Name: Gary Luke
College & Majors/Minors: Western Washington University (although it was called Western Washington State College when I graduated). English major.
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Form of Employment: President & Publisher of Sasquatch Books
Where do you work and what is your current position? We want to hear about what it's like to work at Sasquatch Books!
I am the president and publisher of Sasquatch Books, a regional publishing company in Seattle. I’m responsible for business results of the company, and I have lots of help in the area from the associate publisher and the controller. I also lead the editorial department that signs up the books we publish. So I look at a lot of numbers and I read many pages of materials (molecules and electrons) looking for good writers and interesting book ideas.
What is your advice to people who are hoping to work in the publishing industry?
The book publishing industry is undergoing a lot of change these days. But it has been doing that since I started working as an assistant editor in 1979! A good candidate for the publishing world has to be a book lover and a passionate reader. And that reading doesn’t have to be just literature, it can be history or psychology or business. Publishing people are interested in cultural and social trends whether that’s the latest installment of “Nashville” or an argument that’s going on in academia. Be widely interested in the world but become an expert in a few topics.
Tell us about other jobs you've held that have been important in your career.
I’ve only worked in the publishing industry. My objective from the start was to be an editor (based on not very much information!) but my first job was in sales as an educational representative in the Midwest for Dell/Delacorte. I think seeing the distribution end of things and experiencing the reality of presenting a book to a buyer were instrumental in forming my sense of what a book has to go through to get to a reader.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? What kinds of extracurriculars did you participate in?
I read British literature from the beginning until it was time for me to leave school. So in 4.5 years, I got up to the late 18th century. But I took an expository writing class where we read several writers including Joan Didion. I fell in love with her essays. So, I learned in school that books have a lot of meaning—cerebral, emotional, historical. I assumed that the way to be in touch with that and not have to get a Ph.D. was to pursue book publishing. Practically all that I read in college was poetry, drama, and fiction. But most of the books that I have edited and published have been nonfiction. Understanding the elements of storytelling has been an essential skill.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
The world is your oyster! English majors know how to read, think, analyze, and write. Those stills have value in every setting in modern life. This is old fogey advice, but here goes: read a good newspaper like The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. I would also say go ahead and splurge on a paper subscription. The NYT is my self-help guide because it makes me a better-informed person.