“So, You Want to Work in Publishing?”–Molly Martin


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: Molly Martin
Current Title: Editorial Assistant at TIME/Editorial Assistant at Time Home Entertainment Inc.
Hometown: Wichita, Kansas
Graduated from: University of Kansas, 2011
Where you currently work and live: New York City

Path to Publishing:

I became interested in magazine journalism in high school as an editor for the school’s newsmagazine. When deciding on a major at the University of Kansas, I knew journalism was the right choice based on the Journalism school’s excellent reputation and my passion for writing and the news. I knew I was on the right path and that this education was valuable, thanks to some inspiring professors.

During the summer of 2010 I was an intern at NakedCity, a monthly culture and lifestyle magazine in Wichita, Kansas. I grew up in Wichita, but NakedCity’s fresh and unapologetic editorial style revealed the city’s art and music scene in a way I had never seen. In addition to uploading and organizing online content, I also learned about the inner workings of the small yet vocal publication.

After my summer at NakedCity, I became a staff writer for my university’s weekly lifestyle magazine, Jayplay. I also took all the magazine courses available, which included courses in writing, publishing and design. In the publishing course I devised an idea for a new magazine and created the business plan for it. Later, I designed its first issue.

I also sought professional experience, and over winter break of my senior year I did a features’ internship at Redbook. I polished my research skills and learned to communicate well with editors. Although I was only at Redbook for a month, I gained hands-on experience and networking opportunities. I promised myself I would give a publishing career a shot.

I was editor of Jayplay in my final college semester, supervising a staff of 14 writers, an associate editor and a designer. I grew as a leader and honed my editing skills. During this last semester I applied to the New York University Summer Publishing Institute (SPI). When at Redbook, several colleagues recommended the program, and I knew it would be a great start to a publishing career in New York City. I gladly accepted when I received the invitation to attend.

I went into SPI with a lot of confidence and a lot of drive. I knew I wanted a career in magazine publishing, and I was interested in editing, but I wanted to learn about other publishing opportunities. For six weeks I soaked in as much information as possible. I sat in the front row. I took notes. I asked questions. I made an effort to learn as much as possible and to connect with professionals who had careers that I aspired to or who worked at publications that I liked. I followed up with people I met and often asked for informal interviews for further advice.

One such informal interview—a summer evening’s chat in Bryant Park—led me to TIME.

How did you find out about your first publishing job and/or internship?

During the SPI magazine publishing alumni panel last year I was sitting front and center, hanging on every word. I had been looking forward to this day, for the chance to hear from the young people who, not too long ago, were just as eager to break into publishing as we were.

I quickly identified with one of the alumni from 2010. She was an editorial assistant, the position I wanted, at Architectural Digest. So far, I had not met any editorial assistants at SPI. Before that she was an editorial intern at TIME, which was her first job after SPI. I admired her drive and was impressed with what she had accomplished in less than a year. Right when the panel ended, I walked up to her, chatted a bit, and asked her for an informal interview. We met at Bryant Park not too long after that and I asked her for advice.

After a few weeks of job searching, I remembered how much she valued the experience of working at TIME, and I became interested in pursuing my first publishing job there as well. With her recommendation and SPI on my resume as a talking point, I got my first publishing job at TIME.

What does your typical day look like?

I don’t have a typical day at the magazine. Tasks change day to day, but my responsibilities include fact checking stories for the print magazine, transcribing interviews, and organizing and tracking all incoming books for potential review. Meaning, a typical day can include a lot of researching, communicating with editors and writers, keen listening and typing.

When working at Time Books my tasks also vary, according to what the editorial director may need me to do and depending on which book or project we’re working on at that time. For example, for the book project that we’re working on now, a typical day may include reporting, finding sources and contact information for the book writer, a project conference call with the editor, writer, photo editor and art director, giving updates to everyone involved, researching and fact checking.

#1 Thing You’d Advise People Trying to Get a Similar Position:

A foot in the door can lead to so much more!

