Inside Random House: Bringing Our Authors’ Books to Life

Inside Random House: Bringing Our Authors’ Books to Life

Writing a book is an extremely
complicated job. It isn’t just one sits
down at a computer and just lets it rip. That could be a very good
first draft, for example. In fact David Ebershoff,
one of our great editors at Random House,
has always said that writing is all about rewriting. And so that is one of the functions that our editors help an author do, in order to make an author’s work as clear as it can be. Every author is different and every author
wants to work in a different way. Some authors want to go away in a cave
somewhere and write a hundred thousand words and then come back with a hundred
thousand words and not be disturbed while they do that. Other writers need to have every page literally checked over, read, and sort of assessed so they can move forward. And so the first thing I do is try to work out
a system that will work for both of us. As an editor you’re reading things constantly and
I love it because every day you start a manuscript and it’s, like, maybe this is the one. Every once in a while your heart rate goes
up, and you find yourself flipping the pages, and you lose track of time, and you
just know “I have to publish this, we know how to do this,” and that’s the most
gratifying thing about being an editor. Every writer works differently with an editor. But I find the relationships that I have are intense, they’re really intense, and they’re really close. A lot of writers that I work with become some of your best friends, because it’s very intimate work, and I think you develop sort of a
dependency on one another. You know, I love working
with these people, and hopefully they like
working with me as well. We do not have a house style; we do not
tell our authors how to write their books. Our job is to hear their voice, to take their prose, and over
the course of the copyediting and proofreading process to just make every author’s book be the best possible version of itself that it can be. One of the most important parts of an
editor’s job is spreading the word about a new book in-house and we have
lots of opportunities to do that, from the first editorial meeting, to our pre-launch,
to our launch, to marketing meetings. And then I also make a point to call different
sales reps who I have a relationship with, who I think would really enjoy the book. I make sure to reach out to someone in marketing if
I think yeah that’s the person who’s gonna love this book. When I’m looking to acquire, what I need to find is someone
who has a true voice for children, who really writes naturally from a
child’s point of view in a plain direct way.
It really is a rare talent. The best kind of story has a great
character that you can bond with right from the beginning
even if they’re a bad guy. You could still find them irresistible
because then you’ll root for them throughout the whole story. The actual making of the jacket is
a very private process in a way, much the way reading a book is a
private process. I read the manuscript and then I design something,
at which point I will show it to the editor in question. I try to make jackets that are smart and
if you look at them long enough you’ll understand that the jacket represents the narrative in a deeper way. But the first job really is to get someone’s
attention. Often I’ll have long and fruitful conversations both with authors
and editors about their books. It’s frankly my favorite part of the job.
I mean I like talking about books. One of the first things we do is meet with our authors to decide what the visual program is going to be, the thing that’s going to
complement their text, the thing that’s going to set
the style for the book. We set the tone for what the brand of that book is going to be. Quite often we have the text and then
we also have the pictures that come much later. We spend a lot of time
perfecting the text and then it’s only after we think that the text
is just perfect that we start trying to find illustrators who we
think are right for the story. It’s really our job to make sure
that the illustrator brings whatever they bring to it, but keeping in mind the
voice of that author. There’s always been an
emphasis at Random House for fine book-making. There’s a great deal of energy and care that goes into
the manufacture of every single book. Random House has always
been very amenable to using the latest technology, using the
latest manufacturing techniques. As far as optical reproduction, that is
going to be unmatched in the industry. We’re working very closely with all of the platform developers
