Taking Your Literary Career to the Next Level

Now certainly isn’t the best time to be entering the world of journalism or publishing. I am uncertain about the direction the media will take in the future, but I do know that there should always be a need for muckrakers and good storytellers. I only hope I can be a part of that in some form. Last week, for some inspiration, I listened in on a panel at the Chicago Cultural Center, probably one of my favorite buildings in Chicago. The panel – titled “Going Pro: How to Take Your Literary Venture to the Next Level” — featured three guests: Jill Pollack, founder and director of StoryStudio; Carol Saller, author of The Subversive Copy Editor; and Doug Seibold, president of Agate Publishing. All three guests revealed their struggles and worries about failure, especially when just starting out. But they also offered some practical advice. I jotted these notes down:

Pollack listed a “hint list, not a hit list,” she joked.

1. Dream big – “the unconscious mind sends us messages.”
2. Plan for your business. This includes nitty-gritty details such as cash-flow projections. “These things will make your head hurt.”
3. Surround yourself with the right people and “let them work their magic.”
4. Networking is now your life.
5. Be professional.
6. Remember the dream.
7. Laugh a lot.

Saller printed out a list of “50 questions for editorial planning.” In her discussion, she emphasized three of these points:
1. Set explicit editorial goals.
2. Establish editorial and production schedules.
3. Focus on two stages of the editorial process — acquiring the content and handling the content.

Seibold focused on how to turn your dream into a viable business. “Don’t be afraid of going for the profit,” he said. After working at Agate for several years, he said what he does “ceases to be work. To that extent, I feel the happiest of men.” He also listed some points of advice:

1. Learn what you want to do and learn from failure.
2. Build and tap your network.
3. Be flexible and creative.
4. Love what you do.
5. Work really, really hard.

Author: Sheila Burt


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