Getting Started Working in Book Publishing

These are guidelines I’ve created for general use for trying to get a job in the publishing industry. As a disclaimer, this is what I’ve found worked for me and some others, but please always use your best judgment in the process of getting started and applying to jobs in publishing.

This is not an all encompassing guide, and certainly may not work for you on an individual basis for everything. Some of this information and advice is very specific to being a literary agent or working at a literary agency.

Reach out to me at any time through my contact page or private DMs on social media should you have questions, but understand that my time can be limited from time to time, so I may not be as responsive as you need.

Informational Interviews: I have an open door policy for informational interviews. You are welcome to book an initial one at your convenience. If you’ve already had one and have since discovered you have new questions, need more information, or have new experience (job, internship, etc.) that you’d like to build new questions from, I am happy to do a follow up informational, time and schedule permitting. You can book a time here.

I offer informational interviews year round to anyone of any experience or age looking to get into publishing, or for people wanting my opinion/input on their advancement in publishing. I offer my time, because I am not at a point in my career where I can hire people or take on interns, but time and knowledge is something I can give.

I will talk with you for an hour and give you as much information as I can. I’ll ask at the beginning what you’ve been doing up until now to give me context for what information is helpful for you specifically. Come with some questions if you’d like, but don’t feel you need to overly prepare. You’ll have one hour completely blocked off to use. I do provide follow up informationals and have an open door policy for further questions. The confirmation email will have the meeting information. We’ll be using google meet. Let me know if you need any further accommodations.

Contact information can be found on my website‘s contact page if you have questions. Best of luck getting into the industry and we’re glad to have you!

And refer to my resources page for more.

-Claire

Table of Contents

Documents and Resources

Resume Suggestions

What to learn in an entry level position or internship to become an editor or agent

Book News and Informing Yourself

Job and Internship Hunting

Finding the Right Place to Work for You

Interview and Offer Process Questions

Expenses as an Agent

Expected Workload

Membership Based Resources

Useful Applications


Documents and Resources


Resume Suggestions

  • Keep it all on one page
  • Application email subject line should be clear if they did not provide one they want you to use, and I prefer this: [Position] Application-[Your Last Name]
  • Add any letters of recommendation after your resume as an inserted PDF
  • Get rid of your address and zip code (it takes up space, and largely will just deter people when lots of roles can be remote or done from your current locale; it’s a bias people have very quickly when looking at your application/resume)
  • Leave your graduation date from college off of your resume, unless you are actively in school; other people may disagree, but I’ve found, like other factors, people have unconscious biases based on graduation year, with you being either too old or too young for a particular position. Generational bias is quite common.
  • Don’t waste a line on anything that isn’t serving multiple purposes
  • Put your number and email on the same line
  • Keep the text of each line brief, and formatting wise limited to one line (don’t let it pour on to an additional line just to communicate one skill)
  • Include the contact of the person managing you at that job/internship if you have one, don’t mind them being contacted, and ended things on good terms
  • Use the same type of font though out, only changing the bold, italics, underlining
  • Use a standard easy to read font and font size
  • Add any relevant links (makes it interactive and can illustrate your work in different ways than just an explanation)
  • Any software you learned to use, add it to the bottom under skills; but don’t use too much on this. It’s better to list more impressive and rare skills, don’t waste space on overly basic computer skills and software.
  • Be as specific as possible, including any facts and figures you can provide (people’s brains process information differently and different types of data are differently impressive)
  • Name drop when you can; people want to hear what you’ve worked on, who you’ve met, and who you are connected to
  • Include the kinds of books you read and want on your list/to work with in some way (see my resume above for one way), also how many books you’ve read this year, etc., anyway you can briefly show how you are already interacting with the industry
  • Do NOT make it design based: resumes are hard to visually process in those formats if it’s being done by a person and software generally hates it; if the application is for a position where being able to design is relevant, link to your work or portfolio instead
  • Some impressive things on your resume are not going to be inherently publishing specific internships or jobs; showing skills or other forms of interaction with books beyond those are great ways to get your resume rounded out
    • Literary magazines or journals
    • Creative writing or writing fanfiction
    • Beta reading
    • Sensitivity reading
    • Volunteering or working for a library, book festival, bookstore
    • Having a book related social media account
    • Find a way to mention book related events you’ve attended in the application process: author events/signings, readings, book clubs, etc.
    • Establishing that you are familiar with current publishing trends and events somewhere on your resume is a really important way to make you a great candidate without necessarily having the usual experience to show for it
    • Be super specific about what you did and accomplished; if it is a typical task of the job leave it off, rather talk about the things you did that were you going above and beyond or unique to your work there that is an exceptional contribution

Skills to learn in an entry level position or internship to become an editor or agent

*Note: some of these are worth putting on you resume under your skills or job experience once you learn them

