Miss Snark -
I've been looking for an assistantship at a literary agency or publishing house for a while. Now, when I get good advice I take it - when you said make sure to have read at least one book on the list of the agent/editor you're interviewing with, go to more readings, etc., I made sure I did.
But there are a few things I keep hearing from people when I tell them I'm looking for work in publishing. Two discouraging things.
1. Publishing is more nepotistic/connection-based than other industries; you've got no hope unless you have a friend/parent of a friend/etc. who can refer you to a job. Even if your credentials are otherwise great.
2. Everybody in publishing is miserable. Go be a lawyer instead.
Any chance you'd weigh in on these two downers?
I have no idea if publishing is more nepotistic (is that even a word?) than other industries. I mean, you can try to be the Queen of England on your own but I think you need connections. Publishing is a SMALL industry so there are fewer actual jobs thus the presence of friends/family may be a larger percentage but it's entirely possible to get a job in this town without knowing any one.
2. Yea, like lawyers are all happy. First year associates work 80 hour weeks and get fired after two years and partners are under enormous pressure to rack up billable hours. There's a reason all those lawyers and doctors are writing crime fiction.
Publishing is low paid and frustrating. It's also glorious. As an agent, I work with people who are smart, funny, creative and extraordinarily happy with their lives on the whole. My job is to help them be successful. The details of day to day life can be frustrating and filled with angst. Show me a job that isn't. I have the best job in the world, and I thank God every single day for it.
D0 what you love. Tell those naysayers to fuck off and die.