Alumni in Publishing Share Career Advice

Carin Siegfried '95 (left) and Sarah Dotts Barley '07 discuss the different jobs in publishing.

Carin Siegfried ’95 (English) and Sarah Dotts Barley ’07 (English, German) came to campus Thursday, October 17 to give a workshop on careers in publishing.  Siegfried has worked as a buyer, editor, and sales rep and now runs her own business, Carin Siegfried Editorial; and Dotts Barley is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Their main task was to be sure that everyone understood there are many jobs in publishing and that being an editor does not always mean what one would assume.  They explained the intricate web that makes up the publishing business, including buyers, sales and marketing staff, agents, publicists, art and design staff, editors and of course, authors.  Students should remember, both speakers agreed, that editorial jobs are typically the most competitive, pay the least and promote the most slowly.

The first advice that Siegfried and Dotts Barley gave to students interested in the field was read, read, read: paying particular attention to contemporary books.  “Way too many people want to work on literary fiction,” said Siegfried, suggesting that students pay attention to all kinds of books that are on the market.  She also suggested highlighting administrative experience when applying for entry-level positions, as you will likely be answering a lot of phones and watering plants in your first job.  In the process of applying for editorial assistant positions, you will be asked to complete a reader’s report – you will be given a manuscript and asked to write a one-page evaluation of it.  In this evaluation, you should be honest but remember that the publishing house has already bought this book, so you ultimately should recommend that they buy it.

Siegfried and Dotts Barley told some humorous stories about entry-level positions in publishing houses, explaining that you are essentially signing up for an apprenticeship. You are someone’s assistant, but it is important to remember that you are working under someone who has probably been in the business for a long time.  They recommend that you take the opportunity to learn from them, arguing that this will make you better at your job down the road.

The alumni concluded the talk by reminding students that if you can get through Davidson, you have the stamina and intelligence it takes to be successful in the publishing world.  Read, pursue internships, network and follow your passion, and you will have opportunities.

Students who missed the talk but would like the handouts from the session should e-mail requesting them.


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