Connect with her: via LinkedIn or Twitter: @MollyDMartin

So, You Want to Work in Publishing

Publishing exists outside NYC! Get a hands-on internship at a local publisher near you!

I got my dream job pretty much right out of college: an editor at a book publishing company. But as those of you who have broken into the publishing industry know–and as those who haven’t broken in yet, probably suspect–it wasn’t easy to get a job in publishing.

When I went to The Susquehanna Review launch party a few weeks ago, I had a lovely conversation over dinner with a university poetry professor. When she heard I worked in publishing, she started peppering me with questions. “Most of my students want to know what they should do to get a job in publishing,” she explained. “What should I tell them?”

I remember, not too long ago, being the same desperately uniformed student. I went to a good state university with a wonderful creative writing program, but we didn’t have any fancy publishing classes like a lot of universities apparently do, no connections in the publishing industry to secure internships, and pretty much zilch guidance for how to break into publishing. If you majored in English at my school, it was assumed you were also majoring in Eduction. Everyone in turn assumed that every English major had a pretty standard, prearranged teaching career ahead of them. Though there were classes dedicated to technical writing and other practical skills that could translate into a book-loving writing-enthusiastic career other than teaching, little effort was dedicated to preparing English students for those alternate careers outside the classroom. If a student wanted a publishing internship, for example, they needed to do the research, find the opportunity, and arrange for it themselves. It was a daunting and, as I found out, often fruitless task.

When I attended the NYU Publishing Institute and started meeting other publishing enthusiasts, and even when I secured my current job, I started hearing about all sorts of internship opportunities I WISH I had known about beforehand.

So in memory of my own desperate and unguided attempts to break into publishing, I’ve decided to start a weekly guest blog series, “So, You Want to Work in Publishing.” A bunch of publishing professionals I know have agreed to participate–people who work at the big names like HarperCollins, Wiley, and Hachette and others who work in equally awesome, but less known companies outside of NYC (for those of us who don’t dream about living in the city).

Every Thursday, from now on, 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. I’ll update the new So, You Want to Work in Publishing page every week so that you can easily find the links to each guest blog post. I’m going to organize them by position (editorial, production/design, marketing, etc.) so that you can specifically read about the type of publishing experience you’re dreaming of.

Today, I’m going to kick off the blogging series with the story of my own path to publishing:

Name: Hannah Karena Jones
Current Title: Assistant Editor
Hometown: Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Graduated from: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, May 2011
Where I currently work and live: I live in Monmouth Junction, NJ and work about a half hour away in Piscataway, NJ

My Path to Publishing: Since I was in elementary school, I knew I wanted to be an author. I was that kid who brought books out to the playground at recess and preferred reading to the monkey bars (I always fell off them! Every time. I was completely athletically challenged). But I was told by everyone that it wasn’t a “real job.” It was an “and” job. I’d say, “I want to be a writer,” and my teacher, girl scout leader, etc. would say, “That’s nice. What else are you going to do? You’re going to be a writer and . . .” and then stare at me expectantly. (Even when I was in elementary school, they wouldn’t let me just write “author” down as what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I also put down veterinarian.) I can’t remember the moment, exactly, that I decided I wanted to be a writer and editor–I suppose it was a natural thought process to want to read and work with books all the time–but I remember my mom and I doing research and discovering the Columbia Publishing Course and the New York University Summer Publishing Institute when I was  freshman in college. Because both courses are designed for recent graduates or young professionals trying to switch careers, I had to count down the years until I could apply. Thankfully, NYU accepted me. More on that later.

Before I graduated, I managed to cram in a lot of experiences. I served on the Warren Literary Art Journal prose and poetry review boards for two years and then I served as the co-chief editor of the publication for two more years. I fell in love with reading short fiction, memoir, and poetry and actually really enjoyed the production process, once I figured out how to use Quark and InDesign software, and was dedicated to finding a job at a literary journal–until I realized that there basically isn’t a paid literary journal position in existence anywhere in the world, except for maybe The Paris Review.

