How Not to Launch a Career in Publishing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I semi-frequently get questions from people who want to know how to break into the publishing industry–not as writers, but as agents, editors, copy editors, publicists, designers, and so on. There are a number of possible methods–get a job with a (reputable) literary agency, intern at a (commercial) publisher, take a (credible) college course. You might, however, want to avoid the approach used by the author of the letter I’ve reproduced below.

(A websearch indicates that the author is a real person. Neither I nor the independent publisher who shared this with me are sure if it’s a scam, or just a monumental demonstration of cluelessness or chutzpah. Presumably it went to more than one publisher; I’d be curious to know of any others who received it.)


[Publisher’s name and address redacted]

Dear Sir or Madam:

Hello, my name is [name redacted], and I have just been accepted as a graduate student at [university name redacted] to study publishing this upcoming spring semester 2011. I am writing to you to simply ask for your help with my educational and possibly career path.

Now, you may be wondering to yourself, why am I coming to you for assistance. Well, it is for two reasons: graduate school is expensive and the job market is tough to break into right now. Publishing is something I am passionate about. I am very fortunate to be accepted into such a prestigious program that it would be so heartbreaking to back out now.

I realize how this request may sound, however let me reassure you that I am not simply asking you for monetary assistance. I am proposing to you to invest in a potential future employee. As of right now, I do not yet have many skills in the publishing world; but after I finish my degree, I know I will be able to contribute all of what I have learned and experience to your company as a potential employee.

Don’t get me wrong; I have looked into alternative ways to pay for graduate school. Scholarships, loans and my current job as a substitute teacher are other ways but not enough. Although applying for scholarships has not been an issue, I find that I am not always eligible for many out there. I enter contests, fill out surveys for points and look into loans I know will take years to pay off, but it’s all in vain. While I am working to earn enough money before the semester starts, it is only a part-time position. Also, because of many teachers were laid off by the school board this year, they have priority over substitute jobs.

As you can see, I have quite a dilemma on my hands. Thus, I am turning to you and your company. I am suggesting to you what may seem like an outrageous idea but take a second to think about it. I am going to get my Master’s degree in publishing, which is what your company is based on. I will learn the latest techniques and skills at [university name redacted], which takes into account today’s changing technology, making me a potential employee. Lastly, by donating to my educational fund, I can be considered your charity, which will gain your company recognition for helping me succeed and stay in school. It is a win-win situation.

I really do hope you consider investing in my educational and perhaps employment future. If you do have any questions or would like to respond back to me, please contact me at [email address redacted]. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I do look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely yours,

[name redacted]