What’s it like Working in Publishing? | Part 1

what's it like working in publishing part 1

What’s it like Working in Publishing | Part 1

A few weeks ago I offered to answer any questions people had about working in the publishing industry, and today I am going to answer them as best as I can.

This post will be in two parts with the second part going up in a few days time. So if you asked a question and can’t see the answer it will in the following post.

Quick disclaimer: All opinions are my own and do not reflect on any of the companies I have previously worked for, or am currently working for.  

Question 1: How much prior experience did you have before applying for jobs, and how much applying did you have to do before you got anything?

A good question to start with and one that is going to have a LOOONNNGGGG answer! *grab a cuppa tea*

I first decided to get into publishing in my third year of university (2016). I didn’t know what I wanted to do, i.e. editorial or publicity, but I knew a little about literary agencies as I am also a writer and have previously submitted to agencies and so have done my research on them.

As such, I thought I would try a literary agency first and I was very lucky to apply for an internship and get it.

I’m not going to lie, it helped that my university was close to London and I could commute into the city fairly easily – honestly, if you don’t live near London, Oxford of Edinburgh it can be tough to get experience in publishing and you have to be a bit creative. More on this later though.

Anyway, I worked at the agency for one day a week for 6-7 months and it was great. I did a lot of filing, handling submissions, went to the London Book Fair and generally got a great overview of working in a literary agency.

When the internship ended I went on an email-sending spree and got a work experience placement for two weeks at Penguin Random House in a publicity department of one of their imprints. By this point I was pretty sure I wanted to work in publicity; I had a blog, a Twitter following, I hate grammar (editorial went out the window there) and I love talking about books.

Once this placement finished I moved home and it was tough. From April 2016 to July 2016 I applied for 60+ jobs and heard back from 7. Four of those were rejections and three of them were interviews. One of which was for a 3-month unpaid internship, another was an entry-level editorial job at legal publisher and the third interview was for a publishing recruitment agency.

I went with the recruitment agency because the other two were nowhere near what I wanted to do and I am thrilled that I did! People don’t realise it but working in publishing recruitment is a brilliant way to gain experience in publishing! I learnt everything about the different sectors of the industry i.e. Trade, B2B and Educational publishing. I learnt about the different skills required, salaries, how best to get experience and I met a ton of lovely people.

I was in this job for 8 months and I only left because I saw my dream job and was lucky enough to get it.

Top Tip: Don’t discount working in a publishing recruitment!

So, in summary, after getting a 6-month unpaid internship, a two-week work experience placement and working a lot on my own social media and transferable skills (i.e. blogging, coding, designing etc) I started applying for full-time and part-time roles. Then a stint in publishing recruitment led me to my current job as a Marketing and Publicity Executive in digital publishing.

Question 2: What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you before a) you started applications and b) started working in publishing?

A) To update your CV regularly, and I don’t just mean with new references or new jobs but with transferable skills. If you want to work in publicity/marketing highlight that you have 1000+ Twitter followers or a growing Instagram or a blog. If you want to work in editorial mention that you have a book blog, have previously edited fiction or non-fiction at university or college or took a course on copywriting. Fill your CV with skills that a publishing house is looking for, including administrative experience, then you will get noticed.

Highlight: My personal social media experience was the reason I got all four of my internships/jobs. My work experience mattered but not as much as my social media.

B) I wish someone had told me how much socialising comes into publishing. There’s not a party every week but there are seminars, events, conferences, book fairs, festival appearances, book signings and yes, parties. You need to be confident in yourself and able to socialise without being awkward or drunk.

Top Tip: Don’t get drunk at a work’s party.  The last thing you want is to be escorted from a party, by your boss, because you’ve drunk too much. *lifts hand slowly* (Luckily for me it was a proper party, but I won’t be doing it again).

Questions 3: Any tips on overcoming the initial fear of applying and also what are the key things to put in an application?

Okay, top tips for getting over your fear: if there is a job going and you match the criteria and think you have the skills to apply, then go for it. As I said in my previous answer, getting a response from a job application is actually fairly rare and whilst this is disheartening just keep applying. Something will come up eventually.

As for key things to include, as I said above: transferable skills! Obviously, include all of your work experience that is relevant. If you worked in a garden centre – like I did – for five years you don’t need a summary of everything you did in that job. Simply write your job role, the length of time you were there and where it was. If you have work experience in publishing then go into detail about what you did! Be it administrative tasks such as filings, mailings, scanning etc to attending a book fair or events.

Also include references, your education – going back only as far as GCSE’s (as in English and Maths, not Drama or Psychology unless applicable to the role). Include your grades – I once got caught out at an interview as I hadn’t include my grades for A Level and they thought I had failed (I hadn’t, but obviously it didn’t look great on my CV either).

Your name and contact details! So many people used to forget their email address or phone numbers on CVs at my recruitment job. How are people meant to get in touch if you don’t include these details?!

Question 4: I am looking to change careers, at the moment I work in hospitality but have a 2:1 in English Literature. How do I go about starting to apply for jobs within the publishing field & what sort of things might I have to do beforehand?

Ooh, this is an interesting one. I used to get a lot of phone calls from people at my recruitment job asking about changing careers and moving into publishing and I am not going to lie it is difficult. There are a ton of people with experience looking for roles that are struggling but it is not impossible.

You need to get experience. And I don’t mean unpaid internships – because you probably have bills to pay and already have a job – but getting administrative experience in any industry can be helpful. Also temping! If you already have administrative experience then a publishing recruitment company can probably help you through offering your temporary roles to gain experience which can possibly lead to a full-time job. This is not always that appealing to people but it is pretty much paid work experience within publishing.

Also, I have said before (I am a broken record today) get some transferable skills! Start a blog, build up your twitter, take a course on copywriting or photography or coding, attend events run by the SYP (Society of Young Publishers) or BookMachine. Go to the London Book Fair, Book Festivals etc.

Top Tip: Show an active interest in the industry and the industry will be interested in you!

It might take a while to take change from one industry to another, and it might even involve a little bit of job gambling, but it can be done.

For more Q&A and details about working/getting into publishing keep an eye on my blog! I will post part 2 of this Q&A on Monday at 8 am.

If you have any other questions comment below or tweet me @ElliePilcher95 and I will do my best to answer them.

Love Ellie x

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