For anyone within or interested in a career in publishing, the term “The Big 5” is very well known. This refers to the major five publishing companies: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. This link shows the further breakdown of these houses by their imprints, and really demonstrates how dominant The Big 5 really are in the industry.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2016 and 2026 there will be little to no change for the employment of editors. This is good and bad. It is good because there will be some form of job security and the number of editors is not declining. However, it is also bad because since the industry will not grow, and companies will not hire more than they need, creating an incredibly competitive job market. That’s something that must be made aware to anyone interested in publishing: it’s very competitive. This means that you must not be picky with it comes to looking for internships or jobs.
As with any industry, having a job with the top companies has multiple benefits, but as a result, it is increasingly difficult to secure a job with them. In my first year of searching for internships, the summer after my freshman year of college, I went in with a naivety that I regret. I thought that if I applied solely to The Big 5 companies, I would get an internship, and they would continue to ask me back until I was offered a job. That is, in fact, not what happened, and I can’t imagine this being anyone’s story.
That summer, I was able to land a fantastic internship with BookEnds Literary Agency, and I loved every minute. The next summer, I wasn’t so lucky in the publishing world, but I looked for other internships to build my resume in any way that I could. I worked with a travel agent that summer, and gained knowledge in multitasking, organization, working intimately with Mac softwares, communicating professionally (in Italian) with hotels, car companies, tour guides, ticket booking agencies, etc. Then the next summer I landed another amazing internship with The Overlook Press on the editorial side of publishing. Now, in my senior year of college, I will add a fourth internship to my resume, doing book production with the UMass Press.
What I’m saying is this: all is not lost if you don’t land an internship or your first job with one of The Big 5 companies. In fact, it can actually end up being better. Smaller companies can sometimes teach you more and be more hands on. You’re also exposed to more branches of the company than you would be at one of The Big 5, giving you a more rounded experience.
The knowledge I gained at my internships over the years, even the one not in publishing, I wouldn’t trade. Make the most out of every situation, because you never know what will happen in the future.