This is a scary post to write, because I’m putting my plans ‘out there’, which makes them feel more real. My gentleman friend and I have made a decision about our future. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about The Next Step in my life. I have been faced with decisions now that my Creative Writing MA has come to an end.
Part of me wanted to go back to the publishing industry, but the highly competitive environment – especially in this economical climate – and the nine-to-five lifestyle, plus the fact that I would almost certainly have to move to London, put me off when it came to the crunch. I have been toying with some ideas of my own, and have decided to put those ideas into action.
So, the plan is: Move to Norwich where the living expenses are lower. I will get some part time work (doing pretty much whatever) while the other half works in a career job. The rest of the time I will work on my writing, try to get some work with the university, and… start my own magazine business.
I will keep running Inkspill Magazine, though I will be looking for some volunteer staff to help me, and I will be reducing the frequency from quarterly (which I failed at maintaining) to bi-annually. It will no longer be available in print, because print-on-demand is not cost effective and I can’t afford to print any other way. So it will become completely digital, but will remain free. I’m hoping to sell advertising space in order to pay contributors and staff, though the amount will be fairly token.
But I want to start a magazine that will contribute to my income. I have done a lot of research, but there is so much that is out of my control – and that’s the scary part.
I want to create a magazine about the craft and business of writing (as opposed to just publishing stories and poems). It will be similar to Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum but it will be aimed more towards intermediate writers of all ages – more like Mslexia – as opposed to (mostly middle-aged) hobbyists, which I believe these two writing magazines are more suitable for. It will contain articles, columns, reviews, interviews, event listings, competitions, competition listings, and places to submit. Suggestions welcome – what do you want to read?
It will be available in print, A5, quarterly (at first), full colour – and free! I hope to get certain local (and possibly London) buildings (libraries, theatres, arts centres, universities) to ‘stock’ it. It will be aimed at UK readers and include listings to UK writing and publishing events.
It will also be available on subscription in the UK, for just £10 for four issues, which covers the postage and makes sure subscribers won’t miss an issue. I’m also going to collect email subscriptions so that I can email free PDFs to people, and I will also put a plain text version without adverts into the Kindle store for a small price. I will try to get it into the Apple iBook store, but I need to do more research on this. I don’t think I can use PDFs for that, so again it will be the plain text ad-free version. However, I will look into creating an app that allows for a PDF subscription to iPads.
The magazine will be funded through advertising. I will be looking for 4-5 volunteers to help me start up the magazine, which I would like to be able to pay once the magazine starts turning a profit. Content contributors will be paid.
Ideal volunteer staff would include:
- 1-2 Submission Readers (with token payment)
- Advertising Manager (helping to secure advertisers, working on 5% commission)
- Social Media Director (helping to maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts, with token payment)
- Graphic Designer (to help with layouts and graphics, with token payment)
At first, it will be very much a ‘for the love’ project. I hope there will be some interest in volunteer staff. I think it would be great experience for anyone just starting out, or hoping to break into, a magazine/editorial/publishing career.
I haven’t got a name for this publication yet… Possibly ‘On Writing’ – it needs to be professional sounding and self explanatory, so any suggestions welcome!
Leave a comment or email me if you want to talk about this project. I would love your input!
The time has come to work out what my next step in life will be.
On Monday, I electronically handed in my last MA assignments. On Wednesday, I handed in the hard copies, and much celebration ensued. Overall, I really enjoyed the MA. The best thing about it was perhaps the people I met and worked with – this sort of thing you can’t find in a league table. I felt very lucky to have such a great group of writers. And now I’m sad that we won’t be working together on the MA any more. Though I’m sure we’ll all stay in touch, it won’t be quite the same.
My plan had always been to get back into publishing. To break into fiction publishing, as opposed to educational publishing, which I where I worked previously. However, now that it’s come to the crunch, I’m questioning this, for these main reasons:
- Most publishers are based in London. I don’t want to live in London.
- There are hardly any editorial vacancies… Finding a job might take me eight months (as it did last time!).
- Publishing is highly competitive. Do I really have what it takes?
- Can I deal with the 9-5 lifestyle? I found it very tough before, and I didn’t even have to commute!
- I’m claustrophobic and the thought of spending any length of time on a crowded commuter train makes me want to cry. Or sitting for hours in heavy traffic.
- It will all be worth it if I find my dream job – but what if I end up stuck in a rut?
