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Publishing 101: Do I Need an English Degree to Work in Book Publishing?

This is a question that really hit home for me, mainly because I remember being in college and feeling the anxiety of needing to get an internship. I wondered whether my major would open the right doors for me, and if someone with a major that seemed more suited to the field I wanted would have an advantage.

The truth is, you don’t need to major in English to work in publishing (marketing and entrepreneurship major here!).

For the English majors reading this and gasping, let me be clear. Your major is an advantage to you. It teaches you how to read critically.

But that is not the only way to have this skillset, nor is it the only skillset that matters when trying to find an internship.

Here is a list of reasons why I have chosen not to hire a Swoon Reads internship applicant:

• The applicant didn’t show enthusiasm for the job. Love to read but scoff at YA? Maybe an internship working on YA books isn’t the right fit. I want to know that you love to read in the genre we publish. It’s okay if you haven’t read every YA book or if you like other genres (this can work to your advantage—reading widely makes you a better critical reader!), but if the only YA novel you’ve read in the last ten years is Twilight, this likely isn’t the right internship for you.

• The applicant didn’t do any research. We don’t expect you to know everything coming in, but most companies have some basic information you can find through a quick Google search (and we do even better—we have a whole site that explains our process!). We definitely look for candidates that have taken the time to look up who we are and what we do.

• Someone else had more enthusiasm. Notice that word again? When you are looking for an internship or an entry level job, you aren’t expected to know how to do everything from day one. But what we’re looking for is someone who is excited to do it—and someone who is willing to put in the work.

And that’s it. It doesn’t matter to me what you study, or if you went to an Ivy League school or a community college. What matters is how you position yourself. Look at the job description for the position you want to apply to and find a way to demonstrate those skills on your resume. Don’t have relevant job experience? That’s OK! Mention your coursework. Mention your community service. Mention your love of books and reading. And there aren’t just internships in editorial departments—publishing houses employ interns in sales, finance, marketing, publicity, and more! There’s no one true path to working in publishing.

In the end, your resume is your pitch. We care that you are a hard worker and you love books. That’s it.

Now go take a look at your resume, and may the odds be ever in your favor (I couldn’t resist).

Author spotlight

Lauren Scobell

Director of Swoon Reads!

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