So I putted around and did an online editorial internship with Philadelphia Stories, where I read and critiqued submissions, sent out rejection and/or acceptance letters, and organized electronic files. I also job shadowed a literary agent for a few days, to get an idea of what an agent actually did (a lot of legal contract stuff and a lot of rejecting query letters who ignored her submission guidelines). One of the most valuable experiences I had was designing the website for Watershed: The Journal of the Susquehanna, a fabulous publication Professor Jerry Wemple had founded a few years before, for a class. That in turn lead to an opportunity to serve as the managing editor of the journal, where I was chiefly responsible for designing the page and cover layout.

I think the best way to put it is that I thought I wanted to work in publishing before the NYU program; I thought I wanted to work in magazines (literary journals, specifically) and I thought I wanted to be an editor. But after the six-week intense crash course in all things magazine, book, and digital publishing, I knew I wanted to work in book publishing and I knew I wanted to be an editor (I was also open to subrights positions because they get to travel all the time!) The six-week institute dedicated three weeks to the magazine industry and three weeks to the book industry. Digital publishing and discussions on the rise and importance of e-readers were emphasized throughout the program.

Students were divided into groups for hands-on projects; first they had to launch their own magazine–complete with a business plan and cover designs–and then they had to launch their own book publishing imprint. From beginning to end, the program offered daily lectures and panel discussions totaling in over 150 editors, publishers, content directors, web editors, marketers, publicity directors, art directors, literary agents, production managers, professional bloggers, booksellers, and authors, exposing students to the wide landscape of publishing and the various jobs within it, while at the same time offering the opportunity to forge invaluable professional contacts.

I learned a lot at the program, both about publishing and where exactly my niche in publishing was. Because I was exposed to pretty much every kind of publication and publisher, and every type of person involved with the industry, I learned exactly what positions and what kind of companies I would be interested in working for. I was able to hold my own in interviews; instead of saying I wanted to be an editor simply because I love reading, I was able to cognitively have discussions about the publishing industry, developments in ebook technology, and ask informed questions. The program was great for me, as a last-ditch effort to dive into the publishing industry (and it’s one of the best ways to break into the NYC publishing scene, if that’s your goal).

Opportunities I wish I knew about when I was still a student:

All the publishers in the Philadelphia area who offer internship opportunities! I honestly believed that the only publishing internships available were in NYC, so every summer I would apply for the super competitive spots at the HarperCollins Summer Internship Program, the Penguin Internship Program, and the Scholastic Summer Internship. I thought I had “failed” every summer when I didn’t get one. If only someone had told me that there were so many quality internship opportunities right here in the Philadelphia area! Running Press, Quirk Books, Princeton University Press, and the Internship Program at Penn Press all offer internships in multiple departments.

How did you find out about your first publishing job?

Indeed.com, specifically looking for “assistant editor” job openings. But I found out about a majority of the jobs I applied for on the Publishers Lunch Job Board, the job board for publishing positions. Also, I’d recommend signing up for the Publishers Lunch and Shelf Awareness newsletters. They’re a great daily read and a great way to stay updated about the publishing industry (and any position openings).

What does your typical day look like?

I work 9-5 and spend a good chunk of the morning responding to emails from authors, and other people involved in our publication process. Some days I read a lot, some days I don’t read/edit anything besides the promotional copy in our book catalogs. My job is predominately about organization and keeping a slew of books (about forty-five titles a year) on schedule; I need to make sure the copyediting is done on time so that typesetting can begin on time so that the book comes out on time. I create page estimates and P&L’s*, present books at cover meetings, do book checks to identify and eliminate errors, and edit the content on our website. Every day is a different mixture of these responsibilities.

Connect with her: As you all know, you can follow my blog, follow me on twitter (@HannahKarena10), friend me on goodreads, and, if you’re interested, add me as a professional connection on LinkedIn.

If you’re a publishing professional interested in contributing to the blog series, feel free to contact me at HannahKJones10@yahoo.com.

