Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Publishing Jobs

I have a growing readership among students considering a career in publishing, which is really cool for me. It’s obvious that writers would want to read the blog, but when I started it up I never imagined that students, future editors and agents, would read as well.

Recently one of those students got in touch asking how the economic crisis and those still too recent cutbacks would affect entry-level positions with publishing houses and agencies. I think that no matter what career path you’re taking right now, it’s a difficult time for recent graduates or soon-to-be graduates. Many companies and industries are cutting back and that means fewer, if any, new hires. While you certainly have the advantage of being at the bottom of the pay scale, there is the possibility that companies will lose a person working in an entry-level position for some reason and simply decide not to rehire. So while I don’t know for a fact what companies are doing right now, my suggestion is to make sure that you are the best qualified candidate they have. Get yourself internships at a publishing company or a literary agency, at magazines or newspapers. Any sort of publishing internship helps, it shows that you are driven and distinguishes you from a candidate who has nothing more than a college degree. By the same token, make your resume stand out. Put related job experience at the top of the resume. While most resume books will tell you to put education first, you want to distinguish yourself, so put your internships and other related experiences at the top. Everyone is going to assume you have a degree and that’s less likely to excite them.

And like everything else, don’t get discouraged. If you can’t get a job right away in the field you were dreaming of, find other jobs that can help build the skills you need. Can’t find a job in book publishing? Look into magazines, newspapers, or internships while you’re waiting tables. Building the resume is the most important thing for you right now. And don’t forget, BookEnds does hire interns, so don’t be afraid to send your resume our way. We’ve definitely had more than one success story.



Devon Ellington said...

May I add a suggestion, here, Jessica? It relates to your "make your resume stand out" -- hunt down and acquire some freelance jobs in editing, copy editing, etc., for small businesses or individuals that need that type of work. You'll make some money and build some credits. Do some pro bono writing or editing work for a charitable organization about which you're passionate.

And there are several staffing agencies that offer temp jobs in the field -- sign up with those. The one time I had a "day job" was the time I spent three years working for a publishing company, and I came to them as a temp.

Temp agencies aren't just for secretarial work -- although that can be an entry into a publishing company, too.

Lady Glamis said...

I went to school because I wanted to be an editor. Now, 6 years later after graduating, I'm thinking I'd like to be a literary agent. But I have to raise my kids first. Hmmm. So I'll write in the meantime and try to build up that resume by doing some of the great suggestions you've given, along with some of Devon's. Thanks Devon!

Dara said...

I graduated almost two years ago and no such luck for me. I pretty much figured a job in publishing isn't in the cards for me (Dayton, Ohio isn't really known for its publishing jobs :P)

It seems like any job I've tried to apply for that even remotely relates to publishing or books tell me I don't have enough experience. Apparently four years of studying English isn't enough. I couldn't even find an internship because of the experience factor, which boggles my mind. I don't know how all this "experience" is to be found when even the entry level positions are asking for it.

But that's just been my luck. My current job has nothing to do with anything that I like at all (secretary in real estate...) but it's a job so that's something, I suppose. It at least gives me time to work on my book :)

I suppose freelance work would be an option--haven't really checked into that and not really sure where I should look, but it can't hurt.

Aimless Writer said...

My daughter graduated with a BA in Psychology. Still no job. She's a hard worker, good office skills (worked in offices every summer through college) and very eager to work. She's collecting unemployment applying for jobs everywhere! So she decides to go back to school. Since her transcripts are excellent she gets accepted right away but loans are getting harder to get (still working this out). Now she tells unemployment she's going back to school and they cut off her unemployment until she can meet with a counselor. (Sheesh!)
At this point she'd work anywhere. She went to a college get together with her old classmates and finds half are either unemployed or going back to school.
Sad times for job seekers.

Anita said...

Public television and public radio stations are great places to get experience...they often need interns or volunteers and you can learn so much in those places.

Also, my local newspaper has a community reporter section once per week, in which anybody can write about anything and try to get it selected for's a good way to get experience and can lead to bigger and better things.

Finally, our region has a ton of small publications about topics like outdoor living and women's issues...these pubs are often looking for freelance stinks, but it's a good avenue for making connections to bigger and better jobs.

Bailey Thomas said...

I have a question, if someone can answer it.

