Eat, Sleep, Read (and Read, and Read): 7 Things I Learned in My First Year in Publishing
Sometimes it feels like I’ve worked in publishing for thirty seconds. Other times it feels like thirty years. It’s such a fast-paced job, and you’re so constantly planning for the future, that time seems to slip by without anyone realizing it. In actuality, I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary of working in the industry, and am coming up on my one-year anniversary of my current job. It’s making me think back over the last year and reflect on what I might have liked to know before I started and what I’m glad I do know now. So, from me to you, here’s seven things that I learned in my first year of working in publishing!
1.) Don’t take home every book you’re offered.
Look, I know it’s tempting. After all, I’ve spent my whole life trying to get my hands on every book I possibly can, and now it’s like a free-for-all—I have access to all the books my company publishes, as well as friends at other publishing houses that are always willing to get me copies of their books. And ARCs! So many ARCs. But I quickly learned that a small New York apartment x a whole lot of books = not a good idea. I’m a big fan of borrowing and returning, so I don’t die buried under piles of books in my room!
2.) You will read so much that reading for fun is hard.
Even though I now have access to more books than ever, one of the most shocking things about working in publishing is that it can be so hard to find the time (and energy) to read for fun. I’m always, always reading for work–submissions or manuscripts for my boss or coworkers or myself—and so I rarely have time to just pick up a book because I want to. I’m slowly training myself to balance reading for work and reading for fun, because it’s important to me that I still find time to read and remind myself why I wanted to work in books to begin with!
3.) Don’t like it? Put it down.
My whole life I’ve been a “stick with it to the end” reader. Even if I wasn’t really enjoying something, I’d read it all the way through anyway. Now, though, I’m breaking myself of the habit, both because I don’t have the time to waste on things I don’t like, and because I’m learning to trust my instincts more. If I don’t like it by page 50, I’m probably not going to like it any more by page 100. It’s important for me to trust myself when it comes to whether I think a manuscript is good or not, and I’d rather use my time reading something I love!
4.) Get on everyone’s good side.
It take a village to publish a book. Even though I may only work in one department, it’s so important for me to know the names and faces of everyone who has a hand in the production process, because when something goes wrong (as it inevitably will), I can then rely on my pre-existing relationships with people to help me fix it. It’s hard to ask for help from someone when you don’t know them or what they do, and it goes without saying that if you’re nice to people they are much more likely to be nice to you! Cultivating good relationships across the whole industry is extremely important (and rewarding!).
5.) Find your mentors.
Getting started in publishing can be overwhelming—even after you’ve managed to snag an internship or a job, there’s so much new terminology to learn and planning the path you want your career to take is basically impossible without guidance. Luckily, so many people in publishing are willing to sit down with you and talk about your career. Whether it’s a boss or a friend or even through a more formal mentorship program, finding someone you can bounce ideas off of is crucial.
6.) Book people are the best people.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but almost everyone I’ve met in publishing—agents, editors, authors, marketers, librarians, booksellers—is so, so lovely. They’re helpful and chatty and always willing to discuss the books they love. Which, really, is why we’re all doing what we’re doing, after all!
7.) It’s all going to be okay.
Everyone always uses the phrase, “it’s not like it’s rocket science,” but I prefer “it’s not like it’s surgery.” No one is going to get hurt if I accidentally do something wrong. Failure is an important step in figuring out how to do your job the best you can, and in my experience, anything you do wrong can almost always be fixed. It can be difficult to remember that in the fast-paced world of publishing, where it feels like everything is always happening all at once, but everyone makes mistakes. You just have to learn from them. Stop, take a breath, and remember: Everything is going to be okay.