June may feel far away, but here at the NYU Center for Publishing we’re busy planning the 2019 Summer Publishing Institute. Each summer dozens of students join us from across the country and around the world to immerse themselves in the publishing industry. From digital media to book and magazine editing and cover design, social media marketing strategies or content plans across multiple platforms, SPI provides students a robust introduction to publishing while preparing them for the job market.
To get a sense of what happens after SPI, we interviewed three 2018 Summer Publishing Institute graduates about where they are now, what they learned at SPI, and advice they have for students entering the program. If you’re interested in applying to SPI 2019, it’s not too late! Applications are due March 18, 2019.
Read on to hear from SPI graduates working in children’s publishing, magazine editorial, and the fast-paced world of publicity.
Daisy Glasgow, Publicity Assistant, Random House Children’s Books
Did you know you wanted to go into children’s publishing when you arrived at SPI?
Yes! I was fortunate enough to have a mother who instilled a love of reading in me when I was very young, and that love bloomed more and more every year. Growing up, I realized that I was an oddity among my peers. Not many of them enjoyed recreational reading as I did. I do believe that establishing story-time and something as common as taking regular trips to the bookstore or local library are important factors in creating a life-long reader. Children’s publishing is the foundation to spark a love of reading.
You were assigned the role of Publicity Director in the book imprint final project during SPI. Has that experience helped you in your current role?
As my current position is publicity assistant, my [final project] role definitely helped me out. We were actually in the final steps of our book imprint project when I interviewed for my current position. This was helpful because I was able to detail some knowledge of publicity and share the ideas I was creating at the time.
What was the biggest surprise about your job once you started?
Definitely, it was realizing the amount of time and work it takes to have an author on tour.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to SPIers who are interviewing for publicity assistant jobs?
My one tip for any job in the industry is to be passionate and know the company/imprint you’re interviewing for. Specifically with publicity, come prepared to discuss things related to publicity, whether that be events you’ve attended or your favorite bookstagramers/blogs.
Tell us about a project you’re most excited about in your current position.
Currently, I am working on my first few titles and it’s very nerve-wracking but super exciting! I get to showcase my creativity by drafting press releases, event ideas, and pitching media outlets to cover the books.
How have you connected to the publishing community?
I joined YPG (Young to Publishing) and also POCinPub (People of Color in Publishing). It’s nice to talk to others starting out in the industry who understand what you’re going through. I definitely recommend joining either (or both!) groups. If you have any clubs at your own [publishing] house for newcomers, joining them would be helpful too!
Hannah Harper, Editorial Assistant, Health and Health.com, Meredith Corporation
You have a few bylines at Health.com now – what has it been like to gain writing experience in your position?
It has been so exciting writing for a big publication like Health; I didn’t think I would have this much opportunity to write so early on in this position. It has definitely been a learning curve! Writing journalistically is obviously different from academic writing, and every publication has its own voice. So, I’ve actually had to learn how to have a little more fun with my writing because our tone is conversational. I’m still perfecting the art of crafting intriguing headlines! I also love that I have gotten to write about so many different things, from body positivity to the latest health studies to sex and relationships. I get to interview people from all different fields, so I learn a lot!
Did you know you wanted to work in magazine media when you came to SPI?
I was interested in both books and magazines when I came to SPI – as I think the majority of our class was – but I was definitely leaning towards magazines. I was blown away by the speakers we had (hello, Samantha Barry!), so I think I was fully committed to magazine media by the end of the first week.
Aside from loving to write and being good at it, what does it take to be a strong editorial assistant?
One of the great things about being an editorial assistant is that there is so much opportunity to learn. On any given day, you’re writing articles, setting up events, coordinating the Editor-in-Chief’s schedule, communicating with editors, advertising and sales teams, and production managers. You’re involved in so many aspects of the industry and everyone gets to know you. So I think to be a good editorial assistant, you have to be enthusiastic about everything and be open to every small task or opportunity. The more you do (and do well), the more opportunities will be offered to you, and the more you can learn and accomplish. I say yes to everything.
What session or experience at SPI had the biggest impact on you?
Looking back, I think the alumni networking event and the brown bag lunches had the biggest impact. The job search could be really daunting at times, so it was so beneficial to see people who had been in my position a year ago, now succeeding in the industry. And it was so encouraging to have those people tell me, “You can do it, you can succeed, just don’t give up.” It was the push and confidence boost I needed.
Do you keep in touch with others from SPI? What has that been like?
