Veteran book editor suggests internships to succeed in shrinking field
By Morgan Spiehs
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Linda Rosenberg didn’t quite plan on working at Penguin Books.
“It was a summer job that spiraled out of control,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg grew up in New York City and covered for editors on vacation or jury duty at Penguin Books and ended up staying a few years. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor of arts in English, she said in a phone interview.
Rosenberg left and pursued other jobs in book publishing. She worked as the managing editor at Vintage Books and also worked at the book publishing company Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Rosenberg has racked up over 20 years of book publishing experience.
She returned to Penguin in 2010 and became the director of copy editing for the imprints of Putnam, Riverhead, Tarcher and Avery. Even though Penguin is in a different location and there are different people from when she first worked there, she said, “the feeling is very much the same.”
Penguin prints about 300 titles a year. Rosenberg says that her job can sometimes feel “like air traffic control.”
Rosenberg, who interacts with every department in the company, usually works 10 to 12 hours a day. She rarely leaves the building and often eats lunch at her desk.
One of Rosenberg’s many responsibilities is finding freelance or staff editors to handle manuscripts.
“There’s a certain type of repetitive coordination that’s really tedious sometimes,” Rosenberg said. But finding the right editor for each manuscript is essential.
An editor whose strength is reading cookbooks may not be necessarily good at proofing novels, she said.
“In theory, if you’re a professional copy editor, you should be able to proofread anything,” Rosenberg said. “But in fact, you should bring certain skills and certain knowledge to certain areas.”
Rosenberg’s favorite part of her job is editing and rewriting fiction and nonfiction. Her favorite subjects are music, theater, memoir, cultural studies and computer culture.
It typically takes anywhere from three to 10 months for a book that Rosenberg and her staff have worked on to reach bookstore shelves.
When it comes to being a staff copy editor for books, Rosenberg warns that it’s a shrinking field.
“It will be really hard to get a job as the companies keep shrinking. I hate to say that but I don’t really recommend it,”
For those that are passionate about going into the field, Rosenberg advises taking publishing classes and applying for internships.
“Internships expose you to the way the house work,” she said. “It allows you to meet a lot of people, and not frequently, but people do get jobs out of being interns if a position opens up.”
Even though Rosenberg fears the staff copy editor position may disappear, she says that freelance position will always be around.