Aspiring publisher, book editor, and in need of help!

Hey everyone, 

I am a student, an English major of course, and have aspirations of working in the book publishing industry. Reading is my passion, the writer word is the key to my happiness and I am sure many of you feel the same. However, I am in need of guidance on how to best utilize my skills and get a shoe in the door to the book world. Can anyone help me? Thank you! 

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I would love to know the answer to this question. I'm going to college to be an elementary educator because that's what I've always wanted to do. But since I started blogging a few months ago, it's expanded from just a hobby, to a job that I absolutely love to do. So how cool would it be to publish these books or become a book editor and switch my major to English?


Gah, but I haven't convinced myself I can do this yet due to your question right there. Especially with how the economy is, I don't want to put myself into a corner and get stuck without a way to support a family or pay the bills.


Jordan Butcher

The Ink Puddle

You could try working for a literary agent or publisher - probably unpaid work at first, like an internship, but that would give you an idea of what the industry is like. It's a lot less glamorous from the inside. Anyone who wants to publish other writers' books should also work for a legitimate, reputable publisher first - I've read horror stories of what happened to writers when their well-meaning but inexperienced (and underfunded) publishers went belly-up.

Hey Ashley,

To be honest its a long hard road and the best way I think is to offer your services on a work experience basis to a publisher or an agent.  That way you get to see both sides of the coin although from different perspectives.  The key is finding a way to do it on a budget, so whilst it will be coming out of your own pocket you have a realistic idea as to what you're doing and know how you'd figure things out in case you managed to land a job with one of them.


The key, if there is one, is to set yourself a goal and work towards it.  First of all, do your research on the people you're contacting, the types of books they do, the authors they represent, what they've had out recently (or in the near future) and make a few positive points about yourself so when  you speak to them you wont' get caught short.  Personally what I'd suggest is doing some basic research, find one or two that suit you (location as well as budget) and then read a couple of thier books.  After this you can do a phone call to find the right person to speak to, ask for an email address and send a nicely polished letter directly to them giving them the information about you.


This gets your foot in the door and means that you're dealing with a face other than a company.  After that, its up to you.


Hope it helps.

Thank you very much for the feedback. I live in CA and am near a few publishing companies. I have contacted a few, however, their responses were less than satisfactory. Many have told me that the book industry is a sinking ship. I am not discouraged, however, I feel I need to find a way to make myself more desirable to the companies near me.

I applaud you for studying English (or journalism) before embarking on a career in writing. (Be sure to proofread before posting or submitting your work). You’re not going to get rich as a writer, but if it’s what you enjoy, then you should follow your passion.


Write, get feedback, don’t become discouraged, and write more. Your writing will improve as you write more, provided you also study the craft (including grammar, diction, spelling, punctuation, and characterization and plotting – if you’re writing fiction). Also, read works by professional authors; you will absorb much through osmosis.


Best of luck with you budding career!


Keith B. Darrell

I do write, and often, but not nearly as much as I read. Authors, diction, and literature is my true passion. Thank you very much for you knowledge and feedback! I do need to continue writing, and continue to polish the skills that I have garnered throughout my studies.

Hey Ashley,

I'm new to the group. I write and publish SciFi Fantasy Adventure. I'm a member of a local fiction writers group. I am launching a website soon that will cater to indie self publishers with an emphasis on the DIY aspect of producing and marketing books. But I will also include links to services that writers are unable or unwilling to perform.

Editing is not my strongest point, and I have a lot of questions about the process.

What kinds of literature are you comfortable editing? How and what would you charge to edit a 300 page fiction document? How about instruction manuals or cookbooks? What exactly do you do when you edit, besides punctuation, spelling and grammer? Do you attack sentence structure and usage? Make suggestions about style? How quickly can you turn a project around?


Michael Faris



I don't know where you're going to school, Ashley, but you might look into the Yale Publishing Course (I don't believe you have to be a Yale student; it's a separate course for professionals in the publishing industry and those who seek to join the industry). Stanford used to have one, too, but it closed in 2009. Yale is, of course, much closer to the traditional center of publishing in NYC.


If you want to work in the world of traditional publishing, it's almost necessary to live in NY. There are a few outliers, publishing companies in CA and other places, but most of the business is centered in Manhattan. There are plenty of entry-level positions, but also plenty of applicants for those positions, so the competition will be stiff.


Outside of NY, there aren't many career fields that lead into publishing. I have known people who became top execs at publishing companies who came from the world of bookselling, but they typically go into the sales side, not the editorial side, of the publishing companies. Of course, you could also start in an editorial assistant position at a small press, develop the necessary experience and credentials, and use that as a stepping-stone into the editorial department at one of the majors.


I've worked in publishing, bookselling, and writing--in fact, since 1980, I haven't had a job that didn't revolve around those three things (and I'm still doing freelance writing, own a bookstore that just opened its second location, and do some freelance editing) so I've known lots of people in the business. They all have in common a love of books and language, and, in the beginning, the ability to get by on a relatively low income. Publishers at the majors make plenty of money, but editorial assistants and publicists, etc., have to try to live at NYC prices on pretty meager salaries. That's where the passion part come in.  Good luck in your efforts!

I go to school in CA, and have researched a few book publishing companies in San Francisco. Many of which have internships and things that I am planning on applying for this coming summer. My major is English, and I am planning on going to grad school within the next two years. Thank you for all of your help, and knowledge. I feel like I am not certain how to best go about getting myself involved in the right crowds to be successful. I write some, but not near as much as I read. My passion is reading, and language. I have taken many years of french and am about to take some Latin courses soon. How did you get involved?
Too bad Stanford ended its publishing course, then, because that was a great way to move into Bay Area publishing.  I got into the biz by working at a bookstore in San Jose, CA--part of the Bay Area chain Books Inc., which is still around and going strong. Through that job I made the contacts that led to the rest of it.


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