You may, or may not, know that it is #workinpublishing week this week. It’s basically a week where everyone in the publishing industry exchanges wise words and pass on their knowledge to newbie publishers. If you don’t already, go follow Publishing Scotland, Book Careers, Publishing Interns, SYP Scotland, Hachette Careers, Atwood Tate, The Bookseller and, of course, The Publishers Association. There are loads more brilliant Twitter feeds with inspiring career advice but these are some good places to start. I guarantee you there will be loads of brilliant tips for working in the publishing industry. One thing’s for sure, publishers love to tweet.
You may, or may not, also know that I am an MSc Publishing student at Napier University. Being a publishing student isn’t just about assessments and deadlines, it also marks the start of my publishing career. With only one month left of my first trimester and #workinpublishing week in full swing, I can’t think of a better time to reflect on my time as a wannabe publisher and share what little knowledge I’ve gained with you all. A few people have already asked me about applying for publishing courses so I hope this is helpful!
Here are the things I’ve learned so far:
Like I said, publishers love to tweet and Twitter is just one of the many tools you can use to get your name out there. There are hundreds of publishers on Twitter just waiting to hire you so instead of tweeting about your hangover, use it as a versatile CV. Showcase your talents and skills in a fun and personable way and use your social networking sites as a portfolio for your work.
But remember that while Twitter can be your best friend in publishing, it can also be your worst enemy. Be careful what and when you tweet. The same goes for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Don’t lose your personality but maybe filter through some of those embarrassing photos of you during freshers week.
Instead, connect with future colleagues and employers. Engage in conversations about books and magazines. Make new friends. Live tweet any events you attend. Update your feed with projects you’re involved in. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of room for the odd cat meme too.
Network, network, network!
The word that instils fear into every graduate in history: networking. This runs along the same vein as my first point but making connections with future coworkers and bosses seems to be the key to a healthy career in publishing. Even before you’re ready to get a real job, it is never too early to get yourself known in the right circles.
I’ve joined the Society of Young Publishers, which is an amazing organisation for anyone with fewer than ten years experience in publishing, to keep updated with publishing events in my area. As a class, we attended #MagFest16 and are going to London Book Fair in March: all fantastic opportunities to meet new people in the industry, ask questions and impress them with our dazzling personalities and experience.
Know Who You’re Working For
This has been a big thing whenever my classmates and I have asked about CVs and job applications. One size does not fit all when it comes to applying for jobs in publishing. You can’t write a cookie-cutter cover letter and expect your dream employer to come knocking at your door.
Read the job postings – carefully! Explore the company you’re considering working for. What are they good at? What kind of books do they publish? What can you bring to the table? Do you even want to work for them?
If you can answer all these questions then it’s time to tailor your CV to fit that individual role. Make every bit of experience you have sound like it was made for this specific job and company. Cut out the irrelevant crap and focus on what makes you an irresistible candidate.
There’s More to Life Than Editorial
I’ll admit it: when I first considered publishing as a career, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or what it was that I wanted to do. A lot of people don’t actually understand what publishers do and most of us think of publishing books as glamorously editing at a candle-lit desk reading manuscripts through the night.
In reality, there are so many other exciting job opportunities beyond editorial. So far I’ve discovered that I really like marketing but there’s also sales, rights, design, production, distribution… The list is endless and it’s important to be honest with your own skills and nature before choosing your career path. Find out what each role in the publishing process requires and ask yourself if you’re cut out for it. Then curate your experience to suit that career path.
There’s Also More to Life Than The Big 4
Contrary to popular belief, the Big Four (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Hachette) do not publish all the books in the world. There are hundreds of independent, small and awesome publishers to consider working for.
Likewise, there’s more to publishing than fiction. As much as it is my dream to market pretty novels, I am becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities in academic publishing and am even writing a case study on scientific and medical publishing. Learning to be open-minded about my future in publishing is one of the most important things I’ve picked up since starting my course in September. There is no prescribed route to success!
Anyone in a creative industry will read this with a heavy-hearted sigh. We all know what it’s like to work for ‘exposure’ instead of dolla dolla bills. But volunteering and working as an intern is incredibly valuable. The people you will meet and the experience you will gain is too indispensable to pass up. After all, the more you do, the more you can do.
I’ve been so lucky to have briefly worked as a PR intern for the Scottish Writer’s Centre, volunteered as a panellist for the Saltire Society shadow panel and travelled across Edinburgh for the Creative City Challenge. I’m currently undertaking a PR internship at Scottish Book Trust. I’ve been scheduling tweets for the Book Week Scotland Twitter page and editing Author Confession videos for writers like Sarah J Maas and Simon Mayo. All of this has felt more like fun than work, to be honest. The people at SBT are so helpful and welcoming and it has really cemented my desire to work in marketing.
Having said all this, it is also important during #workinpublishing week to remember your value as an employee. Take every experience that you can get and be eternally grateful that busy and important people are willing to show you the ropes. However, set goals and know your worth. Don’t take on free labour if you don’t think you can add value to the project or extract experience and skills from it.