Tag Archives: editor

Question of the Week: What Education is Required in Order to Become an Agent? (and then some)

12 Mar

This Question of the Week is actually 2 questions, and comes from cgwriter – who we thought should get an answer ASAP. Since we get a number of questions about how to go about getting a career in the publishing industry, we thought it would be useful to answer this question in regards to becoming an agent with how to become an editor as well. Cristina (cgwriter) asked us these questions (and we hope this helps!):

“1) I am currently an English major, with no minor. I’d like to decide pronto whether I minor in anything or not, seeing as I’m already a sophomore.

My question is, what kind of minor (or classes) should I take if I want to be a literary agent? As in, what kinds of classes will be helpful to me? I was told I need to have a background in law and marketing; is that true?

2) It can be kind of daunting seeing you guys so successful so young. Would you consider yourselves to be the minority? I can’t imagine myself being published, engaged, etc at only 23, yet you guys managed to pull all of that off. It’s inspiring, though!”


1) As a writer, I don’t know much about how to land a job as a literary agent, but I do know other people who have graduated from college as an English major (or History major, or something super random), and the stuff they’ve done AFTER graduation has helped them. Doing an MFA program for creative writing can definitely give you a leg-up. But for a quick-and-dirty thing that’ll give you a bit more of an edge on your competition, check out programs like the Columbia Publishing Course. My friend took the course right after she graduated from college, and it ultimately helped her land a job as an editorial assistant at a major publishing house.

2) There are plenty of young, successful authors out there–but I think everyone (no matter their age) feels that there are people who have become successful far earlier than them. You just have to stop comparing yourself to people–it’ll only make you crazy. My age didn’t play a part in getting my dreams accomplished–I just knew that I wanted to be published, and have spent many years working towards it. If anything, I think that seeing other successful young writers should inspire–not intimidate. It’s all about hard work and dedication. If it’s your dream to be published, then you’ll work for that dream every single day, until it’s accomplished. Age ain’t nothin but a number.


1.       A lot of agents that I know of are English majors. Other majors that might be helpful would be Journalism, Creative Writing, and Business. The most important thing, however, is to take something you enjoy. Having a minor in another subject would be useful (for any position in publishing, really). But again, consider having a minor/second major as icing on the cake. It isn’t REQUIRED, but having more under your belt doesn’t hurt either. If you minored in history, for example, you would have a knowledge base that would allow you to take on historical fiction (not that you NEED a history minor/major for this, but people would certainly respect you more), or non-fiction (here, having the minor/major in history could be important). Decide what books you would want to rep as an agent. If all you’re interested in repping is YA, then perhaps having a History minor isn’t necessary.

I’m going to take this question a step further by looking at editorial jobs, as well. For becoming an editor, being an English major might make things a bit difficult. Here’s why: First, the majority of people going into publishing are (gasp!) English majors. So, there ends up being a CRAZY amount of competition. Having a major (or minor) in another subject can help you get an editorial job in specialized/ niche areas. Have a major in art? You could be THE editor for all the awesome art books. Heck, you could even be the art director at a publishing house. Business major? You’d be a shoe-in as an editor for business self-help books.

I know that while I was doing my undergrad, I had no clue what was needed to get into the industry. I ended up finding a publishing program at Ryerson University for people who have finished their undergrad studies. I also know that at York University in Toronto, there are publishing courses that you can take during your undergrad (although they are normally third or fourth year courses), and they also offer a joint Book and Magazine Publishing certificate course. For anyone interested in Publishing, check all the colleges/universities in your area. They might have a Publishing degree (I know that the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia offers both publishing degrees and certificates, for example). In Toronto, in addition to York U and Ryerson, Centennial College and Humber College also offer Publishing certificates. These courses are invaluable; I can’t even begin to describe just how much I’ve been taught taking these courses. In fact, I think it’s THESE courses that will help. Some places will offer mandatory internships; others will have internship postings you can apply for (which is how it works at Ryerson).

Internships are REALLY key. It’s the way to get your foot in the door, no matter what position you want in the publishing industry. I got my internship through the Publishing program at Ryerson (and it wasn’t easy). Mandy got hers by networking with other agents and agencies; following them on their blogs and on twitter, and by applying once she saw they were looking for interns. Publishing is an industry that requires experience, so the more you have, the better! Look for an internship; it’s your BEST way in. Also, networking is HUGE in this industry. In order to make it as an agent, you need to know editors. Author/book launch parties, any groups you can join (for Canadians – esp. Torontonians – check out the Young Publishers of Canada group for events, or become a member of the BPPA [the Book Publishers’ Professional Association]). For any job in this industry, it’s all about who you know.

As for a background in law and marketing, I don’t think that’s necessary for becoming an agent. If you have that, all the power to you, but everything concerning rights will be taught to you at an agency while you are interning there (and unless you were an editor or some other big-shot in the publishing industry before setting your sights on agenting, you’ll NEED to get an internship). Getting a part-time job at book store as well while taking your undergrad would be useful, but not necessary – but it would show that you have always been passionate about books, and would prove that you know the market.

