Saturday, September 27, 2008

wanna be an editor? steps to take now

I got this email recently.

Hi, Moonrat. I am in need of some advice. This is my situation. I'm in grade 12, and in a few months I am picking my university and the path to my future career. And the future career that I want is something that has to do with books. I've always been an avid reader so I would like my career to reflect that. I've researched the career path of editors and agents but haven't found anything that has actually helped me with finding the steps to take.

If you can spare the time to email me back, that would be awesome.

Thank you!

But of course! I had a lot of help and advice getting to where I am, and I like to pay those kinds of favors forward.

First, I love people who love books. There are a lot of us, and you have a number of options for working with books. I posted at length about this before, so for my long-winded advice and for a breakdown of some of the professions you could consider in a publishing house, check out this post I did last year--you'll see there are lots of choices, depending on your interests and flexibility.

The short answer to getting a foot in the door I'll copy and paste here, because it bears repeating:


You will have to do free labor (that is, an internship) at some point--it's literally necessary for getting an entry-level job (unless you're magical and really lucky). But working in a bookstore is another really, really helpful think you can do during college (or after) to prepare yourself and understand book marketing and sales better. The perspective is amazing.


homeinkabul said...

I am not in the publishing industry but I LOVED working at an independent book store. I also learned how to wrap gifts really well...Sadly, that bookstore is closed now.

Charles Gramlich said...

I would have loved working in a bookstore or library as a teenager but there were no bookstores within 25 miles of my home, and the library was associated with the public school and had professional workers.

writtenwyrdd said...

I would have loved a publishing job. I tried, but never could pass the test they give you for copy editing. I just don't have the brain for seeing the trees for the forest. Give me text to edit, great. Give me copyediting, my eyes cross and I miss blatant errors in misspellings, puntuation, etc.

So I ended up doing other things that paid better.

I've always wanted to open a used book store/coffee shop, though.

cindy said...

what foresight. i enjoyed writing but never thought i could be "a writer". i've always wanted to work in a bookstore but never knew you could work in publishing. so silly. yay for this hs senior thinking ahead!!

i'm glad i found my way somehow two decades later. =)

Christine said...

Unfortunately, I tried so hard to land an internship in college, but it didn't happen. Is there any hope for one to break into freelance copyediting/proofreading or does that require loads of networking as well?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the working in a bookstore. I have an english degree, managed a bookstore for over 5 years and I am now an independent sale rep for publishers focusing on the K-12 library market, public library and academic libraries.

The insight you gain at a bookstore along with the relationships you can build with publishers is a great thing and it's a lot of fun, minus the christmas season which could burn you out.


Anonymous said...

I'm like Christine; I was unable to get an internship :( Now I'm stuck as a secretary...

I didn't have much luck getting a job at a bookstore or library. They always thought I was overqualified :P Go figure.

I'm still looking though! Perhaps someday I'll be able to finally get a library or bookstore job.

Anonymous said...

I totally fell into a job in the publishing field back *ssward...I applied for a job as the assistant to the publisher..A few months into it, being that the pub/president had a rather volatile relationship with the production editor. She started bucking cutbacks to her little sales account. So she showed da boss by thinking if she up and quit, he'd coming running with candies and roses. Nope, he put me into the position, so I basically straddled both positions till he found a replacement for the asistant's position..Total fluke and I would have stayed forever had I not been getting married and relocating to AZ and the pub house was going in the opposite direction, relocating to Washington...I STILL miss it, best job of my life..;(

Alex said...

Thanks for the tips! I wasn't ever able to get a publishing internship over the summer (I'm a college senior now), but since I'd really like to get into publicity/marketing, I got an internship with our PR department at school. Do you happen to know if there are publishing houses that have internships for recent grads, or if it would be better to try to get an entry-level position.

*done taking advantage of your kindness*

moonrat said...

Alex--Yes, most companies will be just as happy (or happier) with college graduates as interns--they often have more focus and commitment. You shouldn't have too much of a problem finding an internship, though, especially if you're in New York--most publishing companies, ALL small companies, and just about every literary agency relies on unpaid labor to get all our work done. There aren't always applications available, but if I were you I'd go ahead and cold-call my favorite presses and literary agencies and see if they have any openings. Most places--some of the big corporations aside--won't turn anyone away.