I'm a college junior looking into applying for publishing internships for the coming summer, and I noticed that you said experience should be put above education because it's assumed that we're all earning degrees.

I'm double majoring in English Writing and Accounting, and I'm minoring in Spanish. I'm not trying to brag, but I feel like that makes me stand out a little bit because the majors are so different and I feel would be valuable in an internship setting, especially one in which the intern rotates among departments.

I thought this was kind of an attention-grabber, so I left it at the top, traditionally.

Do you, or any other readers, recommend that I leave it there or move it lower? I have no prior publishing experience other than co-editorship of both of my school's literary publications, one annual and one monthly.

BookEnds, LLC said...


I think in your case, leave it at the top. But the minute you get actual real world experience like an internship or two you'll want that to trump education. Yes, your majors are impressive and congratulations to you for doing that work, but frankly, few publishers need anything more then a smart editor with vision and showing that you have had publishing experience of any sort makes you stand out from everyone who has spent their years in school. Publishing experience gives you a leg up over everyone else because presumably you already have some idea of how the system works.


Wedding_Skulls said...

Also, can I offer a suggestion to those qualified individuals looking for a job in publishing?

Have you ever considered working for your local/national blindness institute?

I work as an Accessible Format Producer for the RNZFB. We take books/maps/study notes/handouts/instruction manuals/recipes, etc and turn them into braille, large print, e-text and audio for visually-impaired readers.

The entry level skills needed are similiar to those needed for a publishing job; A degree - mine was in archaeology - understanding of parts of text, communication skills, computer literacy, knowledge of desktop publishing, a second language or skills with maths or music helps. The skills you learn on the job will be extrememly useful for applying in publishing later on. Unlike publishing, we're not experiencing layoffs/downturn.

It's the most rewarding job I've ever had; every day there's something different on your desk and you make someone's life that much more cheery. I'm just throwing this out there because I know so many people would enjoy the work but it's not somewhere you'd normally think to look.

Bailey Thomas said...

Fantastic. Thank you so much for the advice.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget weekly newspapers published in your community. I once applied for a summer job and lucked into an internship which not only paid but gave me three hours college credit. They were aimed at high-schoolers but the editors were more than happy to give the job to an enthusiastic Journalism major. I got some great clips too--good luck!

Suzanne said...

Thank you for a thoughtful post and I must add, the comments were just as informative and useful! kudos!

Matthew said...

It's not just recent grads having a difficult time looking for jobs in publishing. I'm trying to return to publishing after a few years of working in China. It's difficult enough applying for jobs through the great firewall of China that blocks quite a few job pages, but it's more difficult getting people to realize that I'm not going to be in the states for a couple more months. Most publications (mostly magazines and newspapers) want people to start immediately...wish I could, but can't.

Though I am surprised that I have received rejection letters for job applications--I don't remember ever getting those when I was looking for work after grad school.

Jessica Milne said...


I went to your site and I'm going to email you in a moment. What you suggested sounds very interesting, something I've never considered before. :) Thanks!

JMG said...

What a great article to read. By reading through some of these comments, I am glad to see that I am not the only person struggling in this field.
What is funny, is that I have just written an article in my blog describing my feelings on this topic. As someone who has been writing for years, it was more of a personal thing for me. I too, have nothing to show on a resume, as my career took a turn into the marketing field.
What's hard is when you realize that you want to pursue something you love, you have nothing to show for it. I detest the field I am in, and am ready to take that leap, but how I am going to get a job in the literary world?
I guess I need to start small. Our economy is not doing well, and jobs are limited. What stinks is that as much as I would love to intern for free somewhere, bills don't get paid on their own.
What I wouldn't mind doing is starting small for a company that has to do with publishing, ect. Maybe work my way up. Who knows, but I need to try.

Mikasha said...

Hi, wanted to ask a question. I graduated from a good school two years ago, majored in English and Psychology, had a publishing internship (as well as a couple of museum internships based in writing) worked for my school paper and yearbook. I have tried very hard but I can't seem to find employment in the publishing industry. I've tried just about everything, old contacts, individual search, etc. but I have gotten no where. Should i just accept the fact that regardless of my experience that I'm not going to get in? If i continue to look for publishing work, does the fact that I'm two years out of college and still applying to entry level positions make me an undesirable candidate? I really need some advice on this. Thanks.