How do you make money on the road?
This is a tricky question to answer because we all have such complex career paths that have involved years of crappy jobs, random opportunities, lessons learned, risks taken, and unique career goals and dreams. To learn what I do for work, check out my article about what I do for work.
For a long time I didn’t think sharing my career path would be useful to anyone because it was so random and specific to my circumstances. But, as I’ve researched remote work over the past months, I realized that learning about the paths of many individuals can actually be quite helpful. It shows you the variety of ways to do the same thing: work remotely, and the random little details about another person’s professional life might just click with the person reading it and help guide them on their own unique path.
This article follows the career paths of five professionals who all work remotely in a variety of different fields. Let’s jump right into it:
Elena Meredith, Literary Publicist @elenameredith
Elena Meredith has been working in literary publicity since 2010, most recently with PR by the Book. She works with authors and publishers to secure media placements for their forthcoming books. Her clients have included Patagonia, DK, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and Insight Editions. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, baby girl, and dog.
What is your educational background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Tampa. I had always been interested in writing as a career, and started off pursuing a degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Then, after digging my car out of two feet of snow one frigid January day, I transferred out of J-school, packed up my car and moved to Florida (my first escape from winter).
What are the jobs you’ve had before this one?
While at the University of Tampa, I worked as a research assistant to author and poet Enid Shomer, while she was writing The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, a fictional account of Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert exploring Egypt in 1850. One of my professors recommended me for the job. That work sent deep me into the library stacks, looking for books with illustrations of women’s undergarments from the mid-19th century.
Then, after college, I worked two-and-a-half too many years at a hotel in downtown Minneapolis. In retrospect, customer service jobs are probably the best preparation you can have for a career in PR—you learn a lot about how to de-escalate a situation and how to keep people happy.
My next role was as the in-house publicist for Free Spirit Publishing, a children’s educational publisher in Minneapolis. That was my lucky break. I’d interviewed for an editorial assistant role that went to someone else, but the president of the company took a shining to me and plopped me in the empty seat of their publicist, who’d just left. I think I asked my new boss on my first day, “So, what exactly does a publicist do?” She must’ve been horrified.
In 2013, it snowed in mid-May in Minneapolis. My CaliFloridian husband called it quits, and we moved to Austin, Texas—my second escape from the snow. PR by the Book happened to have a position open for a publicist, and the owners hired me after I sent in my resume and met them briefly at Starbucks.
What does the day-to-day look like for your job (emails, phone calls, research, writing code)?
I’m typically working on around six books at a time. Publishing has two seasons, Spring and Fall. In PR, you work a season ahead, so in September, I’m starting on books that are coming out in March and April.
Working in PR is 99% communication, and the majority of my day is spent on email: communicating with authors and publishers about their books, pitching stories to media, getting materials (i.e., excerpts and photos) over to editors and producers for booked pieces, and reassuring authors that yes, people are interested in their book and all their hard work is about to pay off.
I try to pitch media in the morning as much as possible, then I can spend the “quieter” times in the afternoon writing press materials and building my media contact lists for each book. I spend a fair amount of time on the phone with my authors.
I work from home and can work from anywhere, though it’s hard to be off the grid in this job, since so much of it is on deadline. Despite working months in advance, there is always a rush of last-minute requests from a media outlet the day before an interview or a story goes to print.
How did you get the job you currently have?
Publishing is a fairly small industry, and very tight-knit. The majority of publishers are based in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Nashville, Boston and Minneapolis, though remote jobs are becoming more common in this industry. Austin doesn’t have many large publishers, so I was lucky to find a job with one of the two literary PR firms in town. Austin has a great literary community—the Texas Book Festival in the fall is spectacular, and BookPeople is one of my favorite bookstores in the country.
Working in publishing is often glamorized in movies and TV shows (hello, Eden from “The Affair”) but, in reality, it’s more akin to working for a non-profit. The budgets are small, and most of us are busting our butts because we believe in the power of books to open minds.
My passion is working on books on environmental issues. I just wrapped up a campaign for Patagonia for Swell, an awesome memoir from surfer Liz Clark. Liz has been living on her sailboat in the South Pacific for the past decade—her story is one of adventure, but at the core, it’s about how we can leave a smaller footprint on the planet through our daily lifestyle.
What are your career goals?
I am currently taking a “Norwegian maternity leave” to be home with my 3-month-old daughter. Next year, I plan to freelance and am hoping to do some writing, too.
This year, my goal was to “divorce my desk.” I know we’re all tied to our laptops and phones, but after five years of conducting most of my work via email, I’m craving more face-to-face time with people. I’ve worked with a number of surfers and climbers, and I get jealous some days gazing at their amazing photos of a life spent outdoors. (Then, I remember I have no surfing or climbing skills, but I know books, and my role is invaluable in getting the word out.)
I think a lot of people who are living the #vanlife found themselves craving that sense of connection with the great outdoors and other people. Social media allows us to build amazing connections all over the world—but the real joy is in meeting those people face-to-face!
It’s doubtful I’ll be moving our little family into a van anytime soon, but this year you can find me hiking the trails of Austin, cooking Paleo meals and doing mommy-and-me yoga.