I was at the Borough Book Bash in January, chatting away with some lovely people about their roles in events in publishing and generally having a good old time with a cocktail and a smile. Skip forward a few days and one of those lovely events people turns out to be the newly appointed UK chair of the Society of Young Publishers. So, why is this important?
Quite simply put, it’s only important if you want it to be. What this means to me is that next year when I apply to join the SYP committee, I will have already made a connection with various committee members. As long as I keep meeting them at events and reminding them of my existence, the more likely they are to remember my name when they read my application. Therefore, the fact that I have met these people and we get on could have a positive influence further down the line.
They can also be great contacts for jobs, reading your job applications and having connections which could develop into being friends simply by your shared interest in books. Now, I understand that not everyone enjoys networking and I too get anxious even thinking about having to attend these events and meet new people and pray that they like me. However, I still show up, chat and make the effort and after just attending a few events, I already have people whom I know will probably attend and I am now comfortable enough to drop them a message before an event so I know who I’m going to see there.
More than this, though, is the connections that each individual may have within the publishing industry. They may be currently working for the Editorial Director at Hachette Children’s. You may apply for the new Editorial Assistant position within the imprint. If you have connected with that person at an event and communicated your love of editorial and children’s books, they are a lot more likely to put your application through to interview based solely on a conversation that you have had at an event.
Similarly, if that person has been given a bad impression of you, they are a lot less likely to consider you for the job. Publishing people are not in any way vindictive, and if you’ve written the perfect cover letter and have all the relevant experience, they will more than likely put you through for an interview, but could be asked at any time for their general impression of you. So it’s simple; just be nice and don’t underestimate the amount of people one person can know, and the amount of people those people can know. Book publishers are big companies in a small(ish) industry; everybody knows everybody.
When any young aspiring publisher/editor/book publicist attends these events, they will all have their own personal agenda, which is okay. But do not distance yourself from the possibility of just making a friend by focusing too heavily on what they can do for you and if they could help you get a job or freelance opportunity. The first question asked when someone meets someone new at a publishing event is “what do you do?”. Take this opportunity to talk about your goals. Tell that person if you’re in marketing but desire an editorial career; let them know if you feel like you’re working in the wrong part of publishing. We have all been there, and some will be in the same position as you.
After this, just chat. Chat about books, your job, unpaid internships or something else entirely and chat about holidays, dogs, takeaways and make friends. Obviously keep it professional to some degree, but just don’t be afraid to open up a little and be yourself because someone is bound to like you. Once you have those connections, they don’t go away either. Don’t feel like you can’t reach out to somebody after six months because you haven’t seen them in a while. If you’re applying for the assistant role they’re being promoted from, they might be more than happy to help you out.