Name: Kendal Whitby
College & Majors/Minors: The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, B.A. in English Literature and Spanish Literature
Current Location: Memphis, TN
Current Form of Employment: Marketing, Distribution, and Production Associate and Editor
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work at BelleBooks, a small publishing house in Memphis, TN. BelleBooks, Inc. was founded in 1999 with a focus on Southern fiction and has since broadened its offerings with the addition of a second imprint—Bell Bridge Books—in 2008. We currently publish approximately 30-40 original titles per year (print and ebook simultaneously) in a variety of genres, which include: mystery/suspense, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, romance, general fiction, women's fiction, non-fiction, literary fiction and more. We are known for nurturing emerging fiction voices as well as being the "second home” for many established authors, who continue to publish with major publishing conglomerates. Our sub-rights sales for our titles include foreign rights, large print, mass market paperback, audio and film options.
Like everybody else in the office, I wear many hats. I am a Marketing, Distribution, and Production Associate. Basically what that means is I follow a book from its beginning stages as a manuscript all the way to its final print and ebook distribution. When I wear my Production Hat, I’m working the book through its editing stages (copy-edit, proof, print review, etc.). After that, I put on my Distribution Hat and make sure the title loads correctly to our platforms. Once the book is available everywhere, I, along with the rest of the marketing team, let our readers know through social media and email that the book is out in the world. All this talk about hats makes me want to actually make some for work!
I’m also a submissions editor for our submitted queries. We’re looking every day for the next great author!
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
While this technically isn’t my first job, it’s my first, what I like to call, adult job. When I graduated in May 2015, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my career. I was rejected from law school, working in an after school program with terrible management, with no job opportunities on the horizon. I was pretty miserable, to be honest.
One day, I was browsing Facebook, and I got a notification from my school’s English Department page. BelleBooks was looking for a Fall intern. I couldn’t believe that one, there was a publishing house in Memphis, and two, that they were looking for an intern. Sure, it was unpaid, but it was my dream job. And everyone knows that the publishing field is so competitive and experience is your golden ticket. After applying and speaking with the intern supervisor (shoutout to the wonderful Niki Flowers!), I knew that I needed this internship. It was animal friendly, dress casual, and the friendliest people I have ever spoken to.
They were looking for two interns, but the second one had a family emergency that stopped her from continuing it. While her situation wasn’t great, it gave me the opportunity to show them what I was capable of. I had to do the work of two interns and somehow show them that I was worth investing in. My hard work paid off and I was offered a job when my internship ended!
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
The only writing-related job I had before my current one was editing my mom’s college essays for her Master’s program. All it really did for me was make me appreciate the comma more and help me learn that my love of the obscure comes from her.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
This question has caused me as much anxiety as a question possibly could. I’m going to be honest; I didn’t like college. The required classes, the students who didn’t care, and the Freshman 15 (it’s real) turned it into somewhat of a nightmare. I think the most important thing I did in college to prepare me for post-grad life was learning to not rely on others to tell me what I could achieve. After graduating high school with top honors and fourth in my class, I thought college was going to be a breeze and that all my professors would see my “obvious” intelligence. Until I met my psychology counselor. When she asked my plans for my third semester, I told her I wanted to start my Spanish classes as I wanted to double major in Psychology and Spanish. She promptly told me that she didn’t think I was smart enough to double major, proceeded to introduce me to a girl who was excelling in those exact majors, and then tried to convince me to take a class I knew I would hate. I switched majors that year. That counselor wasn’t the reason for the switch, though she might have been a big part of it. I had found an amazing English teacher who helped me re-find my passion for literature.
That counselor made me so angry that I wanted to prove her wrong. In a way, I guess I should be grateful for her because I became ambitious and developed a strong determination to achieve the unachievable. Two qualities that I am most proud of and that will stay with me throughout my entire career.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
There’s so many things I want to say to those who are pursuing an English degree, but I’ll narrow it to three things.
1. Make room in your class schedule for any class that makes you excited to go to school. My biggest regret from college is missing out on the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature course because of a required Spanish class. The Spanish class was available every semester. Sci-Fi and Fantasy was not.
2. Take the unpaid internship! They usually count as credits as well as give you much needed experience in the field. Plus, if they’re hiring and you do number three on my list, you could find your first post-grad job.
3. Show that company you’re interning at that they need you. Do the busy work with a smile on your face and do it to the best of your ability. Make them realize that you’re capable of more than filing papers, but you will file to your heart’s content if that’s what they need. I was hired after my internship because I showed them that I was willing to do any project they threw at me and because they saw something in me that they liked.
My English degree gave me the tools to find my dream job while also letting me learn about my favorite thing in the world, literature.