Phillip Scott Mandel Podcast Transcript

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Headshot of Founder Phillip Scott Mandel

Phillip Scott Mandel Podcast Transcript

Phillip Scott Mandel joins host Brian Thomas on The Digital Executive Podcast.

Welcome to Coruzant Technologies, Home of The Digital Executive podcast.

Brian Thomas: Welcome to The Digital Executive. Today’s guest is Philip Scott Mandel. Philip Scott Mandel is the owner of Mandel Marketing and founder and managing editor of the acclaimed literary magazine, Abandoned Journal. He has an MFA in creative writing from Texas State University and an MA in literature from NYU.

His first book, an MFA for your MBA was published by Atmosphere Press in May 2024. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Well, good afternoon, Phil. Welcome to the show!

Phillip Mandel: Thanks for having me. It’s really good to be here!

Brian Thomas: Absolutely. Phil, I appreciate you making the time. We’re just talking about we’re both Midwesterners.

You’re a little South down in Austin and KC, but I love the same time zone podcast. Sometimes we kind of connect that way. I feel I’m a lot of the times I’m doing one in California or. New York or Dubai or wherever. So, I do appreciate your time.

And so you bet let’s jump to your first question. Phil, could you share your journey from studying literature and creative writing to founding Mandel marketing and what inspired this transition?

Phillip Mandel: Yeah, so it’s an interesting story because the inspiration for founding Mandel Marketing and studying literature and creative writing, they’re kind of happening coincidentally in my life. So, I studied literature in undergrad, and I got an internship in advertising. So. When I finished my undergrad degree, I went to Binghamton in New York, and when I finished, I wanted to get an MFA in poetry.

So, I fancied myself a poet and I didn’t get into any programs. And I kind of talk about this and in my book, but it was probably the best thing to happen because I didn’t go straight from undergrad to grad. I actually had to work. So, I went down to New York City, got a job at some ad agencies and was working in advertising for.

A number of years in at ad agencies and publishing and in sales. And so, I wound up moving to Chicago and I wanted to pursue that MFA degree in creative writing again. So in between there, while I was working full time in New York, I had gotten a master’s in English literature at NYU. So, literature and writing and art were always really important to me.

I was also a musician. We were playing shows. And so, it was always very important that art and writing had a, had a big place in my life. It was not just a passion, but it was really like something that I did at any given moment where I had spare time. While I was working full time, it was really difficult, but that was what was important.

So, in my sort of mid 30s in Chicago, I kind of had this feeling that if I didn’t stop what I was doing, and at least try to get an MFA program again, I would regret it. And in the interim, I had switched from writing poetry to writing prose, short stories, fiction, novels. And so, I sent out a bunch of Submissions, and I got accepted to a couple different programs and decided to come down to the program here at San Marcos, which is a little bit south of Austin at Texas State University, where I got to study with 1 of my heroes, Tim O’Brien.

Who wrote a bunch of amazing novels and stories. So, I went to the MFA program here in Texas State and I was doing fiction, writing poetry on the side, writing short stories, trying to get stuff published. And it was a great three years. And when I finished, I had to go back to work because what happens when you finish an MFA program is you don’t, you’re not set up, say like you would be with an MBA where you, are now trying to get, you know, hired by a bunch of consulting firms.

Now you have to figure out what you’re going to do because you can teach as an adjunct, or maybe you’ve got a book deal and you, you know, you have a day job. For me, I just went right back into advertising and sales, which was great. So, I already had a career to, you know, not fall back on, but actually thrive in.

So, I had my MFA degree. I was writing and it was very important to me. And then at some point in the next two years, while I was in sales, my brother and I, and he’s back in New York and I’m here in Texas. I’ve been in Texas for 10 years. So, over the next couple of years, we started talking about starting an agency together, which is something that we’d always kind of talked about, but never really did while we were moving in our different paths in our careers.

And we came up with a business plan, a model of how we would run the business. And we decided to do it. So, I quit my job in sales and then the pandemic hit, which was amazing timing, but it turns out that it was not the worst thing in the world because during the pandemic, people started getting much more used to using zoom and doing calls with people through the web.

