As a child I used to envy the book reviewers who worked for newspapers like The New York Times. I thought that was the most amazing job, to be paid to read books and then write about them. I couldn’t imagine anything better. I then learned that editors at publishing houses did the same thing, well, sort of. And I thought how do I get to do that?
Fast forward a number of years and at 23 I was in search of something to settle into as a career. I still hadn’t really looked into publishing as an option and to this day I don’t really know why. My degree in English and my love of reading should have made it a no brainer, but it took me many years to even consider it. Never the less, as I struggled in a contract job editing content for an educational institution, I stumbled across a post-graduate certificate in publishing and thought why not go for it? Sure I already had a Masters degree in theatre and literature and so the thought of yet more schooling was a tough sell for me, but my current education was clearly not enough to get me into the Canadian job market. And so I opted into this 8 month program, and prayed that the internship it offered would be my saving grace and help me find the dream career I had always been looking for.
Not everyone’s journey into the world of publishing is going to be this way, but I can offer anyone considering it, a bit of advice, and a bit of information regarding my experiences and that of some of my very successful friends. I also have to say that my title may be misleading, you will make money working in publishing, but not a lot of it. But if you want to love your work, there is probably no better place to be than in the industry of books and magazines.
First of all I highly recommend choosing a reputable publishing program to gain entry into the world of publishing, because you will learn soon enough that getting a job in this industry is all about networking, networking, networking. Some of the great ones in Toronto are Centennial’s Book and Magazine Publishing program, Humber’s Book Publishing Program, and Ryerson’s Publishing Certificate. The one that Centennial College offers is a bit more dynamic as it provides instruction in both the book and magazine markets, there are also many graduates of the program currently working in the industry and in this respect, internship opportunities are truly top notch.
It is also a really great idea to build a portfolio. The publishing program you are in will help you do this, but it’s important to always keep your own writing and assignments ready for interviews. Be involved in the program as much as possible. This was one of the greatest assets, being able to walk into interviews and show the committees hard copy examples of what you had worked on.
Many of my friends who are currently in positions within the industry in both books and magazines, took on more than one internship. An internship for your program is mandatory and they will help you find one, but it is also a great idea to pursue an internship on your own. In my case I found an internship at a small magazine while in the program, which allowed me to get some hands on experience using programs like Photoshop and InDesign outside of the classroom. For my required internship I chose books, specifically higher education publishers because they tended to be more stable and hire more often.
It is important to remember that to move up in the world of publishing you need to show that you are willing to work hard and start from the bottom. Some of us worked for free for months, and if we were lucky those free internships turned into part-time or full-time jobs. Once you have your foot in the door, it is extremely likely you will be able to move around to various publishers, both because of your experience, and also because of the network of contacts you are building.
Consider also whether you think you would like to work in the editorial or sales and marketing side of book publishing. They are very different, and you may find your original preferences change, as mine did. I originally thought that being an editor was what I longed to do forever, but through the courses I took, I realized that I much preferred the marketing side of it all, and I really hadn’t thought about the possibility of reading through a manuscript that wasn’t that great. On the flip side, getting to promote the book, meet with the authors, figuring out how to keep the publishing industry alive and well, these were all aspects that I knew I wanted to pursue as part of my love for books. There are other options as well, like graphic design, and production, especially for those of you who are far more technologically savvy.
The publishing industry certainly has its ups and downs, so if stability is what you are looking for, it may not be for you. I opted out of a position at a publisher because I was felt communications for a bigger institution was the best way to use the marketing skills I had learned and built on. However, if you are a hard worker, and you have a passion for books or magazines, or the material you are working with, it can also be very rewarding. So give it a try if you are willing, and consider internships at some of these great Canadian power houses where I know many people have found successful careers:
And many more!