Post by Laura Kerley, Employability Adviser for Humanities
I recently attended an ‘Insight into Publishing’ event, run by Hachette UK, the UK’s most diversified trade publishing group. The Hachette UK group includes many autonomous publishing companies, whilst providing some group level support. This combination of big and small proved a fascinating context to gain insight into the publishing industry.
Over the course of the day 60 students from across the UK heard from people working in a range of roles at Hachette and beyond. Speakers ranged from the very experienced (eg. the founder of inclusivity focused Dialogue Books ; and the literary agent of best seller ‘Girl on a Train’), to more recent graduates. But it wasn’t all chalk and talk. In groups, students were given a book genre and in between talks were set tasks to ultimately “create” a book and pitch it at the end of the day. This wasn’t as scary as it may sound – see our very own student view of the day from first year SHU English student, Kate Whittle. The day was rounded off nicely with drinks, socialising and a chance to get CV advice, with quite a backdrop view from the rooftop terrace!
Some key (and sometimes surprising) points about the publishing industry
- It is thriving and the book isn’t dead!
- There is an exciting array of roles available that are open to graduates from any subject. Although editing is critical (and popular), think beyond this to lesser known roles such as Design, Production, Rights&Licensing, Sales, Marketing&Publicity, Distribution and Finance.
- There can be chances to work internationally, particularly in Sales and Rights&Licensing.
- Competing for the ‘leisure pound’ with giants such as Amazon has led the industry to speed up, with distribution working at a particularly high pace.
- There is no set path into the publishing industry. You can certainly spot some patterns (see tips below), but many atypical paths exist. One example is an Animation graduate turned Digital Marketing Manager with a background mainly in music promotion. Another is the founder of a Dialogue Books, who got there via bookselling/being a Production Runner/studying Politics&Anthropology as a mature student and more!
Tips to get into publishing
- Be persistent in trying to get some industry experience via formal work experience/intern schemes and approaching publishers speculatively. However, extended periods of unpaid work experience/shadowing is not expected.
- Paid work that is particularly valued is book selling and office experience outside the publishing industry. Blogging, using Twitter well and reading industry press are also valued.
- Have an open mind about which work experience opportunities and entry level roles to go for. The less glamorous sounding will attract less competition and still be very useful experience.
- Commercial awareness, organisation, team work and communication/negotiation skills are valued for all
- When applying for opportunities don’t waste too much space telling the publishing company how awesome they are; tell them how you can help them be even more awseome!
How to find out more
Join the Society of Young Publishers (not just for young professionals – student membership is £24/yr); they run great events, an online advice forum, a magazine, a jobs database and more. They have a Northern branch that runs fantastic and reachable events.
Get some industry experience. Hachette UK run a work experience scheme and also Fresh Chapters internships. For other opportunities, follow publishers on Facebook/Twitter (the ‘Publishing’ list on @SHUCareersHums is a good place to start). Try a speculative approach with smaller publishers, including those outside London. For help with finding free accommodation for one week in London, visit the Spare Room Project. There is also help from the Book Trade Charity on offer for people looking to get into the industry.
REMEMBER, you can book an appointment with an Employability Adviser for practical support with job search and applications.