Last time on Beyond the Lobby we focused on our budding writers and talked about how to get published; this week we’re going to tackle the question of whether it’s possible to work from home for a publishing house while not being in the same city or even country. We’ve asked some of our most in-the-know people what their thoughts are.
Sales representative extraordinaire, Lynne, lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia and travels all over covering the territories of Ottawa, Montreal, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. Here’s what she had to say about her experience of working for RHC while being stationed outside of Toronto:
Years ago, 20+ years ago, when I started at Random House, we had weekly chats with head office and with the other sales representatives across the country… wow has that changed! In this electronic world, even though we (the field reps) are not located in head office, we know, via Blackberry, iPhone, iPads, etc.; instantly that, for example, an author is nominated for the a major publishing award, that stock on a much requested title has arrived, that a title that is performing very well in a store in Vancouver.
So I, based in Halifax, then would contact my stores in Ottawa, Montreal and on the East Coast and let them know the information they need to know! Sure, we miss the one-on-one contact that the “head officers” have, but with conference calls, our cell phones and the ability to connect with emails, the publishing world is not as big as it was, but in a very good way!
Scott, our very talented Creative Director, tackles the question from a designer point-of-view:
In an age of jpgs, pdfs and all manner of instant electronic exchange, it is entirely possible to design a book without ever laying eyes on the other people involved in the project. I know of many freelancers (both in Canada and abroad) who have never met their clients (equally far afield) apart from email. One of our own ‘in-house’ designers works three days a week from her home 100 miles away. I can (and have) designed books for authors and publishers who work on another continent altogether.
Does RHC use freelance designers? Unfortunately, no. (We are blessed with a stellar in-house team.) But we are a rarity in Canadian publishing: most other houses (certainly those smaller than us) use freelancers on a regular basis. And being in the same building, let alone the same city or province (or country for that matter), is not necessary. As long as a freelancer has an outstanding portfolio (in pdf) and a working email, they can work with any art director at any publishing house in the world.
Designing not your thing? How about spending your days with a glass of wine and a wonderful manuscript? Janice talks about freelance editing:
I’m currently filling in at Random House for someone who’s on maternity leave, but in my “real” life, I’m a freelance editor. Basically that means I have my own business supplying editorial services to Canadian publishers. When I was still freelancing, Random House was an important regular client – although not my only one. Like most other freelancers, I worked for a variety of publishers on a job-by-job basis and was paid for each book I edited; the fee would vary depending on factors like the length of the manuscript and the amount of work required (essentially how many pages an hour I was able to edit).
There’s a long tradition in publishing of using freelance editors, and of course the advent of overnight couriers and email has made it easier for freelancers to work for clients all over the world. In theory, a freelancer today can live anywhere she or he wants without losing out on business. (In reality, many publishers still prefer to use freelancers who are local to them, but that will change over time.) And technology has brought other differences too. Most freelance editors today work on computer screens instead of with a pencil on paper, and as e-books grow in popularity, many are being hired by individual writers instead of the publishing companies themselves.
Finally, I bet you’re asking yourself the obvious question. What about working in online marketing from home? Seems easy enough. I asked Cass, our fabulous Online Marketing Director, what her thoughts were on the matter; and she responded by saying that it was entirely possible. In today’s internet-driven world, it’s totally do-able to work as an online marketing freelancer, social media guru or strategic marketing specialist. There are even a few people who have received recognition working as freelance online specialists in publishing. You can tweet, facebook, blog, interact and engage all from the comfort of your home. And the best part is, if you’re in another location, you can organize local blogger meet-ups, twitter book club parties and much more.
So there you have it. We hope we quietened your wandering mind, at least for the time being. If all we’ve done is stir up more questions, please leave us your queries and comments below. We’d love to hear ‘em!