I remember sitting in my apartment, senior year at TCU drawing to a close, and thinking, “Where do I go from here?” I had few plans at this point, though I had applied to countless companies. I had no job offers as yet, and I didn’t know where I was going or what direction to look.
At my TCU Press internship, my advisor suggested I look into master’s and summer programs for publishing, as I seemed to really enjoy what I was doing. Okay, I thought, this is worth a go. I applied all over, and after being accepted to several places, I chose to attend New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute. It was one of the smartest decisions I have made in regards to my career.
Recently, New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute 2011 wrapped up its annual program of six weeks intensive publishing immersion. I remember it well, from stressful nights working on book and magazine projects to working on manuscripts with real editors. I also remember being told we probably would not find jobs, or that we would struggle for a long time as the economy had not yet bounced back.
Getting into publishing is no easy task, and the business seems to be in danger. This past year, we have watched Borders, one of the largest booksellers in the country, slowly shut its doors. Even back while I was in college, I remember the controversies over ebooks and whether the publishing industry at large would survive. Yet, the NYU SPI program is running at full capacity, maintaining its high standards of instruction and keeping the seats in the lectures filled. There are still people out there who want this business to succeed and are willing to bet their futures on it.
So how does one get into publishing, if attending such a prestigious program no longer promises anything? Here are a few tips I learned from my time at NYU’s SPI:
Step One: Networking. I am terrible at networking, but I pushed myself to do it. Meeting new people can be quite scary, but you never know when one connection will make all the difference. One night at a book signing, it happened to pay off for me, and I began freelance copyediting with TSTC Publishing.
Step Two: Don’t just apply for listed positions. Do your research and email as many publishing companies as you can. I sent out more than 100 resumes to companies over the course of a year. I am now also a freelance acquisitions editor in my spare time, along with my full-time position as editor, and I love it.
Step Three: Load up your resume. You need relevant skills on your resume, and you need to make yourself stand out. Take classes for the latest software (hint: especially InDesign!), and volunteer.
Step Four: Think outside of the box and be open to the industry. Say you want to be an editor and go to a program like SPI. Well, guess what? A good 75% of the room also wants to be an editor. However, if you keep yourself open in this kind of situation, you might just figure out that marketing positions or literary agents sound exciting!
Step Five: Get your foot in the door. While most publishing professionals will tell you to aim at the literary type you wish to end up in (fiction, children’s literature, nonfiction, academic), they also will say to go for any job you can to get in. Go for the internship, even if it is unpaid, or the editorial assistant position. Get into the company so that, as you work hard and show your stuff, you can move up. A lot of companies like to hire from within.
The book publishing industry may not be in the best of shape right now, but it’s still a viable career path. Like any career, you are going to have to work at it. Things may not necessarily happen for you right away, but with a little perseverance, your hard work will pay off.