H*************u now? If you're still in school (college), there are several things you can do:
Get involved with your school's literary magazine, if you have one. If not, see if there's one published someplace close and try to sign on as a submissions reader.
Get an internship with a publisher. This is crucial. EA positions are highly sought after, and most of your competition will have had at least one summer, if not a whole year, working as an intern somewhere (or multiple somewheres). If you live in New York, LA, Chicago, or Boston, you should also be able to find at least one literary agent who needs first readers to go through submissions.
Take any classes you can on copyediting, desktop publishing, book design & production, or general book publishing. These can be hard to find, but there are specialized publishing programs out there. Emerson College in Boston, Columbia University in New York, I believe Radcliffe has something as well. There are others around, too.
Read a lot of book reviews--NYT Book Review, LA Times, and anything else you can get your hands on. This will clue you in to current trends in publishing, authors, and some of the literary world's movers & shakers. Also, if you school's library subscribes to Publishers Weekly, read it cover to cover (it's too expensive for an individual to subscribe). Also keep on top of literary journals or genre magazines, if you want to work in genre publishing. Again, your school's library will probably subscribe to some of these. Others you can find at B&N, Borders, and other large bookstores.
www.publishersmarketplace.com has a job board--check it out every now and then, even if you're not ready to job hunt, just to see what kinds of qualifications publishers are looking for and to see if any other publishing positions interest you.
HarperCollins, and perhaps a couple other publishers, has (or had) a "rotational apprenticeship" program, where newbies to publishing can work a few weeks in many different functions to decide where exactly they want to settle down. You might give this a try, as well.
If you're in New York, see if you can line up some informational interviews with editors at your favorite publishers. It might not land you a job, but you'll be able to find out more about the profession and how to get into it.
And while most applicants for EA positions will be English majors, don't feel constrained to that. If you take plenty of English classes but major in something else, and end up applying for a position publishing books about that field, you'll have a leg up. This is most relevant to non-fiction publishing, of course, but could have applications in fiction, as well. Also, it would be really great if you have strong foreign-language skills, especially Spanish. More and more publishers are pubbing in both English and Spanish these days, and the ability to talk about your books in both languages is a major advantage.
Like I said, publishing is a very competitive field, even though the pay is diddly-squat. Anything you can do to make your resume stand out is important. An internship is necessary. I've given you some ideas for what you can do on top of that. Persevere! I love my job as an assistant editor and can't think of any other job I'd be happy in.
Best of luck to you!
Answered By: Elissa - 2/6/2008