Scoop a Publishing Job

By Tanna Waters

Many of the students who work on Silk Road, and many of our readers and contributors, love writing enough to want to stay within the writing world, but may not want to be full time creative writers. I myself got a masters in publishing from Portland State University and do freelance work, but I have also been looking for publishing-related jobs since graduation not too long ago. I’ll share with you the resources I’ve discovered along the way along with a brief description of what you’ll get out of it.

The Editorial Freelancers Association
EFA members are people with a broad range of freelancer skills ranging from editing to translating and more. The association offers clients a list of freelancers (the members) from which to choose in hopes of matching the right freelancer to the right gig. Membership is subscription based as the organization is a member-run nonprofit where the board does not dictate, but involved members do. The association offers classes (reduced tuition for members) along with connecting members to jobs, and offers resources for freelance professionals to improve their skills. Even if you aren’t a member, many of the resources are still available, and most import to any freelancer are the common, and updated, industry rates, which can be found on their website.

For freelancers starting out, Elance is a good place to look for clients. For a small membership price (there are different levels depending on your need), members create a profile and bid for jobs ranging from editing gigs, to ghost writing, to design, and even freelance telemarketing. Services are rated like an Amazon Marketplace seller, and payment is secure (Paypal is common).

You create a profile that acts as a resume and shows past jobs and the ratings you got from them. You can also prove your skills with a skill-testing feature that rates your proficiency with a given platform as a percentile of individuals in the industry. Elance also lets you upload your portfolio so that clients can see samples of our work.

New users can try it out free for ten project bids a month before they need to upgrade.

Media Bistro
Media Bistro is an online forum that keeps media-minded people up-to-date on industry news and research. It also has a large database of jobs that a member (membership is free) can search, either by location or industry. Their mission “is to provide opportunities to meet, share resources, become informed of job opportunities and interesting projects and news, improve career skills, and showcase your work.” The website and job database are updated daily, if not hourly, and is one of the most respected job search forums in my personal circle.
BookJobs is a job an internship database, as well as a publishing industry resource. Their search lets you focus on certain areas within the publishing industry that are of interest. They also have a guide for matching college majors to specific focus areas within the publishing industry, noting that you don’t have the be an English or communications major to have a job in the publishing field. In fact, sometimes it’s better to be a business major than a book major. The unfortunate thing about BookJobs, however, is that it tends to be New York centric, but if you don’t mind relocating then this shouldn’t be an issue.

Publisher’s Websites
Sometimes the best place to scoop a job or internship is right on the publisher’s website. They often post there first before sending the memo out to feeder sites like Craigslist, Monster, Jobdango, and even Media Bistro. Check out the websites of these local publishers:

Beyond Words
Glimmer Train
Hawthorne Books
Inkwater Press
Raintown Press
The Oregonian Newspaper
Timber Press
Tin House
Underland Press

Corporate Websites
Publishing related jobs don’t just live at the publishing house, but also in the corporate world. They are called communications managers, marketing copywriters, desktop publishers, among other things. Many different businesses from an owner-operated small businesses all the way to huge corporations need skilled editors and designers to handle their publications. Don’t count out how valuable your skills with language are to the world. It may come naturally to you, but it doesn’t to everyone. Keep your options open.

Interview with Dorianne Laux

Dorianne Laux

By Tanna Waters

Have you ever hugged a famous poet? I have. Well, two famous poets, but I don’t want to brag. Such are the perks of interning for Pacific University’s MFA in Writing program, one of the top five rated low residency programs in the nation (Atlantic Monthly). I mean, sometimes I took famous poets to New Seasons Market, and sometimes I took them to the airport where I had to say goodbye. And sometimes these poets taught this prose writer a thing or two she didn’t know before, like how to elicit emotion from the sound of a single word.

Later, when I became an editor, the education didn’t stop either. Although the stigma of the editor is to teach the writer not to make mistakes, writers also have something to teach editors. This is often unbeknownst to the editor—that’s why my advanced editing professor made us interview published writers on their experience with editors. At the time, I had wracked my brain as to who I could interview, but it came to me: who better than a poet whom I had once hugged? Dorianne Laux. Below is an excerpt from the interview I had with Laux, which is now available in Volume 6.1 (Spring 2011).

The Interview

I met poet Dorianne Laux when she was a guest writer at Pacific University. During her visit, she directed a poetry workshop I attended. It quickly became apparent she is a no-nonsense tough critic with a poet’s heart.  I followed up her visit with an interview.