*Profit and Loss statements compare the forthcoming book you’re working on to other comparable titles–for example, sales of book #1 of The Hunger Games are a good indication of how many books the second volume in the series will sell–with the chief goal to decide how much the book should cost and how many copies should be ordered.

An E-Reader Battle: Kindle Fire vs. Kindle

My boyfriend completely surprised me this year when we exchanged gifts and I unwrapped a Kindle Fire. Only last Christmas, his parents had shocked me by giving me a traditional Kindle so I was not expecting the newest product in the Kindle line. Though in the past few months I was aware of the release of newer versions, the novelty of my traditional Kindle had certainly not worn off. Admittedly, when I first received my Kindle last year, I was hesitant. I was (and still am) a staunch supporter of libraries and physical books. I had never enjoyed reading on computer screens and wasn’t sure I would like reading on an e-reader. However, after downloading and reading several books, I was completely won over by the format.

Because the Kindle has an e-ink screen, it feels exactly like reading a physical book (none of those sore-eye-inducing back-lit screen problems associated with Nooks, for example), with bonus features: it was easy to get newly released books that my local Barnes and Noble hadn’t yet put out for sale, the books were generally cheaper (at the time I was a broke college student who had a hard time sustaining her reading habit), and I was stunned by how much lighter it made my suitcase when we packed for our Savannah vacation–one Kindle is significantly lighter than an assortment of five paperbacks and two hardback books, because I can never tell what reading mood I’ll be in once I have free time, so I pack a sizable travel library. Also, I love that I never have to relocate my place in the book because the Kindle bookmarks my page for me.

The Kindle Fire has received a slew of mixed reviews, so I wanted to give it a thorough testing before I shared my opinion. To cut to the chase, I love it!

Good Things about the Kindle Fire: It’s everything, all in one device! Music, Books, Magazines, Newspapers, Videos, Web. The Kindle is excellent for the purposes of reading basic chapter books, but doesn’t serve much in terms of other functions.

  • Magazines and Graphic Novels: It’s in color so now I can read color-centric publications that I couldn’t read before on my Kindle. I’ve already subscribed to Better Homes and Gardens magazine (I should finally own my very own New Jersey condo by January 20th, cross your fingers for me!) for decorating ideas and, even though it’s more expensive to subscribe on a tablet than to the paper version, I so much prefer reading magazines on tablets! The bonus videos that show exactly how to do DIY projects and the imbedded apps in which you can change the colors on the walls with a simple touch are incredibly useful and exceed the possibilities of a print publication.
  • Videos: It’s so much more convenient to bring around than my laptop (especially because my laptop battery is dead so I need to trail the power cord behind me and set-up near an outlet) and, using the free trial of Amazon Prime, I’ve already watched the entire first season of Downton Abbey (a 1910s-period British television show that is amazing!) for free while on the treadmill.
  • Web: As long as I can connect to Wi-Fi, I can check my email, facebook, twitter account, blog–everything.
  • Books: The layout of books is more attractive on the Kindle Fire than on the Kindle–it includes headers and less typos/spacing errors.

Less than Ideal Things about the Kindle Fire:

  • Books: Back-lit screen makes it feel like I’m reading on a computer. Also, the screen is so sensitive that sometimes is jumps forward a huge amount of pages and often when I go back to read a book after doing something else for awhile, it failed to hold my page and I need to go searching through to find where I left off. Also, because the screen is not e-ink, there is a definite sun-glare when reading outside or in the wrong light.

So, in conclusion, I still love my traditional Kindle for book-reading purposes, but am super excited about the opportunity to read magazines and graphic novels–and enjoy other media–on the Kindle Fire. Even though I know the Kindle Fire was probably designed to replace and expand upon the other Kindle products, I plan on carrying both around with me, so that I’m prepared for whatever reading experience–books, magazines, blogs, web–I’m in the mood for.