2.       I’m not sure if I would consider myself successful just yet! I’m certainly not published, nor do I have a real job in the industry just yet – my foot is only halfway through the door! But I like to think that my passion for books is what has helped me land such a great internship. If in a year or two (or three, or four, etc) I see my name on a book, I will probably just die of complete and utter happiness. There are so many people who are younger and even more successful than I am – but that doesn’t mean I am not talented enough to make it! It’s all about looking for those opportunities, and spending hours among hours honing your craft and improving your skills. All I can say is… just keep on pushing – the road to getting ANYWHERE in this industry is pretty daunting; but so long as you’re passionate and keep your head up, you’ll be fine! You just have to put yourself out there – which can be scary, and will most likely result in some people telling you that you’re not good enough – but who cares what they say? You just keep on pushing. And then one day, you’ll be standing on top of the (publishing) world, laughing.

The Writer Writing Her First Book


Everyone’s perspective of success differs. I’m twenty years old and am neither engaged nor published. However, I still consider myself to be successful. Why? I completed a 90,000 word historical romance. I have mustered enough courage to query to agents. Two agents replied to my first batch of query letters and asked for partials. While the first agent later rejected me, the second agent was interested and asked for my full manuscript. I’m still waiting for her to respond. However, whether she offers representation or not does not define my success. Success to me is that I’ve gotten this far in the first place, and that I am enjoying my journey to publication.

-The Writer Who Got a Full Request


So, we were wondering – how many of you also plan on (or are thinking of) pursuing a career in the publishing industry? (Other than becoming a successful author, or course!) If you are, where in publishing do you want to end up?


The Process of Making A Book

16 Dec

by Mandy Hubbard


Hi Everyone!

For my first blog post, I talked about what it’s like to get “the call” that your work is going to be published.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that once the euphoria of selling your novel wears off, the real work starts. See, a publisher doesn’t take the book and just print it. You’ll go through many, many steps. I thought it would be fun to walk you through the process.

Step 1: Revisions. Your editor—the person who works for the publisher who read your book, loved it, and convinced a lot of other people that they should purchase it—will write you a revision letter. It may be two pages, it may be twelve pages. I’ve had both. And actually, the longer ones are sometimes easier! Some editors will talk about the issues and the possible solutions, while other editors will just say “fix this.”

So what’s in a revision letter? Well, they might talk about how Character A feels sort of flat, or they might say Chapter 4 serves no purpose and should be cut, or they might say the pace at the end goes way too fast. They might say they want you to change it from third person to first, or they might ask you to drop a subplot. In other words, they can ask for just about anything!

Generally, you’ll have 1-2 months to revise your novel and send it back to your editor. Then you wait, bite all your nails into little stubs, and cross all your fingers. If you’re lucky, you nailed your revisions and you move to the next step. Some people aren’t so lucky. Some people may do two or three rounds of revisions.

Step 2: Line edits. Next, you’ll receive your manuscript either via email or snail mail, and it’ll be marked up like crazy. You’ll cut paragraphs, clarify others with a few extra words tossed in here and there, fix punctuation, etc. If your editor uses track changes in Microsoft Word, this is an easy round. If it’s hard copy, then it’s kind of annoying and time consuming. You generally  have 2-4 weeks to do Line edits, but sometimes you have far less. For my August 2010 book, YOU WISH, I had 24 hours.  Luckily they were electronic and I did them in about an hour.

Step 3: Copy Edits. Up until now, you’ve worked exclusively with your editor. But for copy edits, you’ll have a new person going through your manuscript—the copy editor. A copy editor is someone who specializes in knowing exactly how sentences should be structured, words should be used, etc. They’ll point out if you misuse a semi-colon where there should be a colon, if you’re supposed to capitalize a proper noun, or if your sentence is missing a verb. This stage is the scariest sometimes, because they have all kinds of symbols and short-hand and you might not understand everything.

The difference with your copy edits and your regular edits is that these changes are made  for you, and then you have to approve them. You are allowed to write “stet” next to things you want to keep as it was before copyedits, and they’ll undo what the copyeditor changed.

Step 4: First Pass Pages, or FPP: This is the final proof read. You’ve made it through revisions, line edits and copy edits, so now you’re just proof reading! The fun part is that usually your FPP’s are “typeset”—that means they have formatted it to appear exactly as it will in your book. As an author, you often get cool little surprises—For PRADA & PREJUDICE, the chapter headings had these fun, whimsical swirls. For Cyn Balog’s SLEEPLESS, she discovered her chapter headings either had a crescent moon or a flower, to emulate the cover.

Step 5: ARCs. Advance Review Copies are sent to the printer somewhere after Step 2…but you often don’t have them in hand until the end of the process. ARCs are a scary time—it means that the book is being sent out to reviewers. It also probably means no one has read it yet and you’re terrified it’s going to be torn apart soon. But it’s also a THRILLING part of the process because it’s the first time you hold your book. I admit, I read mine cover to cover. It’s the first time in the process that you realize your little manuscript is truly becoming a BOOK.

Step 6: Finished Books. Anywhere from a month to a day before your book goes on sale, you’ll get a box of them on your doorstep. And they will be beautiful.  🙂

Hope it all makes sense! If you have questions, post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

Mandy Hubbard


What I’m reading now: BEAUTIFUL by Amy Reed.