Last month several members of the NetGalley team sat down with NYU Summer Publishing Institute students. Nina Berman, Associate Editor at NetGalley Insights, Amanda Delatorrre, QA Manager, and Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth & Development described their career paths, answered student questions, and shared the advice that helped each of them get to where they are in the publishing industry.
The Summer Publishing Institute (SPI) is a six-week study of books and digital/magazine media in the heart of the publishing world. The program combines workshops, strategy sessions, presentations, hands-on projects and dynamic networking events. Learn more about SPI, plus NYU’s MS in Publishing.
The NetGalley team offered advice about how to network, how to position non-publishing skills and experience for the publishing world, how to carve a niche for yourself in a team as an assistant or intern, and assured the students that there are other creative positions beyond the Editor role.
You can see their nontraditional paths to NetGalley at the end of the article.
Network for the long haul, not just the job hunt
NB: When you’re making those connections, thinking about what you really want to get out of it. In part, it’s obviously that you want to be on their Rolodex so when they’re hiring or their friends are hiring they remember you. But there’s a lot of other information you can learn. And also, keep up with them! Let them know when you get a job, even if they didn’t directly help you do it. People like to feel like they’ve helped you even if just what they did was give you a few pointers generally. Because your first publishing job will not be your forever-job in the world. All of us have been helped by someone along the way. There’s a real sort of pay it forward sensibility.
AD: Networking is scary, but it’s so important. Connections that you make from here [at SPI], the speakers, including us, who come here and talk to you guys want to help, we want to give back. Taking advantage of that is really important.
KR: And if these contacts you make see that your momentum is building – that you got a job, and continue to express an interest in them and in the work that they’re doing, you’re going to stay at the top of their mind if they hear about something else that they think you’d be right for. Just sharing your interests with those people goes a long way towards helping others do some work for you and open up opportunities that you might otherwise not have heard of.
Frame your experience for the job you want
KR: Talk about your previous experience in a way that makes it relevant for the job you’re applying for. I had a friend who was interested in a career change, to get into publishing. She asked me if I would sit down with her and look at her résumé because she was applying for a marketing job. She had done work in retail and office admin. I literally just tweaked a couple of words to use publishing lingo to really draw the line between what that experience was and how it applies to book publishing. I think that was one of the most helpful things for her to get her foot in the door. And then once your foot is in the door, the interview is easy. So make sure that you’re really taking the language that you’re using in these classes and insert it into those résumés.
NB: I interned at a place called Chicago Ideas Week and wrote for their blog. Which was fun and something that kept me busy because they didn’t always have a ton of work. Eventually I realized that I needed to get on my own insurance, so I ended up getting a job as a sales assistant at iHeartMedia, which is the company that owns the radio stations that you listen to. It was in no way a good fit for me in terms of culture or the nature of the work, but I learned a lot of 9-to-5 kinds of office skills – emailing, organization, dealing with agency people, things like that. And later on, I was able to turn a part-time opening at NetGalley into a full-time job because I had a combination of editorial experience, from writing for this blog, and account management from this sales job that had been so taxing on my spirit. It was a lot of bouncing around but I found connections where I didn’t expect them, which ended up helping me. And in retrospect, finding things I didn’t think were valuable about old jobs actually ended up helping me be here at NetGalley.
Think about what matters to you in a job
NB: Working at NetGalley has helped clarify what I care about in a job, which is important when you’re job hunting. Think clearly about what kind of work you’re willing to do, what are the quality-of-life things that are important to you, what size of company do you want to work for, etc. Publishing jobs are so competitive and – especially if you’re working in editorial – you know you’re signing up for what might end up being fairly grueling work, and it might be hard to make rent.
I know for me, it’s really important to feel like I have some kind of ownership over the work that I do. It’s valuable for me to see the impact of my work, and I think that is really possible at a smaller, scrappier organization. But, for a lot of other people, working at a real legacy publisher is hugely important and makes you feel like you’re in a grand lineage. I feel like I have a lot of freedom with NetGalley Insights – to develop it in the way that I want, to interview whoever I’m interested in.
At NetGalley, our workplace culture is great. We all maintain good boundaries about working and not working, which is really important because we’re remote. We have set hours, which I think is really valuable. And I think there’s a lot of trust. And I’ve never worked with a more competent team in my life.
Think about what your values are, what makes you feel like you can get up and go to work everyday and hold onto that as you go into job-hunting.
AD: I always thought I wanted to work in editorial and, through SPI, I got an internship at Wiley that eventually ended up being my first job as an editorial assistant. When I got the title “Editorial Assistant” at Wiley, which has been a publisher since the 1800s, I was so excited, even though I had no idea what that actually meant. For me, the work there was not rewarding and I was struggling. I knew I wanted to stay in some kind of publishing house and I wanted to stay in the industry, but I was nervous to leave even though I knew I was unhappy. Eventually, I found myself in a more technology-focused role, which ended up suiting me much more!
