Monday, December 3, 2007

What Do I Do?

My very nice neighbours invited myself and my family over for Sunday dinner yesterday, and invariably the question comes up..."So, Gwen, what do you do?" Of course, it never stops there. Once you announce to the world that you are a book publisher, they want to know what kind of books (and have they read any of them), can they send their writer wanna-be friends my way (everyone on the planet seems to have a writer-wanna-be friend). Then comes the big question. "Ok, you're a publisher... but what do you do?"

Let's start first with what I don't do. I don't write books. Heck, I don't even know how my authors write books! It's a complete and utter mystery to me. I suspect it always will be. Oh, like everyone out there, I have ideas, but I can tell you this... the odds of me ever sitting down and learning how to write, of having the desire to jump to that side of the fence well, they are pretty darn slim. So... I don't write.

I don't edit. I did that once. Whoohoo. That was an experience I am not wanting to repeat. I suppose I could, but I don't want to. I am not a rereader. I like to read a book once, put it away until I've forgotten completely what happened (like 10 years maybe) and then reread it, because then it's like new. Editing means reading the same book over and over and over. Yeah, not a job for me.

Cover art? Nope. Can't draw a straight line, even with the computer helping! My artistic abilities end with the ability to choose art I like. And that's about as far as that goes.

So that's the biggies all done by others - writing, editing, art.

What do I do? Some days, I've no idea at all.

I answer email. Sometimes. Other times it piles up in my inbox. I get vast amounts of email.

I do book layouts. Actually, this is one of the parts I've discovered I like the most. I even freelance at it for a pay check now and again, because even publishers have to eat (ok, ok, truth be told, even publishers must have their daily Starbucks fix! Long live Lord Caffiene!)

I putz with covers, adding text etc, when necessary. Sometimes I do it well, sometimes not so much. Usually I spell the author's name wrong. It's becoming a very bad joke around here. And it's not even a funny joke.

I coordinate with my booksellers, without whom life as a publisher would truly suck! I coordinate with wholesalers, distributors and advertisers. All those lovely book people that make the business run. I seem to spend alot of time giving all of them the same information, in different formats. (we're working to become ONIX compliant in the new year to hopefully minimize that function!). I work with printers to get a good price on a great product, on time.

I spend part of my day as friend, confidante, coach and mentor to a very large group of wonderful authors. They've become my friends and my partners in this venture. Their trust and faith is, literally, what keeps me going most days. On the days when I want to hang up my hat and move on to something else, it's them that brings me back and keeps me here doing what I do... oh yeah, wait, we're still discussing what I do.

I do some networking. I admit to being a newbie at this. I fight vampires and zombies on Facebook (mostly because I love feeding my friends to my zombie - and if you don't know... I am a tad bit competitive, so I like being told "I laid down some zombie smack on Justyn's zombie"). I've become LinkedIn to network Business to Business (rather than social networking), I have this blog, I've got a MySpace page (though I'm there very rarely), a NING page... oh, I have piles of them. I don't do as much with them as I might, but then it takes time, which is usually in short supply around here.

I do the business stuff - pricing strategies, accounting stuff, pick-pack-and-ship, etc - the nitty-gritty stuff that keeps us running with the government and other folks. I forecast what next year will bring, I run numbers for profit and loss, I negotiate contracts and deals, I do some marketing, some grunt work, I pay the bills, do some "executive" work, some brainstorming in hopes of the next great idea... basically, I get to do a little bit of everything. One of the joys and stressors of being in business for yourself.

I problem solve, I try to keep everything running as smooth as possible - and some days I even succeed!

In general, I run a business with hundreds of "employees" and a pile of products. What I do on a daily basis varies depending on the day, the season, and my mood.

And all of that is really hard to explain in 30 seconds to the neighbours.

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