Sunday, March 15, 2009

VIP Spotlight: Rakia Clark

Recent upheavals at various publishing houses have left many editors without a roof over their head. Some, like former Kensington editor Rakia Clark, have decided to hang their own shingles and ride out this rollercoaster economy by creating unique ways to market their skills. Rakia took a moment out of her busy schedule (which recently included being featured in a USA Today cover story!) to share her experience and hopes for the future.

TKA: How did you get your start in publishing?
CLARK: I first became interested in publishing during my senior year of college. I was an English major, but I had plans to attend medical school, so I'd taken all the prerequisites for that and was using the English major more or less to mellow me out. But I began to love my English courses in a way that all the science-y stuff just couldn't match. Going into publishing seemed like a good way to continue that kind of work. So upon graduation, I interned at a small, regional magazine in my hometown (Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine), and with that experience applied to the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City. I was fortunate enough to be admitted, and at the end of the course, I had two job offers in book publishing.
TKA: What was your title at Kensington, and what were some of the most successful books/authors that you worked with?
CLARK: I was an editor at Kensington. The biggest book I worked on was a memoir by WNBA superstar Lisa Leslie called DON'T LET THE LIPSTICK FOOL YOU. I also repackaged two of Ann Petry's books (MISS MURIEL AND OTHER STORIES and THE NARROWS), both of which got great attention in more literary circles.
TKA: With all the movement in the industry were you surprised that you were let go? Why or why not?
CLARK: I was not entirely surprised. Lots of other companies had been downsizing months before I got my news.
TKA: Have you found any supportive networks amongst fellow editors and other industry professionals suffering from recent job cuts? If so, how has this network helped you?
CLARK: Oh yes, people have been incredibly supportive and kind to me. Even more than I expected. Former colleagues have consistently volunteered to pass my name along for jobs, and many have sent freelance work my way. They've fed me, coffee'd me, hugged me, patted me on the back, and been all around great people.
TKA: Please describe your new business venture.
CLARK: Freelance editing is my new thing. I work with literary agents, prospective authors, and sometimes even publishing houses to edit manuscripts for publication. Please visit www.RakiaClark.com for more information on that.
TKA: What sort of response has the freelance business received so far?
CLARK: I have been happily surprised at the amount freelance work available. There's plenty to go around.
TKA: Would you be interested in working for a publishing house again?
CLARK: Of course. I miss acquiring books. When the market rebounds, I'll take another stab at it.
TKA: What has been the most important lesson from this entire experience?
CLARK: To trust myself, to trust my own instincts, and to believe deeply that when you are good to people, people will be good to you.
Follow Rakia on Twitter, click here!

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