Want to Work in Publishing? Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Connections!

Amanda's publishing photograph

Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in Publishing, where publishing professionals share their personal stories of how they broke into the industry. 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.

Today, I’m so happy to welcome Amanda, someone I met in the summer of 2011 during our time at the NYU Summer Publishing Program together. She offers some wonderful insight into the literary agent side of the industry–a career option most new graduates don’t think or know much about.

Name: Amanda Panitch
Current Title: Literary Agency Assistant at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (www.lmqlit.com)
Hometown: Jackson, New Jersey
Graduated from: The George Washington University (BA in English), New York University (certificate in publishing)
Where you currently work: New York, NY

Your Path to Publishing: Growing up, I changed career ambitions about as often as I changed my socks. As a kid, I was determined to be a ballerina (I was undeterred by the fact that I had the grace of a drunken buffalo). In middle school I wanted to be a doctor. I went to college for international relations, which was interesting, but not, I realized, what I wanted to spend my life doing.My only interests that had remained consistent throughout the years were reading and writing, so I switched my major to English, and immediately went in search of internship experience that would grant me and my English degree the hope of eventual employability. After applying to every internship that seemed even slightly relevant on my school’s career site, I ended up getting a position working for Deborah Grosvenor, a literary agent then with Kneerim & Williams and now with her own eponymous agency. She was an amazing mentor and I loved everything about the work, from reading the slush to making editorial notes to the excitement of an auction, and so I decided I wanted to work in agenting.I burnished my resume with one more literary agency internship (at the now-defunct PMA Literary and Film Management) before attending the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. The exposure to all the different sides of the industry at SPI was valuable, but it only cemented my belief that agenting was the right path for me. After SPI, I did yet another internship at Writers House, which was an incredible experience and which ultimately led me to my job at LMQ.

How did you find out about your first publishing job and/or internship? Any job search methods you’d recommend? I found my job (and two of my internships) the old-fashioned way: through postings on job sites like Publisher’s Lunch and Bookjobs. The other internship (at Writers House) I heard about through the NYU SPI Career Fair. From what I’ve seen, though, I was the exception: a lot of publishing jobs aren’t even posted online, and even with those that are posted online, the application process is actually a black hole. I went on one interview for an editorial assistant at one of the Big Six and the interviewing editor told me that, while the position had been posted online, they hadn’t even had to go through those applications, as they’d had so many personal recommendations.So, stemming from that, my main advice is: use your connections! Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you worked with at internships, or your uncle’s cousin’s stepsister who works at Random House. Having someone to pass your resume along–or, even better, call up the hiring manager for you–can (and will) make the difference between getting the interview and getting stuck in the black hole of online applications.Informational interviews are another great way to get your foot in the door–they connect you with people throughout the industry, giving you more people who can pass your resume along (I went on several informational interviews during my job hunt process, and ended up getting three real interviews for positions from those informational interviews), and they also help you learn more about the company and the available positions. See if someone you know can recommend someone to get in touch with. Or, seek someone out yourself–see if you can find an alumnus from your school who works somewhere you’d like to be and ask if they can set aside a half hour for a chat (don’t go after the CEO, of course–try for assistants who were relatively recently in the trenches themselves).Most of all, stay strong–some people get a job on their first or second interview, but most don’t. It took me twenty interviews to get a job, and I couldn’t be happier with how things worked out.

What does your typical day look like? When I tell people what I do, they always ask me if I get to read all day. Alas, I do not–most of my reading and editorial work gets done on my own time, at night or on weekends. My days are filled with everything from vetting and negotiating contracts to author correspondence to chasing late contracts/unpaid advances to line-editing proposals to drawing up permission agreements to managing interns to the excitement that is navigating foreign tax forms. I also do the administrative work that is the duty of assistants everywhere, like answering phones and making schedules. If it’s a slow day, I might have a couple hours to read or type up editorial notes.

#1 Thing You’d Advise People Trying to Get a Similar Position: Use your connections. Do an internship, or several–even if you can’t financially manage a few days a week in an office or a move to New York City, there are remote reader positions at literary agencies to help you learn to navigate the slush pile and get your foot in the door (and always check to see if there are smaller publishing companies or literary agencies around you that offer internships–my first internship was in DC, which isn’t exactly a publishing mecca). Don’t forget to stress job experience outside the industry, too–though I had three internships at literary agencies, had attended a publishing program, and had graduated summa cum laude, the single thing on my resume that aroused the most interest in interviews was my stint in guest relations at a theme park, as it showed I could handle conflict. Also, don’t forget to send thank-you notes after an interview.
Connect with her:
Twitter and LinkedIn (please mention this post).

