#30: A View from the World’s Largest Publisher, and from One of the World’s Smallest, by Maria Gagliano
January 8, 2014
I hold a unique position in publishing. Via my day job and my side project, I have a view of the industry from the world’s largest publisher, as well as from one of the world’s smallest publishers. Let me explain.
By day, I work as a senior editor at Penguin Random House. Since Penguin and Random House merged this year, my employer is the world’s largest publishing empire. That said, working there doesn’t feel as big as it sounds. The company is broken into two major branches—Penguin and Random House—and from there, into smaller divisions. Each division is comprised of a handful of imprints. Once you drill down to the imprint level, you get to the work of making books. Editors acquire projects and help authors write manuscripts. Managing editorial and production departments conduct the magic of copyediting, proofreading, and printing. Sales teams get books into stores. In between, you have departments covering contracts, legal, subsidiary rights, publicity, marketing, and design. It’s an epic machine, but when it comes to my job, I work in a department of about 20 people, which feels just big enough. We busy ourselves making books on our corner of the 3rd floor. Other departments contribute at relevant times, and the whole operation hums along. Our authors often earn advances large enough to help them feed and clothe themselves. Their books are often bestsellers, and they win national awards that are followed by more books.
By night, weekend, and early morning, I’m a co-founder, business director, and co-publisher of Slice. We’re a small, semi-annual nonprofit literary magazine. My friend Celia and I started Slice when we were assistants at the aforementioned corporate publisher (just the RH part), feeling cranky about the limited publishing opportunities available to emerging writers. We decided to start Slice during lunch one day in Central Park. From there, we got Googling. We found designers, printers, distributors, and pro-bono lawyers. We began our hunt for talented writers willing to be published in a magazine nobody had ever heard of. We read every submission, then copyedited, proofread, and publicized our first issue ourselves. Since then, we’ve published thirteen issues and host an annual writers’ conference. Our magazine overflows with authors whose work had never been published before, and some whose work had. We pay a modest fee to publish their writing, then do our best to get it out there. We host readings to launch each issue, where the authors’ work is often heard by the public for the first time. They publish more stories in more magazines, finding even more readers. They win awards. They write more. They publish more. Along the way, we champion their work, tweeting, cheering, and recommending to anyone looking for a good read.
Every day, I operate on opposite ends of the publishing spectrum. The biggest and the smallest. The most lucrative and the most resourceful. And while both are wildly different in every possible way, I’m driven to do both because of our one shared purpose:
We help people get their important ideas into the world, so that others can read them.
Maria Gagliano is a writer, editor, baker, and co-publisher of Slice. Her writing has appeared in BUST magazine, the Huffington Post, Salon, and BrooklynBased.net, among other publications. When she’s not playing with words, she’s teaching herself to sew, garden, pickle, preserve, and cook like her Sicilian parents. She shares her (mis)adventures at pomatorevival.com.