Today the Cozy Cat Chronicles welcomes guest Blogger Patricia Rockwell. Patricia is owner of the publishing company Cozy Cat Press. Thank you Patricia for joining us today.
Teaching and Publishing: Comparing the “Babies” from Two Different Fields
Today, I am the publisher at Cozy Cat Press. However, I spent most of my life as a teacher–some of that in a very small liberal arts college in Kentucky, a few years as a high school teacher in Iowa, and the longest and most recent segment as a research professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I suppose, at first glance, a disinterested observer might not find many similarities between my teaching career and my publishing career, but the longer I dwell in my new-found career, the more I realize how much of my old career I utilize in my day to day activities. I’d even go so far as to say being a teacher might just be the ideal “starter” job for all publishers. Let me describe three areas where I see similarities between the two fields.
First, both teachers and publishers must be extremely well organized. Teachers are expected to present lectures, test student knowledge, fulfill administrative demands, and countless other bureaucratic requirements. Likewise, publishers and their authors must do book signings, speak to groups, promote their books, and keep track of sales. A well-organized teacher is a well-organized publisher. As a teacher, I learned to multi-task to the point where it now comes naturally to me. I can communicate with an author about a storyline inconsistency while I’m tabulating another author’s new book sales. None of this makes me feel harried; it just seems normal.
Second, editing is a required skill in both professions. Admittedly, I didn’t do much hardcore editing as a high school teacher, but during my 14 years as a college professor, I spent a huge chunk of my time reading, correcting, and revising student papers. The most important of these papers were Masters’ students’ theses. Often, my Masters’ students were with me for a year or two working on their theses, and most of that time was spent helping them conduct their research and then presenting that research in a readable format. After editing hundreds of pages of scientific data and arguments with students, fixing little plot holes in light, fluffy cozy mysteries is a delightful change of pace.
Finally, advising students is much like advising authors. Of course, the big difference is age. My students were, with some exceptions, young adults. My authors are, with some exceptions––um––older adults. But both groups want (wanted) advice––primarily, advice on how to improve their work. My Masters’ students wanted their work to be acceptable so that their committee would pass them and grant them their advanced degree. Authors want their work to be acceptable so that Cozy Cat Press will publish it and they will have a book that will sell. Over my many years of giving advice, I believe I have learned a lot about how to do it well. I’ve learned, of course, that good advice is best presented as suggestion, and that no one should order another person to do anything. I’ve learned that any suggestion works best when the person who must take the suggestion sees a personal benefit in the suggestion. I’ve learned that students/authors are most productive when they see their relationship with me as one of collaboration rather than one of employer/employee.
To this day, I maintain relationships with a number of my former students. I have seen them grow and bloom. Of course, I have similar relationships with many of my authors. I guess I thought that when I left teaching and ventured out into the strange new world of publishing that I was entering a foreign land, and in many ways I was. But once I realized the similarities between teaching and publishing, I was able to relax a little. Maybe the takeaway from my experience is to suggest that other teachers out there might find a second career in publishing, and, of course, that publishers looking for new blood in unlikely places might want to search the ranks of newly retired teachers.
As I look at the fruits of my labor (and the fruits of my students’ and my authors’ labor), I realize that the various relationships I have had with them have resulted in a multitude of “babies”––or books. I’ve even photographed myself with a pile of each so you can see the substantive differences––and similarities. My Masters’ students and I produced theses––hard-bound, hard-back, all-red, plain-cover books with titles on the spine only. My authors and I produce paperback books with full-color covers––front, back and spine. And that’s just differences on the outside. As you can well imagine, the differences and similarities continue inside too. These books are––after all––our babies, the fruits of two different, but strangely similar, relationships––teaching and publishing
Patricia’s Links: Cozy Cat Press