My Experience with Glasstown Entertainment

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 8.16.39 PMAll right, it’s time to talk about my experience with Glasstown Entertainment. I am so, so grateful to everyone who has chosen to speak up about this, especially the women of color, who were all treated so atrociously. I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my chest.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Glasstown Entertainment is a company I used to work for that has recently been called out on Twitter for their treatment of employees and authors, particularly women of color.

Below, I will be discussing what I experienced in the four months I worked there. There was some bigotry, but for the most part, I will be describing incidences of gross incompetence and glaring unprofessionalism. Please note that I am a white queer woman. When I was there, everyone employed there was a white woman, with the exception of one PoC. I am not sure what this person’s honest feelings were about the company, since they were a generally positive person and were also my superior, so I’m not sure they would have felt it appropriate to confide in me about the company’s founders.

Before you read this, I urge you to first read the experiences of the women of color who were also employed and/or worked as authors with this company. I am sure the mistreatment I experienced is only a fraction of what they went through. Women of color should not have been the first to talk openly about this—I should have stepped forward earlier. To read some of what they’ve said, click here, here, here, here, and here.

If you want to get involved in publishing—especially if you are marginalized—please take this as a cautionary tale, and consider all of this before involving yourself with Glasstown Entertainment.

I moved to NYC in late 2016 to pursue a career in publishing. I wanted to work in editorial, but when the Marketing Assistant position opened up at Glasstown Entertainment (back then called Paper Lantern Lit), I was advised by a publishing person I trusted (and still trust) to apply. It was a small team, so I would get to work closely with editorial and learn about it. Plus, maybe I’d discover I preferred marketing.

I applied and was asked to put together social media initiatives to pitch during my interview. I did, and the person who became my supervisor offered me the position hours later, which was exciting—my interview must have been great! Note: I was 23 years old and had never had a full-time job before. This was my first publishing job, besides a short unpaid internship at an agency.

That same day, I toured an apartment that I ended up loving (the one I live in now) and felt comfortable applying for it, since I now had a salaried job.

I sat down for my first day in early October, excited and ready to get started. Hours went by, and no one e-mailed me. I didn’t know what was going on or what I was supposed to do. I finally got an e-mail near the end of the day from one of the founders, who mentioned, Oh, it’s a holiday, so no work today, lol! Huh—I wish I’d been told we weren’t expected to work that day, but at least the silence had an explanation. I originally thought there must have been some misunderstanding, but this was the first among many red flags.

For the first week, I posted on the company’s social media sites as I’d been instructed to. I thought there must be something more to the job besides social media, but I wasn’t told what that involved. I hadn’t received any training materials, or any training at all besides an hour-long meeting with my supervisor. Since this was my first full-time publishing job, I thought maybe this was normal.

I felt valued by the company at first. My supervisor gushed over how lucky they were to have me on a regular basis. They seemed to love what I was bringing to the company. But things kept feeling weird.

When I got my first paycheck, it seemed way too low based on what I was told I’d be earning. I was reassured that this was because of taxes that had been taken out. I triple-checked what my salary should look like after tax and it still seemed wrong. They kept dismissing my concerns. It took me weeks to figure out that the founders thought I had been able to see the breakdown of my paycheck. I hadn’t. Turned out they’d misspelled my company e-mail, so I couldn’t see my paychecks for the first month or so I worked there.

On top of that, I wasn’t wrong about being underpaid! They’d promised $27k a year (the fact that I was expected to survive in NYC on this salary is a separate issue) in my offer letter. I finally found out, a month or two in (I can’t remember exactly), that one of the founders had put in my annual salary as $25k. She also hadn’t inputted the information on my W-2 correctly. When this was pointed out, she said, “Oh, I thought you were getting $25k! Whoops!” Though I was eventually backpaid, I received no apology, after weeks of having to dip into my savings to pay for groceries. This was startling. Now that I’m older and have worked more jobs, I have a better understanding of how egregious this error was, and how problematic it was that they hardly seemed bothered by the mistake.