I’m sure a lot of people can relate to some or all of these worries. I can work round them, and I might find that many are unfounded (because you never know ’til you try, right?) but there’s another part of me that wants to do something different:
- To combine part time work (anything)
- with freelance editorial fiction editing (how does one break into this? I’m still not sure)
- with running a profitable magazine (entirely risky)
- while developing my workshop skills (terrifyingly unconfident in this)
- and also continuing to write my novel (still feels like a pipe dream)
As you can see from my bracketed comments, the main issue with the second option is fear. Everything about it is uncertain, and that scares me greatly.
Everyone always says you should reach for your dreams. I’m not sure how much I want the second option. I’m trying to weigh up my desire with my fear. At the moment, fear is winning. Society and everyone around me is telling me to go for the stable career option. Maybe because, really, it’s the right choice to make.
I would like to have flexibility with work – time, place, projects. However, I also don’t like being completely isolated in a working environment. I would also like stability. I’m not concerned with making huge riches – I just want enough money to live on easily. Putting my career into my own hands will require a lot of discipline. I honestly don’t know if I could pull it off. I have a lot of doubts I need to work through.
I need a plan.
Well, on Friday I left my job. I have been working full time for the world’ leading publisher for nearly a year. It was a very surreal day. The desk that I had sat at for literally hundreds of hours. The faces I saw every day. The routine. All ended!
I had a lovely send-off. My colleagues all signed a card with some really nice messages, and gave me a £30 Amazon gift voucher (which is going to be extremely handy for getting books for my course!). My girl gang (all the other editorial assistants, assistant editors, and associate editors) also got me a card, and a £10 HMV voucher (which I’m going to buy The Proposition with – they know I love films!) and some gorgeous earrings.
I’ve learned an awful lot over the past year, and the people I have worked with have all been brilliant. But I’m not going to miss the stress. With so many of our team members leaving recently, and it taking so long for their roles to be filled again, things became quite difficult for many of us. Though I had a lot of support, it was still a difficult time.
I had an exit interview on Friday in which I raised a few concerns. My interviewer said that the interview could either be kept confidentially on file, or that it could be shared with my managers. I thought, what’s the point in doing the interview if it’s just going to be put in a filing cabinet and not read? So I agreed for my managers to read it. My main concerns were about the big gaps between people leaving and their positions being filled again, and the potential for promotion. It seemed that for an assistant at my entry level, it was very possible to be promoted to assistant editor and then to associate editor, within about three years, but it also seemed that all this meant was taking on more and more responsibilities and a bigger work load, while still effectively remaining on the bottom rung of the ‘team’ ladder. It would have made more sense to get more assistants in once someone had reach the status of associate editor.
Furthermore, it seemed that quite a few people had to leave the company because once they got to that level, there just wasn’t anywhere higher they could get to, unless an editor left. I’m sure it’s the same in most publishing houses, though.
Of course, my main reason for leaving was so I could go back into education. I think it is more than likely that when I come back to work again in a year’s time, I will go back into publishing. However, I think I will definitely try to get into fiction publishing instead of educational publishing. I have heard they are very different roles.
It is very, very scary knowing that I won’t be getting a pay package every month. I have one more month’s pay to come to me, and that will be it. Which is why I’m going to use the contacts I’ve made over the past year to hopefully get some freelance work. Pearson have already offered me several freelance projects, some to be completed by the end of the year, and some ongoing for 2011. I’m extremely happy about this. I know exactly how to do this work, as it is a task I often did while working there, and the money is better than if I’d been working in-house (though only marginally).
I also have a few ideas for e-courses. I want to set up some passive income streams, so I’m going to have my work cut out for me setting those up. I want to make them really, really good quality and great value for money, but very simple to orchestrate.
I had a bit of a nightmare with my university enrollment recently. It seemed that though I had been accepted by the English department, they hadn’t passed my application onto the applications office, so I didn’t have an official place for a while. I found this out after contacting the uni expressing my concern that I hadn’t had any paperwork though. Thankfully, it was resolved and I still had my place. But I had missed the early payment discount for paying the fees, which I was quite angry about. After a few more days of waiting, I found out that because it was the university’s mistake and not mine, I could still pay the discounted fee. So I have already paid my full £4300 (£200 discount for paying early). And that’s all my money at the moment. My bank account now echos.
So the stresses of work have been replaced with the stresses of money. I have to keep reminding myself that ‘it’s only money’ and that I’ll be okay, but I still have a lot of major doubts about whether I’m doing the right thing. I could have gone travelling with that money, or moved out. My dream of holding my first publishing novel in my hands is what keeps me going. Doing the MA gives me a legitimate excuse not to be working full time. It gives me deadlines and people to help and encourage me. It gives me that creative mindset and environment. I’m just hoping it’s enough.