Feeling Like the Official Author of a Real Book

Images of America, Hannah Karena Jones

This week has been terrible. It’s been one thing after another ever since Monday. Each day I would wake up and think that it couldn’t possibly get worse, and then it would: the latest fiasco was that my washing machine–which I got repaired less than three months ago for a pretty penny–broke again. Curses.

So that’s why it was an extra special treat this morning when I noticed that my book is up for display on the publisher’s website. [eeeeee!] And that it’s available for preorder on Amazon and B&N.com [OMG!] And that, even though the beautiful cover you’ve all seen and admired isn’t displayed there yet, the book is on Goodreads and you can mark it to read. Guys, it has an ISBN number and everything!!

Feel free to do all of the above. Go on. I’ll wait.

[taps toes]

HURRY UP I HAVE MORE THINGS TO TELL YOU! :]

Before this, it didn’t really feel real yet. But now I can tweet, Facebook, pin–EVERYTHING–the real life link to share it’s existence. (Feel free to do this too, if you’re so inclined.) But now there is so much PROOF all over the INTERNET in all these places where I learn about, drool over, and admire beautiful, lovely books that I love desperately or am desperate to read. It’s REAL. May 20, 2013, I will officially be the author of a published book.

Before today, I’ve been a little lackluster in real life about the release of this book. I think this is because my real, not-so-secret, heartfelt dream has always been to be a fiction writer. Specifically, a children’s book/YA fiction writer. And for some reason, this book has been feeling like a deviation from that path; like it’s not as worthy of celebration as a novel would be because it’s only 10,000 words long and relies a lot on photographs telling the story rather than my own words. Maybe I’m not as proud of it as I would be a novel because it isn’t a complete creation of my own imagination: I didn’t build a detailed world, construct amazing characters, or pen tear-jerking plot lines. This is just…history. It exists. It’s always existed. I just organized it and wrote some clear interesting sentences to present that information. For some reason all these feelings and hang-ups had me thinking that this accomplishment wasn’t really an accomplishment at all. It wasn’t all that impressive and it wasn’t something to be proud of, because its mere existence means I’ve failed to write and publish a fiction book yet.

I know, how completely ridiculous do I sound?

But now, seeing it in all these official places, all these online bookstores, I’m finally starting to be rational about it all, and proud. I remember how much work and research I put into it. I mean, I sifted through archives and dug up old photographs and hand-written diaries and read dry annual reports to create this thing, this 128-page volume compilation of history that’s never been compiled and published before. It’s a book people are going to read because they want to know things. How cool is that?

Definitely something worthy of celebration, I think. So in that theme, I’m inviting all of you to celebrate with me and tweet, Facebook, pin, preorder, and put my book on your to-read list. I know Amazon and B&N.com have the book listed at $14.95 and $14.65 respectively, but I’d ask you to hold your horses and consider ordering a copy from me. (I’ll be adding a buy button to this blog, and I intend to link it through PayPal, as soon as I find someone tech-savvy enough to help me design it and put it up.) It has something to do with royalties and something to do with the fact that there will be some swag and other personalization involved, if you’re interested–stuff I’ll talk about at a later date–but I wanted to warn you that, contractually, I’m required to sell the book at the list price of $21.99. I can’t offer discounts and compete with the publisher, the way bookstores can. So if that six dollar difference is really important, I completely understand. Really, no matter whether or where you preorder it, borrow it from the library, or simply mark it to-read for some far off date in the future, I’m going to love you and appreciate it a million.

I’m really excited how this is starting to feel real. But I’m even more excited for when you all read it. That’s going to make it even more real, and I can’t wait!

Cover Reveal!

I’m still, technically, burrowing to finish up this book. But my editor sent me the cover last week and I just couldn’t resist sharing it.

