Ways to Get into the Publishing Industry
I have a unique story when it comes to my career growth in the publishing industry. I started interning at a literary agency when I was 20 years old, I did a brief work experience placement and then I got a full-time job in publishing recruitment. From there I went onto a position as Marketing & Publicity Executive, later Campaigns Officer, at a start-up digital publisher. And now, I’m a Marketing Manager at HarperCollins.
I got my latest job at aged 23 – and this is really unusual!
But, when people ask me how to get into publishing there are so many ways to get your foot in the door, and not all of them are obvious.
Internships and Work Experience
The most obvious way to enter the industry is through internships and work experience. Think of internships as long periods of paid work. Work experience is short-term periods of working which should also be paid (more often than not is not!)
I did an unpaid internship for six months. The lack of money wasn’t great, but the learning was invaluable. I also did a 2-week work experience placement at Penguin. They offered me £100 for travel – my travel cost £170 a week… I didn’t eat breakfast or dinner for those two weeks and lost one stone in weight. This was my unseen reality.
Internships and work experience placements are generally offered by the bigger publishers but you should never discount smaller publishers, agencies and wider publishing companies.
People often neglect to contact people outside of trade publishing i.e. Educational publishers, STM publishers or B2B publishers. These are still valid work experience opportunities, even if you want to work with fiction/non-fiction books one day.
Reach out via email – never call, this is just awkward – and talk to as many people as you can on social media.
Grow your brand
I can’t talk about this enough! If you grow your brand – they will come. It’s so cliche and simple but it’s often overlooked for the sake of ‘traditional’ entries into publishing.
I’m talking about having a blog, an Instagram, a podcast, a YouTube channel which references books and publishing. If you work at this, have some success on and are vocal about across social media or at networking events, the publishing industry will notice.
I had a blog which I began at university – first beauty, then books, later lifestyle and careers – this blog was what got me every single one of my jobs for the first four years of my career. In fact, it was only when I got to my current position that my blog wasn’t mentioned during my interview as I had had jobs in the industry by then.
My colleagues have got YouTube channels – hey Claire! – Instagram accounts – Hey Sian and Lauren! – and many of them have blogs to boot.
Not only are you increasing your presence within the community, but you’re also learning valuable skills and putting them out for the world to see, but you’re also invested in the industry through your love of books, publishing, etc. You’re showing you have a voice!
Spend time with other bookish people and you’ll start to grow your presence, as well as your confidence, skillset, and networking abilities.
Think about all the book fairs and festivals that happen around the country. Get the Writer & Artist’s Yearbook and look into them and contact your local festivals and see what you can do to help.
Also, have you ever considered starting your own event? Bookstagram meet-ups or publishers united! Create your own society if you can’t find one that suits you and your desires, I guarantee there are people out there that would join!
As you all know, I’m a hustler. A major hustler in fact. But my hustle has helped my career no end. Not only have I created a personal brand and learned skills, but I’ve also made contacts in other industries that can be used within my publishing career.
I have contact with journalists and editors, which helped with my publicity career. I have attended panels and events to speak, which has allowed me to name-drop my publishing job and the books I’m currently working on.
It’s not just about access and name-dropping though, it’s also about pro-activism and passion. I am very clearly able to show how much passion and pride I put into my side hustles and, as I always tell prospective employers if I’m contracted to work for them think of the passion I would throw into my new job as I only ever take opportunities I genuinely want and therefore will work hard at.
Remember to think outside of the box when it comes to publishing. There is a desire to look at the publishing industry as a small community, but it has a massive outreach and is always looking to grow.
When you’re potentially being hired the person hiring you is not just looking at the jobs you’ve done in publishing they’re looking to see what you can offer their publisher. More often than not, that means extra skills, clear passion and a desire to impress and work hard.