. Honest as a summer day is long!

  9. Martin Haworth
    November 18, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Success comes through facing into the necessary evils and finding workarounds.

    Where there aren’t natural skills that I have, there is a choice.

    Either I battle through it or find someone who can. Fiverr can provide adequate solutions, since actually, perfection is never necessary

  10. Dick Yaeger
    November 18, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Honest. Up front. What a woman!

  11. Joan Simon
    November 18, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Hello. Yes.The joy is the biggest surprise. I’m so glad you wrote that. Blessings.

  12. November 18, 2016 at 10:32 am

    A Zen Master once said, “The most difficult questions in the universe can be reduced to just two: Who does the dishes, who takes out the garbage.”

    Thank you, Callie.

  13. November 18, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Love the reframe and clarity of the ‘yin/yang’ – ‘self-advocation engendering knowledge/passion’ analogy.

  14. Jerry Ellis
    November 18, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Hey, Callie, that’s some pretty cool ass-kicking, even if it was mostly your own ass. And, you didn’t have to pay a therapist to get some of that monster off your back. I mostly enjoy writing and speaking to large groups, but confess that a part of me loves self-promotion. When Random House published my Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, Walking the Trail, One Man’s Journey Along the Cherokee Trail of Tears, I made over 100 Cherokee masks that were placed in major bookstores to hang, of course, on walls behind stacks of my title. My tenth book is now almost ready to send to my agent in NY. Might even have it done late tonight, if I can just get that damned leak in the kitchen stopped. For some odd reason, the chewing gum didn’t work.

  15. Melany Franklin
    November 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    You nailed it. What a great post. A challenge for us all!

  16. November 19, 2016 at 7:28 am

    The nice thing about self publishing is that you’re promoting your own work, which I suppose you’d better like/love or at least not loath.

    It does introduce certain complications because it is sometimes (normally) easier to say, “So-and-so is great” than “I’m great.”

    However, I’m getting over it because I think I’m awesome.

  17. November 21, 2016 at 11:30 am

    This is what I like about this site – the regular kick up the bum.

    Like others here, I prefer the writing but I know I need to put effort into the hard things (like PR). Thanks for the kick.

  18. November 28, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Sounds like the life of an entrepreneur to me!

    Reminds me of the time I was vacuuming our front office/waiting area when a visitor walked in and said, “You must be the owner.”

    Wondering how she knew I asked.

    “Because you’re doing what everybody else thinks is below them.”