So you want to work in publishing?
YAY – shoots confetti from a cannon- The publishing world is happy to have you, but there are a few things you should know. These tips are mostly from my experience with publishing as well as some friends of mine and in no way dictate the experience you will have. Also note that I work in the United States so not all of this information may apply to international publishing houses.
Before Applying for a Job in Publishing:
- A large percentage of jobs will require a college degree. The most commonly asked for degrees will be a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) in English or Creative Writing. I’ve seen some jobs extend outward to Communications, Journalism, and even just an arts degree in general, but the main two are listed above. The reason for wanting these degrees is so employers know that you’ve had experience with critical reading and writing.
- Be familiar with Microsoft Office. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are three main programs used constantly in publishing. Get acquainted with them now. Learn how to do track changes in Word, which is critical for reviewing manuscripts, how to set up PowerPoints, and how to format a data sheet in Excel. Upon getting a job, you will likely be trained on software that is specific to your company. This software will hold all of their information regarding their books, authors, and the like.
- Know the market beforehand. This is a super impressive thing when you’re meeting with potential employers and companies. They want to know that you’re paying attention to their brand, but also to a genre’s audience, trends, and popular books. If you want to work in fiction, it wouldn’t hurt to browse through a list of best-selling books, top publishing houses, and social media.
- Get an internship. Not everyone may have the time or means to acquire an internship, but if you can, please do. These will help make your application stand out and show employers you’re working towards your goal. Also, your chances of getting a job increase for a particular publisher if you’ve interned there before.I will warn you that a lot of internships are unpaid. You will either be offered a small stipend or request that you do the internship in exchange for college credit. Another important fact is the majority of internships are not offered to graduates (those going for a master’s degree or above). Publishing internships are geared for seniors in high school and those attending college. If you want an internship, plan ahead. Some publishers offer internships all year round, while others strictly in the summer.
- Publishing is not an easy business to get into. It is very competitive and often constrained to major cities, New York being a central hub. It took me six months to land a job. For friends of mine, it took over a year. Prepare for this, both physically and mentally. It can wear you down.Some companies offer remote positions, where you can work from anywhere, or chances to work from home. Unfortunately, these are still the minority.
- Where to look. Here are the sites that I used to search for jobs.http://bookjobs.com
A publisher’s website. A lot of the times, a publishing company will have their own section on careers and how to apply.
Twitter. Editors and sometimes publishing companies post when jobs are open and the contact person to go to. Keep an eye on these!
Congratulations, you’ve secured an interview, maybe even several. Here is where you should go from there!
- Have a writing sample or portfolio ready. A good handful of jobs I applied to wanted a writing sample or several pieces gathered into a portfolio. Plan ahead and organize which pieces you want for this. They should be pieces that showcase your talent, voice, and how you analyze a text. Sometimes, the company will tell you what to write about and in that case, it’s up to you to craft a piece.Bring these samples with you, (I suggest two to three copies), to your interview even if you send them ahead via email. There could be multiple people who want to see your work or have a physical copy to read later as they make their decision.
- Include your social media on your resume. Publishing is very much an industry about getting the word out and that is mainly through social media, bloggers, etc. If you have a blog related to publishing, writing, editing, or similar topics, mention it on your resume. Note: This should only apply if it’s mainly professional and updated regularly. Employers don’t want to read about your daily life, but rather things that relate to the field. This can help show them your engagement.
- Questions you’ll be asked. No interview is the same, but there are some questions you should have answers prepared for. Taking time to think is fine. However, you don’t want to be caught on the spot with a potential employer. Interviews are already nerve-wracking enough.A) What’s your favorite book or a book you read recently?
B) How do you react under pressure/how do you stay organized?
C) What do you know about (insert genre, publishing house, assigned task here)?
D) Why did you choose our publishing house?
E) What is your biggest strength?
The Work Itself:
You’ve got yourself a job! I hope you’re celebrating because this is a big deal especially if it’s your first one in publishing or your first one out of college. Here’s what you should know.
- Timelines change. There are so many things that can happen that affect a schedule you were originally given. Be prepared for sudden changes that can either push back a book, make it jump weeks in the schedule, or make you scramble for documents you thought you had ready ages ago. Like any job, publishing relies on a lot of hands and not everything runs smoothly. Keep a schedule, a planner, post-it notes, tons of computer folders-whatever you need to stay on top of things.
- People can suck. You’re going to have to talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, whether it be other editors, different departments, or authors. When you work with authors who put a lot of time and effort into their projects, they can get upset/angry if you have to tell them no, change schedules, or give edits on their manuscript. This is bound to happen, hopefully not daily, but there are occasions where you’ll get a nasty email or voicemail. There isn’t much you can do other than be as understanding as you can or realize in your mind their words are not valid and they’re venting because the process didn’t go as they wanted. Or you know, they wonder why you didn’t take them when they’ve written the next Harry Potter.Don’t take the harshness to heart. If something is really bothering you, talk to a coworker of your boss or even step away if you can.
- Book people everywhere. My favorite part about my job is being surrounded by book lovers. A few weeks ago, I went to lunch with my coworkers and had an hour long conversation about classic literature-what we love, hate, and want to reread. It makes time fly and also puts me in a comfortable place. You will hopefully get this feeling as you enter publishing, because you can’t do this job if you don’t have a love for reading and stories.
Those are my main tips, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.