Again and again I’m asked by my friends, acquaintances and even my parents, what I actually do all day. As the books are written by the authors, what work is left for me to do?
So I sat down, picked a typical Tuesday from my diary and thought to myself that maybe the blog readers would also be interested to know what types of tasks a publishing house deals with.
Firstly, I would just like to emphasise that what makes us quite unique is that we don’t just publish German titles but that we’re also involved in publishing English titles and we’re active on the international market. I live in Germany and our office is not far from Frankfurt airport. We have authors in Australia, Canada, the U.S.A., the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and of course Germany.
So, what does Astrid Ohletz’s average working day look like?
6 a.m.: From spring through to autumn, this is the typical time at which I wake up. The first thing I reach for is my iPad which lies on my bedside table. Checking Outlook, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr is my first deed of the day, in order to discover what lays ahead of me for the day and if anything happened during the night. And that is most often the case, as we publish the majority of our books in English-speaking countries and my inbox normally fills up with anything from 50 to 100 emails each night. Unfortunately, I have to respond to most of them. The curse of a paperless office …
6.30 a.m.: Jump in the shower whilst thinking about the emails I have received or what I read on social media.
7 a.m.: One or two cups of coffee, a bowl of Weetabix or a slice of bread, a few pages of the newspaper to keep myself up to date. The latter being important to me, as there is a whole wide world out there, beyond our publishing house and lesfic.
7.45 a.m.: I try to force myself to go for at least half an hour’s walk. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work – but if it does, I am always happy afterwards that I’ve done it. It helps to really clear my mind, before heading to my desk. Sometimes I listen to an audio book, because I never seem to find the time to read for leisure.
8.30 a.m.: Back into the office. The first thing I do is check the e-book sales from the day before. Happily, it is easy to correlate how much money we can expect to receive from which platforms and when. I am therefore my own financial controller. Ultimately, we have to make advanced payments to artists, editors, and formatters for all our books, so I need to know whether and that we will have enough money to pay the invoices. After that, I start to prioritise emails and to respond to them. Answering mails can take up to three hours a day, as I not only have to read them but most mails require that I make some decisions; be it regarding a cover, marketing, new contracts, old contracts, submissions and so on.
10.00 a.m.: In the meantime, my wife has arrived in the office and at around 10:00 a.m. our social media expert, Steffi, also arrives. Not every day, but very often, we get together and discuss the projects which we’ve currently got on the go. This could include the next few publications, conferences we will attend or social media campaigns which are currently running or which are in the pipeline.
10.30 a.m.: I use the time up to lunch time for more emailing or to actively use social media. The latter is a real blessing for me, as the platforms enable us to get and stay in contact with our readers around the globe. Our readers can be found right up in the north of Germany on the North Sea and Baltic Sea coastlines, right down to deepest Bavaria in the south, and worldwide from the U.S.A./Canada, across to Saudi Arabia and the Philippines and as far as Russia and Australia. It makes me so happy to see that our e-books are sold in countries which trample all over the rights of the LGBT community. But on the other hand also sad and angry. A happy ending sadly only exists in books for some of our readers.
1 p.m.: Lunch. Three times a week with my wife and Steffi and once a week four of us, if Devin, our German chief editor, is also in the office. We often take turns to cook and lunch time always passes quickly as the conversation never runs dry.
2 p.m.: Tired and back at my desk. Now it’s time for either Skype calls (everyday at least one call with authors or employees, who primarily live in the U.S.A. or in Australia) or for phone calls to the few remaining LGBTQ+ bookstores in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. We have a very friendly relationship and regularly exchange information and requests. The LGBTQ+ bookstores struggle to survive and I love being in contact with them to see where we can support each other.
4 p.m.: A short coffee break. Sometimes alone, sometimes with another coffee or tea addict.
Especially because the majority of the world is only just waking up and have only just arrived at work. So for that reason, I like to re-visit social media at this time of day … there are new books to announce, there’s news about authors to pass on, etc. Sometimes I also spend a few hours editing. I have less and less time for this – but I can’t bring myself to give it up completely.
5 p.m.: As we try (but normally fail) to call it a day at around 8 p.m., now is when we start frantically thinking – what still has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow? On the long to do list we have: contracts for authors, invoices to pay, books to upload to e-book platforms, paperbacks to post to authors and/or bookshops (I pack the parcels myself and take them to the post office) and much much more.
6 p.m.: A quick, light dinner. After that back to my computer.
7 p.m.: Every Tuesday the team meets for roughly an hour on Skype. This is also an international gang: three team members are located in Kriftel, one just beyond Mainz, one in Freiburg, and one on the island of Lesbos. We go through the publications for the next week (are we all on schedule, or does something need to be postponed?) and everyone talks about what ongoing projects they have or whether there are any problems which we then try to solve together.
8 p.m.: I’d love to write that I am now going to the gym for an hour … but I’m not. Most often I sit in the living room and read something – either a manuscript which has been submitted or an interesting article. As we’re active on the international market and because we have specialised in e-books, there is a lot of material to read to stay up to date. If I have some time left, I then read an English manuscript submission.
10 p.m.: Off to bed. Sometimes we watch another episode of a series on Netflix. And then I have a quick look at Facebook.
11 p.m.: Sleep … hopefully. On days which have been particularly tough or when unpleasant things have happened, I lay awake for a while and mull things over. For example, when our internet provider is not technically able to change our internet tariff, when this has been dragging on for months. Or when the transfer of our website to a new server doesn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped. Often, however, nice things also happen and I fall asleep contentedly. For example, when I’m asked by an Indian author whether we’d be interested in manuscripts which are based in India (a definite yes from us). Or when one of our books wins another award.
Thinking about what takes up most of my time and energy… it is not work per se. Yes, I usually work a 70 – 90 hour week although I will need to change this soon. My aim is to not work more than 50 hours a week. But what drains me most is constantly having to make decisions. That is a responsibility that – especially for an introvert – is hard to stomach at times.
So, when I take a look at my working day … there is an awful lot of work left to do, even though the authors write the books themselves 😉
Astrid Ohletz, Ylva Publishing (CEO)
Who would have actually thought this is what went on behind the scenes. Thank you for the insight into your everyday world and thank you for the amazing books that you assist with that have become a huge part of my life!
Thanks for giving us such an honest look into your workday and the life of an international publisher. I suspected before but you’ve now confirmed it, you really are a Super Woman. Thanks for all you personally, and the rest of the Ylva team, do to promote and supply quality lesfic worldwide. Kudos
I put your daily activities (including sleep) into My Fitness Pal, a free online tracker. The tracker is set up for me at 5’4.5″ and 98 pounds so you will need to adjust the amount of calories burned as more weight more calories burned. You also need 660 calories a day to meet your body’s need to function all of it’s vital processes. This means that in the course of your day you burn 1,219 calories for the activities listed. I think you may need more naps and more fun food breaks. Otherwise you might not be up to publishing all the great books that make my world a fun place to be!