Archive for July, 2007

Getting a Job in Publishing

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

A question was asked:What can you do to improve your chances of getting a job in publishing? The writer has work experience and two bachelor’s degrees and wants to be an editorial assistant.

I’m going to start with the basics, which you may already know, but others may not.

Consider what an editorial assistant does, and what makes a good one different from the rest.

  • They handle a lot of the administrative detail, so strong typing and organizational skills will be critical.
  • Editorial assistants also need to have tact and good judgment when dealing with authors and agents.
  • They need to be able to sort the marketable books from the trash when reading slush. And, last but not least,
  • They need the motivation and ability to absorb large amounts of information, and to endure long stretches of routine tasks.

Your task is to show a potential boss that your past experience and education fit you with those skills and demonstrate those qualities. You should also show an awareness of the type of books that they produce and an interest in that kind of material.

 Each element of your application and interview for the job should pass the “so what?” test. In other words, put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. Ask yourself whether you would care about this piece of information. Does it demonstrate some ability or skill that will make you-the-candidate good at the job? Does it say something that they need to know?

And one more thing: be prepared for the dreadful pay and long hours. You’ll be expected to work like a slave in this industry, but you’ll never get rich, or even “comfortable.” Still, it’s a lot of fun, if you’re bent that way. (I am.)

Did that help? Does anyone out there have further or better suggestions?

Better Ideas

Monday, July 16th, 2007

So, you have  a manuscript. It’s either fiction or popular non-fiction. And no one seems interested. Do you have an agent? If so, how many publishers has he/she submitted the manuscript to? If it’s more than a couple of dozen, then it’s time to turn to another book. You can revisit this one later in your career. 

But what if you don’t have an agent? How many agents have you tried? If you have queried more than a few dozen, and they all work in your niche, then you have a problem. Have many or most of them requested a partial? The problem is in your manuscript. 


Are they  not requesting a partial? Then the problem is in the proposal/query.


IF the problem is in the manuscript, it may not be a good  idea to press on with this book. Either it’s not good enough, or the market is too small to make a profit. 


If your work hasn’t been widely submitted, you need to get more rejections before you give up. 5? 10? You’re just starting. This is a numbers game, and you need to rack up the numbers before you cry quit. 


But let’s say that you truly believe in the work. What are your alternatives to the subsidy press? You can self-publish either with professional  help or on your own. 


If you publish a book well, there will be absolutely NOTHING to tell the bookstores or the readers that it was self-published. Note that I’m not saying you lie, or that you use fake names, but just that you produce a book so good in every respect that it is clear that this is the first of many from a new publisher to be reckoned with. That means that you need good content, good typography, good covers, good market, and a good distribution network, just for starters. 


Confused about how to judge/find these things? There are books on the subject. (This is book publishing. Of course there are!) And I even have a few listed on my Reference Desk in the Reviews Section. 


There are listservs for the small press community where pros help newcomers pull themselves up by their bootstraps. For free!


There are conferences like the PMA-U that happens in the 3 days before BEA every year. There’s BEA itself. 


Have courage, there are always options. Still, the best way may be the traditional way, depending upon your resources (self-publishing well is expensive, or it takes huge amounts of time and talent) and your goals.


And, who knows, you could be the next Chris Paolini.

When SHOULD you use a subsidy/POD/vanity publisher?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Most publishing professionals will tell you at length about the flaws of the vanity publisher, or its newer, less expensive version, the subsidy press/”POD publisher.” I spend quite a bit of time doing so myself.

Digression: I want to emphasize here that anyone can use a POD printer without going through any middlemen, and will usually save money doing so. 

But now, back to our regularly scheduled entry. When is this the right choice? 

If you don’t need anything from bookstores, serious reviewers, or any other part of the book industry, that’s a good start. 

If you expect to sell fewer than 100 copies, maybe much fewer, that’s another indicator that this may be the best method. 

If your work, however good, is poetry or something similar, where the number of good works tends to outstrip the likely number of readers by a wide margin, but you desperately need to see it in print quickly, this might be the way for you.

If it’s a souvenir book for a wedding, 50th  anniversary, or some sort of reunion, look no further than the least expensive subsidy press. 

BUT, if you want to make a living from your books, and especially if you write fiction or mainstream, general-interest non-fiction, this is probably  not your best option. Tune in later this week for better ideas.

Oh, and folks, I need questions on publishing. Ask about anything but submissions and agenting, and I’ll try hard to answer here as quickly as possible.