Images of America, Hannah Karena Jones

I was able to recommend which photograph would be used for the cover and as I was sifting through the hundreds of Byberry photographs I’ve collected, trying to decide, I knew this was the one. I wanted to avoid an exterior building photograph, because even though most locals would recognize the distinctive hospital brick design, it wouldn’t be all that attractive or intriguing. And I wanted to avoid graphic photographs that depicted how terrible conditions were there, on occasion, because it wouldn’t have fairly represented the book (of course these photographs are inside, to provide a complete history, but I didn’t want them being the iconic cover). I didn’t want to misrepresent the history. Even though Byberry’s remembered for the exposes of poor conditions, there were huge expanses of time where the patients were clean and well cared for, where the buildings were new and the budget was sufficient; also, fun fact, Byberry used to be a working farm!

This photo was exactly the feel I was going for. It’s a little mysterious in that it draws your attention. You look at it, and you want to know more. Also, it gives a tantalizing glimpse inside, giving a look at what night shift on a women’s ward looked like. Calm, isn’t it? And I really liked how the angle of it makes you want to walk down that row; it’s almost like a “Welcome, come in! Open the book!”

Currently, the cover is my laptop’s background. Every time I glimpse at it, it motivates me to keep writing. And now, that’s what I’m off to do. The book’s almost done and the deadline is even closer, less than three weeks away!

Hope you all like the cover as much as I do :]

(Cover Image Courtesy of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.)

“So, You Want to Work in Publishing?”–Meg Roth

Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in Publishing! The guest bloggers and I hope that you find our stories encouraging, informative, and helpful in your own path to a publishing career. You can find a full listing of previous posts in the series here.

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

Name: Meg Roth
Current Title: Creative Assistant at Scholastic, Inc.
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Graduated from: University of Pittsburgh 2011, BA in English Literature & Film
Where you currently work and live: I live in Pennsylvania, and I work in SoHo.

Your Path to Publishing:
I’ve been an avid reader ever since I can remember. I typically carry at least one book with me wherever I go. I was lucky enough to have teachers, family, and friends that encouraged me to pursue English Literature, Film, and Children’s Literature in college. Granted, I had no idea where this would lead. I only knew that reading, critiquing, and discussing British Literature, YA novels, science fiction, and more seemed like the best possible major for me.

But, when you’re in college and happen to be an English major, you’re often plagued with this response: “Hm, interesting. What will you do when you graduate?” So, I had to come up with a plan. I was lucky enough to study abroad in London where I was given a rare and unique opportunity to intern at Reaktion Books Publishing, Ltd. While interning, I was able to work in production, design, PR, editorial, and marketing. Within the first week, I knew this was the path I was going to take – even if many considered it a risky move.

When I returned to the states, I tried my hardest to immerse myself in this field. While Pittsburgh isn’t exactly a publishing hub, I searched for internships that would help set me apart from other candidates. I was a digital editor for Bleacher Report. I helped organize a book tour for Pittsburgh-based author Dalel Khalil. I reviewed books and films at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Experience never hurts.

Heading into my senior year, I applied for NYU, Columbia, and Denver’s Publishing Institutes and ended up at NYU for the summer. In six weeks, I worked with two teams to create an original magazine and book imprint. I met an amazing group of people and friends. I was given an overview of the industry and what it takes to work with all departments to successfully create a product and a brand. Not to mention, I met contacts at different publishing houses and media brands that were instrumental in helping me land my first job.

How did you find out about your first publishing job? 
While attending NYU, I scoured the web looking for job opportunities. There are a ton of great resources out there for people interested in pursuing a career in publishing. I, however, found out about my current position in a different way. A friend of mine at NYU knew I was interested in editorial (and that I’m a huge advocate for literacy). So, she ever so kindly set me up with an informational interview at Scholastic, Inc. with someone she knew since college (networking definitely helps in this industry).

The job was definitely something I was interested in. I felt it was a perfect fit for me since it combined so many departments in one position – social media, editorial, online production, marketing, etc. I eventually met with the Publisher, Editorial Director, and Project Manager before landing the job. I worked as a temporary employee for six months before being hired as a full-time employee.

What does your typical day look like? 
Since I work with multiple departments within Scholastic, Inc., there is no such thing as a “typical day” – which is really the beauty of the industry. While there are some tasks that are routine, I have the opportunity to create my own daily schedule. I’d say you definitely have to know how to manage your time and decide what is a priority on any given day. I’m primarily responsible for writing single page articles for two award-winning magazines, writing book and product reviews, managing social media on multiple platforms, and managing online content production for the website. It’s definitely a lot of work and a lot of different tasks, but that’s what I love about my job. Lucky for me, I have the added bonus of working with a great group of people who I genuinely enjoy working with. I would add that I think this is a norm in the industry!

