When he was at Random House in the early 2000s, Jonathan Karp published Po Bronson’s What Should I Do with My Life: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question, a book that, according to PW’s review, could be used by anyone “pondering a major life choice.” The premise of that book stayed with Karp, and now, as president and publisher of the Simon & Schuster adult publishing group, he has led the creation of a new series, Masters at Work.
The concept of the new line is to commission experienced journalists to cover different careers and report on how people made it to the top of their chosen professions. Karp sees the books as more than career guides, providing readers with inside looks at various jobs. Though he expects 20-somethings and those looking to switch jobs to be the core audience, Karp said he believes the books could have broader appeal. “We think these books are great works of nonfiction—like longer New Yorker articles,” he noted.
The S&S team has had success signing journalists who are between assignments to work on the series. The line kicks off this April with six titles: Becoming a Real Estate Agent by Tom Chiarella, Becoming a Hair Stylist by Kate Bolick, Becoming a Neurosurgeon by John Colapinto, Becoming a Veterinarian by Boris Kachka, Becoming a Marine Biologist by Virginia Morell, and Becoming a Venture Capitalist by Gary Rivlin. Rivlin and Chiarella are back in May (prime graduation season) with Becoming an Ethical Hacker and Becoming a Life Coach, respectively, along with three new authors.
Although the marketing plans for the series haven’t been firmed up, advertising on LinkedIn is set and plans are in the works to create marketing campaigns to reach college career counselors and bloggers who cover the topics of specific books, said Cary Goldstein, executive v-p, director of publicity and senior editor at S&S. Promotional materials will also be available to bookstores that order the first six books in the series. And Goldstein noted that S&S has seen “early enthusiasm” from librarians who view the series as a natural addition to their career planning sections.
Length of the $18 hardcovers ranges from 128 to 176 pages, and Karp expects to release about 18 titles in the first year. “We had a lot of fun pairing journalists with careers,” he said, noting that a range of S&S editors are involved with Masters at Work. “There are lots more fields we didn’t get to: locksmith, butcher, food scientist.” There are so many careers to add that Karp is dreaming big. “My fantasy is that this becomes like the Dummies series,” he said.