In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—such as Cornel West, Anita Hill, and Christopher Emdin—are appearing in the media, their ideas going viral on social media, their voices being heard on so many platforms, we thought it might be good to take a break to focus on some of the staff who work hard to find, shape, edit, produce, and promote those works. Our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books” introduces to you a member of our staff and gives you a behind-the-scenes look, department by department, at what goes on at our office.
This July, meet our print planning and digital production manager, Daniel Barks!
What drew you to publishing, Daniel? How did you find your way to Beacon?
It begins the same way all these stories do: I’ve loved books all my life. I started working in a bookstore in college (shout out to Left Bank Books in St. Louis!), and there I realized that as long as I could make some kind of living working with books, that’s what I wanted to do. I wound up working there for almost seven years in all before moving to Boston. Once here, I very fortuitously got a job at Harvard Book Store, but was ready to shift to the other side of the bookish curtain when a sales position opened up at Beacon. The skills and knowledge I’d picked up through years of bookselling lined up with what I needed to know here, and it’ll be five years this summer since I started, though I’ve hopped over to our production team since then.
What’s one book on our list that has influenced your thinking on a particular issue?
Several of our books have made me consider issues in a new light, or engage with an issue in-depth for the first time. Somewhere in between these two is The Drone Eats with Me by Atef Abu Saif, in which the author recounts through diary entries his family’s experiences during the 2014 Gaza war. We’ve all encountered accounts of the horrors of war, but this was the first truly modern experience I’d read (and read again) and delved into. A beautifully written and truly devastating book.
How much of what you learned in college and/or graduate school have you found vital to your work?
*cries in German*
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
We currently have two books planned for January 2019 which will serve as the first entries in a new “Celebrating Black Women Writers” series: Corregidora by Gayl Jones and If I Can Cook/You Know God Can by Ntozake Shange. These are both books Beacon had published previously, and while neither has been “forgotten,” they both deserve more attention than they’ve received. I can’t wait for them to be re-introduced to people.
What other departments does your department interact or collaborate with? And how?
Production works very closely with Editorial on new books, as they end up handing over to us custody of the manuscripts they’ve been working on with the authors. We then keep in touch with the author and the editor as we shepherd the manuscript through copyediting, typesetting, proofreading, and—ultimately—printing. At that point, with finished books in hand, we start to work more closely with our sales and marketing folks, who become very invested in making sure we keep enough copies of each book on hand as they go on sale.
Favorite thing about Boston?
As a midwestern transplant who likes to travel, one of the best things about Boston is its coastal hub status. Over the past few years of vacations and holidays, I’ve gotten completely spoiled on direct flights. Getting to Europe or South America with no layover? Golden, I tell you!
Favorite book ever?
An impossible question! But some possibilities by category:
- From which I have borrowed substantial tracts of thought: Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
- The most beautiful book-as-object I own: Incidents by Roland Barthes, with photographs by Bishan Samaddar (Seagull Books, 2010)
- The recent titles I secretly want to buy again every time I try to find something new at a bookstore: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Several news and economics podcasts from Slate and NPR have helped me keep up-to-date with the world, but honestly, these days I look forward more and more to the “strictly entertainment” podcasts in my roster, like My Brother, My Brother and Me and My Favorite Murder, both of which came to me via recommendations from fellow Beacon folks.
Name a couple non-office items on your desk and their significance to you.
First, there’s my sentimental framed photo of my husband with our then four-month-old puppy, Kafka. That one’s a good reminder of everything right and good in the world.
Otherwise, there’s my figurine of Link from The Legend of Zelda, a gift from a friend and former coworker; he’s like the guardian spirit of my desk, warding off any potential bad vibes.
About Daniel Barks
Daniel Barks joined Beacon in 2013 with extensive indie bookstore background having worked in management at both Left Bank Books in St. Louis and Harvard Book Store in Cambridge. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis.