At Tellwell, we’re proud of the teamwork that makes book publishing happen, and at the forefront is Charlene, one of our skilled book-project managers!
Let’s explore her drive and inspirations, and how she makes books come alive. Join us to uncover the person behind the role and feel her dedication in every project.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Charlene, but I’m used to being called by my nicknames: Yen or Charlie. And since I belong to a medical family, I hold a degree in nursing, but haven’t really practiced it.
I am both spontaneous and meticulous. I plan the small activities I need to do before starting a new day (what time to wake up, shower first or breakfast? Movie or reading?) Yet, so far I have never planned the huge things in my life (the major I took in college, my travel experiences, past jobs). Amazingly, things always turn out great!
My family and friends see me as the go-getter, but I feel otherwise. I just feel like I really do not show my full potential to people. And when I feel comfortable with something, I just stop there and make it a habit. But looking back, I think I had left my comfort zone a lot of times but never recognized it.
I am a dog lover! I am always happy to talk about the times I pet sit.
I’m a homebody, but not really. I can stay inside my box-like room for a week without complaining (as long as I have food, internet, music to listen to, movies to watch, books to read). But there are times that I crave traveling—I really want to explore places that are unfamiliar to me. Experience their culture. Taste their food. Have interesting chats with other travelers. It just feels so liberating!
Can you share a bit about your journey at Tellwell from being a book-publishing consultant to your current role as a book-project manager? What motivated you to make this transition?
I got hired by Tellwell last year as a publishing consultant. That was the first time I learned all about book publishing. I never knew that a single book goes through a lot of processes before it lands in a reader’s hand.
Transitioning from my previous job teaching English to selling services was quite a challenge for me. When I was young, my grandparents had a lumber and hardware store where I used to hang out, and I helped them deal with customers. So, I said to myself, “Oh, I’ve had these moments before. I can sell products!” However, it was difficult for me. Especially when I needed to convince people of something they did not see in the moment. I remember reaching out to the team a lot during check-ins, grateful that I got to work with amazing people who supported me during those times.
Then I transferred to project managing. Our sales manager told me that appreciated my abilities and knew that I would be able to do wonders in this department. It is so grounding to know that I get to be a part of our authors’ moments to get their dreams out there! I have always been good at encouraging people, just like how I encouraged my students before. I’m a teacher at heart!
What does a typical day look like as a project manager? Could you walk us through some of the key responsibilities and tasks you handle?
I put a smile on my face before opening up my tools because I know it will get busy and challenging. I first check if I have appointments, and check the author’s account to read what their consultant had to say. I check the services and create a scenario to make our talk informative and fun. I have been told many times that this publishing journey can be overwhelming. Patience will be tested. But I always want the authors to feel the opposite. Before we end a talk, I say to the author, “I know this can be overwhelming, but know that I am here with you all throughout the process. You will never get to have a second first-time publishing moment. Let’s enjoy this!” It might be cheesy, but If I were an author I’d do this self-talk as well!
Then I check if I have active tasks to get book projects moving. After I’m done with that, I check my emails to respond to authors’ concerns or questions. Sometimes an author will need to hear from me, so rather than read my replies, I call them right away.
Tell us about a particularly challenging project you’ve managed at Tellwell. How did you navigate the difficulties and ensure a successful outcome?
During my first month as a project manager, I was given a project from a returning author. I was nervous because they probably knew the process better than I did at that time. I felt even more nervous when I saw that the previous project manager was Alison, one of our department heads. The pressure!
I was handling the project according to our rules, as taught during training. But I learned to listen to what the author was saying, and that we can always compromise.
It’s a good thing I never gave up on that author. The kind words the author sent me after the project made it all worth it!
As a book-project manager, attention to detail is highly important. How do you ensure the quality and accuracy of each book throughout the publishing process, from manuscript to final publication?
Taking note of authors’ specific instructions is a must! I also reach out to other Tellwell talents (the editors, illustrators, and designers) to make sure we have the same understanding of the authors’ wants and needs.
Collaboration and teamwork plays a vital role in publishing projects. Could you describe how you work with authors, editors, designers, and other team members to publish a book?
Positive communication is always essential—a simple greeting can go so far!
With authors, being transparent about my role as a project manager is one of the highlights of orientation calls. I remind them about which tasks I will undertake, and which ones they are responsible for.
With the rest of the Tellwell talents, I reach out to them with respect, and never disregard their ideas. I listen to what they say, then relay it to the authors. I let them understand what the authors are feeling so we can come up with a solution.
Building strong relationships with authors is important for successful collaboration. How do you foster a supportive and communicative relationship with authors, and how does this impact the overall outcome of their books?
I always aim to get authors’ trust during the orientation call. It is challenging, but I tend to show my sincerity by really showing up for them. And there are times that I need to go the extra mile for them.
Also, responding to their emails on time or calling them when they need me goes a long way.
Other than that, I do not pretend to know all the answers to their questions or immediate solutions to their concerns. By this, authors can see how genuine I am about their book projects.
As a former book-publishing consultant, what unique insights do you bring to your role as a project manager?
I can help if they have questions about their publishing packages. Some authors do not know exactly about their included services. Also, I let them understand why the consultants offered them their package in the first place, and how it affects their project’s presence in the publishing world.
Can you share a success story from your time at Tellwell, where your expertise and guidance significantly impacted the outcome of a book project?
There was a time when I got a project from an idle author. She was unresponsive, but I didn’t stop reaching out to her. One day I was able to speak with her and found out why she had pressed pause—she was getting nervous about her work!
I encouraged her every day until she finally got her confidence and courage back. She published her book project with us last May, and she’s already receiving great royalties. The most important thing is that she made her dream come true!
In your own thoughts, what sets Tellwell apart as a book-publishing company, and how does your role contribute to the company’s mission and vision?
My role as a project manager involves translating Tellwell’s overarching mission and vision into actionable steps. I ensure that my daily tasks and efforts align with our main goals. But I always believe that each and every talent here in Tellwell has a significant role in driving the company’s success and reputation.