A Long-Term Career in Publishing

Saturday, March 30, 2013
You love books. You want to be involved with the whole process in some way. There are many, many careers possible in publishing.

Literary agent
Fact checker
Photograph researcher
Graphic designer
Bookstore employee or owner
Writing teacher or coach
Book doctor
Book reviewer

Within each of these, there are so many sub-genres and specialties that it is impossible to list them all. You could take each genre—chick-lit, horror, mystery, literary nonfiction, cookbooks, etc.—and repeat the list because in this industry, people tend to specialize.

When you think about where you fit and where you want your career to go, remember that in America, most people change careers multiple times (Not just a job-change, but a career-change). You may be an editor at a well-respected publishing house, until the economy tanks and you find yourself on the street, in need of a new career. Many editors make the career switch to becoming a literary agent.

I find myself at a crossroad these days, with projects taking off in multiple directions: teaching, blogging, writing how-to books, publishing, children's picture books, and even graphic design. Yesterday, someone asked what I would charge per hour to work on a website. As opportunities shut down, others open up.

In some ways, this is hard: my real love is writing fiction. But selling manuscripts to a publishing house is a struggle for each and every manuscript. I want to write fiction! But as I look around the industry, I see so many other ways my writing skills could be put to use. And I've done many of those things, from writing nonfiction, editing, blogging, publicity/PR and more.

In some ways, the opportunities available make it easy: if selling fiction is hard, selling nonfiction right now seems easier. Obviously, I need to work on publishable stories and am moving more toward the nonfiction side. It's an easy leaning-in that makes sense. And dollars.

Does this represent a different career? I prefer to think of it this way: I am working in the publishing industry and my current focus is nonfiction. That attitude keeps me flexible for the next time the industry twists off into a different direction. Ebooks—in all their variety, blogging, small or large publications—the key for me is that my career will always be in writing and publishing. My specialty or my current focus must change to keep up with current opportunities, but I will only look at opportunities that involve words. I am in this for the long haul.


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at CommonCoreStandards.com Follow Darcy on Pinterest.


Margo Dill said...

I think whenever you are in anything for the long haul, you have to be smart and savvy like you are doing. You have to change with the times--every career has to do this: from doctors to teachers, from architects to restaurant owners. People who don't think like this go out of business. Thanks for reminding us of this!

Renee Roberson said...

I started out training as a journalist, took an advertising job to pay the bills, and eventually morphed into a freelance writer and editor. I too want to be a successful fiction writer, but I am so grateful all my other training will hopefully help me be more successful at it when the time comes. I consider versatile writers such as yourself the lucky ones:)

Angela Mackintosh said...

My real love is writing fiction, too, but I ended up writing more nonfiction and ad copy. It's the same thing with my art career. I wanted to be a painter and had a fair amount of success at it, but ended up being a graphic artist because of the opportunities in the industry. I was surprised to find that it could be just as rewarding!

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