If you’re a bookworm, Elizabeth Entenman might just have your dream job. Her path to editorial didn’t begin at a glossy mag though. Rather, she cut her writing teeth as a copywriter in advertising, even winning a Clio Award (basically the ad industry’s equivalent of the Oscars) for her campaign work. But despite her success, she wanted a change—and so she ended up with dual roles as the books and weekend editor at HelloGiggles. We were thrilled to speak with Elizabeth about her work and, as a bonus, get her take on the books you should be reading in 2018.
Can you tell me more about your career backstory?
I studied advertising, and specifically copywriting, in college. I knew I wanted to end up in New York, one because it’s New York, but two because it’s the biggest hub of advertising jobs. I went to school in Dallas and after I graduated, I started working at an agency there. About two years later I took a job in Boston, and about two years after that I took a job in New York. I’ve been here ever since.
When I moved to Boston, I didn’t know a soul. Even though I was only about two years into my career, I was already completely burnt out, working 70+ hours per week. Agency life is a real grind. I realized that I needed a hobby. I decided to start writing writing, in my own voice. All day long I wrote as other people—as brands. I wanted to see what my own voice sounded like. So I gave myself assignments, Googled writing prompts, wrote in a notebook, and started a Tumblr.
I wrote a lot of personal stuff and found that I really enjoyed it. This was in 2012, around the time that women’s websites were starting to carve out space online. I read HelloGiggles and saw that they accepted submissions. I figured, why not? I sent them an essay about my ex-boyfriend texting me out of nowhere, they published it, and the response was overwhelming. HG asked if I wanted to start contributing regularly and the rest is history. I’ve been lucky to be part of the HG family from the very early days, and they’ve always found a place for me and given me amazing opportunities.
I started writing more for HG and the amount of work grew as the site grew. At first it was one or two posts per week, and eventually, it was one or two posts per day. Once I had some confidence in the digital editorial space and some solid published posts under my belt, I started pitching to more online publications and started building my editorial resume too. All the while, I was still working 70+ hour weeks in the advertising world. I was exhausted, but I finally felt creatively fulfilled.
Fast forwarding to 2016, I made the leap to full-time freelance. I had enough contacts in both the advertising and the editorial worlds to give it a try, and I’m so glad I made the leap. Since then, I’ve worn many freelance hats and taken on all kinds of interesting work. In 2017, I realized that HG didn’t have any dedicated book coverage, which I thought was strange because the typical HG reader is a big bookworm. I asked if I could take that on and now I’m the books editor. I also work as our weekend editor.
How do you determine which books to review and which ones to skip?
It’s not scientific, but I ask, Do I personally want to read this? If I do, it’s probably a fit for the site. I’m essentially HG’s core demographic, so I trust my instincts. I also seek out books from authors of color and the LGBT community.
How about your duties as a weekend editor?
The weekend position is the same as any weekday editing position, but everything is significantly condensed. I’m typically the only person online on Saturday and Sunday, so I find, assign, edit, publish, and push stories to our social channels. It’s everything that happens during the week, just on a much smaller scale. Sometimes absolutely nothing happens and it’s a terribly slow news day. Other times, Kylie Jenner announces during the Super Bowl that she gave birth, and I need to call in reinforcements. Basically, I babysit the Internet from Friday night until Sunday night to make sure I don’t miss anything that our readers would want to know about.
Can you share a published piece you’re most proud of right now?
This story on books that changed authors’ lives just went up and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve worked on recently. To me, authors are like celebrities; whenever I get to talk to them and peek inside their brains, it’s thrilling. They’re so willing to talk and share and invite you in, they’re very giving of their time, and they had such thoughtful responses for this prompt.
What, in your opinion, have been the best books to come out this year?
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel, You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss, And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell.
What’s your favorite book of all-time?
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.
In your line of work, how do you keep yourself focused?
These days I have to read very purposefully. I’m usually looking for quotes, discussion questions, nuggets to mine from pages. Reading is still enjoyable, but it’s also typically for work, so I have to stay focused and can’t fall down a black hole.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to get into editorial?
Write the thing. If you want to be a writer, write. You just have to get started. People always seem to want an introduction or an “in,” but they rarely want to do the work to make it happen on their own. To quote Freddy Rumsen in Mad Men, “Do the work, Don.” And to quote the sandwich board outside of my barre studio (which I think is quoting Zig Ziglar): “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
Also, have confidence in your work. Not everybody is going to respond to every single thing you write or every single idea you have. But if you’re truly proud of your work and you really believe in it, then just keep looking until you find someone who feels the same way. They’re out there somewhere.
Heather Taylor is a former entertainment writer turned brand mascot aficionado (and head writer) for Advertising Week’s Icon Blog. She been published on HelloGiggles, Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Find her on Twitter @howveryheather.