 Connect with her:
Feel free to connect with me on the following social media platforms:
Twitter: @megroth
LinkedIn: Meg Roth (Please mention this post.)

“So, You Want to Work in Publishing?”–Evan Oare

Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in 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:  Evan Oare
Current Title:  Gift Sales Assistant
Hometown: Valencia, PA (outside Pittsburgh)
Graduated from: University of Pittsburgh, 2009
Where you currently work and live: Penguin Group USA, New York NY

Your Path to Publishing:

Perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve always been a voracious reader and have always aspired to write (not considering what I was doing writing—I’ll wait until I get paid to do it!). I first seriously considered Publishing in high school when I realized no other career path was quite occurring to me. Only when I got to college did I start thinking of other “more realistic” options, considering PR and Advertising. However, it took a unsatisfying Advertising internship and a great Publishing internship (which became a part-time job) to really confirm my choice. It truly takes experience to find out what you want; many people who go into Publishing will find it unappetizing in the end, and others will happily find their way to it.

(That internship/job, by the way, was with Autumn House Press (AHP)—a small nonprofit literary press. Check them out at www.autumnhouse.org.)

Another factor was a professor under whom I took the only official Publishing/Editing class at my school. He became somewhat of a mentor to me, and really helped guide me toward this world a little more. And, hey, in what other situation was I going to be forced to learn the Chicago Manual rules? (Very happy I know now—thanks!)

After working part-time with AHP and as a Production Assistant at a company that produces high-level science publications (way over my head, but great in its way), I made my way to the NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI), which my aforementioned mentor had brought to my attention. Long story short, this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as it helped me make my break into the industry, and diversified me that much more. Meet as many HR people as you possibly can. Be confident, and don’t stress too much or it will backfire!

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

As to my current job, I met a few HR representatives at the SPI Career Fair who set me up with some interviews. The best strategy is to choose your focus and go for it—otherwise you will come off as someone who will take anything they can get, which is not very attractive. At the same time, consider positions in fields you might not have otherwise—Production, Managing Editorial, Operations, Sales, etc. There is more to this than Editorial. I never considered Sales until SPI and meeting with salespeople really made me more comfortable. I didn’t have to be some crazy math-obsessed person, after all.

What does your typical day look like? 

A brief description of Gift Sales—we sell books to stores that don’t primarily sell books. This includes gift stores of all kinds: toy stores, hospital shops, museums, clothing retailers, garden stores…the list is as endless as the list of American retailers is. Some specific stores are Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma/Pottery Barn Kids, Bed Bath & Beyond, Spencer Gifts, Hot Topic, and many more.

Every day is completely different. The nature of our department is always in flux. I provide assistance for 80 sales representatives across the country, not to mention the head of Gift Sales. I put together presentations, provide additional support to the reps for key accounts (aka the big moneymakers), run sales numbers, and constantly keep my eye out for upcoming titles that fit specific accounts. There’s quite a bit of stuff I can’t explain without paragraphs and paragraphs about the Gift Market (which I’m happy to do, but I’m already writing a book, at this point).

Just one note about Gift Sales—our role is increasingly important as traditional bookstore sales fall (especially with the fall of Borders). We are increasingly looked at to increase company revenue, which creates more responsibility but therefore much more opportunity to develop one’s skills.

Connect with Evan:

www.linkedin.com/in/evanoare  
www.goodreads.com/user/show/3877967-evan-oare  
www.twitter.com/OhEvski

“So, You Want to Work in Publishing?”–Miriam McPhie

Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in Publishing! The series features the personal stories of how young professionals 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: Miriam McPhie
Current Title: Marketing Assistant, Georgetown University Press
Hometown: Fairfax County, VA
Graduated from: College of William & Mary, 2011
Where you currently work: Washington, D.C.

Your Path to Publishing:

It was well into my senior year at William and Mary–where I was graduating with degrees in Psychology and Anthropology–and I still had no clear career plan in mind. When my roommate asked me to go with her to a publishing seminar at the career center, I figured I’d tag along and see if there was free food (there was). Several of the seminar speakers had attended summer publishing programs, and the more I heard them talk about their experiences, the more interested I became. I had somehow never considered the field of publishing, but here were people telling me that I could channel my love of recreational reading into a viable career! I hustled back to my room to fill out some last-minute applications, and was accepted into the New York University Summer Publishing Institute.

