How can we work our way into the editing/publishing world?
The first thing you should know is that there are MANY MANY other jobs in the industry besides being an editor. Editors are great! They’re so essential to publishing and we’d be absolutely lost without them. But there are also many other jobs, as well, that are just as important to a book’s success.
There are jobs in online marketing, there are jobs in publicity, in sales, and design! There are jobs at literary agencies where you would help an author find a publisher or look for great foreign works to bring to your country. Don’t limit yourself to one sort of opportunity.
Because honestly, the key to getting ahead in publishing is definitely the internship. Luckily, here at Penguin, our interns are paid, and they get a lot of great, hands on learning experience. But not every experience is like this, and you should always ask what your responsibilities will be when you interview for an internship experience.
But you don’t need to intern with big name companies in New York to gain experience. Start small! Starting a small press at your high school or college is a great way to begin building skills. Find any kind of literary organization in your area and work with them (a newspaper, a local author, etc). Publishing is a small world, and sometimes meeting one person can lead to a small opportunity, then from there to something bigger, and from there to a small messy office piled high with books on books on books on books!
Learning specific skills and be helpful as well. Taking opportunities to learn Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign can be incredibly valuable, or having good organizational or leadership skills. Leading a club or balancing a budget (yes, money is part of publishing too)
But most of all a real passion for books and publishing will serve your well! Being well read (and diversely read) is important, but so is knowing what you like. Go after jobs that deal with the kind of books you like to read, and keep an eye on what the trends are. A subscription to Publisher’s Weekly might be handy to get an idea of what challenges and successes are currently happening in the industry.
Best of luck!