Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in Publishing! Every Thursday you can look forward to the personal stories of how someone else broke into publishing. The guest bloggers and I hope that you find our stories encouraging, informative, and helpful in your own path to a publishing career.
If you’re a publishing professional interested in contributing to the blog series, feel free to contact me at HannahKJones10@yahoo.com.
Name: Mattie Sowash
Editorial Assistant, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins (Medical Publisher)
(Since the publication of this post, Mattie has moved on to become a Marketing Assistant at Macmillan. So excited for her!) Mattie is now an International Marketing Coordinator at Scholastic!
Hometown: Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated from: Bloomsburg University, Bachelor of Liberal Arts English/Professional Writing May 2010; Rosemont College MA Publishing/Editing Bryn Mawr, PA April 2012
Where I currently work and live: Philadelphia, PA
Your Path to Publishing
My original interest in publishing started as an undergraduate when I was trying to decide what I planned on doing with an English degree. I knew my options were varied, but I wanted a specific track and I started taking classes that pertained more to professional communication, versus literature studies. I only knew from the start that while I enjoyed writing and did it well, I didn’t want to be a writer/in education, and wanted to be working with and around writers. During my sophomore year I literally fell upon an editorial/publishing internship, when I overheard a creative writing student discussing her plans to go to Charleston, South Carolina to partake in an editorial month-long internship with Tupelo Press/The Crazyhorse Journal (a poetry and fiction journal run out of the College of Charleston). I jumped into the conversation, applied, and within three weeks I was on my way. The internship had me working for about 5 hours a day on the editorial and design aspects of the journal, marketing meetings, digging through tremendous slush piles, and recommending submissions for print. Aside from falling in love with the city, I was exposed to all editorial aspects of print and met several first book authors and editors from the Tupelo Amherst, MA office. I continued to involve myself in several projects during my undergraduate year to get a better picture of what type of publishing I wanted to be a part of. I copyedited the school newspaper, worked with the school’s literary journal editing/design teams, and worked for the school’s writing center as a tutor.
After graduating, I decided that I still hadn’t found exactly where I wanted to be in terms of a career. I decided to apply to a publishing masters program close to home (Philadelphia) and within three months had moved and jumped into graduate classes that included: a book publishing overview where I wrote a full marketing proposal for a first-time author, magazine publishing where I designed and marketed a unique magazine first-issue, and several other editorial and design classes related to trade book publishing. For several months I did an internship with the editor and chief of a local magazine, House and Home which was a home design magazine. I worked with the editor to help write copy, manage proofs, get a solid facebook presence, and research new topics for the magazine to cover. It wasn’t until I took a children’s book publishing course, which was a comprehensive study of current trends, standards, and titles in children’s books, that I knew I had found my niche. I loved all aspects of children’s publishing, the way it felt to reread and study books I had read over and over as a child, and realized that I wanted to work in trade in some form of children’s publishing (education markets, trade markets, higher education textbooks). I immediately set out to design my course schedule around this new-found interest, and in the summer of 2011 I took an editorial internship with Running Press Kids/Perseus Books Group in Philadelphia. I worked with two wonderful children’s book editors who only increased my interest in this genre, editing proofs, preparing marketing materials, working on catalog copy/tip sheets/book reviews, and getting familiar with the parts of publishing that you really only get when you are crammed in a cubicle, not getting paid, for 7 hours a day. Meanwhile, I was working as a waitress, taking summer classes involving PR and marketing. During this internship and my first year of school I realized how important it was to network and build relationships with anyone and everyone related to what you wanted to do. I would attend book signings, school funded lectures from professionals in publishing, and the like just to walk up to people after and talk to them about what they did, how they got there, and introduce myself.
Halfway through the summer, an application to a paid internship with Lippincott Williams and Wilkins as an editorial intern was passed on to me and I applied. I got the internship and alternated between Running Press and Nursing/Medical books the rest of the summer. Shortly after getting the Lippincott Internship, I applied for a full time job at a satellite Philadelphia location as an editorial assistant, and got the job. I have been there for about a year now. I work on an editorial staff as the liaison between authors, editors, production, and design, and edit all original manuscripts submitted by the authors. I am also in charge of their web outreach efforts, and am an integral part of their iPad app development. I took this job, honestly, as a means to get to the next step. Instead of waitressing to stay afloat financially while I finished school, I wanted something that had to do with editing and to get real job experience—this job provides that, but I am still persistent about my goal to work in children’s publishing. And while it has been difficult to do in a city with such a limited market, like Philadelphia, I have been busy completing my thesis on the evolution of apps in children’s publishing, and took part time work with Mary Kate Doman, a marketing consultant for children’s books, to keep my head in the game. My work with Mary Kate has opened up a number of doors, including interviews, connections with several children’s book editors, and the ability to network/apply for my ideal job without the fear of searching for a job without a paycheck supporting me in the meantime. I am also able to work on projects for Mary Kate which include marketing campaigns and copy for online downloadables for publishers such as HarperCollins (she worked for both HarperCollins and Scholastic, and currently manages a database of over 300 children’s book clients that include Candlewick, Penguin, and Chronicle). One of the biggest lessons I have learned while working with her and in something like medical publishing is to never close off doors to career options—for a very long time I only applied to editorial positions, assuming that my background (all editorial) would move me forward. This is not the case. At the beginning of this year I began applying for publicity, marketing, and production jobs for the sake of a) being looked at by major presses, and b) using my experience in writing elsewhere where the job market is not as restricted.
How did you find out about your first publishing job and/or internship?
As I said before, everything I have done in terms of internships and even job opportunities came to me by word of mouth, being nosy and asking questions about what other people were doing, and networking. The girl who I had heard about Charleston from originally never took that internship. I don’t know where she ended up but I know that experience provided me with the background to move into Running Press, and so on and so forth. I have used my time at Rosemont to get a better understanding of all different kinds of publishing whether it be e-publishing, magazine, trade, medical journals, or academic/scholarly content. By not sticking to one form of writing I have given myself options in terms of where I can work successfully.
What does your typical day look like?
Right now a typical day for me involves acquisitioning new authors on timely topics, editing word documents according to our journal style, working with clinical editors and authors to add revisions to submissions, working with my editor to develop enhanced content for our soon-to-be-launched apps, managing all social networking for two titles, managing and ghostwriting blogs for two titles, and writing and distributing our monthly e-newsletter.