In celebration of W. W. Norton & Company’s 100th year of publishing, we’re offering readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the bookmaking process—the people behind the books and the products we create! Through our “Behind the Book” blog series, discover who plays a role in creating a book, what daily life looks like at Norton, and what being part of an independent and employee-owned company means.
Sam Tang joined W. W. Norton as a media editorial assistant for the sociology team. After two years in that role, he was promoted to his current position of media producer. He lives in Flushing, Queens.
What part do you play in the book publishing process?
As a website/ecommerce media producer, I help with the setups of our Digital Landing Pages (DLPs), which are URLs that host our textbooks and ancillaries. Customers generally purchase digital access through the DLP, which houses the content that students use to study with. DLP entitlements, which is what I mainly work with, control how students access the book and what they can access. I also help resolve and plan for access issues that our students and instructors face as they use our books and online resources.
My role interacts with all parts of the book publishing process: participating in prelaunch discussions, where teams discuss ideas around ecommerce setups and digital offerings for upcoming titles; overseeing the digital construction of the title as it gets built on the Norton website; and, finally, when the book goes on sale and the ecommerce options are available on the DLP, helping customers with any issues they encounter.
For your current role, what does an average day look like?
An average day varies greatly and really depends on whom I can help. I go through emails and see if any help-desk tickets have come in that need my attention or if I’m needed for any interdepartmental things. Problem-solving can range from a student having bought the wrong book or having an access issue with a code to a bookstore having ordered the wrong title or a class tester needing access support.
What skills do you need to succeed in your job?
Listening, prioritizing, and asking the right questions. A lot of my work is based around helping people figure out how to resolve their issues. That can really start only when I know what issues they’re experiencing. Sometimes people think they know what’s going on, so they give a limited report of their problems, but it’s up to me to help determine if there’s something deeper.
How did you end up at Norton, or what enticed you to apply?
I had an interest in technology, higher education, and publishing and was looking for a role that ideally had components of all three. A friend of mine who was the chemistry media editor at Norton told me about the company and what it was like to work on the media team, and I was interested. I initially applied for the music media editorial assistant position, and while I didn’t get that role, the editor liked my application and forwarded it to the sociology media editor. I interviewed for that assistantship, which ended up being a better fit for me.
Have you participated in any extracurricular programs at Norton?
I’m one of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory (DIA) Committee chairs, and I serve on the Make Our Own Fun (MOOF) Committee, which plans activities for in-office staff. I’ve also played on the Norton softball team, volunteered with Read Ahead, a local literary organization, and competed (and won) twice in the annual Norton bakeoff. Engaging in these things is a great way to learn about the company and to make friends and meet people. It’s hard to build a social circle when you’re an adult, so these are great opportunities to create bonds and relationships. These activities can be rewarding too. With DIA I get to do my part to help make Norton a more diverse and inclusive space, and that means a lot to me.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in publishing?
Understand that publishing a book is a massive machine that is impacted by many people. Your role in publishing is important, but it also has a relationship with many other people and positions. Try to understand the greater context of how your work intersects with others, and figure out what you can do to make that run smoothly. Things like being detailed, being prompt and timely in responses, and just learning how to ask questions and listen are all critical.
Lastly, what do you like to do outside of work? Any fun hobbies or recent reads you would recommend?
I enjoy baking, cooking, and playing video games. I recently got a PC and have started PC gaming. I also play Dungeons & Dragons with some friends in Brooklyn, and there’s a D&D show I like to watch called Dimension 20.