So You Want to be a Publisher…

It’s the first day of Kindergarten, and as a little getting-to-know-you game, your teacher has the students, one after another, say their name and what they want to be when they grow up.

It’s a common exercise, and no doubt that teacher is going to have a lot of future firemen and police officers. But one job she definitely won’t hear is publisher. In fact, a lot of us, even as adults, probably have never even realized that publishing is a career option.

When you think about it, of course, you realize that all those books you see have to come from somewhere. Somewhere along the line, somebody had to sort through a pile of potential manuscripts, pick the ones that he or she thought would make the most money, edit them, design the covers, do the marketing, and a million other things.

Publishing might not be the most glamorous profession, and it’s one that doesn’t always get a lot of recognition, but knowing that you’ve been a part of putting a book or magazine together can be quite rewarding.

Recently, I’ve begun working with the management team behind New York Times Bestselling authors Jerry Jenkins (Left Behind Series) and Andy Andrews (The Traveler’s Gift and The Butterfly Effect), and through the process I’ve learned a lot about the industry. So if you want to join me in the publishing field, here’s five things you need to know to test the waters before jumping on in!

It’s not just one career

There is no job called “Publisher.” There is no individual with that title. The publishing industry comprises of dozens of jobs from copyeditors to literary agents to entertainment lawyers, and while I’m not going to get into the specifics of what each one does, if you’re looking for a career somewhere in the industry, I would recommend researching your options to see which is right for you.

Liking books isn’t enough

If you want to be a publisher, you probably like reading, and while that is a good thing, it’s not always enough.

Reading for editorial purposes is a lot different than reading for pleasure. If you’re an acquisition editor, you have to be thinking critically about which books are going to sell and which won’t (and that’s not necessarily which ones you like the best).

If you’re a copyeditor, you can’t get sucked in like a pleasure reader does. You have to remain at a respectful distance from the book in order to focus in on the minutia of grammar.

At my job, I don’t get to read at all except for the occasional marketing email I’m asked to edit. So while a love of books is a good thing, a career in publishing will involve a lot more than pouring over tomes

 It’s behind the scenes

If you’re someone who wants to be known, who wants to be up on stage getting attention, then publishing isn’t for you. For most publishing careers, your job will be to make other people look good. If you’re a copyeditor, you’re fixing other people’s mistakes. If you’re a literary agent, you’re trying to get other people published.

Whatever you do, you will not be the one getting the glory.

 You do a different job every day

This isn’t true of all the jobs in the publishing field, but it’s certainly true of mine. Some days I spend writing while other days I’m sending emails or formatting transcripts. It all depends on what’s needed at the moment.

When Andy Andrews was coming out with his new book, we were mostly focused on the marketing, trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. At other times, we’ve needed to focus more on his website or blog. For all of us on the team, our job is whatever it needs to be at the moment.

To some people, this may be a turn-off, but to me, it’s a fantastic selling point. Who wants to spend their life doing the same thing every day? A career in publishing provides variety.

Being a people person helps

My boss regularly reminds me that we’re in the people business. Not the book business. Not the money business. The people business.

While this may not be true for editors, those in the marketing arena really have to understand people. They have to be able to get along with and talk to people. Those who are going to create the best opportunities for themselves are the people that others like to be around.

This is a hard lesson for me to learn because I have all the social graces of a very non-socially graceful person, but with practice I’m improving.

So you still want to be a Publisher?

Do you still want to be a publisher after reading my write-up?

If you do: good news! You don’t need any special degree. I, of course, have a degree specifically in publishing because I’m just awesome like that but most of the people on our team don’t. They’re just people who happened to end up in the industry and decided they liked it.

So if you’re someone who loves books and wants to be behind the scene putting them together, jump on in. The water is fine.


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