Spring is in the air and so is college graduation, and with impending graduations I’m getting a lot of questions from students with dreams of working in publishing. Typically what they want to know is how I got into publishing and what they can do if they are interested in publishing. Since I’m on the career alumni board or something like that at Marquette University, most of my queries are coming from the Midwest.
But for anyone interested in a job in publishing, here are a few tips.
While there are a number of smaller publishing houses throughout the country, my first bit of advice is to really consider what you want from a publishing career. For me it was go big or don’t go at all. In other words, I wanted to work with one of the major houses and, as you might know, all, or most, of those houses are based in New York City. And by those houses I mean Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Harper, etc.
I also recommend that college graduates consider literary agencies. When I first considered publishing it never dawned on me to consider agencies because, ultimately, I didn’t know such a thing existed. A publishing house and an agency are two different but very similar businesses and either will get your foot in the publishing door. From there you will be able to make a switch if you feel that you are better suited to one over the other and, really, there’s no way to know that until you’ve tried it out.
Since most of the nation’s literary agencies and publishers are located in NYC you will probably have to consider moving this way and, yes, you’ll probably have to start by joining forces with the actors, models, and comedians of the world and find a job bartending or waiting tables until that dream job comes along (or pays a livable wage).
My best advice is that a few weeks before graduation (I wouldn’t bother job hunting before then) become vigilant about checking the Publishers Marketplace job board and applying for every entry-level position. I also suggest that you semi-blindly send resumes to every literary agency and publishing house with a job opening. You might have to consider a work-for-free internship because, let’s face it, without something to make you stand out your resume probably looks like 100 others.
Just like getting published, there are no secrets to working in publishing. You just need to get out there and do it.