Amanda Luedeke

September 11, 2014

Thursdays with Amanda: How to Get a Publishing Job


Publishing JobAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I’m going to deviate from talking marketing this week and instead will address a question that I get asked A LOT.

I look quite young (okay, I guess you could say that I AM young, but 30 is also considered middle age, so…). Because I look young, I’m always fielding questions as to how I got in the business, how one becomes an agent, whether or not this is an internship (yes, I’ve heard that one), etc.

Though I must admit these questions are coming at me less and less (probably indicative of me looking older and older), they still pop up, and I can see the wheels turning as folk try and figure out how a 24-year-old (this is the age they typically give me) could possibly be an agent AND have been in the industry for five years AND have held a marketing career before that AND worked in higher ed AND be married.

Fact is, there are lots of people in the business who are much younger than I. I once talked with an editor at Penguin who was 24 at the time. 24!!! 

Young Publishing Professionals

Me with fellow youngsters in publishing!


So HOW does one get a publishing job? There are a few different tracks.

1. THE COLLEGIATE TRACK. Many young people are getting into the business these days by pursing publishing or editing or writing or marketing or design (or pretty much any kind of program that would be useful in a publishing setting) in college and then doing internships. The internships then lead to jobs or at the very least, recommendations. The 24-year-old Penguin editor I mentioned had done an internship at a major agency. She got a recommendation that landed her the spot at Penguin.

2. THE NETWORKING TRACK. In this instance, people get into publishing because they know someone who makes it happen or at the very least whose name gets them an interview. This business is very much about who you know, and it can be a tight-knit group with editors jumping from house to house and very little room for names to be pulled from the endless HR file. If your plan is to apply to a publishing job and sit back and wait, it’s probably not going to happen. You need to be able to name drop to get noticed.

3. THE “I FELL INTO IT” TRACK. You’ll many times hear publishing professionals say that they weren’t planning on a career in publishing. It just happened. Maybe they happened to be sitting by an agent on a plane and one thing led to another. Maybe they started in the warehouse and worked their way up. Maybe they sent a note about a book to a publisher that resulted in the publisher hiring them as a freelance editor (haha, not sure that has ever happened, but hey!). This track is hard to force, because it’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time and then saying YES to the doors that open. (That last part is key…so many people say no because they feel they don’t have the time…or they don’t want to work for free for awhile, etc).

My journey was an “I Fell Into It” example. I was happily working in higher education when I met Chip, who happened to be serving as a visiting professor. He took an interest in me, gave me some side projects to do, and it grew from there. It wasn’t easy, though! For THREE YEARS I maintained a full time job while spending my evenings and weekends doing work for Chip and building an agent list. I finally got to a point where my side job could no longer be a side job if it were going to grow. It was then that I went full time as an agent. Fall of 2011.

Did you catch that? I juggled two jobs for three years. But I knew what I wanted and so it was worth it.


Agent Publishing Job

Me with my first agented book!

Many times, we want the path to be easy. We want to be able to fill out an application, get interviewed, and then get the job. But gosh, if it were that easy then everyone would be chosen! And these jobs wouldn’t have value.

If you’re wanting a career in publishing and if you’re still in school, I highly urge you to do as many internships as possible! Go out to New York. Get in with the big houses. It may cost money and it may be out of your comfort zone, but the collegiate track is where it’s at for young people.

If you’re wanting a career in publishing and you’re out of school, then I recommend surrounding yourself with industry professionals. Attend conferences. Make connections. Be polite, give space, but figure out a way to keep the conversation going.

book marketing

Get a head start on author marketing!

What was YOUR road to publishing? Or what questions do you have in terms of how to get there? Let me know!


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  • Peter DeHaan says:

    I enjoyed your post but want to suggest that 50 is middle age!

  • Tracie Heskett says:

    Great to read about the different options. Speaking from the perspective of freelance author, I’d have to say I’ve experienced options #2 and 3. Initially, I “fell into it” by working two jobs: a job that would give me the experience I needed to write what I wanted to write. However, over time the “networking track” has been invaluable in keeping my career as a freelance author going. I’ve been blessed to have editors take my name with them from house to house. But it also takes work on my part to maintain those connections by keeping in touch with editors on a semi-regular basis. As to the “right place at the right time” aspect of the networking track, I believe God has a big hand in it!

  • jillmariewilliamson says:

    Love this, Amanda. It’s so helpful for interested people to know the options before them. Also, Is that the tower formerly known as the Sears Tower? If so, I’ve been in that box!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Yep, that’s a pic from the Sears Tower! You would not believe how terrified I was to step into it.

  • Sara says:

    Hey Amanda! Another fun post 🙂 Love your glasses, by the way. They look exactly like the ones I have. Anyway, you DO look young and I can so relate to the questions you get, because I get them A LOT too. I sent some jaws dropping the last time I was pregnant. One woman at a gas station literally asked me how I handled juggling high school homework and pregnancy (I was 28 at the time). Seriously. Just goes to show you can’t judge a person by how old they look, right? Thanks for sharing a little about the world of getting into publishing. I always enjoy reading your posts!

  • Melissa Tagg says:

    Aww fun photo. 🙂

    Also this: “I juggled two jobs for three years. But I knew what i wanted and so it was worth it.” A) Oh how I get that and B) I’m glad you stuck with it because I and others are reaping the benefit today.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Yay!! The juggling phase was truly a dark time…but looking back, I was so much more productive in all areas of my life. I miss that in away…the propulsion to focus on what matters and get things done.

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