Lisa Sharkey on Changing Careers

Lisa Sharkey, Senior Vice President, Director of Creative Development at HarperCollins Publishers and The 2016-17 David J. Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professor shares with The Reset how she transitioned from working on television news to working on book publishing.

In the article titled, Looking for Substance, Sharkey explains that after a five year long conversation with Jane Friedman, then CEO of HarperCollins she decided to leave her job at Al Roker Productions, and Good Morning America Senior Producer before that, to pursue book publishing.

She says that she was looking for a job with “more substance and something more closely aligned with my values.” Sharkey is now celebrating ten years in book publishing.

Lisa Sharkey on “Book Publishing with Celebrity Authors”

Working with celebrities to get their books published may seem daunting, but Lisa Sharkey—the Senior Vice President and the Director of Creative Development at HarperCollins Publishers—is an expert. On April 26th, Sharkey talked about the joys and challenges of working with well-known public figures on their projects in her lecture, “Book Publishing with Celebrity Authors.” This was Sharkey’s second talk as the 2016-2017 David Pecker Visiting Professor, following-up the presentation on transferable skills she gave in the fall.

With years of experience working with both intentional celebrities (actors, athletes, reality stars, etc.) and unintentional celebrities (people who became famous as a result of news story in which they are a major personality), Sharkey’s familiar with how different it is publishing and promoting a celebrity’s book versus working with a traditional writer. Through personal anecdotes and behind-the-scene details on books she’s published throughout her career, Sharkey illustrated the experience of working with people who aren’t necessarily writers themselves to publish a successful book that might even reach the New York Times bestseller list.

For the first part of her presentation, Sharkey outlined the top joys of working with celebrities. Despite most of the celebrities she works with not being professional writers for their day-jobs, Sharkey says that these books are still important to them “to their legacies.” They value the opportunity to publish their stories without having them filtered through the press for their families and friends—and, of course, for the fans. Fans of celebrities also make a huge difference in how big the book signings and sales will be and what sort of appearances they can do.

Fans “crave the first-person stories of celebrity lives” and are interested in keeping celebrity books “on their nightstand,” enough so that books by celebrities are consistently reliable holiday gift sellers, such as Alec Baldwin’s memoir Nevertheless and Gabby Douglas’s autobiography Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith. Sharkey also reveals that celebrities are used to being in the spotlight and are sociable, always camera-ready, and “rule” social media, which are all important elements for the successful marketing of books. Any area of weakness they have, Sharkey said, are also easy to deal with since celebrities generally “know what they don’t know” and are open to accepting that they need help in an arena beyond what they’re famous for.

The challenges working with celebrities are also something different than working with traditional authors. Entourages, the amplified fear of failure, and unrealistic expectations all add to the list of struggles Sharkey has dealt with when working with celebrity authors. There’s also the issue of how in-demand they are; getting celebrities to do book promotions when they’re already so busy and marketplace collisions with them when they are trying to advertise other products, are stand-out instances of how their fame can make them difficult to work with. Also, not every celebrity author has the skill to write their own books despite their desire to. Sharkey says that ghostwriters are often necessary to always have ready to assist the celebrity authors.

The pros and cons aside, working with celebrities is always memorable for Sharkey. She has met Charles, the Prince of Wales, at the Clarence House while working with him on his book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, and sharing tea with royalty in a once in a lifetime moment. She discussed the intensity of working with Jenna Miscavige Hill on her book exposing scientology, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, and recalled a time where the two asked their driver to ditch a suspicious car following them that Hill thought might be associated with Scientology. Rock star front man of Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, shared with her how emotionally moved he was over the success of his autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock, which was a chance to share, for the first time, his challenges growing up and making it through life from his point-of-view.

Lisa Sharkey with her intern and current Pace student, Jennifer Thompson

Sharkey had already shared her interesting career with us in the fall lecture, so it was fascinating to listen to her talk about the work she does getting celebrities to open up and to be honest about their lives and work in their books. As with her previous talk, Sharkey had no trouble keeping everyone invested in her talk through insightful anecdotes and straightforward, honest details about a part of the publishing industry that can feel secret and elusive to publishing students.

We appreciate and thank Sharkey for giving another well-informed and valuable talk, and for concluding her David Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professor lectures on such a memorable note.

Transferable Skills: Using What You Know to Develop Your Career

by Breana Swinehart and Kevin Mercado

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-46-24-pmLisa Sharkey, the Senior Vice President and Director of Creative Development at HarperCollins Publishers, shared her unconventional path to becoming a book publishing professional with her presentation, “Transferable Skills: Making the Change from TV to Publishing,” which she posted on Facebook Live here. Sharkey is the 2016-2017 David Pecker Visiting Professor, and this was the first of the two talks she’ll be giving at Pace University.

Sharkey defined transferable skills as “skills you pick up early in life and work to improve [that] will be useful to you as you climb the career ladder—or even if, like me, you jump off of one ladder and onto another.” Her talk focused on the transferable skills she utilized from different points in her career and life and how others can develop and harness these for their own careers.

p27aRevealing personal anecdotes and advice accrued through years of professional working experience, Sharkey explained how she went from being a major player in TV news and handling TV production and development for programs such as ABC’s “Good Morning, America” to becoming a SVP and Director for a major book publisher.

