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December 22nd, 2005, 01:42 AM
Firstly, I apologise if this is in the wrong place. I wasn't quite sure where to put this topic.

I'm also a little embarrassed to ask, since it isn't very significant and I may be thinking too far ahead of myself, but -

For the last year or so, I've been researching careers in writing and publishing (on and off). I will be making university applications to two countries next year and I will study English Lit. I'm not too sure if I will apply to Creative Writing courses.

I don't know what I want to do after university. The working plan is teaching, although I'd like to have some other options open. I've been looking around and trying to read up on what writers and publishers do, but I haven't managed to find out as much as I would like. That's why I thought I would ask here, as many people seem to be professional writers/editors/publishers/e.t.c.

Careers I'm particularly interested in learning more about are:

- Fiction writers
- Freelance writers
- Journalists
- Editors
- Copy-editors
- Book reviewers
- Magazine writers (?)

And anything else that is in any way relevant to writing and/or publishing.

I'd like to know what qualifications are needed, how you work your way into that position (some website said that most editors, copy-editors and reviewers start off as journalists - is that true?), and most importantly, what you do in that job. What do you like about it and what do you not like about it?

Any advice from anyone with experience in the area, even if I haven't listed it, would be greatly appreciated.

James Barclay
December 22nd, 2005, 04:48 AM
I can't tell you much about qualifications and what follows is based on the UK. For what it's worth, my editor studied English at uni and went on to work in bookshops before moving into publishing... editing, comissioning and all that sort of thing. Now, his bookshop was linked to a publishers and no longer exists but I think people do move from the book selling world into publishing still.

Many other areas are linked... marketing, sales, accounting etc in publishing. You can get into the industry in many ways. Another editor at my publishers was a journalist. The editorial assistant in the same department came direct from college on placement and now has a full time job there. She studied English among other things at college.

In terms of writing, there are no qualifications. It's about experience, research and talent. If you write and submit great pieces to publications and they pay you, then you are already a freelance writer. Same with fiction writing. I took sciences at 'A' level and communications at college and I've published 7 books now. But that's just one person's experience.

Journalism.. you can do professional courses in journalism and it is a real skill. Many budding journos start off in local papers or radio doing local news. Journos who want to work in national media need to build up a body of work and a reputation before applying to move higher and wider (generally).

I'd say, be bold. Call up a publisher and find out what the HR department looks for in terms of specific jobs. Be focused. Asking 'how do I get into publishing?' will get you nowhere of course but 'what do you look for in an editorial assistant?' is a question they'll be able to answer.

Hope that helps. All rather an info dump but it is late in the year and the old brain is beginning to fizz rather...


December 23rd, 2005, 09:37 AM
WSB, I assume you are in your late teens?

As someone who has a Masters in journalism and worked in the field for a while, I can pass along some advice. First off, to be a journalist, you don't need a journalism degree. It might help you get a job, but I never saw a job listing that required a degree in the field. So save yourself a bunch of money by forgoing the whole J-school thing.

If you want to try it, though, there are other ways. Try looking for small newspapers or weeklies in your area. One thing to keep in mind about publications, particularly small ones: they always have space to fill. Chat up one of the editors there and ask if they need a reporter to cover something, or if you've got a good idea, pitch it to them. If you don't have any writing experience, start small; don't aim for the 2000-word feature because you won't know what to do with it. You might get paid a little, or nothing, but after a few stories you should know whether you like it or not. School newspapers are a good place to work too, of course. Lots of journalists start off there. Mine even paid enough money for pizza once in a while.

What did I think of journalism? Well, after a few years of reporting, most in NYC, I got tired of it and went off to get my MBA. So no more reporting for me. But I'm ok with that, because instead of writing what someone else wants me to write, I'm writing my own stories. Trust me, unless you get into a cool publication -- which I was for a while -- there is nothing worse than writing about something that bores you silly. Not all jobs are equal.

Still, there is a big part of me that misses the pressure of having to report and write a story in three hours or less...