  • Building your platform or presence as an agent/editor online
  • Evaluating a query and manuscript 
  • How to make a submission list
  • How to read a contract and collaboration agreement
  • How to read a royalty statement
  • How to enter a royalty statement into database (Baits or Bradbury Philips)
  • How to write a pitch letter/jacket copy
  • How to come up with comparable titles
  • Keeping a calendar
  • Answering the phone
  • How to write an editorial letter
  • The different publishers and their imprints

book news and informing yourself

  • Subscribe to these free newsletters: Publishers Weekly, Publishers Marketplace, Shelf Awareness, We Need Diverse Books
  • Follow editors, agents, and authors on twitter. You’ll get lots of news circulated through there (though beware of getting caught up in doomscrolling and overly committing your time/emotions to these spaces as they can be very insular sometimes).
  • You do not need a Publishers Market subscription to receive the newsletter or see and search their jobs page. A membership is too expensive and not worth it for just trying to get into the industry.
  • Also subscribe to the newsletter of your local bookstore, comic bookstore, and library systems
  • Publishers Lunch (Publishers Marketplace) has a podcast including nearly all of the news in the newsletter in a short daily podcast available for free on Spotify

Job and Internship Hunting

  • Check every publisher’s individual career website, BookJobs.com, Publishers Marketplace job board, and Publishers Weekly job board
  • Linkedin might have some listings but not as often as the previously listed websites; really not as much as the other places usually
  • If you’re looking to work on the agenting or scouting side, e-mail your cover letter and resume as a cold email if there aren’t formal listings with the following text or something similar in your cover letter email:

[introduce yourself and experience quickly]. I know you aren’t hiring right now, but I wanted to reach out should a position be available in the near future and send my attached resume for you to have on file. I appreciate your time and consideration. [mention any of their books, deals, or authors you like as well, especially close to the beginning]

HOWEVER: you will want to be kind and do not expect a response from this.

  • If you are wanting to work on the book publishing side (editorial or elsewhere), it helps to look at independent publishers, smaller trade publishers, and ones not based in NYC or London. The big 5 publisher internships and job openings get a lot of applications and are very competitive. Local and independent are much easier to get your foot in the door.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT waste your time applying to jobs, imprints, agencies, or departments where you don’t like any of their books. It’s important that if you’re going to get a job it sets you on the right path, even if it was a harder path to start on in the first place. A job without colleagues to mentor or aid you in working on/understanding the part of the industry you want to work within is not worth your time. It can and will likely burn you out before you ever get going.


Finding the right place to work for you

In your search for a job or internship ask yourself these questions:

  • What books do they work on? Do they align with the list I want to build?
  • Where are they located?
  • What does their client/author/illustrator list look like?
  • Who are their agents? Who are their editors?
  • Make a list of your favorite books, check the acknowledgements or author’s website for their agent and agency’s name, then research that agent and agency; do the same for the imprint, publisher, and editor
  • Are they employing people that I could see myself working with, around, and for?

interview and offer process Questions

In General

  • What organizations do they support, donate to, and work with?
  • What is their retention or turnover for this position and others?
  • Is there room for upward mobility?
  • How do they make their office, meetings, management style, etc., accessible?
  • What do their benefits look like: disability, paid leave, family leave, dental, health care, vision, 401k, transit?
    • Are they paying a portion of those expenses or all of it?
    • What is their office policy in instances of any leave?
    • Who are their insurance providers?
    • What is the deductible in and out of network for insurance
  • How often do they do performance reviews? Are they top down only, or is there space to evaluate your superior, anonymously or otherwise? What do their performance reviews look like?
  • Raises and bonuses: how often do they happen?
  • Current and/or previous employees references
  • What subscriptions, services, and work necessities do they cover, split, or provide?
    • Publishers marketplace
    • Nielsen sales
    • Office suite
    • Hardware
    • Internet
    • Reading tablet
    • Task management software
    • Adobe
  • Do they pay overtime?
  • What are their hours?
  • How do they handle work related expenses?
  • How do they mentor?
  • What does their HR look like? How available are they? How often do they brush up on their training?
  • Is an in office presence required? If so, how much and often?
  • Do they require specific hours?
  • Are office policies consistent for the entire company or are there circumstances that are case by case? (Some companies are letting new hires be fully remote where as old employees are obligated to come in part time, even if they object).

