Want to Work in Publishing? Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Connections!

Amanda's publishing photograph

Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in Publishing, where publishing professionals share their personal stories of how they broke into the industry. The guest bloggers and I hope that you find our stories encouraging, informative, and helpful in your own path to a publishing career.

If you’re a publishing professional interested in contributing to the blog series, feel free to contact me at HannahKJones10@yahoo.com.

Today, I’m so happy to welcome Amanda, someone I met in the summer of 2011 during our time at the NYU Summer Publishing Program together. She offers some wonderful insight into the literary agent side of the industry–a career option most new graduates don’t think or know much about.

Name: Amanda Panitch
Current Title: Literary Agency Assistant at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (www.lmqlit.com)
Hometown: Jackson, New Jersey
Graduated from: The George Washington University (BA in English), New York University (certificate in publishing)
Where you currently work: New York, NY

Your Path to Publishing: Growing up, I changed career ambitions about as often as I changed my socks. As a kid, I was determined to be a ballerina (I was undeterred by the fact that I had the grace of a drunken buffalo). In middle school I wanted to be a doctor. I went to college for international relations, which was interesting, but not, I realized, what I wanted to spend my life doing.My only interests that had remained consistent throughout the years were reading and writing, so I switched my major to English, and immediately went in search of internship experience that would grant me and my English degree the hope of eventual employability. After applying to every internship that seemed even slightly relevant on my school’s career site, I ended up getting a position working for Deborah Grosvenor, a literary agent then with Kneerim & Williams and now with her own eponymous agency. She was an amazing mentor and I loved everything about the work, from reading the slush to making editorial notes to the excitement of an auction, and so I decided I wanted to work in agenting.I burnished my resume with one more literary agency internship (at the now-defunct PMA Literary and Film Management) before attending the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. The exposure to all the different sides of the industry at SPI was valuable, but it only cemented my belief that agenting was the right path for me. After SPI, I did yet another internship at Writers House, which was an incredible experience and which ultimately led me to my job at LMQ.

How did you find out about your first publishing job and/or internship? Any job search methods you’d recommend? I found my job (and two of my internships) the old-fashioned way: through postings on job sites like Publisher’s Lunch and Bookjobs. The other internship (at Writers House) I heard about through the NYU SPI Career Fair. From what I’ve seen, though, I was the exception: a lot of publishing jobs aren’t even posted online, and even with those that are posted online, the application process is actually a black hole. I went on one interview for an editorial assistant at one of the Big Six and the interviewing editor told me that, while the position had been posted online, they hadn’t even had to go through those applications, as they’d had so many personal recommendations.So, stemming from that, my main advice is: use your connections! Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you worked with at internships, or your uncle’s cousin’s stepsister who works at Random House. Having someone to pass your resume along–or, even better, call up the hiring manager for you–can (and will) make the difference between getting the interview and getting stuck in the black hole of online applications.Informational interviews are another great way to get your foot in the door–they connect you with people throughout the industry, giving you more people who can pass your resume along (I went on several informational interviews during my job hunt process, and ended up getting three real interviews for positions from those informational interviews), and they also help you learn more about the company and the available positions. See if someone you know can recommend someone to get in touch with. Or, seek someone out yourself–see if you can find an alumnus from your school who works somewhere you’d like to be and ask if they can set aside a half hour for a chat (don’t go after the CEO, of course–try for assistants who were relatively recently in the trenches themselves).Most of all, stay strong–some people get a job on their first or second interview, but most don’t. It took me twenty interviews to get a job, and I couldn’t be happier with how things worked out.

What does your typical day look like? When I tell people what I do, they always ask me if I get to read all day. Alas, I do not–most of my reading and editorial work gets done on my own time, at night or on weekends. My days are filled with everything from vetting and negotiating contracts to author correspondence to chasing late contracts/unpaid advances to line-editing proposals to drawing up permission agreements to managing interns to the excitement that is navigating foreign tax forms. I also do the administrative work that is the duty of assistants everywhere, like answering phones and making schedules. If it’s a slow day, I might have a couple hours to read or type up editorial notes.

#1 Thing You’d Advise People Trying to Get a Similar Position: Use your connections. Do an internship, or several–even if you can’t financially manage a few days a week in an office or a move to New York City, there are remote reader positions at literary agencies to help you learn to navigate the slush pile and get your foot in the door (and always check to see if there are smaller publishing companies or literary agencies around you that offer internships–my first internship was in DC, which isn’t exactly a publishing mecca). Don’t forget to stress job experience outside the industry, too–though I had three internships at literary agencies, had attended a publishing program, and had graduated summa cum laude, the single thing on my resume that aroused the most interest in interviews was my stint in guest relations at a theme park, as it showed I could handle conflict. Also, don’t forget to send thank-you notes after an interview.
Connect with her:
Twitter and LinkedIn (please mention this post).
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