and their R&D teams to figure out what is the best use of that and
what is the best use as they are developing new technologies. The one thing that they can always
be certain about is that we will be doing whatever is cutting edge
at the time that the book is released. The particular media outlet that can really drive that book, and help break it out, and
find a very broad audience will range from book to book. It may be that daily review in the New
York Times that makes all the difference. It may be an interview on NPR. It may,
oddly enough, be a blogger tour or a chatter that begins in the online space among
bloggers, that takes on a viral life of its own. We spend a lot of time continuing to maintain our existing relationships
with the mainstream media. From literary fiction to politics,
and from cooking to craft, we’ve developed extensive networks
of book bloggers that we are in touch with every day on behalf of our authors. A big part of the publicist-author
relationship is just sort of being there for them and answering
any questions that they have, and hand-holding to a certain extent, and just being there for them
when they need it most. We believe that we can help create some
of the conversation about books online, so we’ve developed several of
these websites in order to create the dialogue, or the story behind the story,
about many of our books and authors. We can potentially syndicate this
information out and have these stories appear in other places on the web. We try to write really interesting stories,
really compelling storylines that people can share, share virally,
potentially in their own social media that we can amplify our authors’
audience and their message. In our marketing department we
really look at what we provide as a suite of services to an author. So we have experts in social media, we have experts in traditional advertising,
we have experts in word-of-mouth. So in the life of the book, after we’ve read it,
after we’ve come together and we’ve discussed the themes that we think will resonate with
the different audiences, when it comes time to actually
create the marketing campaign, we draw from the experts that
we have on the team. We have a lot of fun author chats where
readers will have the opportunity to ask questions and the
author will answer in real time, really get a dialogue going about who has
inspired them along the way in their writing, some of their favorite authors,
some of their tips to aspiring writers. So it’s a really wonderful way
for them to connect directly with people that are reading their books, and people that, of course,
want to be writers someday too. We start early and really focus on the content of the book. We figure out who the audience
for the book is at any given account because that’s really where it has to start. Every person at every account
has their own reading tastes. I think the strength of our force is
in knowing those and realizing the importance to learning those. We have two warehouses in our
United States distribution network. One facility is located in Crawfordsville, Indiana and the other is in Westminster, Maryland. These two facilities comprise one
point eight million square feet, which is roughly forty football fields. We ship over one million books per day
out of these two facilities combined. What we do at Random House
International Sales and Marketing is promote and sell our books globally. We are responsible for selling and managing the marketing of all of our
titles outside of the US and Canada, and we promote those books physically and digitally around the world. We are in fifteen thousand physical book outlets and our books are available digitally on every possible multinational online store. I spend most of my days working
with independent bookstores talking to the buyers at those stores who do the ordering and
decide which books will work in those particular stores. Now what is really great about Random House
is that we have such great relationships with those bookstore owners and staff and we know those stores’ customers. We have email relationships with them and
we have email newsletters. We’re on Twitter and Facebook with those people. We have a lot of creditability. It’s really this deep ingrained love of a book and of reading, and of that process of falling into somebody else’s imagination. This company really supports
writers and talent. That’s our goal.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. I really enjoyed this video. The process can be talked about and read many times over but actually seeing this dispelled the mystery of the process. Thank you Random House. XO