Agency Specific

  • What is the pay structure for non assistants (agents)?
    • Salary based or commissioned based?
      • The reason this is important is if you are new to the industry it can be really hard to build a list, a backlist, and start getting paid if you are paid on commission, and a steady salary and paycheck is great in keeping a better headspace. However, if you leave the agency you may not earn the additional money that comes from those deals you did while there (including royalties and additional payments) after leaving. But if you are commission based, though having money coming in regularly make take time (and time you don’t have), you are inherently incentivized to get the best for your clients by that structure and it’s more ethical by extension, as well as being able to largely continue being paid those earnings whether you stick with the agency or not. A book sold one year may have regular royalty checks and licensing payouts 5+ years from now that are worth holding out for. There are positives and negatives to both, but choosing the right pay structure for you is important.
  • Does an agent keep their client list upon leaving the agency?
  • What happens to unsold rights upon you as an agent leaving their agency? Do they stay with the agency, or do you/the client take all unsold rights to the next agency?
  • What does your pay after you leave that agency look like?
  • How long does it go and what percentage is it? How often is the pay out?
  • What kind of employee are you as an entry level employee and as an agent? 1099, W2, independent contractor, salary, hourly?

Expenses as an agent

These are a list of expenses I pay for as an agent who is an independent contractor. Note: not all of these are required at the start of working as an agent, or working in publishing in general, just what helps me work most effectively as a full time agent.

  • Domain Registration and Website subscription
  • Phone bill
  • Mail to clients, film/tv people, occasional blurb request
  • Internet
  • Books and webcomics (market research)
  • iCloud storage plan
  • ToDoist pro plan
  • Acrobat Pro DC
  • Space to work (rent)
  • Renters Insurance
  • Meals with Clients
  • Meals and Drinks with Industry Professionals
  • Some work related travel
  • Transit
  • Computer and other hardware
  • Publishers Marketplace Subscription (cost split with agency)
  • Office suite software (flat fee)
  • Accountant
  • Airtable subscription
  • IFTTT pro plan
  • Very occasional dry cleaning
  • Office supplies
  • Monitor
  • Desk
  • Laptop
  • Phone
  • Geek squad
  • Voicedream app (flat fee)

Expected Workload

Weekly or bi-weekly recurring tasks

What I do as part of my job as an agent on a weekly or biweekly basis nearly all the time.

  • Read a manuscript from my queries
  • Edit a client manuscript or proposal
  • Check my query manager and process all overdue responses
  • Have a call with a client(s)
  • Have a call with an editor(s)
  • Submit invoices
  • Follow up on pending contracts
  • Follow up on overdue money
  • Send out a submission (every other week)
  • Follow up on unanswered submissions
  • Post on social media
  • Send Google alerts regarding relevant client news to rights department, editor, and client; file in client’s file

Monthly, Quarterly, or Perform When Needed Tasks

  • Update resume (quarterly)
  • Enter royalties into our database (monthly)
  • Enter deals and contracts into our database (monthly)
  • Check in with all clients (sort of like an office hours, they don’t have to set up a call) (twice a year)
  • Send out a reminder email to clients about submitting art for our agency instagram (monthly)
  • Trends newsletter for clients (quarterly)
  • Send out announcements
  • Update my website
  • Sign new clients
  • Send illustrator portfolio to editors and art directors
  • Update client resource documents (quarterly)
  • Follow up on edit letters due to clients from editors
  • Hold auctions for book on submission
  • Negotiate deal terms once an offer(s) is in
  • Submit and sell unsold or reserved rights
  • Make sure publication schedule is on track including:
    • Following up with publicity and marketing plans
    • Assist with blurb requests and suggestions
    • Approve and give notes on cover and jacket copy with client
    • Write deal memos

Membership Based RESources

Publishers Marketplace

  • I use this constantly. It is insanely helpful for my day to day work. It is a little pricey, even for a yearly membership with a group discount through your employer. Ask about a login once you are employed.
  • If you are just searching for employment or an internship do not spend money on a PM membership. The basic newsletter and job board is free and enough to get you by until employed.

Brooklyn Public Library Card

  • If you are a NY state resident it’s free, and if not it’s $50 annually, for a library card. May seem stupid if you can’t access their physical books, but they have a tremendously large digital and audio library. It’s worth its weight in gold.

Useful Applications

Libby App

Digital library app that lets you link multiple library cards, check out from the app, works with ebooks and audiobooks.

Voicedream Reader App

Takes any PDF or Word document and turns into a pretty decent audiobook, allows note taking that can be exported, searching capability is top notch, and very adaptable to different accessibility needs. Let’s you speed up reading, change pronunciations, voice type, and formatting.

Storygraph

Alternative to Amazon’s Goodreads. This app is owned, operated, and founded by a Black woman. Has phenomenal tracking capabilities and tools.

Bookshop

Book retailer to Amazon, that your local indie bookstore may have a storefront on.

Pocket Extension

As a browser extension allows you to save articles you want to read in a single app with just one click. I have this linked to my Voice Dream so all articles automatically import to my Voice Dream reader.

IFTTT

An app that allows you to automate things (it means “if this then that”). You can use a certain amount of things for free and it’s very adaptable in terms of prompting different things to happen without your intervention.