Switching Careers: Leaving Law for the World of Words

Publishing Advice


Name: Erynn Im-Sato
Current Title: Sales Rep, Proprietary and Display Marketer Sales
Hometown:  Torrance, California
Graduated From: UC Santa Barbara, 2005
Currently work and live: HarperCollins Publishers, New York

My path to publishing:

I was an English major in college and I thought I wanted to be a journalist or editor. My first job out of college was at a local surf magazine in Santa Barbara but then decided I wanted to pursue a more lucrative career in law instead. I moved to San Francisco and worked at a law firm for a year before having an honest conversation with myself and admitting I wanted to go back to the world of words. In my state of quarter-life crisis I rationalized a move to Paris to study French language and English literature in preparation for the GRE, but came back to the US knowing I wanted to work with books. So I moved to New York, enrolled in the Columbia Publishing Program, networked with publishing professionals, got a job at HarperCollins, and have been here for almost five years now.

How I found out about my first publishing job (or internship):

I met a HarperCollins HR rep at the Columbia Publishing Program career fair. I requested an informational interview which turned into an offer for Harper’s rotational program, where I’d be given the chance to try out all the different departments. After three weeks with the Harper Perennial marketing team, I got an offer for a full-time position with the special markets sales team.

What my typical day looks like:

I now work on the proprietary sales team in the special markets department. We create custom-edition books for customers such as Costco, Barnes and Noble, and more. I create and pitch new titles and package ideas. I manage projects from conception through design, production, editorial, and author approval. And I also blog at www.booksoutsidethebox.com, talking about life, books, and cool places where books are sold.

What I love most about my job:

Getting to talk about books everyday with people who love books just as much as I do.

Advice on Breaking Into Publishing

  • Network. You can network via social media by following companies on Twitter and their blogs. And you can also network in person by going to to MeetUp events like NYC Literature Nerds, The Publishing Point, eBooks, eReaders and Digital Content Publishing. Try to meet as many people in the industry as possible.
  • Read outside your comfort level. If you’re a fiction heavy reader like me, get some non-fiction books under your belt. Check out young adult, mass market, etc. Browse bookstores, keep an eye out for trends and interesting book packages.
  • Be up to date with industry news. There are tons of resources like the free daily newsletter Shelf Awareness.

Connect with me!

Twitter: @ErynnImSato

Blog: www.booksoutsidethebox.com

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/1468815-erynn


Published by hannahkarena

author & book publishing person.

5 thoughts on “Switching Careers: Leaving Law for the World of Words

  1. Congrats for making the switch Erynn! Sounds like a dream.

    They don’t tell you how brutal it is to be a lawyer, they just convince young folks to do things “for the money.” It’s why we’ve created a business world without a lot of soul.

    The only way to change that is to encourage our young to follow theirs hearts. I am convinced that if we did that then the jobs with soul would start to be the lucrative ones.

    All we do now is bow down to the status quo.



    1. Thanks Guiletta! At the time it was a tough decision, lots of disappointment from my parents. But it worked out in the end and I’m much happier for it. Thanks for your words of encouragement.


  2. You’re living the dream. It is no coincidence that I stumbled upon your blog post! We just have so many things in common and I feel I am going through the same motions you went through when you had your decision to switch career paths. I graduated from UC Berkeley last year with a degree in English and have had no luck finding any jobs in publishing. The feeling of defeat has just overgrown this past year after getting rejected from not only entry-level positions, but internships as well. Since I haven’t been able to land a job in publishing I have been seriously thinking about a career in law and I wonder if my interest is in the same reasons you had when you were also thinking of law. Books have also been my passion and I don’t want to make a rash decision i’ll regret. So I have to ask you: would you recommend the Columbia Publishing Program? Is it a competitive to get it? Would you say this program helped you to get where you are?

    I’d love to hear back from you! It seems like you got it together and it would be nice to hear your insights!



  3. What a mazing and inspirational post! I am myself a law student, I just passed the bar and I am realizing, as I am doing a final internship, that it is absolutely what is good for me! Publishing has always been a “dream job”, but as they all say “law school is more secure” “you won’t find a job”… I always succeeded in law school, and never looked for another career path.

    I am a French girl who moved to New York and love it here. I now want to “switch”, but I feel really lost and don’t really know how to proceed. Would you recumbent the Columbia Publishing Program or the NYU Summer Publishing Program?

    Thank you !



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