Rob B
December 23rd, 2005, 12:48 PM
I worked in the publishing world for almost five years and it wasn't everything I thought it would be. Granted, I was in the PTR (Professional/Technical/Reference) arm of publishing, so things in that area are somewhat different from the fiction area. From my understanding, the PTR publishing pays better than fiction publishing.

There was a good deal of traveling trying to recruit authors for the publishing program I edited, as well as travel for conference attendance at the various professional societies under which the books I publihsed were appropriate.

An Editor for PTR publishing is more of a project manager than an actual line editor, ushering a mansucript from proposal to final published book. Of course I did read over portions of the mansucripts under my Editor-ship, but we sent out the drafts to copyeditors and developmental reviewers with a knowledge of the subject for editorial guidance.

It may sound as if I'm shooting you in the foot here, if so, I apologize. My experience was not the best, and you may land a good job with room for growth in a great company.

Book Reviewing - I write many of the Official reviews for this Web site - and like many book reviewers, it isn't a paying job. Believe me, this is not a complaint, I really enjoy doing the book reviews and I do it because I have a passion for reading and letting people know of the good books out there.

I was an English major in College.

December 24th, 2005, 11:06 PM
I do a little freelance writing, and sadly have only broken into one magazine on a regular basis.

It's rough work and I plan to get into another magazine regularly. I was going to do the whole school thing but then realized I didn't need to and didn't want to waste my time or money. Security isn't for writers anyway.

Freelance writing isn't as bad as I thought it'd be, but expect a lot of rejection and to have a "real" job to pay for bills. I would prefer to just write books full-time but that hasn't happened yet. On the bright side, when you get rejected from a magazine, it's faster and more personal than a book publisher or agent.

December 27th, 2005, 08:59 AM
I'm in my mid-teens ("Sixteen, Going On Seventeen"). And any shared experiences is really great, thanks!

To be honest, I've not gone into researching journalism very much at all, nor anything beyond a basic summary of what editors do. The problem is that journalistic stereotypes don't give me an incentive to find out more (but maybe I'm just making excuses): like working under high pressure, working odd hours, and writing non-fiction. (Well. The last one is not a stereotype.)

I confess I'm more interested in columnists, and I'm slowly working out how they put their columns together. Is there a job as just a columnist or is that something more 'on the side'?

Unfortunately, I don't know of any local publishers who can speak English over the phone. I don't speak the local language very well. Or maybe I'm making excuses again, and I might find out with some more research... Frankly, I would hate coming back here so much that I don't even want to try to be qualified for anything here, although that attitude has got to change... now.

January 5th, 2006, 02:33 PM
I'm sorry, I missed this one. There are some major differences between journalism, magazine journalism and book publishing, and also differences depending on the country.

However, columnists are usually journalists or some other profession first, then get the chance at a column about a subject or their day job profession. If you're interested in doing columns and you are in a non-English country, you might try looking around the Web for sites that might be interested in you contributing articles or a column and such.

If you're interested in book publishing in the U.S., I can give you more detailed info. But I'd suggest sticking to magazines and journalism as better career prospects.

January 7th, 2006, 08:36 AM
Is book publishing in the USA similar to book publishing in Canada, do you know?

And do you know anything about writing for magazines?

January 7th, 2006, 06:07 PM
Is book publishing in the USA similar to book publishing in Canada, do you know?

Similar, but there are differences. Send me a private message (PM) -- do you know how to do that? And I'll give you what info I can.

And do you know anything about writing for magazines?

Not much.

February 3rd, 2006, 02:12 PM
Ask your school about internship programs with companies that appeal to you, i.e. publishers of books or magazines or newspapers that you read often. You get first hand experience and establish contacts without the pressure of being a full time employee.

I had an internship with Marvel Comics in high school and found out I didn't enjoy editorial tasks. I also thought I wanted to write comics but found that there were a lot of creative restrictions and decided to devote to writing novels instead.