Win WEAVE Magazine’s 1st Annual Writing Contest

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Weave Magazine is a dark and fabulous literary journal.  Or, as they like to describe it:

Weave is dark humor and magical realism. Weave is strange and fantastical. Weave also loves realistic narratives in fiction and poetry. Weave loves honest and simple nonfiction, not confessional for confessions sake. Weave loves strong, well-developed characters. Weave especially loves when female characters are well thought out. Weave loves flawed characters. Weave loves retellings of old stories, fairy tales and myths. Weave is the universal told with unique, exciting language. Weave loves when writers play with language. Weave loves a poem that grabs our attention early and avoids clichés. Weave loves surprises. Weave also loves poems about animals. We love a good monkey poem, but have yet to find one. On that day, Weave will dance. Dance!

There is a distinct vibe that runs through all the pieces it publishes.  I don’t know how to explain it other than to provide an example.  The short story that stands out the most in my memory is one about a mother watching her toddler choke to death while she seriously considers the benefits of denying the child the Heimlich maneuver.  It seems morbid to claim that it’s a good magazine after describing that, but it is.  Read some samples.

What They Want:  Poetry and Flash Fiction (two separate contests).

When They Want It: July 31, 2011

How They Want It: online submission.  See further submission guidelines.

Judges:  Poetry Judge: Lisa Marie Basile and Flash Fiction Judge: Bridgette Shade

Prize?  $100 first prize for each!

I shall be submitting!  So good luck to me and to all of you as well :]

Hunting for Undiscovered Publication Paths

As I mentioned earlier, I was slammed with a load of rejection letters this week.  This means that I need to start up the submission process again.  However, I’ve kind of run out of ideas of where to send my writing.  Does anybody have any recommendations for literary journals to submit fiction and creative non-fiction to?  Or a resource that lists submission-accepting publications?  How do you research and discover new literary journals?

On a side note, I did learn about a really neat new boutique publisher of long form non-fiction.  The Atavist only publishes Kindle singles (and the same stories on other e-reader platforms, like the Nook, and iPad).  If you like reading non-fiction stories and journalism that’s too long to fit in a magazine and too short to be a book, go read “My Mother’s Lover” or “Lifted” (my two personal favorites).  I’m a big fan of this seemingly new genre of writing.  They accept pitches, so if you are itching to write one consider querying them.  They seem to do a pretty fair payment price split (50/50, I believe).

My current short story submission status:

  1. Painted Bride Quarterly (date submitted: January 4th; what submitted: 1 fiction, 1 non-fiction)  Official Response Time:  unknown
  2. Cicada (date submitted: February 16th; what submitted: 2 poems)  Official Response Time: up to 4 months
  3. Zahir (date submitted:  April 25th; what submitted: 1 fiction)  Official Response Time: 1-2 months
  4. storySouth (date submitted: June 1st; what submitted: 1 fiction)  Official Response Time: 2-6 months
  5. Weave magazine (date submitted:  June 1st; what submitted: 1 non-fiction)  Official Response Time: 3 months

It’s been just over two months for my Zahir submission, so maybe I’ll be hearing back from this week.

Now, back to bed.  Good luck with your writing, submissions, and literary journal hunting.  And good luck to me on recovering.

What to Expect While Submitting to the Owl Eye Review and Palooka

I’m a strong believer in simultaneous submissions.  So I’ve had this creative non-fiction short story, “What To Expect While Grieving for Your Father” that I’ve been submitting around multiple places for a month or so.  It’s gotten three rejection letters–from New Delta Review, Owl Eye Review, and Palooka–and today [drum roll please!] I was notified that The Susquehanna Review accepted it!!  (Which meant I needed to withdraw it from consideration at The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle.  Read here about how NOT to withdraw your materials).

On one note, I’d like to encourage everyone to keep submitting stories they really believe in even if somebody hasn’t liked it (yet).  On another note, I think everyone should bookmark the current issues page at The Susquehanna Review and wait with bated breath for the day that they post the entire new issue online.  Then read my awesome (and rather short, sub 1,000 words) published story.  And then tell me what you think.  On yet another note, (I”m feeling musical here) I’d like to recommend two journals who might love your creative writing, so you should check them out if you’re unfamiliar.

