(Visit date: April 18)
I have never felt a truly dense population until driving in the heart of downtown Toronto during lunch hour. Never again. Never. Again.
As quickly as I can, I make my way underground to escape the crowd. Parking will be expensive, but it is worth being able to opt-out of what feels like a hive full of bees in blazers and ties.
On the third floor, I sign my name at reception and scan the rest of the list for names of who else is in the building. Margaret’s not in, it seems. The receptionist calls Lindsey Reeder to let her know I’ve arrived.
Lindsey is from Nova Scotia. When she was seven, her mother answered an ad in the paper for a position as a Random House Sales Rep. This has Mrs. Reeder flying all over the continent, and Lindsey was excited to see the stacks of books delivered to her front door. She knew from that point on—without question—that what she wanted to do when she grew up was work in publishing.
Her mother already an employee for Random House, this didn’t mean once Lindsey had her degree in English it would be an easy ride in. She applied for everything and anything that was available, but she wasn’t getting any callbacks. Finally a mat-leave cover came through, and with two weeks notice she packed her bags and moved to Toronto. While working as a sales coordinator (dealing with retailers and the logistics of moving printed books) she asked a colleague for advice on how to get noticed within the company. The advice she received: “Make sure the president knows your name and know the books.” But it’s not as simple as knocking on his office door and shaking his hand.
After some thought into how she could get noticed, Lindsey started a blog and got into the routine of eight hours at the office followed by hours at home reading and blogging. She blogged about everything: books, authors, events. Meanwhile, Random House recognized that social media had to be an active part of the marketing conversation. When they decided to build a social media team, Lindsey was an obvious choice and is now a fulltime social media coordinator for the company. What does that mean?
Well you know all that time you spend “wasting” or “procrastinating” on social media? Browsing people’s profiles and blogs, clicking randomly through links, reading reviews, posting reviews, updating your Goodreads, passing along book trailers, etc.?
Lindsey does those things all day and gets paid to do it.
What I love about Lindsey is that she is aware of how fortunate she is to be in her position, but she is also aware of how hard she worked to get there (to be frank, she worked her ass off).Lindsey and I spend a lot of time talking about the social media work they do at Random House. Lists in blogs are good, so here’s one for Random House.
- Social Media accounts for Random House authors are managed and/or assisted by the social media team. This doesn’t mean the person behind the tweets and posts isn’t the author, it just means they aren’t being left to their own devices and have help when they need and/or want it.
- Margaret Atwood does it pretty much on her own, though. And she’s really great at it.
- Random House has about 250 bloggers across the country. These aren’t paid blogging positions, but bloggers that Lindsey and the rest of the team were aware of and eventually built a relationship with. Got a book blog? You too could be a Random House blogger, landing yourself free books shipped to your door (contact Lindsey for more info on that by tweeting her a link).
- Random House knows the importance of putting their own faces to the company. Their social media feeds are full of behind-the-scenes shots of the office and of the team.
In movies, on TV, and even in books, the publishing industry is often glamourized. When we think about that world we see smiling faces and bottles popping; we hear laughter and the clinking of glasses. But is that what the industry at the top is really like? I mean, really really? I ask.
Lindsey pauses hesitantly and almost apologetically replies.
Yes. It really is.
While it’s easy to be star-struck, having Atwood up and down the hallways isn’t considered a big deal, and it seems there is one event or another to attend every night.
Indeed, I’m not surprised by the number of times I hear Lindsey say, “I absolutely love my job.”
Lindsey tours me around the office. We pass cubicles and offices with glass doors. Their library lines the walls, some books behind locked cases. I’m introduced to about a dozen different people in different departments, all people Lindsey seems to know well.
I’ve been blown away by the people I’ve met so far at other houses, but I expected Random House to be… I don’t know… more corporate feeling and maybe a little high on themselves? I mean, it’s freaking Random House!
But they aren’t at all. Coming from a community of small publishers, it’s been easy to assume a lot of (negative) things about the big multinationals. After meeting them in person, nothing but respect and admiration.
I’m amazed at how much fun everyone seems to be having and how friendly everyone is to me, despite my being a stranger interrupting the workday. For being so high up, these people are definitely grounded.