And we were able to actually get clients all over the country, and in fact, all over the world. We had clients in China, in Europe, and all over, especially on the East Coast and here in Texas. So, the inspiration for, for going from literature and creative writing to Mandel marketing was more about wanting to work for myself, to be my own boss, to run my company, but to have creative writing and literature never fall away.

So, then it would stay a part of my life and because it’s a passion and because it’s a, it’s a huge interest of mine.

Brian Thomas: That’s awesome. Love the backstory and you, you know, you had to really, you know, you were, you’re multitasking a lot of the time, whether you were in school, whether you’re working in a band, doing some of that writing and of course sales and marketing.

And you’ve, you’ve blended such a great background here, but I do love the backstory. Appreciate that. And Phil, what motivated you to start Abandoned Journal? And how do you think it stands out in the crowded landscape of literary magazines?

Phillip Mandel: So Abandoned Journal, I started during the pandemic. So I had a new a new ad agency and I started a new firm to a band and journal now, a band and journal is a literary magazine.

And if any of your audience aren’t aware of this kind of magazine, this kind of publication, they’re kind of small. Sometimes they’re online. Sometimes they’re in print. A band and journal happen to be online, but they have small audiences, and they’re generally for people who are trying to early on in their careers, publish their work.

So, I had managed the literary journal at the MFA program in Texas state. It was called Front Porch Journal. My 3rd year in the MFA program, I was the managing editor of Front Porch. So, I knew how to do it. I had been very interested in literary journals. I had published my first few pieces in literary journals, and when the pandemic hit, and I was looking for more stuff to do, I decided to start my own which is something I wanted to do for a long time, but now I had the time to do it and the wherewithal.

And so, I decided to do it. So, 1 of the main things that differentiates abandoned journal from other places is that for many journals out there, and this might be, you know, news to people, but they charge. Authors and writers, a fee to submit their work, even if it doesn’t get published. And it’s usually a 3 fee, but it can range from 2 to 3 to 5.

There’s 1 place called narrative magazine that charges 24 for a submission, which is outrageous, and you have no guarantee of getting published. In fact, most people get rejected because now that places are online, and they take submissions online. There are hundreds if not thousands of submissions for a very few amounts of publication spots.

For us at abandoned journal, we get 1,500 submissions per issue on average. So, and we’re certainly not publishing. That many pieces were published, maybe 1 to 2 percent of what we get. So, 1 of the things that was very important to me after I had spent hundreds of dollars on submissions, and I got a pretty good amount of stuff published, but I still got rejected 99 percent of the time was.

It was very important to me to make sure that if I had a journal, I would never charge for submissions. I just don’t believe in it. So, we rely on donations and. Sort of, you know, my own funding to run the journal, and we do get donations. People really appreciate it. And the other thing that’s really important is that we pay our writers.

So, this may be hard to believe, but other than places that you might have heard of, like, the New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly, and, you know, GQ and Esquire used to publish short stories, but they don’t anymore. A lot of places don’t pay for your work, so you may get published and then you don’t get anything from it.

I actually published a piece one time and all I got was a tweet from the publication and they didn’t even tag me in it. So, what I wanted to do was create a really good-looking online journal that was aesthetically pleasing and had great work in it, but also paid our writers and we don’t pay much, we pay 15 a piece.

Which doesn’t seem like much, but at least it’s something that we’re able to say to a writer, we understand that your work has value, we value it, you should value it, you shouldn’t give it away for free, and hopefully over time we’ll be able to pay more per piece as well. In terms of it standing out, the word abandoned really means that we want people to write work with abandon.

That is, they write work that they feel they’re not afraid of what other people think, or it’s work that maybe they think other places won’t take, but we want to look at it. And it really has stood out because, like I said, we get 1500 pieces submitted per issue and it’s not like we advertise or anything.

People just want to submit to places like this. So, it’s been a really good opportunity for me to keep my foot in the advertising world and in the literary world and to discover a bunch of new great writers and to edit them and, and I think it’s a great place for new writers to get their feet wet with publication as well.

Brian Thomas: That’s awesome. Love it. And obviously it’s a passion of yours, you know, may have started out as a hobby, but you know, you’ve really put your heart and soul into this. And I appreciate that you hold that high standard of writing. We talked about that before we got on the podcast this evening. So, appreciate that.

