Interview: Advice on Getting Into the Publishing Industry

This week at Greyrock, we had the incredible opportunity to ask Stephanie G’Schwind — faculty adviser to the Greyrock Review, director of the Center for Literary Publishing, and editor of the Colorado Review — questions about getting hired, working in the publishing industry, and the value of our internship. Here’s what we learned:

How did you get to where you are now?

I got here in a roundabout — and strangely direct — way. My parents were very disappointed when I became an English major, but I just decided that I wanted to be an editor — although I didn’t really know what that looked like. I went to graduate school here [at Colorado State University]. It’s not a good idea to go to graduate school just because you’re afraid of leaving the Eddy building [the English building], but I got an assistantship in the computer lab here. We were just starting to get computer literate at the time and I picked up some computer skills. When I was done with my master’s degree, I went to a temp agency that happened to ask, “Do you have computer skills?”

Luckily, I was placed as a temp at Group Publishing in Loveland, which was a Christian publishing company, in 1992. A lot of authors were still writing their manuscripts on typewriters, so I would put the typewritten manuscripts into the Mac — I was so thrilled. I was working in publishing! I was soon offered a chance to write as a copyeditor, which included a minor bit of technical writing and required a copyediting test. I remember thinking that I aced that test and being shocked at the many, many mistakes I made (including misspelling the name “Matthew”). I worked at Group Publishing for two years as a copyeditor, where I realized that I was not quite as awesome as I had thought and that I had a lot to learn. I wasn’t my dream job, but that was the job that was available. I was not super happy at it, but I think it’d be wise if you don’t hold out for your dream job right when you graduate because you’ll end up learning a lot.

Later on, my husband got a job in Indiana, so we moved there, and my friend said, “You should apply for a job at Indiana University Press.” So I asked the managing editor for a meeting. She said that there were no jobs, but I could work as a freelance copyeditor, which was much better. I learned there that everybody needs a copyeditor — even copyeditors need copyeditors. The PhDs there — I assumed that they’d be great writers and the job would be easy, but they were not. Freelancing is great when you have friends and a community, but I was really, really lonely freelancing in a town where I didn’t know anyone. I also didn’t have much control as a freelancer, which was uncomfortable for me. I thought I’d drum up more business, but not many publishing companies were on the Internet at the time, and I worked really hard to market myself to no avail.

One day, my managing editor called me and told me that there was a job opening and she said, “It’s a terrible job — I don’t know why anyone would want it” — she really said that — for a senior production assistant. To me, that sounded like the garage. It’s where the books get designed. I thought, “Well, I’ll get in there and I’ll get plucked out by the editorial department like an unfortunate orphan.” It was a clerical job, really, and I was overqualified for it. I was supporting the whole department and I resented it for a long time. Pretty soon, there was a RIF (Reduction in Force) at the university and the assistant manager’s work fell to me. I said that it wasn’t fair — this isn’t in my job description — and it became one of those moments when there was an opportunity. I didn’t end up getting paid more, but I learned a lot and I was able to learn how books actually get made.

We moved again, this time back to Fort Collins, and I started looking for a job. I saw the Colorado Review on the Denver Post job listing. It became very clear to me in the interview that if I’d gotten my wish to be a copyeditor, I wouldn’t be qualified for this job. He needed someone who could get the damn thing done — get the book to production — and that’s what got me to be the managing editor here. I was promoted to head editor and that’s where I am today. It was kind of by accident — all because of that temp job at Group — and now, I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d actually tried!

Do you have any advice for those about to graduate and wanting to work in publishing?

Ask questions! Use your resources — friends, family, professors, advisers. Find out who works in publishing and email them. Make sure to have specific questions, and just ask them to go to coffee or if you can stop by their workplace.

Where should we be looking for jobs?

Nowadays, you can find all of the job descriptions — all the job information you need — on the Internet. Before, it was just in the newspaper and you could only see the job title — not if you were qualified or what skills you needed. Right now, your best bet is probably entry-level positions.

What do you know about the Denver Publishing Institute? Is it worth it?

I didn’t used to think so, but now I do. My production job at IU was to work 40 hours a week, not to be mentored and learn things. It’s about four weeks long, it’s all day, every day, and it’s expensive — I think about $4,000 — but it’s a lot of networking. It’s basically a crash course in all things publishing. They do have some assistance. About five of my Colorado Review grad students did it and I think it was very useful to three of them.

Do we need to get an editing certificate?

I don’t know about that. I didn’t go that route. Everyone’s probably going to ask you to take that copyediting test, even if you have a certificate. But if it’s affordable, why not?

How hard is it going to be to get a job when we graduate?

It’s going to be hard for you guys to get a job right out of school. Grad school isn’t a reason to bide your time, but it does give you a few extra years of knowledge. Remember that that first job out of college is not your last job. Get something and just be patient. Get your certificates online while you’re working, do some research at home, and you’ll get there eventually.

Where should we look for entry-level jobs at presses we’re passionate about?

Look on BookJobs.com and MediaBistro. Don’t limit your searches to book publishing. One of my grad students went on to work at a cancer research magazine — it’s not literature, but it’s still really important work. Every major organization has stuff they publish (even the Girl Scouts). If you’re at all interested in design, sign up for graphic design courses — you can learn those things on Lynda.com and they have tutorials.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of your career in publishing?

I love when I can publish someone and it makes a difference in their life. One personal essay we published got an award and the guy was promoted to full professor, which had a huge impact on him. I love working with interns and turning them onto things they didn’t know they were good at. I hate saying no, and I have to do that a lot here. I also hate doing things that have nothing to do with my job — things for the university, grant writing, fundraising, etc.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s