Week 1: The beginning of the Adventure!

This is the beginning of the Adventure, with a capital A. I’ve been anxiously anticipating having an internship, wondering what all it would throw at me, and if I’d measure up. So far, so good, though that’s not say there aren’t challenges.

As this is written in retrospect, it will be shorter, more of a recap of everything that happened the first week.

On Thursday (Jan 16th) I had my first introduction to unsolicited book proposals. Jeevan went through basic guidelines of what Berrett-Koehler looks for in potential books.

“Things to Look for in a Book Proposal”

  • Is it a Bk book?
    Does the book’s core ideas align with the BK motto, “A community dedicated to creating a world that works for all”? Will it fit under one of our three main categories: Business, Currents, or Life?
  • Does the book offer anything that is compellingly different?
    There’s nothing truly new under the sun, so is the information presented in a way that is compelling–meaning that it sheds a new light on a old subject, turns an old truth on its head, has an engaging voice, or something that makes the reader want to keep reading and pass the book along to other readers.
  • Is it focused?
    A tight focus that serves a practical purpose will gain a better audience. If you can’t sum up your main/core idea in one sentence, you need to go back and reevaluate. How long is it? Any one can be verbose about a subject, but a really good, focused writer will be able to deliver in a much shorter length of manuscript. As Jeevan says, “Simplicity is the challenge” (why do I get the feeling I’ll be quoting him a lot?)
  • Who is the audience?
    Is the intended audience part of our community/readership? How general or specific is the writing, and how will that impact the number of readers?
  • Author platform
    This is a big one. The platform is what supports the book and its message. This is all the people the author already has influence over. It includes everything previously published, whether they are actively spreading the word about their book/message or not, if they are a regular contributor to a well read news site or blog. Authors play a large part in promoting the book, including often hiring their own publicist, but they need a good starting point that is worth investing in.
 Out of everything, the two things that come up again and again are “compelling” and “author platform.”

I also started exploring BookScan, this awesome database with all the print sales around the world for any book with an ISBN. Copyright law briefly came into the conversation and made me really curious about all the rules and regulations regarding rights. I’m definitely going to find out more about that.


Friday was Richard Leider and David Shapiro’s Author Day, for the third edition of their book, Repacking Your Bags. Every BK author gets an Author Day, a day full of meetings where they get walked through the publication process and they get to meet everyone involved in making their book possible. I’m excited to learn all the ins and outs of a publishing company, and what it takes to get a book from an idea to a finished product, and this day was like a crash course.

The commute was a little crazy. To give me more time to get ready, I just commuted in with Jess, but we hit traffic and I was close to 20 minutes late. On my second day! I felt like I was walking the walk of shame into the meeting. Thank goodness it was just Jeevan and the two authors–or maybe that made it worse. Anyways, I met Richard Leider and David Shapiro, listened as Jeevan outlined the day, and then Steve (the publisher, who also happens to be the editor on this project) stepped in, and started the editorial meeting. I took lots of notes on both his method of critique and the editorial lingo. I constantly carry around a pad of paper with me so I can take notes at a moment’s notice. There’s so much that’s new to me, taking notes is the only way I could remember even half of it.

Author Days also include an Author Lunch, where everyone in the company sits down together in the conference room and chows down on delivery (this time sandwiches from a favorite deli, if what I overheard during my interview on Monday was correct). Delicious veggie sandwich, I think it made Jeevan think I was a vegetarian too. While I grew up as one, I do eat meat on occasion.

I met a past editorial intern, Chloe Park (read her blog from her time at BK here, she’s a very entertaining writer), and enjoyed a great conversation about our shared love of editing. She is definitely a kindred soul, who loves editing for the sake of bringing to light the story the author is trying to tell, rather than tearing people down. It really is a kind of magic rush when you succeed at something like that.

During a break between meetings, steve popped his head into our office and said he wanted my thoughts on the new manuscript. As I may have mentioned before, he is the editor for this project, and was going to continue the editorial meeting at the end of the day.

“She doesn’t have the new manuscript,” Jeevan said.*

“Yeah, I’ve only read the 2nd edition, and I didn’t even finish that,” I said, hesitantly. I had the feeling I was about to be “asked” the impossible.

“That’s not a problem. We have what, four hours until the editorial meeting? Jeevan, you have the manuscript file, right? Print her out a copy.”

And that’s how I got roped into reading a 200 page manuscript in less than four hours. Steve said he expected about 10 minutes of commentary on it, so I knew this was serious. Very intense, focused reading, and I only got to page 94, but I had about two pages of handwritten comments. I was nervous, as you might expect, especially since Steve had me start out the meeting with my comments and observations. But at the end of the meeting, the authors thanked me and even said that if I made it through the rest of the manuscript, they would love to hear what I thought about it. It was one of those magic moments.

I’m very excited for the new edition of Repacking, because it will be a lot more relevant and user-friendly for my age group. I love the concepts of the book–I was actually excited to be reading it and already started applying some of the concepts to my own life–but some of the example in the second edition seemed out-of-reach.

So this was the beginning of my adventure. So much more has happened, so stay tuned!

*All dialogue is an approximation based on memory and should not be taken as a direct quote. 😛


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elianne Obadia, The Writer's Midwife
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:09:15

    Nice to “meet” you, Ashley, and all the best to you in your new venture. You are so lucky to be working with Jeevan; I did a number of ms. evaluations under his cover, and he was/is a prince! (Loved those author lunches too, not to mention the whole B-K ethos.) I can tell you’re going to have a lot of fun there and learn a lot. I hope you don’t think it’s too evil of me to point out a blooper in your article, to wit: <> There were a couple of other small things . . . but no biggie–it’s just a blog, after all . . . Enjoy!


  2. Elianne Obadia, The Writer's Midwife
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:13:06

    Well . . . I just learned that it’s not possible to copy and paste from your blog entries; as you can see above, there’s nothing between the . The part I quoted was:

    “. . . I had two pages of comments of handwritten comments.”

    Probably my punishment for pointing it out in the first place 🙂

    Have a great day.


    • Byrdie Grey
      Mar 02, 2012 @ 21:19:29

      Thanks for the feedback, Elianne! I really appreciate it, since there’s no one else to edit this blog except me, and leaving a grammar mistake would be more embarrassing than having it pointed out and corrected. 🙂

      I hope you enjoy reading the blog. I’m actually at another author day lunch right now, for Devora Zack’s new book, “Managing for People Who Hate Managing.” Look for a post about it soon!


  3. Trackback: Rejection! « Manuscripts and Red Marks

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