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5 Truths About Working in Publishing That May Surprise You

On July 1st, an icon designer named Louie Mantia tweeted out a question: "What‘s something that seems obvious within your profession, but the general public seems to misunderstand?"


Initially, I wished this thread was around 5-10 years ago during my food service days so I could say: Hey! Did you know that when we close at 7 p.m., I don’t just immediately lock up and go home? I actually have an extra 1-2 hours of work cleaning this place up soooo YES I mind if you and your 10 friends come in and all order triple shot white chocolate mochas with extra whip at 7:03 p.m. BUT I DIGRESS.

It became quickly evident that A LOT of people get A LOT wrong about almost every profession, and publishing is no different, folks!

Here are the Top 5 things that I and my coworkers have had to correct people on regarding publishing and sales:

1.) The Turnaround

Every movie and TV show that has a publishing storyline would have you believe that someone pitches a book and BOOM in a week it’s in the window of your favorite local bookstore. Publishing books is a loooooooooooong process, and it often takes over a year and a half from start to finish. For example, I have a sales call next month where I’m presenting books that don’t come out until April 2019. I have books on my desk that won’t feel the warm buzz of a cash register scanner until 2020. But I also understand that this is all WAY less dramatic and glamorous.

2.) Who We Sell To

I don’t know why, but a lot of people are under the impression that we just load up a suitcase full of books and sell them to a librarian. (Also, shout-out to the librarians that tweeted that some people didn’t think they existed anymore! They do and they’re wonderful and we love them!) Publishing sales teams sell to any and all places that have a book section. This obviously includes your local bookstores and the big book chains, but we also sell to places you might not expect! Those cheeky cookbooks in Urban Outfitters by the crop tops? That’s us. Paperback bodice rippers that you sneak a peek at while browsing Target? Also us! I walked into my local butcher shop in Brooklyn to get provisions for the 4th of July and saw one of our books on the shelves. Basically, if you’re willing to buy it, we’re gonna sell it to you.

3.) Everything Is Carefully Crafted

Before I entered publishing I was under the impression that authors always named their books, picked the covers and everyone else just ran with it. Sometimes this is definitely true, but a lot of the time it’s a group effort between editorial, sales, and the author. In sales, we have to think of what cover treatments/titles are working in the market right now to guarantee the book is going to live its best shelf life!

4.) We Don’t Read All Day!

We wish we did, believe me. Although we read a lot and it’s very important to know the books you’re selling inside and out, we actually do most of our reading outside the office. Minus more glamour points.

5.) We Don’t Have An Encyclopedic Knowledge of Every Book Ever Published

For the last time Uncle Howie, I don’t remember that book by that guy that had maybe had a submarine that you flipped through at a gas station in Dayton, Ohio in 2012.

These are just a few of mannnny of the answers I got when I polled my coworkers, and that just goes to show that even if anyone’s job looks easy, it’s probably not!

What do people get wrong about your jobs, Swooners? Writers, what do people get wrong about that? What are some of your assumptions about publishing that you'd like us to confirm or deny for you? (We'd definitely be down for some myth-busting.) Comment below!

Author spotlight

Liz O.

Brooklyn resident, sarcasm connoisseur, pop culture junkie, food obsessed. I am on the editorial board for Swoon, binge reading manuscripts …

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