I was really excited to hear Jane Pratt speak at her SXSW Interactive session Jane Pratt: Secrets of a Publishing Renegade. I’ve been a huge fan of Jane ever since Jane magazine and have followed her career and new publishing outlets since those days. She started by telling the audience that she is most comfortable when she is being inappropriate and then jumped right into her secrets.
Secret 1- Surround yourself with people who are freakier than you are. Jane recommends hiring unique and interesting but really smart people who are messy.
Then, she says, particularly for the publishing world, hire one staffer that people will love, one that readers will hate and one that they will have a crush on.
Secret 2- Use your disdain for the powers that be to fuel your own venture. She wasn’t the biggest fan of the job she had before Sassy magazine- an associate editor at a teen magazine. She used the example that she hated the fact that her editor made her write all the article titles as puns. But, she used that to push forward and find the job that she loved afterwards.
Secret 3- Torch your bridges. Pratt said don’t think in general terms like someone else’s loss is not your gain and someone’s gain is not your loss. She hates the way it seems like the media pits women again each other and she wants to reverse it and is always a fan of supporting and promoting other women.
When Conde Nast first bought Jane she wasn’t a fan of the current publisher. She worried that some of the work lost it’s passion when the publisher asking her to change things she didn’t agree with. As crazy as some people told her she was she parted ways with the magazine as she didn’t want it to be a lie.
Secret 4- Don’t be drunk all day. She added this after being so impressed by everyone she was seeing at SXSW . But, she learned that if you are stuck somewhere and everyone else around you is drunk simply continue to agree with them, but you don’t have to pay attention to what they are saying!
Secret 5- Nobody likes you (even Drew Barrymore). She told a great story about the first time she met Drew and how Drew wasn’t a fan of hers, based on reputation, but then the two became great friends. Pratt said always make it a focus to flip your negative commenters. She said it’s important to know people’s default is to not like you, but if you don’t piss them off then you probably aren’t doing anything important or different.
Secret 6- Show your metaphorical vagina. She always asks her writers to show something different- embarassing or unflattering. She thinks it is important for them to go out of their comfort zone.
Secret 7- Honey, I’ve been lying to you for the past 20 years. This was about some of the basics of the publishing world and mag talk and she said that lots of the numbers that magazines disclose aren’t always factual- pass along readership, radio listenership, etc. The numbers might have been found by a team, but they are by no means scientific in every regard. What she really cares about, but isn’t always as important to advertisers or their bottom line, is how invested readers are. She loves hearing about reader get togethers in cities and their community. She laughs and cries with and tells her readers all the time how much she loves them.
Secret 8- Leave your daughter alone in the bath whenever possible. She showed a cute clip of her daughter telling her staffers that sometimes when they play hide n seek Jane will forget to look for her daughter! But, seriously, she said to ignore the popular phase that no one said they wished they spent more time at the office when they were on their deathbed. She emphasized that you should be passionate about your work and doing things that you absolutely love.