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Beginning a career in the publishing industry can be difficult because there seems to be a thousand different paths to go down. But that is really what makes the publishing industry so awesomely unique. In my last semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about to have a degree in English Literature, I had a tough decision to make. I had no idea how to break into the industry. Where would I even start? So, I researched entry points.
I had to decide if I wanted to find an unpaid internship or attend a summer course to earn a publishing certificate. Publishing certificate programs are different than earning a master's degree in publishing. One of the most well known programs is NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. It is a six-week program held over the summer. The goal of this program is to teach the students about all the different aspects of publishing as well as give many opportunities for networking with other publishing professionals. The NYU website states that in their program, “Students create actual launch plans for new magazine brands and imprints for book publishing houses, and learn from having their projects judged by a panel of senior publishing executives.” The program costs a little over $5,000. Other similar programs exist at Columbia University and the Denver Publishing Institute. The point of these programs is to give you the experience you would need to succeed in a full time job in the publishing industry as well as the networking opportunities to meet the people who can help you get the job. This experience seems ideal; I just lacked the money and time to go and do it.
The other option is to take on an internship for a publishing house or journal where you learn about the industry in a real life setting. Most of these positions are paid little to no money. Some offer academic credit for college students, but what you are really gaining from these positions is experience. Most full time job openings ask that the candidates they are considering have at least one year of experience in a professional publishing environment. Getting hands on, real life experience is one of the best ways to learn. Many of these internships can also lead to full time jobs depending on the situation. And even if it doesn’t, it is still a great way to meet other publishing professionals and network. You can also do multiple part time internships in different positions. You can work on an academic journal, literary journal, trade publisher, or educational publisher. I have had the opportunity to be a part of a few different publications and feel that the internships have given me a well-rounded education in the publishing industry.
Publishing programs and internships are both great ways to gain valuable experience in publishing. They are also things that employers look for on a résumé that would put you above other candidates. Either route you take, you can still end up where you want to be if you are determined.
This week Nobel Committee announced journalist and nonfiction writer Svetlana Alexievich as this year’s Nobel laureate in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” Alexievich’s selection marks a number of rarities in the history of the award and at least one first, as she is the first Literature laureate from Belarus. She is the fifth Belarusian to win a Nobel Prize in any discipline.
She is also the fourteenth woman to win the prize for Literature, joining the company of writers such as Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, and Pearl S. Buck.
Most strikingly, however, is that Alexievich is the first person to win the prize specifically for her work in nonfiction in over sixty years. While many Nobel laureates were essayists in addition to their primary genres of poetry or fiction, the last person to receive the honor for literary contributions in nonfiction was Sir Winston Churchill in 1953.
Alexievich’s work focuses primarily on the history of Eastern Europe, and she’s explored such subjects as female Russian soldiers in World War II, the aftermath of the disaster at Chernobyl, the occupation of Belarus by the Nazis, and firsthand accounts of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. This prize acknowledging the literary accomplishment of her work is being celebrated by journalists worldwide, as it acknowledges that medium as an artform. Perhaps most importantly, however, is that Alexievich focuses her work on untold stories, shines a light on disregarded parts of history, and gives a voice to those who might not otherwise have it. In words, her work is nonfiction--and literature--at its best.
(For those keeping score, it has now been 22 years since an American was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, our last laureate being Toni Morrison in 1993. Also, just 12.5% of Nobel Prizes in Literature have gone to women.)
The swing to eBooks, online newspapers, and textbook PDFs is impossible to ignore. Across the country there has been a shift away from physical products that you can store on your shelf and towards texts that you can access from any mobile device. The ease of access and lowered price point is making eBooks not only convenient to the reader, but also a necessity for the modern author.
It is no surprise that eBook sales gained momentum after their introduction, but what may come as a shock is that eBook sales have been slowing since 2013 (Trachtenberg). In fact, in the first five months of 2015 eBook sales have been declining (Kozlowski). Instead paperback sales are seeing a boost. Could this be the end for eBooks?
Not likely. EBooks are convenient. Consumers can fit thousands of books into one device and access them anywhere. Authors too have taken to eBooks, signing contracts with big names like Amazon to get their name out or to continue a line of books that publishers are no longer interested in. EBooks have opened up a niche for authors to publish what they want to see in print with less oversight. So, there will be pressure from both authors and readers to continue eBooks.
The other side of the written word triad is the publisher, of course. And I think this is where we will begin to see the most change. Publishers have traditionally been the gatekeepers of quality, content and presentation. However, with more sources for authors to put out their product, publishers will have to race to keep up.
I expect a shift away from the big publishing houses, back to indie publishers that are willing to work with authors to see the book the author had in mind. These small publishers are already including eBooks as part of the deal. Authors want to write their content, not something diluted by what publishers think will sell, and indie publishers are giving them just that. Authors looking out for their fan bases can publish the next book in a series even if their original publisher isn’t sold on the idea. Smaller publishing houses will be the wave of the future, as authors find they no longer get caught up in the machine.
Publishing is one of the oldest industries in the world, but has staunchly refused to grow with each passing decade. The rise of eBooks was the first wave, but it was only a taste of what’s coming next. Authors have seen new outlets for publishing and they’re not willing to give them back. Gone are the days of the author waiting hungrily for their book to hit shelves. Publishing houses that can keep up with new ideas about where, when and what kind of content an author wants to produce will see dividends on the other side. These will be the houses that give us a new face to publishing, one that has been too long in coming.
Kozlowski, Michael. "E-Book Sales Plummet All Over the World in 2015." Good EReader EBook Audiobook and Digital Publishing News. Oakbranch Media Inc., 16 July 2015. Web. 07 Oct. 2015.
Trachtenberg, Jeffery. "E-Book Sales Fall After New Amazon Contracts." WSJ. Wall Street Journal, 03 Sept. 2015. Web. 09 Oct. 2015.
Does your work, whether large or small keep getting rejected? Sometimes it is the sheer fact that editors or their assistants aren't reading your work.
As a former freelance editor for (can't be named) a big-name publisher, I know this happens. Editors are "too busy" to read them all. And if you are a little-known writer, you can pretty much guarantee that your envelope never even got opened by anybody because it didn't have enough shiny money potential on the flap...
Honestly, we think that this discrepancy is bullshit. As though they are too big or too funded to actually care. Tangent complete.
With that out of the way, many authors/writers get rejected by all sorts of publishers for reasons that could have been avoided....outside of shitty writing. From experience as editors, as readers, and as interns of previous houses, here are seven reasons you may be getting rejected from publishers big and small:
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