With cap-and-gown season quickly approaching, Rights and International Sales Associate Lynsey Major offers job search advice for members the class of 2013 interested in pursuing a career in books.
Why hello there liberal arts graduates—you who chose to pursue Faulkner over Pharmacology. Good news: there is a place in the world for you, where you can showcase your bibliophilia without shame (instead of hiding it like that copy of Fifty Shades of Gray you’ve secretly been reading). Welcome to the illustrious field of publishing! Now, I should issue a disclaimer that I am not an HR professional, and I have had my share of flopped interviews. But, here are a few things that I have learned along the way that may help you in your own career search.
1. Everyone wants to work in editorial…at first. But, don’t limit yourself to one area until you understand what each department does.
I began my internship at AMACOM in Rights and International Sales—an area that I didn’t even know existed before I began. However, I was fortunate because it suited my temperament perfectly. (Let’s just say I can be detail-oriented to the point of knowing every type of tree without ever noticing I was in a forest.) Besides if everyone worked in editorial, who would do the marketing, publicity, or sales? Yes, we would have fantastic projects and finely edited books—no typos here! But they would have no chance of being found by readers because someone has to come up with those pithy titles, gorgeous covers, publicity campaigns, and work with distributors. Every department has its perks so don’t just assume you’ll be knocking back drinks with Cormac McCarthy, if and only if you’re an editorial assistant.
2. Find the right fit: both in terms of product and office culture.
Keep in mind that it’s not celebrity authors that make your job worthwhile—instead it’s the people you are surrounded by on a daily basis. You should also consider what type of books you want to work on. If you have never read a romance novel, Harlequin may not be the right fit for you. Alternatively, if you love thrillers, Norton may not give you the best chance to flaunt your knowledge. At the end of the day, you need to be enthusiastic about your books.
3. You should move to New York. Seriously.
Even though there are publishers and literary agents throughout the U.S., New York has more publishing opportunities than anyplace else. Plus, it’s just a fun city, unless you have to commute during rush hour—like a million or so other folks— and then it can be the worst place ever. Have fun with that.
4. Intern as soon as possible as often as possible.
If you don’t have an internship, stop reading this and go get one right now. Every employer prefers you to have experience. And with all this belt-tightening, publishers need interns too. Some will offer money; some transportation and lunch; and some just the pleasure of their company!
That said, I do know several folks who have attended the Columbia Publishing Course, and this has helped them gain access to job listings sooner than the general public.
5. So now that you have a sweet resume loaded with skills and experience, an over-priced Brooklyn studio apartment, and a sense of the type of books, publisher, and department you want to be involved in, start the job-hunt. Try these sites for starters: PublisherMarketplace, MediaBistro, and the job opportunities/career pages of individual publishers.
6. If you want more advice, there are plenty of books out there from professionals that can help you land your ideal gig. Ahem, here are a few from AMACOM:
Or, check out all our career titles here.
7. Once you have your dream job in publishing, check out this site, Life in Publishing. One day it will be all too funny.