Yes! I made some really great friends through SPI. Both my roommates are from the program, and we went through job searching (and about a month of unemployment) together. I got the interview at Health through my friend Samantha Lauriello, who started interning here after the program and is now an Assistant Editor for Health.com. We sit about 5 feet away from each other at work, lol. The friends I met through SPI are really my core group in NYC.
You moved to NYC from Massachusetts (by way of New Hampshire!). How did you acclimate and what advice to you have for others moving to such a big city?
My friends here have really been my biggest supporters. They encouraged me to stay in the city and pursue magazine publishing after the program, and we have all been here together through the highs and lows of a big, new city. So my biggest advice would be to get to know other people in the program who are moving here, because not only is it easier to acclimate, but then you also have to someone to enjoy, explore, and experience New York with!
My smaller piece of advice is to learn how to navigate the city as soon as possible! New York has great public transportation, and the more I learn to use it (sans GPS), the less intimidating the city seems.
Daniel Modlin, Publicity Assistant, Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group
Applying for jobs in any field takes tenacity. How was your experience hunting for jobs, and how did you land your current role?
Looking for a job was (surprise!) very stressful. I would wake up every morning and the first thing I’d do after making coffee was check bookjobs.com, Publishers Marketplace, and LinkedIn. I learned that Thursdays are when jobs are often put up. I don’t have any data to back this up, but it really seemed like the case.
After several non-successful interviews, I reached out to the SPI book co-director for advice. When interviewing for publicity assistant jobs, I didn’t know what to say or what they might ask me, or why I was even being considered. I got the advice that "clicking" with the manager is the most important thing."
My interview at Grand Central Publishing happened through an SPI connection. The day of my interview, I brought my suit to my babysitting job. They let me shower in their apartment, and I calmly read over notes on the subway ride over. I walked around the block to see Rockefeller Center – I was early – too early to show up I thought – and I figured seeing something new and interesting might calm my nerves.
I rode up the elevator at 3:50 and had a seat. Prompt and on time, like always. The Deputy Publicity Manager walked out and before even shaking my hand, she asked me if everything was okay.
Apparently, I had misread the email, and the interview was at 3:00 and not at 4:00, as I had thought. She was kind enough to still interview me, and the interview was far and away the best one I’d had. The "click" everyone talks about – it happened. I landed the job and have been on time (early, even) ever since.
What are the attributes you need to work in publicity?
I think a common answer to this question is organization. But the publicist who has a perfectly clean desk is rare. I think a more important quality is "attention to detail." There are so many little things that can go wrong.
A publicist’s job is to make sure everything goes smoothly. So organization is essential, but equally important is catching that little tiny detail you might’ve missed. (Like what time your interview takes place.)
Describe a typical day in your role in your office.
As a book publicity assistant, you are part publicist, part travel agent. Most of the time I am drafting pitches, finding media contacts, and basically convincing people how great this book is. It’s really interesting to discuss why the author thinks a book is important, and necessary for our culture, and to try to get others to pay attention to it. It often feels like a puzzle, because there is always a right answer; you just have to know where to look for it, what angle to approach.
The other half of the job is something almost entirely different. I actually enjoy it a lot: booking hotels, flights, and cars for authors so they can get where they need to be. It’s making me really excited for the next vacation I take. I feel like I know all of the best travel deals and places to stay.
How do you find a work-life balance when working in publicity?
Publicity gets a bad rap. While it is really fast-paced and often at the office it can feel like I’m juggling a million things at once, rarely does that atmosphere leave the office. There are times, sure, where I have to call a car-service on a Sunday morning, or fix something, but those are really special circumstances. Grand Central Publishing does a really great job of encouraging its employees to keep work inside the office.
Is there a title you’re most excited about for 2019?
This Much Country by Kristin Knight Pace! It’s a memoir that begins in Texas and ends in the remotest region of Alaska imaginable, aboard a dog sled. Before this book, I didn’t even know what the Iditarod was. But through the author’s absolutely breathtaking nature writing, and inspiring journey, I’m seriously considering a move to Alaska. Not really, but I do love this story.
What’s something you didn’t know before SPI that you’re grateful to know now?
I went into SPI wondering why we had the magazine media session. It was my favorite part of the program, and the most useful for my current role. I had no plans to work for a magazine, but my job largely consists of being in contact with magazine editors. Having knowledge of how they run their business, and what exactly they are doing is extremely useful.
Ready to apply for NYU Summer Publishing Institute 2019? Applications are due March 18, 2019! See our website for application details and our full program brochure.