Name: Christine Munroe
College & major: McGill University (Montreal), English Literature (Minor in Sociology)
Graduate school & concentration: McGill University again, MA in English Literature
NYU School of Professional Studies, courses in Publishing and Creative Writing
Past jobs: McDonald’s, babysitter, retail, ear piercer, medical office filer/photocopier, restaurant hostess, administrative assistant, camp counselor, lifeguard, archery instructor, research assistant, intern, Associate Literary Agent, Foreign Book Scout. All in all, I think I would make a valuable ally post-apocalypse.
Current occupation: Author Relations Manager, Kobo
How did you become involved in publishing? I have always been obsessed with books and reading, and thought I would go the academic route. I gave it a shot with my master’s degree, but doing research felt too isolated and theoretical for me. I wanted to work with people, on contemporary books, so I decided to jump into a career in publishing. I moved to NYC, started with unpaid internships, and worked my way up from there.
What was your college experience like, and how did it prepare you for your career? College was challenging and eye-opening and amazing. I grew up in Ohio, so going to university in Montreal was basically four years of study abroad. McGill offered a stellar education that pushed me to work hard, balanced with enjoying all of the great things Montreal had to offer. I met some of my best friends there – including my husband.
I directly use the knowledge and skills I learned from my major every day. When you work with editors and authors, people pay attention to your communication skills! I feel so grateful for the education I gained at McGill and think it was the ideal college experience for me.
What do you love most about working in publishing? What is your least favorite aspect? Most of all, I love helping authors to earn a living from their writing, and helping readers discover great books to enjoy. Another bonus: I get to travel to writers conferences and book fairs, constantly building a network of great, smart people who love books.
Unfortunately, publishing is not well compensated. Breaking into the industry is extremely competitive and often requires taking on one or two unpaid internships. Entry-level jobs require long hours for low pay. You realize early on that you have to really believe in what you do, because your passion—not a big paycheck—is the main motivation for being in this field.
Do you feel women are underrepresented in publishing? What obstacles do you face pursuing your field of work? Quite the opposite! Women dominate the book publishing industry on all levels –professionals, authors, and readers – and it is awesome. I like to think it is because we are inherently brilliant and know that books are cool.
What advice would you give to girls considering a career path in publishing?
1) Explore various aspects of the industry; so many people come into publishing wanted to be an editor or literary agent. There are tons of other interesting, creative opportunities that you might actually be more interested in.
2) Never underestimate the power of informational interviews! Reach out to people whose jobs seem interesting to you and politely request advice about a few career questions. Publishing has a very pay-it-forward attitude when it comes to offering help and insights to newcomers. Your network will be your best ally for your career no matter what you do, so you might as well start now.
3) Read contemporary books. You cannot go into a publishing interview and say the most recent book you read is a Dickens novel. Look at the NYT Bestseller list or the front table of your local bookstore, get familiar with popular titles, and read a few.
What would you wear to a job interview? Pencil skirt, blouse or button up shirt, and flats – one of the three in a fun, bright color. Cool glasses are also a plus. I am a loyal fan of Warby Parker for great frames.
Looking back, what general life advice would you give to your former high-school self? All that advice you’re getting about hard work paying off is true. But… you have time, so take some opportunities to explore and have fun. Invest time in your friends and your hobbies. Especially enjoy the summers off! I can’t tell you how much I’d love to have a summer off again. It’s all about balance.
Any other relevant info or words of wisdom: Don’t be afraid to change course if your current path isn’t feeling right or rewarding enough. Try new things, move to new cities. The adventures will make great stories down the road. Also, take good care of yourself. Find time for sleep and discover a form of exercise you love – being healthy and well rested is a huge key to success.