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.


Careers in Publishing: Advice from Carin Siegfried ’95

On Thursday, October 27, Davidson alum Carin Siegfried ’95 spoke to a group of Davidson students about careers in publishing.  Here are just a few of the useful tips she provided during the 90-minute session!

Think past jobs in Editorial.  These are the jobs that everyone wants, and therefore are the most competitive and the lowest paid.  Look into other areas of publishing, like Subsidiary Rights, Production & Managing Editorial, Art & Design, Publicity, Marketing, and Sales.

Consider Agenting if the idea of discovering new writers and nurturing relationships with writers over time excites you.

Consider Publicity if you were the social chair of your eating house or fraternity.  This role involves someone outgoing and enthusiastic.

Consider Sales even if you have never seen yourself in a Sales role.  It’s not like selling used cars:  you are selling books to book people!  And starting salaries can be $10 – $20k more than Editorial starting salaries.

Yeah, you’re probably going to have to move to New York.  You don’t *have* to start in New York, but it is where most of the jobs are and where you can best network and will make lifelong industry connections.  Also, being close to broke in New York is much less painful when you are young.

If you’re looking at publishing internships, look at rotational programs that expose you to various aspects of the publishing business.  Seniors should look for paid fall internships (significantly less competition than for summer internships) in addition to entry-level assistant positions.

Don’t think you need a graduate degree or publishing certificate.  Maybe 25% of people who work in publishing have graduate degrees, but an undergraduate degree in the humanities the best preparation for most of the jobs.  Your employer will likely pay for you to take some relevant graduate courses once you get your foot in the door and prove your value.

Remember that Davidson has prepared you well to start this career!  When applying and interviewing, focus on the workload balance, time management, and organization skills that Davidson has taught you.

You may not get in to publishing right away, and that’s okay.  Focus on developing soft, transferable skills in whatever other job you land — like how to deal with difficult personalities.

Network, network, network.  Get on LinkedIn today, if you aren’t already (and link to Carin!) Remember that informational interviews are the next best thing to actual interviews.

Did you miss the session but are seriously interested in pursuing publishing as a career?  Contact Carin Siegfried at  Also keep an eye out for opportunities for resume reviews that we’re looking to set up with Carin during the spring semester!

Launching a Career in Publishing

Many Davidson students express a vague interest in publishing as a career, but are unsure what the field entails or what specific career opportunities it provides.  If you’re one of these students, come to Union 313 next Thursday, October 27, at 4:30 pm, when we will welcome Carin Siegfried ’95 as a guest speaker.  Siegfried has worked in publishing as a buyer, editor, and sales rep, and recently started her own business, Carin Siegfried Editorial.  She will discuss four main things:  the different jobs in publishing, different publishing houses, how to get into publishing, and what Davidson students can do to facilitate starting a publishing career.

If you’re interested in learning more before the session, check out the Publishing and Journalism page of our website, which includes helpful basic resources.  You can also see Siegfried’s LinkedIn profile to get a better sense of her professional background.  If you are interested in networking with additional Davidson alumni working in publishing, stop by our office for an introduction to Alenda Links, Davidson’s internal networking system.  This system currently lists 78 Davidson alumni with the keyword “publishing” in their professional profile, all of whom are available for you to contact!