This month’s question: “I would like to work with a publishing company, such as Bethany House, someday. What steps would you recommend I take in order to pursue this career?”
First of all, it’s always exciting to see people who are interested in working in publishing! Whether you’re a student considering the next step after college or a person thinking about a career change, this is a relevant question. The advice we give here is influenced by our own experiences in interviews and job searches, and might not universally apply, but hopefully you’ll find some points you can take away.
From me, Amy, BHP’s fiction publicist:
- If you’re applying for a job, be familiar with the publishing company’s books. This may seem obvious, but it’s very clear when an applicant hasn’t done any research. It’s great, of course, to ask questions about how a company operates, but having some basic knowledge going in is helpful. Along with that, knowing something about how the publishing world works would make you stand out. You can get this knowledge by reading publisher, agent, and author blogs (especially posts that talk about behind-the-scenes aspects like different stages of editing, how contracts are negotiated, and so on), or by setting up a phone call with someone you know who works in publishing or a related field.
- Know what relevant skills you have and how to present them. I didn’t have a degree in marketing, but I had written press releases, managed multiple projects at once, worked with WordPress, used Photoshop and InDesign, and done a good amount of freelance writing for magazines. Some of these were through college classes (community colleges often offer continuing education courses on skills like these), while others were self-taught. My marketing skills ended up being more important than having a marketing degree.
- Be aware that publishing can be difficult to break into. This isn’t to discourage you from trying, just to let you know that there aren’t a lot of publishing companies out there (and even fewer if you’re just thinking of Christian publishing companies), so there will be a lot of competition for jobs. If this is something you really want to pursue, keep at it, but just know that you may not find a good fit for you right away. (Also, don’t forget about related industries like freelance publicity groups or literary agencies.)
From Elisa, one of our copy editors:
- Find as many possible ways to gain experience now. This could include working on a school newspaper or literary journal, doing freelance proofreading for a local magazine (this is how I started), volunteering as a writing tutor, proofreading newsletters for an organization or ministry, doing an internship or informational interview in the industry, and taking editing, proofreading, and writing classes.
- Look for opportunities to develop the skills you will need as an editor, even if the tasks may not seem to directly correspond to editing. In college I worked for over two years as an assistant to our band director and managed our music library, learning about Excel, data entry, organization, and how to manage stacks and stacks of paper all around you (all of which are still applicable in my job today).
- Be very familiar with whatever style the publishing house uses. Bethany House and many others rely on Chicago Manual of Style. Buy a copy and learn the rules—there are even official online quizzes you can take to test your knowledge! During the application process, some publishing companies may have you complete an editing sample based on CMS to see if you’re a good fit.
Question for you, readers: if you had to pick a new career right now, what would most interest you? (Feel free to be wildly impractical—if you want to say jelly-bean taste tester, that’s just fine with me!) Follow-up questions about jobs in publishing are also fair game.