I always loved reading from a young age, especially the books that shaped me during those formative years (Ella Enchanted, A Wrinkle in Time, and the Harry Potter series, to name a few). So, once I found out that a career path as a children’s book editor existed, I was determined to pursue it.
My time at Hamilton really solidified my interest in publishing. As a Creative Writing major, I not only developed my own writing skills, but I also learned how to effectively give and receive editorial feedback — which is a key part of my job even now. I also worked at the Career Center in various roles, which helped me prioritize getting my resume into shape as well as reaching out to Hamilton alums in publishing to request informational interviews. Connecting with people who were actually doing the work I was interested in proved to be a vital step — I learned exactly what an entry-level job in publishing looked like, as well as how I could make myself a top candidate.
I learned that interning in the industry is crucial. Between my junior and senior year, I completed an editorial internship at HarperCollins, and post-graduation, I did two more internships at literary agencies. Not only did they give me a hands-on, close-up look at how publishing works, but I also made fantastic connections. Publishing is a small, connected industry, and once I proved myself to my supervisors, they were kindly willing to refer and advocate for me for full-time positions.
I also completed the Columbia Publishing Course. The course (and others like it, such as the ones at NYU and Denver) are great introductions to publishing and opportunities for networking.
Right toward the end of the course, an entry-level editorial assistant job at Bloomsbury Children’s Books opened up. I was already a huge fan of the books Bloomsbury published, like Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, and I was particularly excited about their about-to-publish YA fantasy Throne of Glass, written by another Hamilton alum, Sarah J. Maas '08. Cumulatively, I think I had all the tools that helped me secure the interview and then eventually a job offer — multiple internship experiences and a demonstrated passion for the industry and, of course, children’s books.
Since I’ve joined the company, I’ve worked my way up from an assistant, supporting my boss and the department, to a more independent associate editor, acquiring and editing my own books. It’s not an easy job to summarize! I do a lot of reading and editing — I’m always looking at manuscripts for potential acquisition or editing books I’ve acquired. But I also write copy for each title (like the descriptions you read on a jacket), make sure the titles are set up correctly in our system, keep books moving through stages like copy-editing and cover design, and network with literary agents, among many other tasks.
Being an editor is a lot of work and never boring, but most rewarding, I get to work with lots of like-minded people who are just as passionate about books as I am. Plus, it’s incredibly special to hold a final copy of a book and know you had a key role in creating it—and doubly special to see that book connect with readers. This past May, a YA fantasy I acquired and edited, Mimi Yu’s The Girl King, was chosen as a YA Buzz Pick at BookExpo America, and seeing so many people excited for the book at the event was truly surreal and affirming.
For students hoping to pursue publishing as a career, I always give these four tips:
- Request informational interviews from people in the industry.
- Stay looped into what’s happening in publishing via e-newsletters and social media.
- Try to do at least one publishing internship, and be open-minded about what kind — whether that’s a publishing house or a literary agency; academic, adult trade, or children’s; etc.
- Read, a lot! And read current books. Check out the New York Times bestseller list, or pop into a bookstore and see what’s prominently featured. Naming current books you read and enjoyed in cover letters and interviews is ALWAYS a plus.
Publishing can be a challenging industry, given it’s small and competitive, but it can also be incredibly fulfilling. So if you’re head-over-heels in love with books and you can’t possibly imagine a life where you’re not living and breathing them, publishing is going to be a perfect fit!
Hali Baumstein ’11, and English and creative writing major, is an associate editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books in New York City.