Owl Eye Review

Very new to the publishing scene (2011) means that, in theory, they’re probably a little easier to get accepted to because they don’t have a reputation yet and maybe have a slightly undefined narrative voice.  You can read more about why they were  inspired to found the journal here.

What Owl Eye Review wants:  only poetry and creative non-fiction.  See further submission guidelines.

When they want it:  anytime.  Rolling submissions.

How they want it:  via submishmash.

Allow simultaneous submissions:  yes.

Official submission response time:  none posted.

My personal rejection time: 13 days.

Payment?  No.

Palooka: A Journal of Underdog Excellence

It’s also rather new to the field, but it’s gotten some really excellent peer reviews so I deem it a trustworthy publication.  My personal favorite story in the past issue is Scratch.  The memory of the plot has been haunting me for awhile and I couldn’t remember where I had read it and was really excited just now searching through their archives and stumbling upon it.  Definitely worth more than one read.

What Palooka wants:  pretty much every single kind of creative work possible.

When they want it:  anytime.  Seems to be rolling submissions.

How they want it: via submishmash.

Allow simultaneous submissions: yes.

Official submission response time:  about a week.

My personal submission rejection time:  10 days.

Payment?  One complimentary copy of the issue you were published in plus a discount on additional copies.

Warning:  This is one of the journals that requires a nominal fee–$2.50–for general submissions

So what’s your record amount of rejections for a particular story before an acceptance letter?

The “Writing What You Know” Rule is Baloney

A lot of you writers are probably throwing up your arms in disagreement at my sacrilegious statement.  But honestly, fiction writing would be really boring if authors strictly stuck to writing only what they know.  Books wouldn’t portray fantasy creatures that they concocted because they never experienced meeting one themselves.  Can you imagine how awful it would be if J.K. Rowling had never written about a hippogriff simply because she was tethered to the impractical rule that you only write what you know?

And how sad would you be if Orson Scott Card had never written the Ender’s Game series, just because he had never traveled to outer space before?  How TAME and utterly LAME would fiction be if writers always followed this rule?

Anyway, just some food for thought as you work on your own writing.

On a side note, if you’re in search of some bedtime reading material, a friend sent me the link for these sheets.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about them though.  I feel like I might become a little OCD in how I make my bed every morning.  They would have to go in the appropriate page order!

Apparently there’s this thing called “Publishing Time” that significantly slows down the entire submission response process across the industry.  I’m not a huge fan.  As you can see, I’m still waiting on a lot of stuff.

  1. Painted Bride Quarterly (date submitted: January 4th; what submitted: 1 fiction, 1 non-fiction)  
  2. Cicada (date submitted: February 16th; what submitted: 2 poems)
  3. matchbook (date submitted: March 7th; what submitted: 1 short short fiction)
  4. The Susquehanna Review (date submitted: March 14th; what submitted: 1 fiction, 2 non-fiction)
  5. Zahir (date submitted:  April 25th; what submitted: 1 fiction)
  6. Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle (date submitted: May 11th; what submitted: 1 non-fiction)
  7. Brevity (date submitted: May 19th; what submitted: 1 non-fiction)
  8. storySouth (date submitted: June 1st; what submitted: 1 fiction)
  9. Weave magazine (date submitted:  June 1st; what submitted: 1 non-fiction)

I emailed Cicada magazine awhile ago to ask about my submissions since it is way past the official response time, but no response to that either.  I’m a little surprised just because I’ve had really good response time experiences with them before.  [shrug].  Maybe it’s a combination of Publishing Time and Summer Time.

I did get two rejection letters this week though–form letters at that–which wasn’t terribly heartening.  I’ll give a short bio for both those journals tomorrow on New Magazine Monday.  At least the rejections give me the opportunity to better inform you all how long you might have to wait :]

Keep writing while you wait!