And Phil, your, your book and MFA for your MBA were recently published. Can you tell us more about the premise of the book and who it is primarily targeted towards?

Phillip Mandel: Sure. Yeah. So, it came out yesterday. So, it’s, it’s brand new. And as people can probably imagine from what I’ve already been talking about, it takes an MFA in creative writing.

So, it takes the principles that you would learn in writing in an MFA program and it applies them to business writing. And I had this idea on one of my many long walks during the pandemic as I was just thinking about stuff and sort of staring at the trees. I thought about, you know, I’ve, I’ve read a lot of writing guides and a lot of them are tailored towards creative writing, fiction, poetry, memoir, and I’ve read business writing guides, which kind of focus on a couple of the same things as brevity or not using jargon.

And those are really important. And in fact, I have chapters about brevity and not using jargon. So, they’re very important. But what I didn’t see anything out there was using creative writing advice for business writing. So, it’s called an MFA for your MBA, but it’s not just for MBA students. It’s for anybody in business who wants to get better at business writing.

And the premise is that we look at things beyond just brevity or jargon, but we look at other things that you would take into consideration when you’re writing Fiction or writing an MFA program. So, for example, we spent a lot of time talking about language and style. We look at the character’s point of view, storytelling theme.

These aren’t things that you normally encounter when you’re thinking about business writing, but I make the case in the book, and I show in the book. How they can be applied when you think about them deeply, they can be applied to your business writing and will make your business writing more memorable, and it will be better and clearer.

And the whole point about business writing is that you want to communicate information. So, anytime that you prevent the information from being communicated, whether, and I hate to say it, but if your communication is simply too boring. Or it’s too long and people stop reading or stop listening, you’ve broken the chance to get the communication across whether you’re trying to sell them or whether you’re trying to get funding, or you just need somebody to on your team to complete a task.

If you don’t get the information across, then your business writing isn’t working. It doesn’t matter what style you’re using. So, what we want to do is focus on making sure of that. You get the information and your ideas across and so in terms of the intended audience, I think it’s towards anybody who wants to level up their career writing, getting better at writing will do that.

You’ll help with sales. It’ll help with management. It’ll help team building. And it’s also for people who maybe there’s a lot of people who are in. Technical jobs where they’ve got really good technical skills, but their writing skills aren’t as strong. And so maybe their communications aren’t as clear or they might get frustrated with communicating what’s going on. This will help them with their general communication skills. Across the board.

Brian Thomas: Thank you. I love that. The book just came out. So that’s exciting. And we’re excited to share your podcast with the world. So, we can get this out there about your book. And obviously we’ll have that listed on our website as well.

When we get this all finished and done and fill in the last question of the evening. Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives at Mandel marketing or abandoned journal? That you’re particularly excited about.

Phillip Mandel: Yeah, sure. So, so the book just came out and so we’re jumping straight into new stuff on that. So, we’re going to be recording a an online course where we’re going to expand everything we talk about in the book.

We’re going to expand that to, to online course you know, more demonstrations, more examples of it. And virtual consultations with myself and our team on virtual, you know, one on ones or. Team workshops, because in the MFA program, a lot of what you learn is in the workshop. It’s hands on working.

So, I think that’ll be really helpful for people. And we’ll also be doing a workbook. Of the book, so it’ll be focused on exercises on practice. And then for abandoned journal, we 5, which the theme was abandoned Earth. And this summer we’ll be reading issue number 6. The theme is still TBD. So that’s what I’ll be working on over the summer.

I’m pretty excited about that because I think we’re going to get some really good work this this time around.

Brian Thomas: That’s awesome. Love those sorts of things. Workshops that come along with a new book or publication. Really get your users excited and engaged in the work that you’ve just published. I think that’s awesome.

So, I appreciate that. You bet. And Phil, it was such a pleasure having you on today and I look forward to speaking with you real soon.

Phillip Mandel: Thank you for having me. Yeah, this was great. A lot of fun. Thank you.

Brian Thomas: Bye for now.

Phillip Scott Mandel Podcast Transcript. Listen to the audio on the guest’s podcast page.

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