  2. I enjoyed seeing how a brand new book goes from arriving at the publishers to ending up at the store or on a tablet. Good work.

  3. I want to be an editor so badly…I really regret not doing an internship somewhere in college. Really interesting, informative video.

  4. The subtitles are hilarious. Did no-one check them? It makes a mockery of the whole video about editing and proofreading.

  5. Thanks so much for making us aware that YouTube's machine-generated closed captioning was not doing a good job with our video. We've now uploaded our own captions and we hope you find them more useful.

  6. Loved seeing people I know in this video! My wonderful editor Anne Schwartz and art director Lee Wade, Wendy Lamb, and Annette Danek who runs the fabulous and humongous warehouse in a secret location in MD, where they treat you like family and you can pop all the bubble wrap you want and you never want to leave even though it's windowless on account of it's better that way for storing a third of the world's music and for reading every book that rushes down the sorting machines at you until you

  7. This is fantastic! I love that fact that now when people ask me what I want to do with my life, I can just pull up this video and show them. Thank you!

  8. I am very conflicted about random House right now. Random House’s Hydra contract terms that seemed so negatively nasty. As now Random House’s Hydra changes contract terms was positive move. I am very wary considering how quickly they made such a negative move with there contract as all my life Random House was the example of a solid professional grip of reality of the business.

  9. I was the same though the recent Random House’s Hydra changes contract terms gave me a moment pause. They are clearly a force to recon with after purchasing Penguin. I hope they regain there footing towards upholding a common respective and Professional with prospective Authors and readers alike.

  10. I have had lots of publishing experience with both small traditional publishers and self publishing. For more information go via youtube: Two of the most unusual books

  11. Hey guys please check out my blog any one is welcome just please if you like it share it like us on facebook if you don't comment let us know why!
    officialendlessnight on

  12. The editors seem to be trustworthy, unfortunately I doubt that they would have accepted my manuscript because it probably would be lost in the crowd. Marketing is not my bag but I get great feedback from my readers and although I have never made a submission to Random House I am thankful that the opportunity to self-publish exists. I get great comments from people who would love to tell me my books suck. Maybe one day I will invite a rejection from Random House Publishers.
    J. E. Powell

  13. To quote someone on The Passive Voice, "Once again, Big Publishing shows what its real focus and concern is, by trying to shift its branding focus from authors to publishers. Instead of saying to writers, “We’ll help you build YOUR brand as an author,” they say, “Aren’t you impressed by OUR brand as your publisher?”

    Maybe try spending money on marketing for your authors. You guys aren't important. No one says, gee I must get down the bookstore to see what Random House (or any other publisher) has released today. We readers don't gibe a rats ass about the publisher; it's the AUTHOR who is important, and ONLY THE AUTHOR!

  14. When people ask me what I want to do for a living, all I have to do is show them this video. This video, is truly fantastic.

  15. I really appreciate how transparent you are in your process of producing books. As someone who has great interest in working in the publishing industry someday, I find this to be truly helpful and inspiring. It motivates me to work really hard and focus on that goal of working in publishing.

  16. Please, check out my trilogy …Very sellable, commercial fiction. I'm looking for a publishing deal. Contact through fb.

  17. I doubt I'll be so lucky, but when I go to publish my novel, it would be a dream to have Penguin Random House publish it. From the video, they are the kind of people I want to work with.

  18. I'm a copy editor and I love what they say in this video. It's so true. I love bringing out the best in every piece of text I edit while ensuring I keep the author's unique voice strong and true. The relationship I build with every writer I work with is so intimate and I do my best to look after them and make sure they're happy at every stage of the editing process.

  19. I just wrote a book. After I'm
    done just re-reading and changing some things, I'm hoping to send it here

  20. Can any author forward a submission and have somebody look at it, or has the manuscript forwarded have to come from an agent? Amazing info in the video but I wanted to hear that anybody can send in work and have a chance to get published.

  21. Love the video so helpful I'm righting a book at the moment I'm only 13 if you have tips I would love to see what you have to say 🙂

  22. I love this video <3
    Does Random House publish books on poetry?
    I would love to publish my book with Random House 😀

  23. Here is my short story horror book Pathways into Darkness:

  24. @gyrosk Yea,  editing is the worst! However, always ask for a free sample edit to compare and pick the best editor. Compare prices and edits from places like Hugeorange and freelancers.

  25. Great video, it is very informative. Will someone at your company be interested in a novel about a young female navy sailor.—"Sailor Girl." It has been edited and I promise you it is a good read. This is riveting story about a young woman's quest for meaning, purpose, and true love, and success in her life while serving in the US Navy!

  26. Wow, what a great, informative video with a real insight into the author and publisher's relationship in working with a book manuscript. Truly inspiring to this unpublished writer!

  27. I have a book on amazon!

  28. I just completed my first book. It's currently in the hands of a freelance editor and will be looking for an agent soon. With a little luck maybe one day I'll see it in print from your house. Best wishes to all.

  29. I'm a teacher. I have been teaching for 10+ years and would love to write short children leveled readers. I would love to work for Random House as a writer.

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