What Is Book Packaging? It's An Ideal Career Path For Ambitious Readers
You've made it. You've graduated college, and the world is at the tips of your fingers. For those of you considering a career in publishing, it might be a little daunting to figure out which direction to take. I know the world of New York publishing seems immeasurably large, but the networks are actually quite small. There's writing, editing, agenting, marketing, production, and publicity. What happens when you want to do it all?
Well, that's when it might be a good idea to consider a job in book packaging. But what does that even mean?
Book packaging is a field that allows you to combine some of the best parts of the publishing industry under one umbrella. Packagers and "literary development" companies have been behind some of the biggest titles in publishing. You've probably heard of Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and The 100. Companies like Alloy Entertainment, Cake Literary, and Glasstown Entertainment see beyond the book to create something epic.
"Book packaging is more similar to movie making that it is to other kinds of editorial work or writing a book," she says. "The reason why I say that is because in a movie you have the screenwriter, the actors who bring the script to life, and you have the director and producers who are bringing that vision to life. Packaging is like that. So as a packager my job is to come up with a story idea, outline it and try to find the right writer who can bring it to life."
Do you think you'd be a perfect fit for the competitive world of book packaging? Find out what it takes below.
1. Your path doesn't have to be linear. Internships can lead the way.
"I did the internship route into publishing," Benko tells Bustle. "I had internship at a literary scout agency. I interned at Foundry Literary agency. I also interned at Simon & Schuster UK in college. Later on I had a full time job as an editorial assistant at HarperCollins... I knew about it [packaging] because my then boss at Foundry represented Paper Lantern Lit, now Glasstown. I was very interested and it seemed like a perfect fit because I love writing and I love coming up with ideas. I really thought about becoming an agent because I love advocating for authors, and as a packager you do everything. You agent, you scout, you edit, and it's constant creativity."
2. You need to be creative, curious, and courageous.
This is one of those career paths that are perfect for those who love to try new things. After all, when you're constantly pulling from the creative well, you need to refill it somehow.
"The majority of my job is being creative and having that space to work, which a lot of people can't say," Benko says. "I like that [Glasstown] allows me to be curious. It actually demands that I be curious. I have to look for stories everywhere and to be able to do that I try to push myself to go and do things that I've never tried before because that's how you get inspiration. I love that my job demands that I be courageous and search for that."
3. You have a keen eye for detail and new talent.
As a packager, Glasstown knows that pairing the right author with the right project is a dream come true. The end game is clear: create something that will have an impact on readers.
"As an editor, it's my job to get the prognosis, but I'm also trying to get the diagnosis. I can edit for plot, I can edit for pacing, but I can't edit for emotion," Benko says.
There's no rhyme or reason to finding talent. Instead, Benko says, they "try a little bit of everything: word of mouth, agencies, authors recommend friends, we also do call-outs on social media. People will send samples through our website. Sometimes we reach out to people who have a strong historical background and have written nonfiction, but have yet to write a novel."
4. You can stay current in your industry news.
In the last year, Glasstown has expanded beyond books and into TV and film.
"We look at the YA and literary markets," Benko says. "The change lets us look at a story and decide what the best pathway is. So we still come in with ideas the same way but maybe one is more visual and makes more sense as a tv show or film. We're just looking at different platforms and opening up possibilities."
5. You want the MFA experience (without the MFA price tag.)
"Packaging is like getting an MFA," she says. "I say this as both a writer and as an editor. For authors: if you wanted to work for a book packager, it's a wonderful way to get a start into the door. We work with a lot of debut authors. But we really do try to work with authors who come on board. We have some fantastic new authors. We try to explain things and why we're thinking the way we're thinking. For editors: you can learn why a story works or doesn't work. You rely on intuition but also learn the mechanics and how the mechanics feed into the intuition."
6. You love to network and get out there.
"This allows you to meet a lot of different people. I speak with editors, agents and authors. I'm constantly moving around. I hear from all sides of the industry at any given time."
Traveling to conventions and conferences is also a part of this. Benko says, "I get to go to conferences as an editor and give workshops on how to come up with story ideas and plot. In some ways, I have all the perks of being an editor with some of the freedoms of being an agent."
7. You work well with a team.
Coming up with new and innovative projects is a team effort. You have to contribute ideas, give positive feedback, and work well with others. Storytelling is a team effort at book packagers.
Benko says: "First you have to come up with an idea. It could come from a group brainstorm like a game of putting nouns in a hat and pulling out two ideas. Once we have an idea, one of us goes off and does a one-pager. The one-pager sketches out what a beginning, middle, and end would look like. And then if that gets approved and everyone agrees this is a good start, we branch out. We explore a little bit more and blow it up to three pages.
"Around this time we start to look for an author. The sooner we can get an author on board we can tailor it to [them]. To us it's really important that the author feels ownership and has a connection with it. Anyone can write a plot, but to be able to write an authentic narrative tale that's going to reach the reader, you need to be connected to the story and have something to say. You need to have an opinion on something.