Monday, May 14, 2018

How Breaking into Publishing Is Like a Bad Romance

It’s not you, publishing, it’s me. (It might be you.)  ♦ 
When I was a little girl, all I wanted to be when I grew up was Blossom from PowerPuff Girls. She had red hair, I have red hair; she was the leader, I believed I was a leader; et cetera. As I grew up, my dreams changed. For a long span of my life, I wanted to be a lawyer. Someone powerful, who can make a difference; eventually, I’d become a part of the Supreme Court Justice. That was the goal.

Fast-forward to my junior year of high school when I was lost and had no idea in which direction my life was going to go. I knew I loved English, but aside from teaching, I had no idea what I could do with a degree in English.

I got my first look into publishing when I was the editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook. I broke my neck editing that book—not literally—and I didn’t mind a second of the lost sleep or missed meals. For the first time, I found something that I was passionate about, something I was excited about.

Come graduation and freshman orientation, my life was filled with “What are you going to do with that?” getting asked over and over and over again. Every time, I’d answer the same thing, “I’m going to publish books!” each time, my smile getting bigger. I could tell there’d be a long list of people I’d have to prove wrong—I could have a great career with an English degree!

I could do what I loved!

They Tried to Warn Me about You

Everyone told me how exciting and awesome the publishing world is. Everyone thought you were so cool, and that we’d be a great match. A few people warned me about you: your low income and long hours and all that. But for whatever reason, until recently, no one thought to tell me that this industry is one of the hardest industries to break into, which I didn’t find out until I actually started to apply for jobs and internships.

Luckily, I was able to gain a little bit of experience right after high school, when my best friend’s mother started her own little publishing company, and I learned a lot about the world that I wanted so badly to be a part and the excitement I had for the future built up. I thought you’d like that. I thought you’d be impressed.

I Know You Saw My Application, Because Your Read Receipts Were On

As time went on in my college career, though, my excitement toward finding a job in publishing began to lag as rejection after rejection came in. Yes, I know, ”expect rejection” is one of the first things you hear as you try to break into the industry. But it’s not just that I got rejected but how. You think rejection will mean, “Thank you for your time,” or, “Here’s how you can improve your application.”

Instead, I found out I was rejected a different way: the start date for each job I applied for passed with my never hearing back, and I eventually got the hint that I was not wanted for these jobs.

That’s right. The companies I applied to ghosted on me.

Get Your Friend to Introduce Us

I remember desperately wanting to work for HarperCollins in New York City. After seeing The Proposal and watching Sandra Bullock rock the publishing world and fall in love with her assistant (the always gorgeous Ryan Reynolds), I knew even more that the publishing world was for me, knowing full-well that my life wouldn’t end up exactly like this movie. My excitement built up even more when I found out a former sorority sister had a sibling who worked for HarperCollins. She put me in contact with her sister and I immediately started networking, trying to find some way into this big bad world of publishing. My mother’s words, “You need to know someone to get a job like that” echoed in my head and I smirked while typing the very enthusiastic email to my “way in.”

A few days later I was pumped to see her response. My large grin fell with each word read as she explained that she didn’t necessarily work in the publishing department and therefore didn’t actually know anyone to the extent I needed. Cordially, I thanked her for her efforts and response and wished her well, as she had left HarperCollins to pursue law school at NYU.

Now, instead of my mother’s words in my head, I had everyone I had ever told I was a creative writing major screaming, “What are you going to do with that?”

Maybe We Should See Other People

I soon grew irritable at the pure mention of the future. I obtained a few jobs that gave me an income—instead of a summer internship in New York City, I spent one summer working at a golf club, not exactly building my résumé—but no experience that would help me break into publishing.

In an effort to build up some more skills that might make me more attractive to the publishing industry, I had an idea—I went to a friend whose major was marketing and decided that maybe I should focus on that aspect of it. Within a couple of weeks, she had helped me get a paid internship with Miami University’s Marketing and Communications office for the summer going into my senior year. I was ecstatic because the job included editing the content that thousands of high school seniors will see when they’re being recruited for the school. The relief I felt to have some kind of experience under my belt was amazing, and again it encouraged me to begin searching for big house publishing jobs, so I could brag about my newly obtained skills.

And again, the job search went nowhere.

That’s when I realized something: marketing had actually been good to me. Marketing appreciated my work. Marketing had been right there all along.

I decided, for kicks, to try applying for jobs that focused more on marketing. Within an hour of sending in my first application, I was offered an interview. The joy, relief, and excitement I felt when I received that email was something I hadn’t felt when filling out applications and sending in résumés in a very long time, and that’s when I decided to stick with this journey. I’d been so focused on that attractive publishing job that I hadn’t seen the industry right in front of me.


In some ways, this job search led me to lose my passion for publishing. I’m not sure if it was the constant rejection or the frustration, or the fact that publishing likes to play games. But I have accepted a marketing job for after graduation, and I have opened a window to the future. Who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with publishing again. But even if the breakup is for good this time, the future is still bright, and the options are infinite.

  • About the Author
    Alexis Hite is a senior Creative Writing major with a Marketing minor. She’s from Columbus, OH, and plans to move to Greenville, South Carolina, after graduation. She enjoys reading novels and BuzzFeed articles and works at Brick Street Bar & Grille in order to help pay rent and feed her two kittens, Cleo and Oliver. When she’s not at work, you can find her in her bed binge-watching shows on Netflix and Hulu.

    Share this article :


    Post a Comment