“So, You Want to Work in Publishing?”–Aly Northridge

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. (For previous posts in the series, check out this page.) 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: Aly Northridge
Current Title: Assistant Editor
Hometown: Medford, NJ
Graduated from: University of Maryland, College Park 2011
Where you currently work and live: Laurel, MD

Path to Publishing:

I guess you could say I’m not your typical English major. I’ve known I wanted to work in publishing since my junior year of high school, and I was fortunate enough to be able to tailor my education as such. My neighbor was actually an editor for a magazine, and since she worked at home with two small children, I helped her out a few days a week one summer during high school. I didn’t do much, but I got to listen to her experiences, got a first-hand glance at publishing, and even traveled with her to NYC for a meeting. It was such a wonderful opportunity, and it opened my eyes to the world of publishing. I was hooked!

In college, I was in a living-learning program that encouraged its students to get internships early, and my sophomore year I had an internship working with a local academic publishing company as a marketing intern. It was a huge piece of luck that the person I was interning for was based in Cincinnati, so I was able to work from my dorm room instead of taking 3 buses to the office. (My car was at home in New Jersey.) My boss was such a nice guy – even though I was doing very boring data mining work (I literally spent more than an entire Harry Potter book on tape Googling email addresses) – he always took the time to explain how what I was doing helped with the bigger picture. I really felt that my boss cared about my internship experience, and I really appreciated how he tried to give me context for everything I did, even though it wasn’t very exciting.

The next spring, since I had a car, I tried to find an editorial position, as that was the area of publishing I was actually interested in. I was lucky enough to get a position at the same academic publishing company, this time in acquisitions. I helped put together packets for editorial board meetings, and helped find reviews on potential manuscripts. In academic publishing, manuscripts need to be peer reviewed for the sake of the author’s credibility, but it also helps the editorial staff. Most of us are English majors, not specialists in criminology, sociology, etc, though we might be. Reviews are incredibly important, and as an intern I helped track down reviewers and mail giant manuscripts. (Publishing is not for the paper-conscious). I also found endorsers to contribute blurbs to the back of the book once the books were close to completion. This internship was extremely valuable, and not just because I got more of a hands-on experience on the editorial side. I used this internship to pick my boss’s brain – as my parents are both engineers, they stressed the importance of continued education. She, and many other editors, had attended the Denver Publishing Institute. She said it was a valuable opportunity to network and learn about the publishing industry, especially if you didn’t have any publishing experience previously. This sounded like an amazing opportunity, so I researched it and ended up applying to Denver and the NYU Publishing Institute. But we’ll discuss that later….

I think it’s also worth mentioning that I ended my college career with an internship outside of publishing. I found my previous two internships through my university’s English department list, and on a whim, I started searching on internships.com. I wasn’t crazy about having an internship my senior year, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to network and get more job experience. I ended up with an internship at the Smithsonian Associates as a Web and eMarketing Intern. My boss’s assistant had recently left, so he was literally the only eMarketing employee. He treated me like his assistant, which was wonderful. We even brainstormed different ways to market our activities, and I tried my hand at copywriting and editing. It was a great experience, and a way to expose myself to other jobs for English majors.

If there’s a piece of advice I can give other English majors, it’s to be open minded. There are so many jobs out there that need good writers/readers/editors. While publishing is definitely my thing, you can easily get jobs in publicity, marketing, and lots of other jobs. If you can write creatively, I promise there are jobs out there for you. Just keep an open mind.

As I mentioned earlier, I applied to both the Denver Publishing Institute and the NYU Publishing Institute. I ended up going to NYU because I thought there would be better connections for me, as NYC is basically the publishing capital of America (and the world, in my opinion). There are definitely pros and cons (pros being the AMAZING amount of people we got to meet, cons being that I had absolutely no interest during the three weeks of magazine publishing), but all in all it was a great experience. If nothing else, I lived in NYC on the (relatively) cheap for six weeks. That alone was worth it. Although I didn’t take advantage of all the networking opportunities since I had a job halfway through the program, there were so many good chances to meet people in publishing.

How did you find out about your first publishing job?

During my time in NYC, it seemed like everyone was scrambling to apply for jobs. I applied to a few blind postings (heard nothing), but routinely checked the publishing company’s website for which I had interned. Once night, I saw an opening and applied for it immediately. The next day I got a call to set up a phone interview, and a week later I had a job offer. It was unbelievably exciting, and would not have been possible without my internship experience. Of the twelve people in our acquisitions department, six have been interns. As we are a small press, the like to hire internally, and reward interns for their service by giving them jobs.

I was very fortunate to get my job, but part of me wishes I had held out for some interviews in New York. It’s very much a “what could have been” dream of mine, but I’m very happy living in Maryland.

What does your typical day look like?

Publishing is very much as a client based business, especially in acquisitions. I deal with authors almost constantly – I think I send out about 300 emails a day. I’m constantly emailing and communicating with authors – whether to ask for materials, answer questions, or direct them to my editor.

I work with one editor as her assistant. My main goal is to take over much of the paperwork/workflow so my editor can read proposals and decide on which contracts to offer. I offer contracts, prepare manuscripts for production, get reviews, get endorsements, and in general answer many questions. As I am in academic publishing, this means I work with a lot of professors, and we attend many academic conferences to meet with these scholars in person to discuss potential books. I did not think traveling would be a big part of publishing, but my editor travels quite a bit going to conferences and meeting professors/authors. (Sometimes I get to go, too!) It’s definitely a lot of work, and doing different tasks, but it’s always different and I love interacting with people and making their book a reality.
#1 Thing You’d Advise People Trying to Get a Similar Position:

Get an internship! I know this might be a little late for some readers, but it was really the most valuable thing I did for my career. It helped that I was always focused on getting a job in publishing, but connections mean everything, especially in this economy. Find a way to connect with people in the industry you want, follow blogs (like this one!), and read up on the industry. I subscribe to Shelf Awareness, Publisher’s Weekly, Media Bistro/GalleyCat and a number of publishing blogs. It’s really good to keep up the publishing news, especially as the world of publishing continues to change.

One of the best parts of working with a small press is the opportunity to see the different parts of publishing. Publicity is around the corner, and production is just down the hall. Our marketing guy is based in New York, but he phones in on our meetings and is in regular contact with me through email. There are tons of jobs in publishing, so don’t restrict yourself to just “editorial.” There are lots of different jobs in publishing, and for English majors, so keep an open mind.

Connect!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me!

Email: Alison.northridge@gmail.com

Or find me on Linked In.

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4 thoughts on ““So, You Want to Work in Publishing?”–Aly Northridge

  1. lindseycrittenden says:

    I’d like to chime in to support Alison’s advice to keep an open mind. I was an English major, did a summer publishing course, and knew that I wanted to be an editor. Guess what/? My first editorial job was awful — bearable at the time, but looking back now, a bad fit. On a hunch, I moved into another dept within the same company and spent the next few years happily gaining skills and confidence in the field of production. I came back to working with words, as a writer, but I’m always grateful for the teamwork and flexibility I gained working with artists, graphic designers, printers, typesetters (now I’m dating myself), etc etc.

    • hannahkarena says:

      Thanks for adding your voice of encouragement! I think a lot of people get their “dream job” and once they get used to it they realize they’re not happy, but they don’t understand why, so they try to force themselves into the mold. Glad to hear you took the chance and moved departments! Awesome :]

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