How a Lifelong Love of Books Led to a Publicity Job

Publishing Advice

Name: Caroline Nitz
Current Title: Publicity Assistant at Henry Holt & Company, an imprint of Macmillan
Hometown: Northfield, MN
Graduated from: St. Olaf College, 2011
Where you currently work and live: I live and work in Manhattan.

Your Path to Publishing:

Like many in publishing, I was an English major without the slightest idea what to do with it. I knew I didn’t want to teach so I just decided to bury myself in books and figure out the rest later. It wasn’t until late in my junior year of college that it finally occurred to me that I could be a part of the industry that produced the books and magazines I’d been devouring all my life. What better way to spend my time, I thought, than surrounded by words and people who love them as much as I do?

I took to Google and discovered the summer publishing programs at NYU and Columbia. I applied to both for the summer after graduation, got into NYU, and quickly accepted. Three days after tossing my cap in the air, I hopped on a plane bound for New York.

NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute was a challenging, eye-opening, and educational six weeks. I gained a basic understanding of both magazine and book publishing, met some wonderful people, and laid a foundation on which to build my career. I wasn’t able to find a job in New York at the end of the program but I found an editorial internship at a magazine publisher in Minneapolis almost immediately after returning home. Four months later, I had some published clips, a byline in Minnesota Bride, an offer to stay on as a freelancer, and a nagging urge to get back to New York City.

A few months later, I had a serendipitous offer from a childhood friend: a one month sublet near Columbia University while she did a research trip for grad school, giving me the opportunity to job hunt in New York City for a solid thirty-some days. From there, it was a whirlwind. An alumni event led to a handful of connections in the publishing industry, which led to an interview, and then a job offer. Never underestimate the power of networking!

What does your typical day look like?

Every day is different. It’s a mixture of sending books to reviewers and producers, writing press releases, compiling mailing lists, tracking media coverage, and brainstorming for future publicity campaigns. We’re planning for books that don’t come out for months at the same time that campaigns are in full swing, so it’s important to be able to juggle!

Connect with her:

LinkedIn is easiest.

“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.

“So, You Want to Work in Publishing?”–Lauren Castner

I totally use to log out of LinkedIn so I could spy on people's profiles in private too!

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: Lauren Castner
Current Title: Gift Sales Assistant at Workman Publishing
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Graduated from: Boston College, 2011
Where you currently work and live: Washington Heights (the most upper you can get on the West Side), work in the West Village (I think, I never know the neighborhoods here)

Your Path to Publishing:

My desire to work in publishing grew out of a love of books and kids and a fear of teaching.  I’m sure any fellow English majors are constantly plagued with the “So… you’re going to teach?” question any time anyone finds out their major and wants to know their eventual career path.  I was a camp counselor for four years and loved it, but didn’t want to go the teaching route, although I’m sure I’d love it if I did.  So instead, I settled on publishing.  Eventually, after fiddling around with my major and minors for awhile, I settled on an English major and Women’s Studies and History minors.  I was pretty sure I wanted to work with books, but going to school in Boston is a lot more limiting in terms of internships in the book industry.  I ended up interning at Teen Voices, a small non-profit magazine written for, by, and about teen girls (it is awesome – you can still find some stuff I wrote for the blog while I was interning).  I also did a great social media/blog research internship which actually ended up really helping my internship at Teen Voices – having a working knowledge of how WordPress works definitely gave me a leg up.

Heading into spring of my senior year, I had a great grounding in how a small magazine runs and operates, but processing all the books we got in for review made me want to see what was happening on the other side.  So I applied for NYU and Columbia’s Summer Publishing Course (also helpful in not having to find a job for a few more months!), and ended up at NYU for the summer.  I think what I took away from the program that I value the most, was an oversight of how the books side of things work, and what happens before those books go out in mailers with letters from the editor – I really didn’t have any idea before I got there.  And my resume got tidied up a little bit too – which never hurts.  I was also able to definitively say I did not want to work in the editorial department, which – trust me – set me apart from a lot of other interview candidates.

I ended up at Workman at the end of September to work on Marketing, Publicity, and Special Markets for 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (this book is amazing. trust me, I’ve legitimately looked at every page. multiple times).  I was somewhere in limbo between intern and real employee – I worked full-time but was paid hourly.  I didn’t end up with the position through an NYU posting, although this was sent around to SPI alumni, but rather from another interview with someone else at the company who referred me.  This was a great crash course in how these departments work at a midsize publishers.  I was doing everything from letters for mailings to tweeting to databasing every single US location mentioned in the book (there are over 1,000, in case you’re wondering).