Other things went wrong. I felt like I had very little guidance because of the lack of training I’d received. I didn’t know what was normal. I made mistakes here and there, and owned up to them, and did my best to fix them when they were pointed out. The company knew I had no experience in marketing when they took me on—they saw my resume. They knew the learning curve would be steep. I accepted every mistake as my own fault, though, and kept trying to improve. I really wanted to do a good job.

But my resentment toward the company started growing. I was told I didn’t speak enough at meetings, and no matter how much I tried to improve this, it was never enough. I got the impression that my shyness was off-putting, and I was expected to lean into a quirky, boisterous marketing personality. I got the sense I wasn’t “fitting in.”

There was a lot of talk about producing diverse books, but based on how the conversations went, I didn’t trust that the founders’ intentions were genuine. It felt like chasing a “trend” to me. This—the discussion of book concepts—was the extent of the racism I witnessed, since I worked in marketing and was not privy to editorial conversations that went on between editorial/the founders and authors. Though I can’t remember most of the conversations clearly anymore, I’m sure there were times I should have spoken up.

The only time I remember saying something was when I noticed ableism related to blindness in one of our books—a book one of the founders wrote. She told me that she’d also received this criticism from blind authenticity readers, but that she felt like she’d tweaked it enough that it was okay, and it was too late to change the book now, anyway. I was very frustrated by this response. It gave me an idea of what the founders’ true attitudes toward responsible representation in fiction were—they’d put in whatever work they felt was enough to avoid getting in trouble with the “Twitter mob,” but didn’t seem committed to ensuring that their readers weren’t hurt by their content.

Meetings in general were incredibly uncomfortable. Everyone was terrified of one of the founders. I showed up late to the first few meetings. I was still getting used to navigating the subway and the meeting spot kept changing (GTE didn’t have an office. All meetings were held in Lexa Hillyer’s apartment). At one point, the aforementioned founder scolded me in front of the entire team for my lateness, and later sent me a long e-mail about how my tardiness showed a lack of seriousness and respect. I was mortified.

Should I have been showing up late? No, and I wanted to improve that! Did my lateness justify chastising me in front of everyone in the company? I don’t think so. I could not file a complaint with HR about this, since there was no HR department. In fact, one of the founders once cracked a joke about treating us a certain way, and quipped something like, “Not as if you could report it to HR, haha!” It was profoundly disturbing.

There was also how my queerness was handled. Once, one of the founders remarked on an experience “every girl” had in high school while discussing a book concept. I mentioned that I hadn’t because [queer experience]. There was an awkward silence and then she said (paraphrased), “Oh yeah, some people have different experiences” and then kept talking about implementing this supposedly universal experience in the book, almost as if I hadn’t said anything. I wasn’t the only queer person in the company at the time, but I was the only queer woman, and hoo boy did I feel it.

I want to note, the three straight women in editorial were kind to me. They never made me feel weird and reached out to me when uncomfortable things happened, which was often. I still think highly of them.

At one point, the company put out a call for queer authors to submit, because we were working on a book that would later become Crier’s War. I was asked to sort through the slush pile because I was queer, though I was a marketing assistant and it wasn’t technically part of my job description. I was excited! Editorial was where my interest was back then, and I enjoyed reading submissions.

I’m not sure if she knows this, but I had the pleasure of pulling Nina Varela’s submission out of the slush pile for Crier’s War. I LOVED her writing. I forwarded her piece to editorial with a strong recommendation, and I was so, so thrilled when she ended up being selected to write the book. She deserved it.

I shared with co-workers how much I loved looking through the slush pile. Since I had been asked to do it, I thought that perspective would be welcomed. More on that later.

Anyway, things were weird, but I kept trying my best. I was consistently told, from October to December, what an asset I was to the company. I was corrected when I made mistakes, but for the most part, I was getting positive feedback. The excitement over my contributions dwindled between December and January. I figured my newness must have worn off and told myself not to take it personally. They were just used to me now.

Our employee reviews were coming up in February, and I was incredibly nervous. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and back then I wasn’t medicated because I didn’t have good insurance (the insurance offered by the company would’ve taken hundreds of dollars out of my already meager paycheck, so since I wasn’t 26 yet, I stayed on a parent’s insurance). I’d never had an employee review before. I confided in my supervisor about being nervous, since they seemed to understand mental health issues and I felt safe doing so. I told myself the review would probably be okay, since I’d been getting mostly positive feedback.

