Amanda Taylor - Editor, Total Girl magazine

Amanda Taylor, Editor, Total Girl
'In my final semester at uni, I did a three-week internship with a tween girl's magazine, and I fell in love with the magazine industry. After that, in the last six months leading up to my graduation, I applied for every publishing position on Seek.'

Amanda is now reaping the benefits of doing lots of work experience while she was still studying. Her hard work certainly paid off and she now has the exciting position of editor of Total Girl magazine. Total Girl is aimed at tween girls aged six to 12 and Amanda says the best thing about her job is producing a magazine that these girls ‘absolutely adore’.


What qualifications do you have? 

I have a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Journalism from the University of Western Sydney. I think that having this degree is beneficial to my role as an editor, and all of the previous positions I have held within the industry. I was given an enormous amount of practical, hands-on experience throughout my degree, which has been invaluable to me. I believe that having a university degree is not necessary, but it is preferable. It shows potential employers that you are a committed person, a hard worker and passionate about the industry. Having said that, you need to balance out your education with experience.

How did you get a ‘foot in the door’ in publishing?

Publishing is a notoriously difficult industry to get into, but I was very determined to become a journalist. I did a week’s worth of work experience with my local newspaper in Year 10, and I stayed in touch with the editor of the paper throughout high school. The day I finished my HSC he offered me a job as a journalist for the paper. I was lucky enough to have a boss that allowed me to work casual hours that fitted in with my university timetable. I balanced the job as a newspaper journalist along with my studies for the duration of my three-year degree.

In my final semester at uni, I did a three-week internship with a tween girl’s magazine, and I fell in love with the magazine industry. After that, in the last six months leading up to my graduation, I applied for every publishing position on Seek. Four weeks out from graduation, and after a few turndowns, I was offered, and accepted, a deputy editor’s role on another tween girl’s magazine.

What did that job involve?

Even though the title deputy editor sounds fancy and, I admit, I thought I was going to be 2IC of a big team – it turned out I was actually at the bottom of the food chain. The team consisted of an editor, an art director and myself as the deputy. But it was a fantastic way to start my career in magazines. My duties included writing articles, picture research, subediting, organising fashion shoots and a little bit of marketing – organising subscription promotions and other competitions. The great thing about starting out in such a small team meant that I got a taste of what every part of the publishing industry involved, and now I have a greater appreciation for what brand managers, art directors and chief subeditors do.

FYI 2IC is an abbreviation of second-in-command.

What does your average working day involve?

Every day is different! I have an in-tray on my desk that is usually topped up every couple of hours by my art director with pages that have just been designed and need approval. We work together on the finer details until we have a finished product that our readers will love.

I usually have at least one meeting a day, whether it’s with internal colleagues or external parties such as publicists or advertising clients. When we’re on deadline I spend barely any time in my office – I’m usually running around chasing final pages, approving ads for print and working closely with my art director on the magazine’s cover.

Are jobs in publishing well paid? Do you get lots of freebies?

We were told at uni, if you want to be rich, don’t be a journalist. It’s not that bad though. But I have interviewed a lot of people who seem to think that straight out of uni they deserve a salary in the $50 000 mark – it would be very rare to earn that kind of money in your first few years in publishing.

There are some fabulous perks and freebies that come with a job in publishing. Some of the cooler freebies I’ve inherited over the years have included a pink PlayStation 2 and a Nintendo DS Lite, but the person in our team that we’re all secretly jealous of is our fashion coordinator – she’s been given loads of jewellery, a few designer outfits here and there and a bag full of Havaianas for Christmas.

Another of the joys of working on Total Girl are that I get to see all of the coolest toys and products for girls before they hit the shelves, go to movie premieres and I even got front row seats to High School Musical on Ice yesterday, so it does have its perks

How close to the real world is what we see in The Devil Wears Prada?

That depends which magazine you’re working on. But in my case, I’m no Anna Wintour! I know all of my staff members’ names and I don’t wear designer clothes to work. On the contrary, we all wear jeans and casual attire, it’s a lot more relaxed in the Total Girl office.

Our fashion cupboard is full of cool clothes, shoes and accessories (just a shame most of them are pint sized). And we do have ‘the book’, I just don’t make it a practice to take it home with me every night – there’s enough time in a working day to check on its development.

FYI ‘The book’ is a mock-up of everything that will be printed in the final copy of a magazine. Editors check this hard-copy draft before the edition goes to print.

Do you have any funny work-related stories?

One of my favourite work stories is from a couple of years ago. I was at the MTV Awards interviewing celebrities on the red carpet. For a story I was writing, I was asking all the celebrities to give me something from their pocket. Anyway, there was a television journalist who had come all the way from Chile to interview Russell Crowe (apparently he’s huge there). All day she kept saying to us, ‘If you talk to Russell Crowe, make sure you make him stay to talk to me’. At the end of the night, I did manage to grab Russell for a quick chat and he gave me a piece of chewing gum from his pocket. The next thing I knew, this journalist from Chile nearly bowled me over to get to Russell and she was so excited, all she could ask him was if she could also have a piece of Extra. I’d never seen a journalist so starstruck before and a celebrity so confused as to why everyone wanted his chewy.

Do you have a good work–life balance?

Definitely. I think it’s really important to be able to go home at night and leave your work behind. There have been some nightmare days where I’ve gone home and have to rant to my fiancé about what happened at work, but that’s completely normal!

What has changed in the industry since you started?

That’s a difficult question because I’ve only been in magazines for four years, but I have seen big publishing houses get bought out which has seen the expansion of both ACP and Pacific’s magazine portfolios. It has also meant that some magazines that have been around for as long as I can remember are closing down, which is a little bit sad.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about being the editor of Total Girl is working closely with a team to produce a magazine that girls absolutely adore! Our readers are amazing! It’s always a highlight of my day when a reader sends us an email or a letter to tell us how much they love the magazine. They’re just so enthusiastic and they always want to be a part of everything that we’re doing.

What’s the worst thing about working in publishing?

The worst thing? There’s a couple of things that are a bit nerve-wracking – waiting for sales figures to come in is always a fun one. And including a story in Total Girl and then seeing something eerily similar in one of our direct competitor mags. That’s never good.

What do you wish someone had told you about publishing before you started down this career path?

I think the key to getting into publishing is a combination of education, experience and patience. I was told I would never get into publishing and I might as well consider other options. I wish someone had told me to persist, be patient, and to do whatever it takes until I reached my goal. If I could offer any advice to people trying to break into the industry, it would be to secure some sort of ongoing work experience. Even if it means working for free as an intern for 12 months, I have seen so many interns go from being the workie, to the person with a job in publishing.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve only just started my role as editor of Total Girl, so my plans for the future would be to develop the brand further and to build upon the magazine’s immense success. I want to see Total Girl go from strength to strength. This magazine has a very bright future ahead of it and I’m very blessed to be a part of that.

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