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Book Jobs Not by the Book: Swapna Krishna, Managing Editor of Panels.net

Swapna Krishna is the Managing Editor of Panels.net and a Contributing Editor at Book Riot. She lives in Washington, DC.

What was your first exposure to the book business and what were the most important things you gained from it?Swapna Krishna

I started my book blog (now almost defunct, but not quite dead!) in 2008, when publishers were scrambling to get coverage for books. The book review sections in print newspapers were closing, and publishers were starting to take notice of the growing influence of book bloggers. Basically, it’s a right place-right time story. I can’t remember exactly how I started working with marketing and publicity departments, but it happened pretty quickly after starting my blog, and that’s how I first became exposed to the book business.

The most important thing I gained from it was an understand of how publishing works, and why it’s so important to advocate for midlist titles that don’t have a lot of marketing money behind them. I would pick titles that I loved, especially from South Asian authors, and (figuratively) handsell them to everyone I could. It was gratifying to see my efforts make a difference.

How do you explain your current job to people?

HA! This is a great question, without a great answer. I usually explain that I’m the Managing Editor of a website that comments on comics and the comics industry, which means I run everything behind the scenes. My fingerprints are on everything that happens on the site—from scheduling posts and social media to building community to suggesting article content to talking to publishers to sitting in on sales calls. I play some kind of role in everything you see happening on the website, but if I’m doing my job well, you won’t know I’m there.

In what ways did your previous jobs or internships prepare you for what you do here?

In my previous job, I was a freelance copy editor, which is incredibly different than what I do now. The biggest similarity, though, is managing my own time. We have a lot of flexibility in when we work and can choose our own hours; we have a virtual office because we are located all across the U.S. and Canada. As long as you’re getting your stuff done and managing your duties, no one is going to spend time thinking about your hours or whether you’re at your desk at a certain time. My freelance experience made a big difference because I’m used to setting my own schedule and already had the self-discipline needed to get things done.

What value has this job brought to the way you think about book business as a whole and your own relationship to books?

Hands down, the biggest difference this job has made is paying much closer attention to what I’m reading and who it’s by. At Book Riot and Panels, we talk a lot about inclusivity; it’s incredibly important. Making myself aware of who is writing the books I’m reading—whether they’re a person of color (PoC), whether they’re queer, whether they have a disability—was revolutionary. Another thing that I’ve become much more aware of is discoverability, and how important it is to broadcast what you’re reading and enjoying. It can be so difficult for people who aren’t as tied into this industry as we are to find books, and it’s up to us to make sure that the books that we love are being discussed.

What are some misconceptions you commonly see about the comics industry?

There are two that I hear all the time, and that I’m particular about addressing as much as I can. The first is that comics are primarily written for 15-year-old boys. This is just not true. Just like in books, different comics are aimed at different audiences. There are middle grade comics, YA comics, adult comics, even erotic comics. This ties into the second misconception, that comics are a genre. While superhero comics make up a good amount of comics published, and are perhaps the most visible with their success on screen, that is just one genre of comics. Comics are a medium, and they can and are used to tell all kinds of stories.

What advice do you have for folks interested in working with comics?

Read. Read every comic you can get your hands on. You don’t have to like everything you read, but it’s so important to be widely read, to understand different techniques and approaches. Comics are unique in that seemingly simple things such as the layout of panels can have a huge impact on story. Whether you want to make comics, work for a comics publisher, or be a comics journalist, you need to understand the medium and what it can do.

Also, make sure you’re on Twitter.

2 Comments

  1. Waleed says:

    Great article, thank you so much.

  2. Reiko says:

    Hi Sam,

    I learned a lot from this post about how Swapna Krishna evolved into the book business. I myself works as a freelancer, and I know how having to manage your own time is a huge perk compared to being boxed in an office the whole day, that you cannot even choose your work hours.

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