11 years and counting—our senior editor, Margo, explains why she still loves publishing.
Each year, at the beginning of May, I quietly mark another anniversary in publishing. But this anniversary is different. As of this year, I have spent a third of my life in books.
To me, it seems like a long time, but not long enough to wax poetic about the way that things used to be. For now, I’ll entrust that role to the Joni Evans and Daniel Menakers of the world. My time will come. I can already feel it approaching. When I started as an Editorial Assistant, I was the go-to resource in my department for all things technology. Now, I am working on a new year’s resolution to “be good at Twitter.”
No doubt publishing has changed dramatically since I entered it. Over the years, many friends, family members, even authors have asked whether or when I might get out of this “dying industry.” I’ve thought about it. Deep down, I think all publishing folks have. But, I’m still here—by choice. And, on this auspicious anniversary, I’d like to tell you why.
Even with all the changes that I’ve seen, there are core aspects of my job that remain very much the same and which bring me great pleasure:
My journey with authors often begins when I help them to see that what they have to say is ideally suited to a book. I’ve shared in roughly 275 Eureka moments. They never get old.
With authors, I am an architect of ideas. They bring the content. I bring my knowledge of what makes a good book. The pairing makes their work better, and I know that those hours on the phone, piles of email, and miles of track changes were worth it.
When I see someone buy one of my books, I am reminded that I am a taste medium. I am a fly on the wall in the areas in which I publish—watching trends, taking note of what you’re reading, what you liked about this book or that. I’m paying attention, and I use what I learn to facilitate a conversation between authors and readers across space and time.
Each day, I get to contribute to the birth of something concrete, something that lives in your home or your office, something that you may prize as a memory of that class you loved, for instance.
Just as books are intimate, so too is the making of a book. I see first books published, opuses written. I share in marriages, promotions, babies born, moves made, and tearful departures.
Finally, even when it’s harsh, the business of books is interesting. An early boss of mine said, “Margo, a good book is a book that sells.” Over time, I’ve realized that selling doesn’t make a book good, but good books do sell. We vote with our purchases. How and why we make them, what makes a book worth it to us, is a fundamental question in the industry. Working toward an answer every day is sometimes frustrating, but it’s never boring.
I like to joke (honestly) that there are ten fantastic days in the development of any book. If that’s true, given the number of books that I’ve worked on, I’ve had 7 ½ banner years. By anyone’s measure, that’s not too shabby. Thanks to all who’ve made it possible.
A happy “book birthday” to me and here’s to many more.
Margo Beth Fleming is a Senior Editor in Business and Economics who has been with SUP for 7 years. Recent books she's published include Homer Economicus, All I Want Is a Job, and The Co-Creation Paradigm. Before coming to Stanford she was an Associate Editor at SAGE Publications.