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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Blogging: A Publisher’s Call to the 21st Century

For many publishers, it seems as though all avenues of promoting their publications have been exhausted. Direct mail is suffering, and even targeted email campaigns don’t necessarily work as well as they used to. When the publishing industry is rapidly changing to adapt to the times, blogging can be an excellent way for a publishing house to stay relevant and promote their publications. After all, as Forbes contributor Brent Gleeson says, “Blogging has become a part of daily lives. There are millions of blogs available to readers (literally), and two out of three people read blogs multiple times a week.”

During many book pitch meetings at Rodale, I noticed the marketing department would always perk up whenever a potential author came with a book idea along with a heavily-trafficked blog. That’s because the author was essentially coming to Rodale with a self-created fan base and audience, perfect for drumming up support for a new book title.

Dr. William Davis's blog that he created to promote his bestselling book (and brand) Wheat Belly

Dr. William Davis’s blog that he created to promote his bestselling book (and brand) Wheat Belly

But the Johns Hopkins University Press takes it a step further. As a Marketing Assistant, one of my responsibilities is formatting and uploading posts to JHUP’s own blog, with posts usually written by one of JHUP’s most well known authors. In this way, authors not only draw support for their own books by blogging about related topics, but also channel attention back to JHUP. For instance, a blog reader may follow the personal blog of a historian/author they admire, which then could lead them to read the historian/author’s post on JHUP’s blog. From there, they are exposed to the posts of many other JHUP authors, an effective cycle of promotion that costs JHUP nothing.

A guest post on the JHUP blog by author David Spanagel

A guest post on the JHUP blog by author David Spanagel

Blogs aren’t just for book publishers either. The Editorial Intern that sits next to me at Baltimore Magazine is exclusively responsible for the magazine’s online blog. This demonstrates that in many ways, Baltimore Magazine’s blog is just as important as published articles in the print magazine. By creating rich additional content available for free on the web, Baltimore Magazine opens itself to a wider audience and entices this new audience to follow the magazine, both online and through purchasing the print magazine.

Baltimore Magazine's fun and content-rich blog

Baltimore Magazine’s fun and content-rich blog

I’ve also had some personal experience using blogs as promotional material. During my semester abroad in Ireland, I was asked by my on-campus supervisor to write a blog about my experiences. I created Galway Girl with the idea to merely document some of my trips and adventures, but it turned into so much more. One post about my rain-drenched bike ride around the Aran Islands created so much buzz that JHU’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences decided to begin posting my blog on their own site and even featured one of my photos on the back of their magazine, along with a brief write-up about my blog.

My own study abroad blog, Galway Girl

My own study abroad blog, Galway Girl

It was then that I realized the power of a simple blog post.

So while publishing companies can continue to purchase banner ads and send countless promotional emails, sometimes a blog can actually do the work for you. And in the world of publishing that changes at a dizzyingly fast pace, blogging might just be the way for publishers to stay relevant with current audiences.

Apples to Oranges, Books to Magazines

As I’ve mentioned a few times in prior posts, I’ve recently begun working as an Editorial Intern at Baltimore magazine, located in the lovely Harbor East neighborhood of Baltimore. Prior to this experience, I had only small amounts of experience working with magazines. By and large, I’ve dealt primarily with books throughout my publishing experiences, and turns out, working in the magazine industry is very different from working with books. Sure, there are some similarities. For instance, fact-checking is always important no matter what media you’re working with. But overall, I’ve had to adjust my work style to the magazine industry, but found that despite my love of book publishing, there are many aspects of magazine publishing that I really enjoy. Here’s a rundown of some of the major differences between magazine and book publishing- see for yourself and consider which would be the best fit for you.

1) The deadline isn’t months away: It’s next week. Unlike the months-long process of assembling a book, there’s a new issue of most magazines every month. After a few years of experience in books, a new issue every month at Baltimore makes it seem like the deadline is always looming.

2) You must switch focus fast: Books are typically about one specific topic, whereas Baltimore has a diverse array of articles, with topics ranging from entertainment to healthcare to politics to lifestyle. This means everyone, senior editors and interns alike, need to be able to switch focus frequently and quickly.

3) The sense of urgency is higher: After reading #1 and #2, this might be obvious. At the book publishing companies I’ve worked at, it’s not uncommon to see people taking their time at lunch and stopping to chat with friends on the way to their office. It’s positively refreshing. Not so at a magazine. Think a of a (much) less dramatic version of The Devil Wears Prada– there’s no Meryl Streep about to verbally abuse you for taking too long, but there’s definitely a sense of hustle and bustle within the halls of Baltimore. 

4) But with that urgency comes excitement: There’s always something new and different going on at a magazine. For instance, last week the art department hosted a photo shoot of an up-and-coming local baker who brought her pet chicken along for the shoot! It’s experiences like that photo shoot that keep life interesting at a magazine.

5) There’s instant gratification: When issues are released every month, you don’t need to wait long to see your work in big, flashy print. With books, it can take months but with magazines, the gratification is instant. For example, see the picture below. It’s my first appearance on the masthead!

Rachel Schnalzer, Editorial Intern!

Rachel Schnalzer, Editorial Intern!

6) But your work also done in a month: You pour your heart and soul (or at least time and energy) into an issue and then what happens after it’s released? It’s back to work right away on the next issue. With books, there’s a little more time to sit back and enjoy your accomplishments. In the words of magazinestarter.com, “A book, in contrast, involves a much longer interaction between the author and the editor. The author keeps on working with the publisher till a satisfactory draft is achieved. This content is then ready to be published, and the book is then promoted so that more value can be generated.”

7) You experience many personalities: When pulling together an issue, you have the opportunity to work with a variety of different people and personalities. Oftentimes, editors interface primarily with their author, but magazine editors need to be constantly interfacing with many people at all times for the issue to be a success.

8) But there’s less of a relationship with one writer: When an editor works on an author’s book for months and months, they ideally develop a close, trusting relationship. Some of this is lost when switching to magazines. Because editors need to be working with so many people, it’s more difficult for close, personal artistic relationships to grow between editor and writer.

9) Team work is crucial: Working well with a team is important no matter where you work. But it’s especially important at a magazine, where deadlines may require you to step in and help out a colleague or vice versa. It’s no place for jealousy or worrying about who takes credit- there’s no time for that!

10) Books and magazines are equally gratifying, albeit in different ways: At this point, I could never choose which environment I prefer. I feel intensely loyal to book publishing, but am excited by everything I’m learning at Baltimore. In the end perhaps time will tell but for now, I can say confidently that both magazine and book publishing are incredibly satisfying fields and I look forward to future experiences in both.