King’s Alumni Offers Advice for Aspiring Editors
King’s students and literary hopefuls gathered in the City Room to hear from 2012 King’s graduate Bria Sandford, who now works as a Senior Editor at Sentinel Publishing, a Penguin Random House affiliate; they were rewarded with transparent answers to questions about how undergraduate studies at The King’s College prepared her for life in the publishing world.
Dubbed by Professor Joshua Kinlaw a “literary VIP”, Sandford’s recent projects at Portfolio and Sentinel Books include large-scale works such as Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option” and NY Times best-selling author General Stanley McChrystal’s “Leaders: Myth and Reality”.
With several of the school’s graduates already in the New York City publishing scene at other companies, Sandford is confident King’s students have proven to be a good fit for the literary world.
Over the course of the meeting, Sandford paired this encouraging word with substantial advice to help those in the room land the dream internship or job at a big time publisher.
“Being a student at King’s feels a lot like working in publishing,” Sandford said. “You're juggling projects like classes, you have to have times of deep focus, you have to work in production.”
As for what drew her to King’s, Sandford gives credit to the Media Culture and the Arts program. The major ’s open electives allowed her to transfer in online classes from her Freshman year at Patrick Henry College. But, it was the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics core that appealed most to Sandford and gave her a leg up as a non-fiction editor of political and economic manuscripts.
“Having a familiarity with the PPE core is huge,” Sandford said. “If you’ve studied Aristotle even a little bit, or Aquinas even a little bit, you've thought about how to organize ideas. You can also recognize big ideas in the marketplace and know where that comes from.”
When asked by Professor Kinlaw to touch on the often overbusy lifestyle of a King’s student, Sandford admitted there were things she would have done differently. As a transfer student hoping to shave off a semester of undergraduate, Sandford balanced extra classes with internships and extracurriculars to ensure she graduated early.
“I learned to prioritize really well because I was really busy, but it was also not good for really learning,” Sandford said. “It wasn’t that urgent that I got a semester off.”
Despite her full schedule, she still made time to do what she loves--read novels.
Shortly after she got to King’s, Sandford adopted novel-reading as a study strategy during finals weeks. “Otherwise I would start to hate my life a little bit,” Sandford explained with a laugh. “My taste for what makes a good paragraph, what makes sense, would deteriorate.”
Touching on internships and hiring, Sandford also gave an inside look at what editors want to see in an applicant. When asked asked how Humanities, PPE, or MCA would compare to each other on an application reviewed by a hiring editor, Sandford gave an encouraging answer.
“Unless you majored in Sports Management, which might disqualify you, there aren't many majors someone in publishing will look at and think, ‘I don't want this person,’” Sandford said. For her personally, she looks for hard workers and a consistently demonstrated interest in editing and publishing.
What Sandford has the most trouble finding is “someone who has grit and is able to combine that with literary interest.” She added that she “also always ask if they’ve had a service job.”
During her time at King’s, Sandford worked one summer to fill apartments with the summer NYC intern program. This kind of detail-oriented job required a certain level of responsibility that gave her credibility with interviewers, she remembered.
Sandford highly recommends internships as the number one way to secure a full-time position at a publishing company, and urged students not to be deterred from applying for fear of going unpaid as an intern.
“[Unpaid internships are] much less often the case now, so don’t be discouraged by that,” Sandford assures. She looks forward to seeing current King’s students add to the already strong presence of alumni working in publishing, and readily offered her assistance to anyone searching for publishers hiring interns.
“There is a good tradition established,” Professor Kinlaw said. “You're all capable of becoming the next big deal.”