What it’s like to work in publishing

Your nose will literally always be in a book

Unless you’re an Accounting or Pre-Med major, I’m sure you’ve heard it before: what good is that major? What can you do with that? What type of career will you have?

At some point the questions become so constant and overwhelming, you begin to ask them to yourself. What am I going to do with my life? While I may not have the answer for you, I spent last summer trying to put my English major to professional use at a major publishing company.

So if you’re wondering what to do with your English degree and thinking that publishing may be something for you, here’s what you should know.


You have to love reading … and proofreading

You probably already love to read and have been opening a book whenever the chance presented itself for years, but this is different. To work in the world of publishing you will be engaging in heavy editing; this means that you will be in charge of reading the same book over and over again checking for flow, grammar, etc. You need to enjoy reading enough that you don’t mind doing it for a living and have the patience to understand that reading a book once is never truly enough.

You will talk books

Not only will your job be working with authors and their novels, but your office will have the most book-savvy people around. The people you work with will love to read, will have been doing it their entire lives, and will try their hardest to clear some free time for more reading of their choice. So make sure you’re up on your book lingo, but never feel ashamed or intimated to ask about what you don’t know. I found that some of my best conversations were discussing books I had yet to read and seeing what the thought process of my colleagues was. After all, it’s so nice to live and work in a world of people who value reading the way you do.

You will work on the weekends

During the summer, the publishing world takes a bit of the edge off and closes for half days on Fridays. But even in this nine to five world your work is never done. The bulk of positions in the publishing industry operate on individual relationships between editors and authors and that means deadlines. You may find yourself editing novels late into the night or all Saturday, rather than a typical Tuesday at noon, because that’s the time demands of a particular book. The trick is to try and stay on top of what is due when, because if you can work as soon as possible, you’ll have the breaks everyone knows you deserve.

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You get free stuff

Hands down one of the absolute best things about publishing is the free books. And not just any ole free books- unpublished ones! Since publishing is the world that handles a book from start to finish, you get to clean house with all the not-yet-finished books as a beta tester. Your thoughts and opinions acts as a good sounding board for authors and editors alike, so take every book given to you and know that you’re in the VIP lounge on this one.

You’ll drink coffee – a lot of coffee

From late nights reading to early morning conference calls, publishing demands that you be well caffeinated at all times. A bonus? The mass amount of night owls that work in publishing ensure that you get the best cup of joe around. In my time as an intern, our break room had premium Starbucks beans (and a French press!), but I caught on quickly that everyone stopped by “Oren’s Daily Brew” before and after work.


You look (and look at) the part

The world of publishing requires business casual dress, but gives you the professional world. If you work for any of the big six publishing companies, then you will find yourself in a beautiful and scenic NYC office. I spent my summer working on the 27th floor of 195 Broadway, wearing comfortable pants and shoes, and feeling like a big kid for the very first time.

Every glance out the window and onto the streets of downtown Manhattan reaffirmed for me the small wonders of the world of publishing.


You meet the coolest people

Not only will you meet friends and colleagues who love reading as much as you do and think an English degree is worth its weight in gold, you’ll meet people who challenge and inspire you. So many people in the publishing world are writing their own works (or plan to), that there is a constant exchange of ideas and the thrum of hope. The publishing world helps you believe that you can do anything and they’ll edit your initial idea till its just right.