So You Want to Work in Publishing?

Beginning a career in publishing can be an extremely daunting. Despite warnings that “publishing is dying,” it seems like more and more students are setting their sights on a career in magazine journalism, book publishing, and the like. But entering the industry is easier said than done, especially considering that many positions are often in New York City and filled based on “who you know.” But never fear, there are many creative ways of entering the publishing industry that are entirely realistic for college students. Read on for five opportunities that college students interested in publishing should look out for to begin an exciting book, magazine, or media career.

-Explore your university: Many schools have academic publishing houses that offer internships or fellowships for students attending the university. If you’re interested in book or journal publishing, this can be a great way to get your feet wet. I currently work as a Marketing Assistant at the Johns Hopkins University Press, and I’ve learned so much about about the publishing industry! The University of Texas also has a great program available only to alumni that allows graduates to work for a year at the Press with a concentration in either Editorial or Marketing. You school may have a similar internship or fellowship available to you!

A great internship opportunity could be right under your nose! (from commons.wikimedia.org)

 

-Freelance, freelance, freelance: Reach out to the HR departments small newspapers or magazines and see if they offer freelance opportunities. Come prepared with writing samples from school newspaper to show just how talented you are. There are many ways of translating a free-lance gig into a career. Showing a magazine your writing skills is the first step to getting hired. Plus, according to Matt Keener, a contributor at Entrepreneur, “One billion dollars — that’s how much had been paid to freelancers via the oDesk platform in 2013. And the company forecast that its online work market will be worth $5 billion by 2018.-local magazines.” In other words, oftentimes, it pays to freelance. 

-Look Outside the Big Apple: You always hear how New York City is the center of publishing, and in many ways that is true. But don’t forget there are equally exciting opportunities elsewhere. For example, take Rodale, home of Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling, etc. I’ve interned at their headquarters in small town Emmaus, PA, which has a much lower cost of living than New York. Another example is the Southern Progress Corporation, located in Birmingham, AL, which publishes top magazines like Southern Living and Coastal Living. If relocating to New York is just not realistic for you, search for other, more financially accessible options.

Emmanus Building

Rural Rodale Headquarters in Emmaus, PA (from rodaleinc.com)

 

-Look Local: Piggybacking off the suggestion, look for a local metropolitan magazine to intern with, if your dream is breaking into the magazine industry. For instance, Philadelphia has two fantastic local magazines, Philadelphia and Main Line Today. If you’re going to school in Philly, look into possible internships at these magazines. I can speak from personal experience- I learned so much about magazine editorial while working for Baltimore magazine!

-Or look online: Sometimes, it’s just not possible to commute to a city for work or even find a local publication to intern with. But in the last few years, online internships have been becoming more and more popular. You can begin to learn the publishing business all from the comfort of your dorm with online editorial internships where you can still be responsible for writing and fact-checking articles. For example, the Matador Network offers internships for those interested in travel writing that are entirely virtual! If you seek out opportunities like this, breaking into the publishing industry becomes a whole lot easier.

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Keeping it Local

“Print is dying.”

For regional newspapers and publications across the US, this statement seems to be unfortunately correct. Every week another local newspaper closes up shop for good, just another nail in the coffin, another brick in the wall spelling the end of days for traditional newspapers as we know them. Perhaps interest in reading inky pages detailing relevant albeit often mundane information about one’s home city has simply dwindled away. And up until recently, I assumed this trend applied to local magazines as well, another facet of the publishing industry ready to fall victim to changing times and fickle audiences.

But maybe I was wrong.

Just a few weeks ago, I began working at Baltimore, my city’s local magazine. Until I sat down to prepare for my interview just a few months ago, I hadn’t heard much about the magazine. Sure, I knew of its existence, but not much else. However,  the last three weeks working as an Editorial Intern at Baltimore have offered me new insights not only into this magazine, but city magazines as a whole. To be honest, at first I was surprised by Baltimore‘s bustling hallways and high morale…not always what you think of when you imagine local publications in this struggling economy. But somehow, Baltimore has been able to grow extensively while similar publications have faded just as quickly. How can Baltimore perform so well when other publications suffer so badly in the industry today? Well after a couple weeks working for the magazine, here are some ways in which Baltimore seems to position itself on the road for success.

-Target the youth: Baltimore gets a really bad rap, sometimes even from its own inhabitants. But really, Baltimore is an up and coming place. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Baltimore is “a city that is full of other young professionals – and attracting more every month. There is a vibrant bar and restaurant scene, social sports leagues through which hundreds of young people get together to play kickball and other games, even a monthly bike ride” Translation: Young people are flocking to Baltimore and are excited to get to know their city.  Baltimore targets these young people by ensuring the magazine is innovative and fresh, with fun, youthful content to boot.

-In-Touch Graphics: Nobody is going to pick up a magazine that looks dated. Instead, thenextweb.com suggests that “staying up to date on the latest design trends” is a surefire way to stay relevant and desirable in the publishing industry today. And Baltimore’s art department does a great job. Check out the December 2014’s front cover design below. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a fresh, creative cover on a news-stand magazine.

photo

-Have a strong digital presence: In the digital age, it’s important “that your digital content is quality content,” according again to thenextweb.com. And Baltimore accomplishes this with flying colors. See the screenshot of baltimoremagazine.net below. Notice how its look rivals national and international publications.  Not only that, but the content is more useful than general articles geared to a wide section of the population. Instead, it features fun weekend plans for the people of Baltimore, a niche previously unfilled in the city.

Screen shot 2015-02-13 at 6.35.27 PM

-Create a human connection: Who doesn’t like feeling special? Not many people see their name or their friends’ names in print in major magazines but in Baltimore, that’s a different story. By profiling leading community members, Baltimore offers readers a chance to connect more deeply with their city. And often, readers may recognize someone they know within the magazine’s pages. For instance, the February issue profiled the city’s hottest singles, dozens of every-day, up-and-comers in Baltimore. And then, the magazine threw a giant party with the profiled singles at Pazo, a Harbor East restaurant, where readers could buy tickets to come socialize with other singles, conveniently the weekend before Valentine’s Day. What better way to foster community readership than by connecting readers over cocktails?

Clearly, Baltimore has figured a way to not only stay afloat but actually succeed as a local publication in Baltimore City. There’s a lot of knowledge to be gained by studying the case of this magazine and similarly profitable cities magazines. Perhaps most evident is that although regional newspapers have suffered over the past years, all is not lost. If magazines offer content that is innovative and inspired, appear fresh and youthful, grow a strong digital presence, connect personally with their audience, and most importantly, keep it local, they won’t just survive within the publishing industry, but also thrive.