After the assignment for 1,000 Places, I was lucky enough to stay around working for Gift Sales (remember that other interview – it was my boss in Gift Sales) and Special Markets, while I hunted for a full-time offer.  Long story short, I am at Workman still, in Gift Sales, after getting an offer from another company that spurred a counter-offer from Workman.

What does your typical day look like?

I wouldn’t say any two days are exactly alike for me.  My department, Gift Sales, deals with selling books to places that do not traditionally sell books, from stationery stores to actual gift stores, and cooking stores to children’s stores.  We are a small department, so I help everyone out with a variety of things.  On any given day, I could be finding item numbers and placing orders, talking to our sales reps, working on various special projects (dealing a lot with trade shows), sending samples to existing accounts to boost their business with us, and running reports so that we can send target mailings to specific types of customers.

Connect with her:

I am a big fan of being really available, so you can admire me from afar, or interact with me on any of the following social media platforms:

Twitter: @laurencastner

Tumblr: snarkattack.tumblr.com

LinkedIn: Lauren Castner (this is really just Facebook for grownups)

“So, You Want to Work in Publishing”–Susan Barnes

–S”]Name: Susan Barnes
Current Title: Editorial Assistant for Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
Hometown: Peoria, IL
Graduated from: Valparaiso University, 2011
Where you currently work and live:I live in Queens and I work in Manhattan.

Your Path to Publishing:

Same as pretty much every other student out there, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I started college (oh, so long ago 😉 ).  I changed majors multiple times (previous tries include: accounting, business and education) and none of them seemed to quite fit what I wanted to do.  Weeping and wailing in despair at my lack of a decision and the lack of a job where I could lay around and watch Friends, Scrubs, and How I Met your Mother all day, I turned to friends and family.

It was finally my sister that spoke up and pointed out that my obvious love of books could turn into a career.  Running with that, I enrolled in every English class I could get my hands on (loved my YA and Sci Fi classes, loathed theory – no offense, Prof. Bunicki! J), and  I found an online internship with ccPublishing, a small Christian publishing company in the Midwest.  At the end of my senior year, I applied to the NYU, Columbia, and Denver publishing programs, and that summer I was off to NYU!

Now here was where my road to publishing really took off.  First and foremost, I really recommend going to a publishing program.  It gives you the background you need for current information on the publishing business, people to know, and terms to learn.  I cannot tell you how relieved I was on my first day of work when I knew what it meant for a website to be “sticky” or what P & L stood for (profit and loss, fyi).  It also just looks fabulous on your resume and speaks of your commitment to learn about the business.

But, as helpful as the NYU course was, that wasn’t how I found my job.  I mentioned “people to know” earlier.  Who you meet and the connections you make is probably the most important thing you will get out of any course you take.  Publishing is a small business and very difficult to break into and those connections really help when looking for a job or internship.  I was fortunate enough to have a connection in the family.

My sister, Stacey, (yes, same sister as earlier) had a little bit more to go on than just my love of books when it came to her career recommendation.  Stacey is a published author, and since I was in high school, she had been letting me read her work and give suggestions on current high school terms, brand names, heartthrobs, and more (term: I was her beta reader – didn’t find that term out until way later).  So when Stacey helped me move to New York in June of 2011, she took me out to lunches and dinners with her connections, and it was fabulous!  I met some incredible people, but the best dinner was where an agent friend of Stacey’s, on a genius whim, brought her editor friend with her.  As it turned out, the editor’s company was looking for an editorial assistant, and she invited me to apply.

Two weeks and one interview later, I had a job.  It was unbelievable.

What does your typical day look like?

There really is no such thing as a typical day for an editorial assistant.  I will tell you that I don’t read books all day.  That would be awesome, but I don’t have time.  I create P & L’s, work on contracts, talk to authors and agents, help coordinate books that we co-publish with the UK, create front matter and back matter, transmit books, write factsheets… the list goes on and on.  I love that my job is never the same from day to day.  It keeps things interesting.

Connect with her:

I love questions!  Feel free to follow me on twitter! @sbarnesq2

Also, if you are curious, my sister’s information:

@staceykade

http://staceykade.tumblr.com/

http://www.staceykade.com/