Written by Carl Rosenberg; copy edited by Maggie Clark
On Saturday, January 27, Editors BC presents a seminar, “From Slush Pile to Newsstand: Workshopping the Magazine Workflow,” by long-time editor Jennifer Landels. This full-day seminar will walk participants through the typical workflow of a literary magazine, giving an overview of the production flow and various editorial stages, and giving participants hands-on experience in each of them. This seminar will be particularly helpful for editors looking to improve their workflow processes, change roles within their publications, or expand their publishing expertise.
Jennifer is a founding editor and managing editor of Pulp Literature Press. Prior to starting the press, she worked as a freelance editor, writer, and designer.
Carl Rosenberg, a volunteer on Editors BC’s communications and social media committee, spoke to Jennifer about her work and advice on magazine editing.
Hello, Jennifer! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. How did your career develop from freelance editor, writer, and designer to magazine editor?
I tend to be a jack of all trades and have had many careers, from musician to childbirth educator to swordplay instructor. For years, I had done editing and writing on-and-off, and in mid-2013, I was concentrating on long-form fiction.
One sunny day, Mel, Sue, and I—the founding editors of the magazine Pulp Literature—were sitting on Mel’s deck, drinking beer, and bemoaning the lack of short fiction venues in Canada. The beer may have had something to do with it, but by the end of the day, we decided we knew enough good writers with stories languishing under their beds to put a magazine together. I had done desktop publishing for newsletters, zines, handbooks, and other small publications in the 1990s and 2000s, so it wasn’t a huge step to a small press.
Initially, the three of us did everything from acquisitions to final proofing. Eventually, though—probably because I have managed rock bands, riding stables, and a mounted combat program—the role of managing editor somehow fell on me and stuck.
What are the most challenging aspects of managing a magazine workflow?
Keeping track of the timeframe and to-do list for each issue. We have four issues in production at any one time, i.e., one in distribution, one in print and e-book production, one in copy editing, and one in development and story selection. All the while, the marketing and advertising timelines need to be coordinated, as well as the contest deadlines and submissions openings. It’s a bit like trying to hold an octopus—you think you’ve got all the tentacles in hand, and then, you notice one waving at you just out of reach.
What kinds of skills and experiences are valuable to an editor hoping to get into magazine production?
Aside from the all-important eye for detail and solid grammar skills, comfort with new technology is extremely helpful. An editor who can use cloud-based sharing, navigate a spreadsheet, and follow a Gantt chart will find it easier to work collaboratively in the fast back-and-forth pace of a magazine schedule.
An eye for design is useful, as final proofing isn’t just about catching missing commas—it’s also about checking overall page layout, formatting, and visual composition. Even if you never plan to do layout yourself, it’s nice to have some familiarity with design tools and vocabulary. Knowing terms like kerning and CMYK, the difference between hard and soft breaks, and what the trim and bleed margins of your page are will help you communicate with your layout and design team to make a better-looking end product.
On a lighter note, what are a few of your favourite books and publications—editing-related or otherwise?
I keep an edition of The Oxford Reference Dictionary (TORD) beside my desk. Our copy editor and proofreader are so good I hardly ever crack it open, but every once in a while, when our style guide doesn’t have an answer, I default to TORD for the final word. The other reference text beside the desk is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, which can be quite a dangerous rabbit hole if you start flipping pages at random.
As far as reading for fun goes, there are so many books I love that it’s hard to choose.
I just finished reading A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, and I am blown away by her ability to shift through multiple times and viewpoints without ever losing the reader or diminishing the incredible emotional impact of her narrative.
As a combination of pleasure and work, the sequel to Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries by Mel Anastasiou is a book that I am impatiently looking forward to. We released the first novel last year. The sequel is due out November 2018, and I know I’m going to enjoy every minute of reading and re-reading it in the course of its editing and production cycle.
Jennifer, thank you very much for sharing your experience and expertise. We’re looking forward to your seminar on January 27.
Carl Rosenberg edited “Outlook: Canada’s Progressive Jewish Magazine” from 1998 to 2016. He has a diploma in Latin American studies from Vancouver Community College and a bachelor of arts in Spanish language and literature from UBC. He has recently begun volunteering with the communications and social media and committee of Editors BC.
Maggie Clark is a post-secondary student and copywriting specialist whose goal in life is to work as a professional editor. On her way to achieving that goal, she has earned a Professional Writing Diploma from Douglas College and a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University. Her next step is to complete her studies in SFU’s Editing Certificate program.
Photos provided by Jennifer Landels.