I’m aiming to make at least £200 per month to pay my rent and travel fees. Hopefully I can make a little more than that. I would like to be able to have £1000 saved up by the time I finish my course so that I can move out or go travelling. Not sure how realistic that target is. I want to focus as much as possible on my course. I have taken it full time so that I don’t have to be a burden on the family home for more than another year. But I still need to support myself financially and save for my future. A tricky balancing act.
Relating to that, I need to have a big think about the future of Inkspill Magazine. I want to keep the project going, but with the current structure, I’m loosing around £80-£100 per issue. Which was do-able when I was working full time, but I can’t do that on a student budget. I do want to keep it as a printed publication, but I have a feeling it might have to go to print-on-demand. Which would be a real shame as this means the price will inevitably go up, which I really don’t want to do. Like I say, I need to have a big think about this, and come up with a way that I can publish it without making a loss, and keeping it good value for the reader. Issue 3 is delayed for these reasons, and because I have been terribly busy recently with work and setting up for university.
Well, that’s it for now. It’s Sunday afternoon and I don’t have those ‘Sunday blues’ today, knowing that for the first time in a year I don’t have to go into work tomorrow. I have my induction day on campus on Thursday (getting up at 5am to get the 6am train is not going to be fun), and I believe my course officially starts in central London the following Monday. I’m very excited.
Well, I’m really not updating the blog as much as I’d like. I’ve been completely run off my feet lately with work and Inkspill Magazine.
On Tuesday I was at the RCN Congress Student Day in Bournemouth for work (I am an editorial assistant on the Nursing list for Pearson Education). It took a while for me to get there on the train (3.5 hour there, 3.5 hours back!), but it was a good day. I was there with the commissioning editor and the marketing manager. We had our own book stall with a nice selection of our titles. Sold quite a few, and collected quite a few questionnaires for some research we are doing.
I had a wander around, and there were tonnes of stalls from health care recruitment to NHS stalls, army recruitment to food and beauty stalls. Lots of freebies (though I didn’t take many). There was also a stall giving out free massages, but I didn’t think that would have been quite appropriate while I was meant to be working!
The most exciting part of the day was the unexpected arrival of Nick Clegg. I jokingly said we should get him to sign one of our books, and the editor dared me to do it. So I did! He signed a nice copy of ‘Becoming a Nurse‘ for us, which we then put back on the book stand to be sold.
It was a very long day, but it is nice to get out of the office every now and then, and to get chatting to the students we sell our books to.
In my whole life, did I ever picture myself as a business woman? The answer is no. If I were able to go back in time and tell my 15-year-old self, ‘Hey, you get to work in the book industry when you’re older!’ I would have said ‘Cool!’. If I’d said ‘Hey, you have a 9-5 desk job in a huge business office when you’re older,’ I would have raise my eyebrows (I can’t just raise the one) and said ‘You’re kidding, right?’
On Thurs day, I had a particularly business-like day. I was dressed smart, armed with paperwork full of computer-generated statistics and some preparatory notes, and I had my first commissioning meeting.
I’d been to commissioning meetings before, with the editors I work for. This is when we get together lots of stats, facts and figures and convince the big cheeses of the company that a book is worth publishing. Then we get them to sign the paperwork, that includes the budget and the schedule of the project, and off we trot.
On Thursday, I lead my first meeting. I had never felt more like a business woman in my life. Talking about the statistics of previous sales in the series, and budgets for the expanding series, and reasons why the book would sell. I was pretty damn nervous. Everyone I had to present to were very nice, and I’d gotten to know most of them over my six months at the company, but I really do hate having to do presentations. My editor didn’t leave me high and dry, though. He knew a lot more about the book and the series than I did, and was there to back me up when people asked questions I wasn’t sure how to answer.
With one amendment to the finance stats, they agreed to commission the book. So I had to re-print all the paperwork and find all the right people to sign it the next day. (I still need three signatures.)
The editor I work for bought me a bottle of wine, which was unexpected and incredibly sweet. He wants me to take over the series in the future, and it’s a really good feeling knowing that he’s eager to support me advance my career.
I’m still readjusting to this image of myself as a business woman. All my life I’ve been interested in the creative arts. And I kinda miss it.
(The Director of Salt Publishing talks about the business of publishing in an interview over at Ink, Sweat & Tears.)