So You Think You Can Publish—11 Tips for Starting a Career in Publishing

Canadian post-secondary schools continue to churn out grads seeking careers in the publishing industry. Meanwhile, the industry is shrinking almost daily and the game is changing as more and more publishing takes place in a Web-based framework—at least for periodicals.

It’s an exciting time to be entering an industry so ripe for innovation and new ideas, but it’s also a challenging time as jobs become scarcer than ever and the competition fierce. But publishing has always been a competitive field in Canada, and the fundamentals of getting into the industry still apply—after all, it’s still about the love of reading, writing and sharing information.

Here are some tips that have served me well, along with advice I happily pass on to those who are looking to get into a career in publishing.

11 Tips for Starting a Career in the Publishing Industry

  1. Read. A lot. Read the works of those you want to work for—books, magazines, web sites, blogs, and be prepared to discuss them intelligently.
  2. Have ideas of your own. A lot. Articles, books, marketing campaigns, tweets, whatever. Keep a list of ideas and add to it constantly.
  3. Write. A lot. Practice your craft. Develop your voice. Start a blog, then work toward getting your work published online or in print. Amalgamate bylined clips that prove you have a propensity for words.
  4. Create your own assignments. Because when you start out, no one will tell you what to write. Take the opportunity to write what you want to write about. It’ll convince others you have skill, passion and tenacity.  
  5. Learn to work with an editor. As a writer, you have to be able to execute other people’s ideas, take feedback, make revisions, and sometimes re-write completely. It’s just part of the job.
  6. Learn to be your own editor. Pay attention to the details and copy edit thoroughly. Nothing displeases editors more than writers who can’t spell.
  7. Understand that you will start at the bottom. No one starts in the editor or publisher chair unless they start their own publication. This is actually a good thing, because those who are in those positions can teach you a lot.  
  8. Consider the business side of publishing—marketing, ad sales, circulation. They’re not necessarily the sexist jobs, but they’re often higher on the pay scale and have less candidate competition.
  9. Volunteer. Of course, you have rent to pay, and volunteering will not put food on the table, but it will put experience on your resume, and no publisher will hire you unless you have some. Plus, there are tons of small publications that rely on volunteers, so you’ll be building contacts and goodwill in addition to experience.
  10. Understand Web publishing. It’s a different game than print publishing, obviously, and understanding its nuances will give you an edge. There are many content sites that hire writers and editors andwill teach you the ropes.  
  11. Be persistent. It’s a small industry and it’s often powered by the who-you-know principle. So get to know the players, and make sure they know you. Get your name out there, and soon it will be in print and online mastheads.

One response to “So You Think You Can Publish—11 Tips for Starting a Career in Publishing

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing…

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