KR: For my particular role, the fact that I have many things going on – from new product development and sales to managing my team and being an extra set of eyes for NetGalley Insights – sometimes makes it difficult to prioritize. As soon as I get really excited and focused on one thing, there’s all of this other stuff that I need to be thinking about, including what’s next for the company. But that’s also what I love about it. Our team is phenomenal, our work life balance is really great as a company, and for my particular job, every day is different. I never find myself in a rut, because as soon as I’m done focusing on something, there’s five other things that I could be looking at. Staying excited about my position has helped me stick with NetGalley for over eight years!
Explore beyond editorial
AD: When I realized that I wasn’t happy as an editorial assistant, I moved within Wiley to become a Learning Design Assistant. Learning Design is how people learn online, other than just reading your text. A lot of ebooks, a lot of dynamic stuff like that. It was a very good mixture of both editorial and technology, and I ended up naturally falling more towards the technology side. I’ve always been the person who is good at computers. I think having that job where I got the best of both worlds really pushed me to identify what was best for myself. I went back and got my masters degree in educational technology around that time, which drove my desire to change my position forward. Making that final jump from leaving everything editorial behind into this more tech-focused role at NetGalley was super scary but super rewarding. I think I get the best of all worlds now.
KR: I had an internship at HarperCollins in the editorial department at Ecco. This was a very strategic goal of mine at the time, as it is many of yours. It’s challenging to get into an editorial role. It’s really competitive and it’s a whole lot of work. I encourage you to keep pursuing that! For me, once I really experienced the editorial work, I found that it was less rewarding than some of the publicity work that I was previously doing for Hal Leonard. When a job opened up in marketing at HarperTeen, I jumped on it. I submitted my résumé, I got all of the recommendations in. And I ended up there for two years in the marketing department. That was a great way to exercise my creativity – I was writing a lot of copy for ads, back cover copy, social media posts, text that appeared on dedicated book websites, and things like that.
At that time, and still today, HarperCollins was using NetGalley. I learned about this digital resource that would save so much time – especially thinking back to my time in the publicity department, manually stuffing envelopes and putting the labels on and stacking them so the UPS guy could come pick them up. I was intrigued by the ability to take something that had been such a manual process and make it really digital. It appealed to me in a way that sparked another type of creativity – how can we be using this better? We were [using NetGalley] kind of minimally, but it seemed like we could be doing so much more and connecting with so many more people. These questions led me to apply for a position at NetGalley in a role I never would have predicted for myself!
See yourself as a peer
KR: I interned at Foundry Literary + Media, a literary agency. I did a lot of slush pile reading for them, writing summaries and recommendations to the agents, and writing rejection letters. But what I found most interesting was that the agents were most impressed with the way I could sit in a meeting with them and have a conversation. I heard various comments from them like, “It’s really clear that you’re not right out of college like some of the other interns.” What they were really commenting on was not my age, but the way in which I was able to talk with them confidently as a peer. This is something I would impart to you. Remember that your ideas and opinions are valuable and think of yourself as an equal to all of the people you’re meeting and talking to.
Find opportunity in data & strategy
KR: Data is something you should be thinking about, even – especially! – those of you who are interested in editorial. No matter what your job is, the data is really important. If you know what indicators of success you’re looking for, you can have a better idea about what’s going to work the next time. Or, if you tried something and it didn’t reach the goals you were trying to reach, data helps you to assess why and try something else. We live in an age now where you have to do that to stay competitive.
Strategy is one of those things that I think is undersold. A lot of authors especially are still figuring it out. The marketers and publicists at publishing houses often fall into the trap of, “Well this is the way we’ve always done it.” Or, “Sure, somebody told me I should try this thing and I’m going to do it, but in a really minimal way.” One of the biggest challenges of our job at NetGalley is to help people think about their job in a way that really is data-driven, that helps them be a little more agile in the way that they are considering the audiences that they’re reaching and things like that.
NB: A lot of the publishers we work with, especially those that are smaller or run a tighter ship, say that they always wish they were able to spend more time with NetGalley data. That’s an opportunity for those of you who end up in smaller publishing houses. Whether it’s NetGalley that you’re working with or something else; whatever else it is that other people are too busy to work on, make that your thing. Get really good at it, learn a lot about it, be able to incorporate it into your work, and be able to build yourself a little niche that’s really valuable. We’ve seen people start as an assistant who is clicking buttons within the publisher’s account to approve NetGalley requests, then get really interested and becoming great users of the service. They’re then able to leverage that in their own careers to demonstrate that their understanding of this data is valuable in a higher position, or bringing NetGalley wherever they move next.
It’s a good lesson that the things that people generally know that they should be doing, but might not have the resources to do, can be great opportunities for you as an assistant or intern to find something and make it your own.
Thank you so much to NYU’s SPI students for their thoughtful questions. We wish them all the best of luck as they finish out their program and get started in the industry! We are more than happy to speak to more student groups and consider other speaking engagements. To inquire, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcript has been edited for clarity & length.