What Skills Do You Need to Get an Entry Level Publishing Job?
If you’re looking for an entry level publishing job then there are a few skills you need to develop. As well as a few personality traits, such as perseverance.
In terms of the skills below, these are quickly developed in your own time regardless of if you’re working or not. They also apply to all areas of publishing. So if you want to get into editorial or sales or design, then all of these skills will help.
For more advice on how to get an entry level publishing job visit the Publishing Hopeful’s Toolkit.
Skills You Need to Get an Entry Level Publishing Job
Communication is an obvious skill required in an industry that deals with words, language, and storytelling every day. However, what I think of when I think of communication within publishing, also applies to having the confidence to speak up with your ideas in meetings. I see too many entry level publishers coming in and saying nothing. We need new ideas every day, every opinion genuinely matters and you need to build that confidence early to avoid missing out on opportunities.
Before you enter the industry, you can work on your communication both online and in person. This involves going to book events or networking events to meet and talk to people, chatting on Twitter or Q&As online, and reviewing what others are saying as well. It’s a key skill you need to have, even if you’re an introvert or naturally shy. Strong communication applies to emails, one-on-ones, and large-group meetings.
Time management & Organisation
There is so much going on, on a daily basis in the publishing industry. I get over 100 emails a day which I have to file, reply to, think about etc. I have to manage my time effectively and stay on top of everything so I don’t miss deadlines, opportunities, or key author care moments.
At entry level, you’ll probably get more emails than me because you’ll be in direct touch with more people as an assistant than I am as a Head of Fiction Marketing. My job is now tailored and quite niche; people come to me about specific things. When you’re an assistant people come to you about everything. When are meetings happening? Where can I find this material? Have you minuted the meeting and sent round those minutes etc.
You need to keep on top of everything from calendars, note-taking, meetings, and training.
Before you arrive you need to have a solid to-do system ready to go. I used to use pen and paper until I realised I was losing my notes on a regular basis and not completing the tasks effectively as they weren’t in order of priority. I now use Outlook Calendar and the Outlook To-Do so I can link up the two. Other sites I’ve used and recommend are Trello boards for To-Do lists and programs like Monday and Asana.
I would also recommend reading books on different methods of organisation and time management. There are so many different ways to manage your time and you have to find the one that suits you. Books I recommend include Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky and Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo.
A slightly unique skill to have, but it’s going to come in handy so much. You would expect entry level workers to get a certain amount of training. However, there is usually very little and it’s over very quickly, so you’ll have to be self-motivated to find the answers you need.
This is the biggest skill I had to develop when I started in the industry. People don’t know to help you unless you ask and you can’t develop unless you put the time in without being asked. And there is a level of silent expectation in publishing that is ever-present, so you need to motivate yourself constantly otherwise it’s likely others will judge you for not just getting on with ‘it’.
To develop self-motivation my biggest recommendation used to be to start some sort of side hustle. Be it a YouTube or TikTok channel, a blog, or a bookstagram. But my opinion of side hustles is changing. Now I think pushing yourself to send out tailored job applications, reading widely to better understand the industry, and networking with publishing professionals develops your self-motivation just as well.
Creativity & Understanding
And finally, creativity and understanding. I’ve grouped these two together because they go hand-in-hand. You need to have a level of creativity that is applicable to the publishing industry. That means knowing about TikTok and Instagram if you’re in Marketing and PR. Looking at books on shelves in Waterstones and supermarkets, not just as ‘books’ but as different genres and different designs etc.
You need to start seeing what is going on in the world of publishing around you and start to develop your own ideas and opinions. For me in marketing and PR that meant reading the copy on ads really closely, taking photos of ads that inspired you on the tube/train and online. Also reading reviews in different magazines and getting a sense of which magazines review what and when etc.
Having creativity and understanding will help you so much in the early days of your publishing career.
Those are my top suggestions for some of the skills needed to get an entry level publishing job. There are others such as confidence, being a team player, being passionate and hard-working. But the above are my top recommendations to focus on.
I hope this post was helpful in your journey to get an entry level publishing job. Let me know if you have any requests for further publishing advice or content in the comments below.