Dorianne, a prolific writer, has published a chapbook, Superman: The Chapbook (2008), The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (1997) as a co-author with Kim Addonizio, and four other books of poetry: Smoke (BOA Editions, 2000); What We Carry (1994), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Awake (1990), nominated for the San Francisco Bay Area Book Critics Award for Poetry. Her latest full book of poetry, Facts About the Moon (W. W. Norton 2005), won the Oregon Book Award.

I began the interview by asking questions about her process and her work in general. I see her poetry in the same vein as that of Billy Collins, characterized by elegant yet simple language. My opinion aside, I asked her to describe her poetry to someone who may not be familiar with it, and she said, “I guess you could say I’m a free verse narrative poet, but that is so dry and lifeless. I write about life, significant moments that rise up from all the ordinary moments, and begin to sing: Pay attention!”

And she does. My favorite poems include one about the ugliness of her husband’s face, “Face Poem,” and the burial of a hummingbird in the backyard, “Hummingbird,” both from Facts About the Moon. Dorianne gets her inspiration from daily life. She sees poetry in “washing the clothes, doing yard work, watching people, birds, eating a sandwich, talking to my husband, shopping with a friend. I really don’t discriminate.” She reads for inspiration too, “which ranges from poetry to fiction, non-fiction, the news, cereal boxes, signage. The various media that inundates our lives can sometimes inspire.”

Once she finishes her poems, Dorianne has friends, colleagues, and her poet husband, Joseph Millar, review her work before she shows it to the editors of a publishing house. “My husband,” she says, “reads each new poem and lets me know if it’s worth working on. If he says little, I know it’s missed the mark, if he starts right in making suggestions, I know I’ve got something. Once in a great while he says, ‘You nailed it!’ but those times are few and far between.”

Although much of her editing is done before it gets to the publisher, I asked her if once her work was in the publishing house an editor had ever made a change that she absolutely hated. I wanted dirt on some evil-editing practices, but Dorianne simply said, “I appreciate their suggestions and take them as often as I can. There are times I become married to a stanza, a line, an image, a word, and can’t seem to let go of it. I have had good luck with my book editors as I tend to agree with them when they make suggestions. I was especially happy with the late A. Poulin, Jr., editor for BOA Editions, Ltd., who was very good at seeing last lines I didn’t need and chopping them off.”

Editing poetry is less about editing for grammar and line, Dorianne confirmed, and more about concepts. “Al Poulin would call me up in the middle of the night, his time—he was on the east coast and I was on the west, so it worked—and ask me to read him a new poem. Then we’d just talk about the poem, what it was doing. He picked it apart word-by-word, and would ask, ‘Do you really need this [in the poem]?’”

She credits Poulin as one of the “two best hands-on editors of poetry that ever lived.” Editors now take a “fairly hands-off” approach, which Dorianne explains “is no reflection on the editors of today. Times have changed. There are just so many books out now, and editors don’t really have the time. I think editors choose books they know are going to be fairly polished when they come in.”

So, what do editors at publishing houses edit for to make poetry publishable? Dorianne was relaxed about a manuscript she was waiting to hear back on from the editors at Norton. “I send polished work. My friends and colleagues have looked the work over and I’ve taken it as far as I can. I’m waiting for the copy editor to get back to me about my latest book and expect there will be plenty of small questions I’ll have to consider, but nothing major.”

Since poets seem to have more freedom with their work than other writers, I wondered how much choice they have regarding the titles of their poetry collections. My understanding is that generally publishers pick a title they think is marketable, but since poetry has such a small market, Dorianne says that she typically gets to pick her own titles too, though she says “I have been over-ridden. I was going to call my first book Skipping Stones and my friend, the great poet Philip Levine, said ‘What about Awake?’ I loved it immediately. Al Poulin was concerned that it might be confused with the monthly illustrated magazine printed and published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. We convinced him that it wasn’t going to be a real problem.” Probably not. Her poetry doesn’t exactly have the same audience as the Jehovah’s Witnesses magazine, since she often questions a god rather than affirming him.

I also wondered about the turn-around time for a collection of poetry since collections aren’t edited as heavily as prose. She says that, for her, a book typically takes a year to come out, with some poems going through hundreds of rounds of revisions. The ordering of poems is also her choice. “And my husband’s,” she says. “He ordered my last two books. I helped, of course, but really, it was his idea and then we simply played around a bit here and there. Other friends put in their two cents as well. It takes a village! My first two books were in my own order and my editor liked it. He did ask me to take a few weaker poems out and replace with stronger, newer poems, but I inserted them where I felt they fit best.”

