I wrote about my internship experience at a textbook publisher here and talked about the three things that lead me to paid work at the same publisher. But I never anticipated one other important factor. Although I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in books, it was my skills and training in online magazines that got me my first book job.
During my internship, I took it upon myself to manage a new student blog that the company had created to help market their e-textbooks directly to students. When I began, the site had a tiny amount of content, promised things it wasn’t really delivering, and was a bit scattered. I saw specific areas that I could improve, and since my supervisors were too busy to manage the site fully, I was able to run it for about a month and help to flesh it out.
I soon realized that I was essentially managing a mini-version of a custom online magazine—which means it was a magazine that catered to a particular group of people (students), but was ultimately concerned with giving visibility to their product (textbooks). I was learning to create and manage content that helped students become better aware of both the publisher and the e-products they offer.
I had blogged before, but not until my online magazine class had I really understood how to begin to think about organizing, coming up with effective content for, and designing an online magazine.
Many of the magazine skills I learned in my publishing program had direct applications in maintaining the blog. The specific magazine skills that were useful?
Understanding site analytics; generating social media buzz to draw readers to the site; tying relevant articles and posts to audience and product
- Curating editorial content for the time of year and audience:
- Creating heds and deks most likely to interest readers;
- Implementing site contests;
- Finding royalty-free images;
- Creating simple contracts for contributing bloggers;
- Finding an appropriate voice for the site;
- Repurposing content for web articles (which I did with relevant trade books that the publisher also sold)
These weren’t things I wouldn’t have known about had it not been for my Online Magazines class. And they were certainly noticed by the company I interned with, since it was my work with the site that I got my most positive feedback on before I was hired two weeks after my internship.
I think my experience isn’t uncommon. So many companies promote themselves online, through social media platforms that are essentially, themselves, publishing companies. And book publishers are no exception.
It pays to cross-train by looking at the skills that are turning out to be valuable in publishing companies as well as companies in other industries, media and otherwise. Just yesterday I was asked by my boss if I knew how to do video editing—not exactly a traditional publishing skill. But in the age of book trailers (just like movie trailers, but made for books), I predict that requests like this from publishers will become increasingly frequent.
Keep your mind open and do your best to cultivate a range of skills, the more tech-savvy you can become, the better. Think you know where you want to end up in publishing? Consider that using less-traditional publishing skills might be the best way to get there.