Interview with Logan Balestrino, Digital Publishing Coordinator at Del Rey Spectra

Logan Balestrino graduated from the publishing program in 2009. In her time at Ooligan Press, she was the Acquisitions Editor/Manager and worked on Brew to Bikes, Do Angels Cry?, and Dot-To-Dot, Oregon, among other titles. She now resides in New York City and works for Random House and its science fiction/fantasy imprint Del Rey Spectra as the Digital Publishing Coordinator. She was kind enough to chat with me over Skype on a Saturday afternoon, giving an honest account of her time at Ooligan and her path to becoming a New York publishing professional.

What did you hope to specialize in when you started in the program? Did that change?

I had big dreams of being an editor, and that’s what I wanted to do, or what I thought I wanted to do. I definitely wanted to do editorial—I liked working with the authors, I liked having that sort of creative outlet, I liked having my fingers in the story and helping develop it. But that’s just not where my life went once I got to New York.

How did it change once you got to New York?

After graduating from Portland State, I still wanted to do the editorial thing. I knew I wanted to move out to New York, so I did that. And I actually worked at Borders for a year, trying to find a job, and got an internship at a literary agency, and then eventually got hired as an editorial assistant, working on business and nonfiction books. I was there for almost two years—I think it was almost my two-year anniversary when I switched jobs—and I think about six months in I started to realize I didn’t want to be an editor working in the business, and doing editorial things made me realize that…it just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t happy. So much of it you have to take home, you’re always working, you’re not compensated very well as an editor, and you have the worst hours. And I just wasn’t working on books that were my passion, either. I always wondered, if I had jumped into a fiction imprint first off, if I would’ve felt the same way. If I had been editing sci-fi and fantasy, would it have been as defeating? But I’ll never know, because at that point I was just so disenchanted with the whole idea of being an editor that I started looking at other avenues, and it was kind of scary because I had wanted to be an editor since undergrad so I didn’t know what to do. It was very stressful. But I was lucky enough that a job opened up where I would be working on sci-fi/fantasy books—which I love—but in the capacity of publishing assistant. I had this unique opportunity to shift to editorial if I wanted to but also explore marketing and digital strategy, which I ended up liking a lot. So that’s how I veered off from editorial to marketing and digital strategy; it was just a fluke that I had a boss who headed up two completely different departments.

Which titles did you pitch and acquire while Acquisitions Manager at Ooligan?

I think the only thing I pitched while I was working Acquisitions was Brew to Bikes. I don’t think we had anything else come in that we thought was ready to be acquired or was appropriate for the Ooligan list at the time. The only title I have in my memory as pitching was Brew to Bikes . . . there’s so much that goes on.

Brew to Bikes seems to be pretty popular still.

That’s good to hear. We really liked it. I wasn’t around much longer after we acquired it so I didn’t really get to see it go out into the world. I occasionally hop onto the Ooligan website on a lunch break just to see what’s going on and everything, just because I do live so far away.

What are some of the specifics of your role as Digital Publishing Coordinator?

I’m in this nebulous position where I was hired as the Assistant of Digital Publishing at Del Rey. They promoted me to Coordinator, but my duties didn’t really change, I just took on more responsibilities. So I’m still doing assistant-role things on the publishing side for the Associate Publisher of Del Rey: [I] pull all of the tip sheets for launches, I put together the agendas for launches, I help [the assistant publisher] keep track of the list and what’s moving from spring to fall . . . a lot of unglamorous administrative [tasks], setting up meetings, setting up conferences, scheduling travel. But then I also get to do fun administrative things, which is helping to plan for comic cons, and I get to do a lot of really fun stuff with that—I put together presentations, I get to work the booth, and set up the booth schedule. On the digital publishing and strategy side, I am in charge of sales reporting and data scraping, not just for Del Rey titles but for all of the Random House Group titles—all of our titles that we run promotions on, specifically low-price promotions on ebooks. I get to analyze that data and put it together in reports and figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s a really fun learning experience. I like it a lot. It turns out I love spending my day in an Excel grid, and it’s at the forefront of the industry so much now. Occasionally, I will read submissions that people have in that they need more reads on.

Besides being in publishing, what tends to occupy your time?

Watching a lot of anime, ’cause I write season previews for Suvudu—the Del Rey website—every season. I’m always watching ten shows. It’s an addiction, it’s terrible but it’s great, and I love it. I take aerial classes so I do lyra, which is aerial hoop, usually once a week. I read a lot. I play video games. Hang out with friends. Go out in the city. It really depends.

If you could, what would you change—if anything—about your path to becoming a publishing professional?

I had such a great experience at Portland State and at Ooligan and I learned so much and it’s a great program, but I think if there had been a way for me to get an internship in New York while I was doing that—I wonder if I would have been able to get hired quicker, because so much of the industry here is having that experience [in New York City] and just having someone in the hiring circles know your name. Most of my interviews didn’t happen until after I was interning at the literary agency. It’s so hard. The change probably would’ve had to have been going to a school in New York, but I’m happy with the school that I chose.

Anything else you’d like to share with current or future Ooligan students?

Learn as much as you can. Make as many contacts as you can. And get an internship. Even in Portland, especially if that’s where you want to stay—get an internship. Ooligan gives you that great hands-on experience and is like an internship in and of itself, but the dynamic of a separate, established publisher is so different, because you don’t have so many staff to work on everything like you do at Ooligan. Other than that, don’t give up!

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