Publishing Houses: Where Do ‘I’ Start?

I recently read an article of these two simple people (like you and I) who had a not-so-simple dream: starting a publishing house. Where would they get the money? Would they have to know anyone to even get their foot in the door of the business? While these questions weren’t explicitly answered, the clues lie in the context.


The two authors of this new literary magazine (Brown Paper Press) were already working in other professions prior to this one. Author 1 (Wendy Russell) was hired by Press-Telegram (the newspaper company for Long Beach, CA–and the same location of the publishing house) and was one of the most remarkable reporters they ever knew. Guess what else? Russell is also a blogger for Patheos (Natural Wonders is her blog if you want to drop by and read some of her stories). Trying to get hired by a newspaper company could take some time (for one thing, you definitely need the skills they require), but you could start a blog from the comfort of your own home on your computer (at least that’s what I’ve done–and you should too! Think of a topic, your target audience, and make your blog fulfill some kind of purpose for you and others).


Wendy also writes for the online parenting column of PBS NewsHour.

Author 2 (Jennifer Volland) is an independent writer and co-author of the books Edward A. Killingsworth: An Architect’s Life and Long Beach Architecture: The Unexpected Metropolis. Strength, flexibility, and the ability to form creative solutions are some skills that both Volland and Russell share. So having a background of jobs is not the only skill set that you need for starting a publishing house–but also the skill of adapting to new situations and knowing how to improvise when older methods you’ve used no longer work. Keeping that “knowing how to improvise” skill set in mind–both in your writing and if you decide to become a publisher like Russell or Volland (in which case, you’ll still need to know how to think creatively and properly edit the works of others).


Of course, this blog is in the “Exercises For You” section. So with all this information about two people and their success, what is your assignment? That’s actually a really good question–and I’m certainly no one to answer it for you. Ask yourself whether you want to be the editor of a book — or — the producer of a book. Next up, think of how you’re going to get there. Even if you have some ideas on how to get there, let me give you some added advice: make yourself well-rounded before you “get there”.

For instance, running a publishing business was not Russell and Volland’s first job; they both had backgrounds of other jobs and professions (Russell writing for a newspaper and Volland being the co-author of two books that have been on the market for quite some time now).

If you’re still in school, take care of your grades–but maybe volunteer at certain places here and there (for instance, I volunteered at a nursing home for 2 – 3 months back when I was just exiting middle school). If you’re in college, think about getting an internship, or an on-campus job (such as working at the library). Either way it goes, you’re building your resume–and joining sites such as LinkedIn can help you become noticed by potential employers. Perhaps an author will hire you to help them write their book, or maybe a newspaper company will see fit your credentials for helping them produce stories. If you want to achieve what Russell and Volland have (and while they aren’t the biggest publishing house out there, they’re still working their way up), the best exercise I can give to you is to start building your resume–one block at a time.


I want you to pretend that you’re going to start a publishing house (I say “pretend” because this may not be your actual goal–but the skills involved are still essential to whether you decide to become the writer or the editor). On a sheet of paper or in your diary (or a writing tool on your computer; anything you can think of really), write a brief summary of what you think it takes to run a publishing house (and these could be a variety of skills–though I will say that the main skills are knowing how to work with–and build relations with–agents of authors, authors themselves, and the co-workers of your house).

Next, list some of the skills you have (or some of the jobs you’ve had, if you’ve worked before). Are there any that you think may not apply to a publishing houses? Don’t worry about it. Again, a variety of skills outside of writing proves you are well-rounded–and you certainly have something new to offer to the publishing business. Maybe a story you’ve worked on is the best thing you could offer to the publishing business–and in that case, I say take some time to look at some of the literary magazines out there. One website I’ve visited before is an entire database of magazines to search for and choose from. The one you choose to publish your story to? That’s up to you–and your exercise at this point could be to list off the ones (from greatest to least) that you feel best meet your needs (which you can discover through visiting the magazine’s website and seeing some of their published stories, the guidelines for their submissions, whether or not they pay their authors and how successful of a business they’ve been so far, etc.).


Since this is a lot that I’m asking of you (and I must admit that there was a time when I didn’t even know what a literary magazine was–and you could currently be in the same boat–feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts you have. In discovering literary art with you, I am always open to help you learn as I am (still) learning 🙂




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