As some of you know, I’m leaving Cricket Media and the world of magazine editing to pursue a career in book editing at Timbuktu Labs Inc, a small publishing company behind the books Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. I’m very excited for all sorts of reasons, but I thought I’d get more into the specifics of the application process and how I got this opportunity.
If you’re interested in pursuing editing as a writer, here’s how I landed the job:
1. I revamped my website and forced myself to start this blog. I’d been dithering over it for about a year, worrying that no one would want to read what I have to say and wondering what I would even write about. But, I realized that there aren’t many Black or POC editors out there, let alone queer ones. That thought alone was reason enough to start blogging about my experiences in the publishing industry.
My blog and my website are a showcase of what I’ve edited, the people I know and work with, the pieces I’ve written myself, and how I’m unique as an editor and writer. I didn’t want to shy away from the fact that I’m QPOC or compromise my artistic integrity in any way. I want my website to be an honest and open representation of me as a person and creative in the kid lit publishing industry.
2. I asked for help. I went to other editors and writers I know to ask them how they applied for jobs. I asked several people to take a look at my resume, website, and blog. I asked for critical feedback that was honest about what worked and what didn't. I took a peek at other blogs and editing websites to see what categories they used, what pages were useful, and how they structured similar pages.
Then I implemented the feedback and kept working at making my website, blog, and resume as polished as they could be. I ended up adding these categories to my website as a result of the feedback: editing overview, sample edit, reviews from clients, what to expect, and events. It’s really important to show the range of what you can do, for example that you know how to edit authors' work, speak in public and how to speak in public about what you know. It's also crucial to highlight other authors and editors who can recommend you and your work.
3. I asked people if they would say nice things about me and for their permission to put up sample edits. Most authors were also willing for me to post a screenshot of their work if I gave them credit and included links to their author pages as cross-promotion. And, to my surprise, everyone was more than happy to say nice things about me. I expected about 10% return on review requests, but about 75% of the authors and previous clients got back to me with positive feedback on my work as an editor, and about 25% had a LinkedIn account and were willing to cross-post.
4. I edited my application materials vigorously before submitting. I sent several drafts around to people I know (again!) and asked them to have a look. I made sure my LinkedIn matched my website and resume as closely as possible. I had to be ABSOLUTELY SURE my materials were error free because NO ONE will forgive grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes from an editor. It just looks sloppy and makes you seem incompetent. A blog is more forgiving because I can go back and fix silly mistakes, but not so with application materials!
5. I made a list of potential companies doing the things I wanted to do and ONLY submitted applications to jobs I actually wanted. My goal is to be a kid lit book editor, so I’m only going to apply for kid lit book editing jobs. Some of the jobs stretched this a little bit, like I applied to a Pokemon video game editing job and an acquisitions editor job at a Christian publisher under HMH’s umbrella. But many jobs genuinely excited me and were places I’d want to work to build my resume, grow in my career, and learn from other talented editors, creatives, and writers.
Here are some places I looked for postings:
LinkedIn jobs portal
Penguin Random House
Two Lions (Amazon's kid lit publishing arm)
Independent Publishers Group
6. I wrote each cover letter to the job from a pre-created template for all different situations like acquisitions editor, senior editor, editor, associate editor, copyeditor, proofreader, developmental editor etc. because there are many kinds of editing jobs out there. You might want to do some research on the kind you’re interested in by looking at sample job descriptions. I implemented as many things from the job descriptions into my letter as possible without sounding unnatural or like I was just parroting their words back to them. Where at all possible, give specific examples of a time you’ve excelled at the skills they’re looking for.
7. After I landed a phone interview, I did extensive research on the company before speaking to anyone. I looked at their personal websites, news articles, reviews of the company on Glassdoor, the staff profiles on LinkedIn, and then assessed each one for things I wanted in a company: a highly creative, literary environment of people passionate about books for kids, racial and ethnic diversity, LGBTQAI+ friendliness, and a warm, supportive environment rather than a high-pressure job that would send me into a panic attack at every turn.
8. For Timbuktu Labs, the interview process went like this:
One click apply to a book editor job on LinkedIn
Phone interview with recruiter Steve Gantz from uspublishingjobs.com
Phone interview with HR rep
Phone interview with creative director
Editing test of a podcast episode
Skype interview with CEO
Request for more materials (I sent full magazine issues I'd edited and writing samples)
Waiting . . . worrying . . . ANXIETY ATTACK . . . more waiting . . .
OFFER LETTER! HURRAY!
Negotiations . . . BUFFERING . . . more negotiations . . .
Accepted offer letter . . . HURRAY, AGAIN!!!