I was also interested in Dorianne’s role as an editor. She was modest, saying, “I’ve been a guest editor for publications like The Pushcart Prize, The Cortland Review, and a number of other small presses, but I’m simply choosing the best of what I’m sent.”

But really, Dorianne was an editor when she came to that workshop at Pacific University. I didn’t have any poems for her to look at, but another student, Amy, brought in a poem about a female Jesus. Amy asks in her poem if the masses would have listened when a female Jesus preached. Would her enemies rape her? Amy’s anger about the sexualization of women was clear in the poem, and came out in the lines “I wonder/how Jesus would fare/with tits and a warm pussy.”

Dorianne paused at the line, said, “That’s interesting. But this is Jesus, woman or not. Let’s be gentler here.”

The suggestion that Dorianne made for the last line was “in a body like mine,” connecting the image to Amy the poet. The line is more gentler and resonant than the original, yet still physical.

Had I more time for the interview, I would have asked Dorianne if she remembered that class, and if she would consider her responses to be editing or teaching, or if perhaps sometimes those things were the same. I would also like to know if she gets to edit her husband’s poetry since she spent so much time describing how he edited hers. I did have time to ask her what she had learned about herself from the editing process: “That I need it.  Every writer needs a good pair of eyes and ears, not their own, to see the work fresh. I don’t always take a suggestion, but there have been many times when days, weeks, months or even years later I look again and say, you know, he or she was right, and make the change. Writing takes time. A poem needs time to settle.”

Printing on the Portland State University POD

Over the summer, I researched where I could have my graduate portfolio printed. Then in Fall 2010, the bookstore at Portland State University (where I am working on a masters in publishing degree) acquired a print on demand (POD) unit. The POD machine is a trial unit to see if it would be cost effective to print textbooks within the university bookstore since shipping unsold copies is expensive. However, while also printing textbooks, the POD machine is also open to students and the public for printing self-published texts and portfolios as the printing press Odin Ink. I discarded my printer research and opted for convenient and timely POD machine.

One thing that is nice about Odin Ink is that Portland-Metropolitan area residents can go talk to the POD technicians face-to-face to learn about print options. At the beginning of the term when they work on textbooks, the print time can take a little longer than it did for me, but during non-peak times print turn-around can be a matter of days. I gave the printer three files: one for a small chapbook of my creative work, a classic book (Candide) that I designed, and my portfolio. The two smaller books, the chapbook and Candide, were ready to pick up in two days, and the larger portfolio took five days. This, they said, was typical.

The smaller format books came out wonderfully. The margins were what I had expected, the paper weight was heavy enough so that the words from the backside of the page couldn’t be seen, and there were no overall print errors. The larger portfolio, however, did have some errors with the trim. The margins were trimmed down too tight to the text, and some of the coloring was off. The alignment of the text block was also off by a fraction. If I had to guess, since I was printing a large format book (8.5×11) on the color POD, I would say that Odin Ink doesn’t have the kinks worked out of either the color machine, or with working with large format. Perhaps it is the combination of the two.

So here’s the run down on prices: The full color portfolio would not be cost effective for Silk Road to print on the POD machine if we went to a large format with any interior color. My 160 page portfolio ran $36 a copy. The smaller format that we currently have (smaller format: less than 8×10) with a black and white interior would run Silk Road $10.15 for an average per copy price. In order to be feasible on the POD, we would have to work out bulk pricing.

For the average user (anyone who lives near Portland and would like to print on the POD machine), you can either bring your files straight to the Portland State University Bookstore, or you can publish through and have your files printed on the POD machine. The staff at Odin Ink can do ISBN registration for you, and they also offer cover and book design (all for a fee, of course). I didn’t use these services having designed my books and portfolio myself.

It is a strange feeling to see my work in print, even though I printed it myself. It is tactile, it is wonderful, and I love my professional and creative work bound in convenient book form, even if in the end it will just be for myself. And although the POD technology isn’t perfect, and although it isn’t quite to the quality of regular book printing, it certainly is convenient, and it certainly gives writers the option to bind a sample of what they have to offer for future employers, for their family as gifts, or for their own personal pleasure. Or maybe even as a beautiful final example of the work that they have done in college—a thesis, a dissertation, a portfolio.

See Odin Ink’s website

or visit their location on the second floor of the PSU bookstore located at 1715 SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland. They accept email for quotes on projects.

—Tanna, Silk Road, Online Marketing