Sara-Mae Tuson, InkTears Editorial Director, gives tips on how to get into publishing
These days it seems like every other person is editing an ‘edgy’ arts mag or online ‘zine. We’re lucky to live in an age where we have infinite access to the best (and worst) examples of art and literature at the tap of a keypad. Almost every day I see something that makes my head spin with its beauty and ingenuity. And though it’s been a few years since I was a literary magazine ed, I still have moments where I think that would be great for The London Magazine or Trespass.
Of course, the down side of easy internet access is that many publications are having to go free or move exclusively online because people simply don’t want to pay for content they can easily access on their phones and other devices. For those magazines that are still going strong, it’s a testament to the sheer love, grit and determination that these editors exhibit. **Pulls out tiny soap box**: So if you’re a lover of the arts, buy these magazines. Trespass is unfortunately dormant (a victim of the extortionate costs involved in printing and distributing them) but there are loads of magazines for you to cherish and collect. Millennials…your Tinder dates will be hugely impressed by how brainy you are when you proudly display your copies of [insert preferred magazine here]. There are thousands of brilliant, critically acclaimed and gorgeous-looking magazines to choose from: London Magazine, Ambit, Magma, Mslexia to name only a few.
Here comes the truth bomb: it’s a tough racket. As the first female ed of The London Magazine (over 300 years old), stepping into the massive shoes of Sebastian Barker – a wonderful poet and renowned editor – it was a challenge to keep up the standard that readers expected. I liaised with writers, agents, print and distribution outlets, design and editorial staff, as well as commissioning top quality work to a strict publishing schedule all in the wake of Arts Council funding cuts. I got very little sleep and was constantly on the look out for the next great thing. Sound a little masochistic? Maybe, but it was also marvellous.
So, if this is something you’re interested in, here are some things to consider:
- Start at the bottom. Literary magazines rely on passionate people, willing to work for a pittance. Interns and editorial assistants are essential to getting them off the ground. On the plus side, working or volunteering for a magazine can help you make valuable contacts – a must if you’re an aspiring writer or want to edit your own magazine one day.
- Diversify. Learn the social media stuff. There’s no excuse for being a luddite anymore. It’s important in every industry, so the time for burying your head in the sand is over. Take a class, or learn it while on the job.
- Look out for opportunities in the arts world. For example, The London Review of Books recently advertised a role as a digital editor, and The Rialto just announced an exciting editor development programme – opportunities like these are a fabulous way to learn from the best.
- Find a mentor. I was lucky enough to have many wonderful people who supported and nurtured me when I had questions or doubts. Approach someone you admire (politely!). If you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it.
- Read a lot and go to events. Most cities are bristling with amazing events. If not, why not start your own? It’s a great way to find new talent or showcase your own. If you can prove that you’re aware of what’s going on in the literary world, you’ll be much more likely to land that coveted role at the magazine of your choice. An event like Loose Muse, for example, nurtures female writers in any genre as well as always having two established writers who answer questions put to them during a cosy Q&A session hosted by Agnes Meadows. Check out the Poetry Library for up-to-date info on the latest events and pick your favourite.
Editing can be a gruelling task. I’m not going to lie – you probably won’t make your fortune. But for those of you who have a passion for the arts it’s a wonderful way to do what you love.