From being a teen that was looking for a way out of a rough social crowd by seeking early-admission into college, Sharkey sought to make every struggle into a lesson learned to help pivot her to success later. Some of the main transferable skills she shared—such as “thinking outside the box… the ability to start fresh… listening to your customers”—are lessons that most people who have work experience should already be familiar with to some capacity.

Sharkey’s later lessons offer more insight for people looking for professional and personal growth. “Concise writing… knowing how to take a step backwards in order to get ahead… writing in someone else’s voice… knowing how to ask for a career shift or change to make it work for your life” were some of the key transferable skills she mentioned.

imgresAdditional skills she told the audience to make applicable in their lives ranged from lighthearted “have a sense of humor” tips to managing up/down/across. She also encouraged us to “plu[g] into the zeitgeist” by keeping connected to those around us while still managing to stand out.

In Sharkey’s position at HarperCollins she oversees the acquisitions of over 40 New York Times Bestsellers, including Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes, Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar’s Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock, and books by celebrities such as Lauren Conrad, Pat Benatar, and Toni Braxton.

Sharkey leads Book Studio 16, which seeks to connect authors in relaxed, personal, and accessible platforms.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-40-24-pmSharkey used her charisma, sincerity, and candidness to engage the audience and share creative ways to approach the workplace and how to interpret and manage life lessons learned through negative experiences and new opportunities.

We are honored to have Sharkey as one of the well-respected David Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professors. We thank her for sharing her valuable insights and knowledge!

Announcing the 2016-17 Visiting David Pecker Professor, Lisa Sharkey

The 2016-17 David J. Pecker Distinguished Professorship

image003Lisa Sharkey, senior vice president and director of creative development for HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, has been appointed the David J. Pecker Distinguished Professor for the 2016-17 academic year. This Distinguished Professorship enables Pace University to recruit and invite chief executive officers of major publishing companies and other industry leaders to teach and lecture within the M.S. in Publishing Program.

The Professorship allows Pace publishing students to learn from the most successful, innovative, and influential people in the publishing world; deepens the connection between students and the industry; exposes students to the latest insights, innovations, and trends in the business; enhances the Program’s already-glowing reputation and allows  it to compete both locally and nationally.

harpercollinsIn her role as the senior vice president and director of creative development for HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide Ms. Sharkey has overseen the acquisition of more than 40 New York Times best-sellers including the million-copy selling Through My Eyes – the inspiring memoir of Tim Tebow, and multiple #1 New York Times Best Sellers from rock star Sammy Hagar, reality star Lauren Conrad and diet guru Jorge Cruise.

images-2Her sports books acquisitions include bestselling titles from NY Yankees Legend Jorge Posada, MLB Manager Tony La Russa, Red Sox Poet Laurate Dick Flavin, and Claudia Williams, daughter of Ted Williams and an upcoming book by Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, due out in fall 2016.

Sharkey’s music book acquisitions include memoirsby Tony Bennett, Pat Benatar, Gregg Allman, Cissy Houston, Toni Braxton and Mitch Winehouse (father of Amy).

conviction-the-untold-story-of-putting-jodi-arias-behind-bars-by-juan-martinezSharkey’s true crime acquisitions include Conviction by Jodi Arias Prosecutor Juan Martinez, Exposed by Jane Velez-Mitchell Stolen, Innocence by Elissa Wall, Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill and Imperfect Justice by Casey Anthony Prosecutor Jeff Ashton and the memoir Out Of Captivity by three men who were held hostage in the Colomban jungle by leftist rebels. All of these books were New York Times Bestsellers.

Sharkey also oversees all video and Facebook Live initiatives at HarperCollins including the Book Studio16 Youtube, Facebook and Instagram channels, which is the video arm of the publishing house.In November, her team will publish Settle for More, the debut book from Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly.

GMA6From 2000 to 2005 Sharkey was Senior Producer for ABC’s Good Morning America where she oversaw GMA’s on-air contributors and produced the second hour of the show. She ran the GMA medical unit, the financial news unit, headed up the consumer investigative team, the parenting unit, the home improvement and safety areas, and created and implemented multiple magazine partnerships. She has also written for Redbook and Child magazines, is a columnist for The Huffington Post and has appeared on national, syndicated and local news programs.

A two-time Emmy Award winner and ten-time Emmy nominee, Sharkey was also senior producer of the award-winning syndicated news program Inside Edition, and as President of Al Roker Entertainment in New York City from 2005 to 2007 she executive produced multiple documentaries and cable television programs including Profiles in Courage: A Kennedy Legacy which was hosted by Caroline Kennedy and aired on the NBC television stations. Lisa has been honored by a Peabody Award and a DuPont Award for her work at ABC covering the events surrounding September 11.

She and her husband, architect Paul Gleicher arimagese the co-authors of Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire published by Clarkson Potter in 2008. Sharkey is on the advisory board of Library for All, a not-for-profit organization which brings free e-books to students in the developing world and is a national public relations council member at her alma mater Washington University in St. Louis. Sharkey is also a mentor to US Military War Veterans through American Corporate Partners.

Ms.Sharkey will give two major lectures during the upcoming year and will assist in mentoring our publishing students. The Pace publishing faculty welcomes Ms. Sharkey and looks forward to working with her.