At the end of October, I went back to Warwick to help out at a Careers Fair, representing Creative Access through whom I got my first publishing internship. I spoke to students about how Creative Access are helping BAME candidates into creative industries (yes to representation!) but also publishing in general.
I wrote an introductory blog post on publishing a few years ago but I’ve been wanting to do something a bit more focused for a while and it feels like the right time!
Publishing is competitive, especially in editorial where I now work. It has been historically difficult to get into and has traditionally been a middle-class, white and London-centric industry (hence the need Creative Access). This is *still* a fairly accurate description, but don’t let that put you off. But where do you start?
Do you need an English degree?
Most publishing jobs do require a degree, but it doesn’t mean you have to have an English degree. Some jobs may be more suited to some degrees (e.g. design) but for a lot of roles (e.g. editorial) your skills are more important. Can you proofread? Do you have a good eye for detail? Can you work well under pressure?
Plus, you can always do short courses such as proof-reading or copyediting to fill gaps if your degree hasn’t covered the skills you need.
Do you need a Master’s in Publishing?
Having opted out of doing an MA my opinion is biased, but only a little. Most people in the industry have not studied publishing and you don’t need to have a Master’s in Publishing (and it’s not very widely offered at UK unis).
However, if you are interested in doing one, an MA teaches you about different departments and processes in publishing, courses often look at the big picture with regards to the industry and will usually include work experience with a publisher. A Publishing MA will put you in good stead to start your career but it’s not a requirement.
Do Some Research
I knew that I wanted to work with children’s books from day one, either in editorial or in marketing. Although it’s taken almost three years to get here, my work experience was focused, I’ve kept up to date with children’s publishers and I haven’t felt aimless.
Which books would you want to work with? Find the publishers that publish these books. A very easy way to do this is to look at a book you like and check the copyright page for the publisher’s details.
What job do you want within publishing? Editorial is an obvious choice but there are many options. The Bookseller’s My Job in 5 gives a good insight into publishing jobs as does the Prospect’s website. Work experience is also a good way to get an idea of what job you’d like.
How do I get work experience?
Work experience was my route into the industry and looks great for an entry-level application. These are usually short placements (1-2 weeks) that give a flavour of the company, a sense of what a department is like and importantly, the opportunity to ask questions.
Most large publishers and lots of smaller publishers offer work experience placements but it can feel a bit overwhelming to start looking for them. I would advise researching publishers and checking systematically on whether they offer work experience. Check their websites, under their ‘About Us’ or ‘Jobs’ section they will have information on work experience and internships.
Most publishers will also advertise work experience through social media sites, so start following publishers, big and small, on twitter – they often have job specific twitter accounts dedicated to advertising jobs and internships. Another great twitter account and blog to follow is @pubinterns who frequently retweet work experience placements, internships and entry-level vacancies. I have genuinely found loads of opportunities through twitter adverts.
Penguin consistently have 2-week work experience placements and the candidates are randomly selected. Their application window for January to March 2020 is open and you can sign up *now* for work experience here. Penguin now pay their work experience folk, but I don’t believe most places do, though they will cover a certain amount for travel and lunch.
Some Internships to Highlight
Internships are longer than a couple of weeks and often more focused, sometimes involving a project. These are a bit harder to find and as they’re longer, they are usually paid. Big red flag for anyone who expects you to work for a significant amount of time without pay – yes, this is a problem in the industry. The following are some particular good opportunities, though applications might not be open yet.
Creative Access: This is a company that aims to provide access to BAME candidates to creative industries, however, they do share opportunities that are available to anyone.
Hachette, Fresh Chapters: There are two placements on offer here; an 8-week internship and a 12-month BAME internship
HarperCollins, The Graduate Scheme and The BAME Traineeship: These are 18-month and 12-month grad schemes respectively, where you shuffle through different departments. The application form is anonymous, they pick two candidates every year and though it’s tough, it’s a fantastic opportunity.
Penguin, The Scheme: This is aimed to attract people who aren’t from a traditional publishing background, it’s anonymous, it doesn’t require a degree, English or otherwise and is a 6-month placement across different teams.
Lots of people in publishing often have a background in bookselling. This can be a great stepping stone towards publishing. It’s a job that helps you gather skills, but also shows a passion for books and gives you an insight into what is popular, what kind of trends there are and what the market is like.
Looking for Entry Level Jobs
You are unlikely to find publishing jobs on the standard job sites and recruitment agencies, your best bet is to follow publishers on social media, sign up for job alerts and checking their websites regularly.
The Bookseller is an industry-specific news website which is good to follow in general but they you can also search for jobs here and sign up to their job alert newsletter.
Show Your Passion for Books
This is going to sound cliched, but it’s true – you need to show that you’re passionate about books whether you are applying for jobs or work experience. For example, having had no previous experience in children’s books, I recently started working in children’s editorial. Apart from skills and publishing experience, I have a passion for children’s books. I follow industry news and know the market, I walk around bookshops to see what’s trending and I can tell you why children’s publishing in particular is something I’ve wanted to work in.
So you can’t just read the books that you love, you need to engage with the industry. Go to author events, attend literary festivals, join a book club. The Society of Young Publishers is a good organisation to follow; they hold career talks, book clubs and panel discussions on publishing jobs.
And finally, blogging is a great way to show your passion; I’ve had my blog on my CV and on my LinkedIn profile for years now and it often comes up in interviews. It’s something I love doing, I do it regularly and it’s a hobby that allows me to share my passion, so why not show potential employers that?
This post ended up being way longer than I planned but I don’t want to miss anything important out. If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments!