Four Questions on this Friday

I asked on Twitter if anyone had anything they'd like to ask me about my job/writing/book/publishing in general, and got a number of great questions. I'm going to limit this post to four, though, as the first answer is quite long! Of course, I'm definitely extending the opportunity to you guys, as well--feel free to ask me anything in the comments. :) 1. @dy0ulee How do you get to work in the publishing industry?”

Ah, this question has a not-so-easy answer! To be completely honest, it’s become a bit of a challenge to get a job in publishing (and I could write a whole entry about all of the different jobs within the publishing industry). The industry, at least as I understand it, has always been a bit of an old boy’s club, meaning that many of us got our positions through networking or relationships with people already in the publishing house. I once heard that 70% of publishing jobs aren’t actually posted for the public to see, but I’m not sure that’s really the case anymore… (Though it’s certainly true that many jobs will be posted on our internal job site first, allowing internal candidates the opportunity to move within the company.) This summer I found out that whenever a job is posted on a company’s public job board, it gets anywhere between 200-600 applications depending on the position. That’s why it’s important to know someone and/or apply right when the listing goes up.

After spending three years in college trying to nail one down, I have to say that getting an internship at one of the big houses, especially during the summer, is TOUGH. It really is a who-you-know-that-can-forward-your-resume game. BUT! While it is a little bit of a challenge, it’s certainly not impossible to get an internship at a literary agency. This tends to be really great experience, especially if you have designs on wanting to be an agent or editor—plus the agent that you work for is bound to be connected and will serve as a great reference later on. Be sure to check your college/university’s alumni network as well, and ask if you can pick their brain (via email or meeting for coffee if they’re local). It’s really important to get your name out there! I must have gone on at least 15 informational interviews while I was applying. Basically every alumni from my school told me that the only way to get a job in commercial publishing was to attend one of the publishing courses that are held over the summer. I’m biased towards Columbia’s (the program run by the amazing Lindy Hess, who many of us consider the Godmother of the publishing industry) because that’s the one I attended, but NYU and Denver both have great programs. I was also given the advice that NYU focuses a little more on magazines than books, though with the state of the magazine industry… not sure if that’s true anymore. The publishing course taught me A LOT about every aspect of the industry and gave me hands-on practice during the Book Workshop. The other attendees ranged from never having held a publishing internship to having three or four under the belt. Unfortunately, the programs aren’t entirely cheap—but many schools and programs do have scholarships and grants available.

Of course, right now it’s even tougher to get a position due to the economy and the fact that the industry is shrinking. If it’s what you really want to do, there’s always a way to slip in, but I REALLY recommend attending one of the courses. Of course, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to prepare by reading as much as possible in the field you want to be working in so you can talk about these books in a critical way. You don’t have to be a creative writing major, but having strong writing skills will definitely help! Likewise, I know many publishers are looking for new employees to be somewhat versed in social networking and the online world.

2. @SabriHorande How long does it take aprox between the book deal and the actual publishing date?

18 months/1.5 years is standard, though it really does depend on the project itself. Many books are bought on a three chapter proposal, and while some of them do manage to appear on shelves 18 months after acquisition, some actually do take a couple of years. It’s generally in a book’s best interest not to be rushed through production, because it means the editor and author will have more time to go back and forth with revisions, design won’t be rushed to come up with something, etc. From the author’s side, it doesn’t seem like it should take that long, but there are dozens of little mini-steps that a publisher goes through to put the book out into the world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some books are “crashed” onto schedules and rushed through production, either to fill a gap on a list, to be other similar books from a competitor, or because of some recent event (such as Michael Jackson’s death).

It’s also good to mention here that houses function under a season system (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer), though every house has different months for different seasons. I believe Egmont does Fall, Spring, Summer (?), but my place of employment does Fall, Winter, Summer. Some books are better suited for a certain season, so publication timelines sometimes also depend on that. BRIGHTLY WOVEN sold in November of 2008 and won’t be published until March 2010 = 16 months.

3. @_rachelsimon What do you do on a daily basis @ your job? read, edit, what exactly?

To refresh everyone, I work as an editorial assistant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I very rarely read and edit while I’m in the office. Most of this work has to be done at home. As the months go by, I’m sure I’ll be given a little editing to do, but as it stands, I mainly function as a reader, router, tracker, and writer.

Reader—I read submissions and write reader’s reports on them. Sometimes someone on my team will ask me to read something they’ve been reading to get a second opinion. We have both group and department editorial meetings, in which editors come together to get others’ opinions on projects that they’re thinking about acquiring or aren’t sure about.

Router—I route all production materials, marketing materials, sales materials, design materials… I do a lot of floor hopping

Tracker—I track my team’s submissions, contracts (and send out executed contracts and checks), my boss’ expenses, our team’s calendar, signings… you get the picture. I have a lot of excel spreadsheets in my life. I also answer one of our big author’s fanmail.

Writer—I write a lot of copy, too. Jacket copy, memos for cover designs, titlesheets, launch presentations... lots and lots of writing...

It really does depend on the day of the week, and what big events are coming up on our schedule.

4. @TracyBuchanan How long did it take between ur agent subbing out Brightly Woven&getting the deal? How'd you deal with the wait (if you had 1!)

Hmmm… I think we submitted end of October/early November and I had Egmont’s offer maybe two weeks later? Is it bad that I can’t give you an exact date?? It went pretty fast—we started hearing back from editors right after that first weekend, but the deal finalized until Thanksgiving though. I actually think that the timing of it (just before the holiday) played a role in me hearing back so quickly. At the time I was so preoccupied with schoolwork that I didn’t really have time to think about it.

Have a wonderful weekend!