areadersperspective-main asked: Hi, Im currently a 1st year in University studying english, and I want to end up working in publishing. Any advice?
This is a question I’ve received a few times - so rather than construct you a new answer, or punt and refer you to my past answers, I’ll spell it out in a handy mnemonic.
Q is for Question: Question why you want to work in publishing. Seriously question this. There are many reasons to want to work in this multifarious and ever-shifting industry where the object is to make people’s brains work in a zillion subtle ways in your favor. Do you want to be a part of this because you think it’s easy? Because other people you know did it? Because you like reading? Because you like writing? Because you don’t think you have any other option due to your inevitable qualifications or lack thereof? Because you enjoy the company of women? Ask yourselves these questions because you will be called upon to present answers when you inevitably interview - and the thing every interviewer wants to know, without asking directly, is “can you do this job when it sucks and not be grouse-y and moan-y about it?” And in order to answer in the affirmative and do so honestly, you must know why you are doing this in the first place. And if the answer is “I don’t know”? GOOD. You don’t need to know. But you do need to know you don’t know in order to move forward realistically once the time comes to take classes, apply to jobs, do research on the industry, etc etc etc
U is for Use: You should use everything at your disposal to learn about the industry and the part of it you wish to enter, and the opportunities you end up pursuing after you learn enough. Use everything and everyone; ask for friends of friends to introduce you to people, browse every website and newsletter and aggregator you possibly can, figure out the jargon, get friends who work in bookstores or other book-related businesses to slip you free copies, dredge up every single connection you possibly can - not because publishing is such a closed-off sphere that you need to Know Someone to enter, but it just makes it easier - especially once you do start working in publishing, and you suddenly realize you don’t know any of the names people are dropping or the books they’re using as comps. (Learn what comps are.)
E is for Everywhere: Approach publishing from every angle, and by that I mean don’t think that it’s just editors and then a finished book at the end of the conveyer belt. Figure out the different parts of large and small presses, as well as the various imprints within; production, inventory, sales, publicity, marketing, digital vs. print - and which imprint puts out the award-magnet titles and which puts out the shitty but lucrative ones. You might be intimidated by this, and that’s okay, because most people in publishing don’t understand how their fellow departments do stuff - it’s all very blurry sometimes, and even we aren’t quite sure how the books manage to get read, but your passion for the industry and to learn will be a great help when you’re starting out, and continuing, and eventually dying at your desk (kidding! we won’t have desks in the future, just treadmills with feeding tubes, touch screens, and an IV Keurig drip we have to sterilize ourselves)
S is for Shitty: Plenty of publishing jobs are shitty. I’ve had one, most of my readers have had one, plenty still do. Even if you do land a great job and you have a nice attitude, it’ll be at least a little shitty. As all jobs are and should be, and it’s important to embrace that because to come to this industry from a reading background is a bit of a shock - to see that flawed humans with poorly designed and managed chains of command and custody can somehow produce the thing that made you feel so Different and Amazing and New inside. If you get a shitty job, but it’s something you feel you can get better at, get better until it’s time to leave, then get a new job. If you get a shitty job and you feel like you can make it better by working your ass off with the resources available, good for you. If your job is shitty but your boss is great, your call. But do not ever think that your choice to enter the industry and your worth as a human should be put to a referendum because your job is shitty. And you should also remember that S is for Stakes - they’re low. Publishing is publishing. If you fuck up or you have a hard time, remember; nobody’s gonna die. If you’re not having fun at ALL, then change jobs, but for the love of god don’t cut yourself off from enjoyment if you can manage it.
And finally T is for Try: Try new things. Try new books. Try new authors. Try new organizational strategies. Try new foods. Try new sights. Try new partners. Try new authors. Try bad books. Try huge books. Try kid’s books. Try checklists - try none. Publishing will die at the hands of the timid and lethargic, mark my words. Houses will rot from the inside on the insistence that “what’s the point? it’s not going to help”. I’m not parroting DISRUPT DISRUPT DISRUPT here - I’m saying let NOBODY TELL YOU IT WON’T WORK. Listen to advice and follow orders - but don’t get sucked into the creeping sludge of complacency and defeat. You can always make things better - it’s not always easy or quick, but this is an industry that will be broken by “meh” and made by “I’m gonna try it anyway”.
QUEST. Because it is one. Good luck.