Then on January 26, 2017, I was told I was being put on probation.

To me, this came out of NOWHERE. I asked my supervisor what happened. They said I must have seen it coming, since I was so nervous about my review (this felt like a slap in the face). They pointed out accumulated mistakes I’d made that I hadn’t been told were serious, all of which I had since rectified. They also said it was “concerning” that I had enjoyed reading the slush pile so much, since my job was marketing assistant. I guess I wasn’t supposed to like it so much. The company just wanted me in that slush pile because of my queerness, anyway.

I felt like I had two options: quit or make improvements within the month. “Do you want to look for jobs elsewhere in editorial?” my supervisor asked. I said yes, thinking that I would be able to keep the marketing job with Glasstown until I found one, so long as I improved. My supervisor also offered to set me up with an interview at a bookstore if I wanted, which I appreciated. I decided to mull that over.

A little later, I had a call with my supervisor to discuss these options. They started talking as if I was already leaving, providing instructions about how to wrap everything up for whoever would be my successor. I was so confused—I hadn’t decided to leave the company yet. “Wait, so I don’t get a choice about staying?” I asked. “Well, you said you were going to look for editorial jobs, and I have to fill your position quickly,” they said. I had at no point stated clearly that I had intended to resign. They preemptively moved to fill my position, despite being given no clear reason to believe I would be leaving the company.

After the notice about my probation, I was given a list of expectations for my job—a list I should’ve been given in October, when I was training. There were so many requirements that I had never been aware of, because I’d never been told. And this list was only given to me after I was put on probation. Now that I’m older and have worked more jobs, I know that receiving training materials and a clear list of job expectations at the beginning is standard. Back then, I did not know to ask for any, because like I said, I did not know what was normal.

By the end of February, I’d gone from barely being able to afford my apartment on the $27k Glasstown salary to working part-time minimum wage at a bookstore (I was grateful to have that job rather than none at all, though). I finished my last day and tried to put it behind me.

That next year, 2017, was one of the worst years of my life. I plunged into a depression almost as bad as my worst depression year, 2009, when I was actively in an abusive situation. I felt like a shell of myself. My sense of identity completely fell apart (I got good grades in school and was used to being a hard, diligent worker). I was crying all the time, frequently in that bookstore’s bathroom. When Glasstown held events at the bookstore, I either called out of work or asked to work the cash register so that I could hopefully avoid running into either of the founders.

Remember, this was my first job. I thought this was all my fault. It took a long time for my mom and fiancé (now my spouse) to convince me that I was gaslit and mistreated. I thought I was an incredible failure. My dreams of working in publishing felt shattered, and getting another job in the industry felt impossible.

Here’s where my privilege comes in: I could not have survived NYC that year if it weren’t for the savings built up from my acting career. Because of the sudden shift to minimum wage (which back then was $11 an hour), every one of my rent payments had to come out of my savings. I watched it slowly deplete over that year in despair. If it ran out and I didn’t get a job that covered my bills, I would have to move back in with my mom in Los Angeles (which is itself also a privilege—I may not have had my own room, but I at least would not have been homeless). I spent all of 2017 applying for jobs, publishing and otherwise.

Miraculously, things worked out. I landed an assistant job in managing editorial (a department that I love, and that is a much better fit for me than editorial OR marketing) at a large publishing house in early 2018. Finally, I could pay my bills, and I got another shot at a publishing job. It has been amazing. My bosses and supervisors have been wonderful. I was promoted to associate production editor a year later, the position I happily hold now.

But Glasstown left its mark on me. Every time my annual review comes up, I feel like I’m going to throw up. My first year at my current company, I held my breath every time my boss called me into her office, because a part of me thought, this is it. She’s going to suddenly tell you that you’re doing horribly and you’re fired. It’s going to happen again.

Thank you so, so much for the people who have spoken out about this, and who were brave enough to speak out first. I can’t thank you enough. I’ve been holding this in me for three years.

Morgan

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