In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—including Cornel West, Anita Hill, Robin DiAngelo, Charlene Carruthers, Howard Bryant, 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.
For the month of April, we introduce you to our business manager, Jill Dougan!
What drew you to publishing, Jill? How did you find your way to Beacon?
When I was looking for my first job in 1989, I knew I wanted to work in Boston but hadn’t decided on a specific career path. I applied to be an administrative assistant at several companies and chose Houghton Mifflin, partly because my grandfather had worked for the company in the 1930s as a printer operator. I was drawn to the legal and financial aspects of the business and worked in various roles that helped me further my career with the company and later to run my own freelance publishing services business. I kept in touch with many of my wonderful colleagues, including Cliff Manko. Flash-forward to 2016: Cliff had recently joined Beacon Press and was looking to hire someone with royalty accounting experience. I jumped at the chance to work with Cliff again and to work for such an important publisher. I instantly felt at home at Beacon and look forward to coming to work every day.
How much of what you learned in college have you found vital to your work?
I took a winding path to complete college. After high school, I enrolled in an associate’s degree program, because I was not sure what I wanted to do for a career but knew I needed some basics to get my foot in the door. After working at Houghton Mifflin for four years, I went back to school at night and received my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Working and going to school full-time was very challenging but doing both at the same time allowed me to understand and apply what I learned in school to my real-life job immediately. The symbiotic context allowed me to succeed at both and is a technique I still use today when learning new tasks at Beacon.
What skills have you taken from previous jobs to help you do your work at Beacon?
I feel extremely fortunate that I had wonderful opportunities and mentors over my career. I have accumulated knowledge and a diverse set of skills in finance, management, operations, contract negotiation, rights and permissions, and royalty accounting—all of which play a role in my work here at Beacon.
What is one book on our list that has influenced your thinking on a particular issue?
I was very moved by The Good Death. We have come to believe that living as long as possible is living our best possible life. Medical technology can treat health issues and prolong life, but is that always ‘healthful’? We are so separated from death as a part of life that we are afraid it, automatically doing whatever medically possible to delay it. This book influenced me to believe that death—in comfort, at a person’s chosen time and terms—is a good death, especially when someone is suffering or has a terminal condition. Death in a hospital on medications and machines to keep a person in a state that meets the definition of ‘alive’ is not a good death. This book influenced me to explore volunteer opportunities in hospice care, which is something I would like to pursue.
What are you reading right now?
I have a habit of reading more than one book at the same time, which isn’t always ideal, but I can’t help myself! Right now, I’m reading an upcoming Beacon title, The Not Good Enough Mother by Sharon Lamb; her words are very relatable for all mothers. I’m also reading Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff, and Humanimal: How Homo Sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature by Adam Rutherford, which isn’t actually published yet, but I was lucky enough to acquire an advanced reading copy, and it is fascinating.
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
I would be one of those people on the Travel Channel who go to exotic locations for a living, or I would be the Phantom Gourmet. How do you get one of those jobs?
Favorite type of music?
I love all kinds of music. Music was a big part of every day in my family, so I love everything from Nat King Cole to Georgia Florida Line. I’m still a big fan of the 80s metal bands, though. Motley Crue, G&R, Def Leppard—you name it. The bigger the hair, the better the band.
Hobbies outside of work
While I’m rocking out to Aerosmith and Van Halen, I like to run, especially in the warmer months when I can run outside. I also do weight training several days a week. On weekends, my husband and I like to try new restaurants or plan fun activities with our friends. We have two daughters in college, so it’s difficult to do things as a family, but when we are together, we love to travel. Finally, as all my colleagues at Beacon Press know, I am a huge New England Patriots fan!
About Jill Dougan
Jill Dougan has twenty-nine years of experience in publishing, previously working with Houghton Mifflin, Pearson Education, and MPS North America. Jill’s previous experience includes rights and permissions work, author royalty management, contract negotiation and administration, and other financial capacities. Jill has a BS in Business Administration from Eastern Nazarene College. She lives in Abington with her husband and two daughters.