As one of the only non-English or Journalism majors in the program, I felt a little daunted. Many of my classmates already had impressive industry internships under their belts, whereas I had spent my summers employed as a camp counselor, and the school year working in the library’s Media Center. I knew that I didn’t have the traditional publishing background, but I was determined to make it work.

I entered the program intending to take the editorial route–however, I had not anticipated the wide variety of other job opportunities SPI would expose me to. My interest slowly began to shift towards the more media-oriented side of things. I wanted to interact with the people who would be reading the books. With that in mind, marketing started to look better and better.

This happens to be a fantastically exciting time for publishing – the increase in demand for e-books and the introduction of new digital technologies have opened the door to a whole new world of publishing possibilities. I began to realize that my computer skills – which I had worried would be of little use to me – might actually wind up working to my advantage.

After the NYU program finished, I applied to a lot of jobs. I used job board sites like Bookjobs and Mediabistro, as well as city-specific sites like Book Builders of Boston and DC Jobs. I also signed up for email updates on job openings from some of the bigger publishers. I worked a few unpaid, part-time internships, while continuing to search for a paying position. This past spring I was hired to be the Marketing Assistant at Georgetown University Press.

The main thing I got from the NYU program was a strong network of classmates. We have kept in touch and update each other on news and job openings. This has been an invaluable resource, particularly in an industry known for being quite insular. I also came to realize that having a unique background, built on a strong liberal arts foundation, has actually helped me to stand out from the crowd.


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

I found my first post-NYU internship through a listing on Bookjobs. I worked remotely for a literary agency in New York (since I’d moved back to Virginia).  My job was to read through the “slush inbox” and write up reader’s reports on submissions’ strengths and weaknesses. Then my supervisor and I would discuss via email and phone what made a project marketable. She also let me do some second-round editing on books already under contract, which I was always excited about. I learned a lot from that internship about foreseeing book trends and how to spot a manuscript that would sell.

 What does your typical day look like?

My typical day at Georgetown University Press involves entering sales data, updating the website’s content, and managing any issues that have arisen in the database. Because it is a small publisher, there is a lot of overlap in positions. I get to interact with the Marketing, Sales, Acquisitions, Editorial, and Production departments. Different seasons bring different projects, and every day presents some new and exciting challenge. I really enjoy being part of the process of bringing books and readers together.

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

Keep up with industry news! Not only will your knowledge of publishing be appreciated in interview and networking situations, it may help you figure out what aspects of the field excite you the most. It’s always good to see a variety of industry information, and I like to explore sites like Shelf Awareness, Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Publishers Weekly, and blogs—like this one! Marketing departments are looking for people who are social media savvy, and who are willing to evaluate and implement new strategies. Knowing what the rest of the industry is doing is critical.

 Connect with her:

You can connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn (just shoot me a message and mention this blog). I am more than happy to answer any questions!

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Attending BEA 2012

I’m so excited to read all of these!

  1. How many books there would be. It was INSANE. I understood that I would acquire some free books and ARCs. But if I had understood the sheer number–books! Everywhere! Here, take five!–I would have brought a rolling suitcase, (though this was suggested to me ahead of time, I didn’t take it seriously) rather than the tote bags, weighing fifty pounds on each shoulder.
  2. A single water bottle will be $3.75 and there is not a single water fountain in sight to refill for free.
  3. Your ankles will hurt. A lot. Do not wear heels (I didn’t). Do not wear cute ballet flats (I did). Wear shoes with support!
  4. You need business cards. Even if you’re a newbie to the publishing world and don’t have an official business card for your company yet, you should have a personal business card mentioning that you’re a part-time blogger or wanna-be author or something. (I really need to go order some!)
  5. How non-participatory the big publishers would be. They did not give out any free books (you know, that’s fair, totally their right) but on top of that they were generally very unfriendly, avoiding eye contact and frowning at you if you walked through their booth, even if was just to get from Point A to Point B. But the smaller publishers, who want to garner some free publicity and word of mouth? They loved anyone who stopped in their booth and gave them love, personal attention, candy, and personal recommendations. The small independent publishers reminded me of the friendly book-swap atmosphere you can get in an indie bookstore. (Interesting fact: you know who the second most friendly booth was? Amazon. Free books and awesome conversations everywhere.)

Basically, BEA is a huge playground for bookworm adults.

I am so in love. Can’t wait/hope I can go back next year!