Re-imagining Your Publishing Career

Although it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, I’ve learned one important lesson after graduating NYU SPI and getting a full-time job: publishing is hard.

I knew it was tough to break into the market, and I knew you had to put forth a lot of effort to get a job, but I had no idea just how competitive this field is.

Let me give you a little background: I graduated NYU (more on that later) and excelled with all my assignments, even winning an award for being the best overall art director in the class. I networked my booty off, found out about hidden job postings from people working on the inside, and sent off a stack of resumes, eagerly awaiting the day when I would get that email confirming me for an interview. Except it didn’t really work out that way.

For all my shmoozing, cover letter writing, and redesigning of my resume, I only got four job interviews. Mind you, they were with amazing companies (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Oxford University Press, and Harold Ober Associates, a legacy literary agency), but I was expecting more of a response. And in retrospect, I only submitted nine applications while I know of classmates who submitted upwards of 50, but I was positive I would get an interview for some positions that I never heard about again.

I got two offers out of the four jobs. One was in nonfiction, a division of publishing that I never saw myself working in. The other was for the literary agency, a role that I hadn’t given much thought to. I had to start earning money to stay in NYC, so I knew I had to take one of these two options. But they weren’t exactly what I had envisioned for my start in publishing.

It turned out to be the best decision of my career thus far.

I went for the agency route, becoming an assistant to two agents, one book and one film/TV. The salary was lower than the other option, but I luckily got a pay raise in just a few months that turned out to be higher than the other original salary.

I discovered that agenting is much more geared to my personality than working in a traditional publishing house, and I wouldn’t have known this without taking this leap of faith. It’s like working in every facet of publishing all at once; I’m in editorial when reading slush and determining what authors I want as clients, I’m in sales when selling these books to the publishers, I’m in marketing when convincing an author to sign with us, and I even have an aspect of design when uploading client books to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Networking is king, and the wheeling and dealing is the best part. Even if I did want to go back into a traditional house, I could pick which subset to enter because I am experiencing so many different trades.

It was difficult at first to see my friends working in jobs I thought I would want with the Big 5. I was a bit envious, feeling like I failed my goal of working with a huge company. But then I started to do more and more, while most of my friends were stuck in corporate strings and unable to advance to different tasks. I was learning and growing; some of them were stagnant. Re-imagining my career made me realize that agenting should actually be my future. Changing my attitude made me love my job. And now I am doing things I never thought possible during the first six months of my career. I have multiple authors signed on to be represented by me, I’m meeting with some of the biggest editors in the game to sell them my books, and I am even getting paid to travel to conferences and help authors out. I love my job, all because I was open to new possibilities.

So to all those out there who aren’t getting their dream jobs right away: you may not even know what your dream job truly is. Surprise yourself with different options. Be open to alternate paths that could eventually get you to your end goals. Get the most out of every experience possible. And most of all, work hard in what you do.

It’s only your first job out of college. You will have countless future names to put on your resume. If it isn’t what you expected, it could be even more than you imagined.