Last weekend, I attended The Literary Consultancy’s course ‘Get a Job in Publishing’, designed for graduates, first-time jobbers and more experienced professionals who want to change their industry. The course offered insight into the various routes into publishing careers – traditional and controversial – and included some excellent, inspiring speakers from a variety of backgrounds. The whole weekend was incredibly well-organised and very informative.
This event was organised by The Literary Consultancy, headed by Aki Schilz, an influential woman who started a career in publishing before realising that she would prefer to help authors and the people who make authors’ careers. Aki is a great inspiration to many publishing hopefuls; she offered insights into some of the world surrounding publishing and ran a very successful course.
The speakers involved were mostly ex/current directors or publishers from various imprints of Hachette. The main three were Jessica Killingley, James Spackman and Jason Bartholomew. Each of them represented a different area of publishing; Jessica the marketeer, James the salesman and Jason focusing on rights and finance. The guest speakers included Bryony Gowlett, Sharmaine Lovegrove, Hamza Jahanzeb and author Chris Cleave. Each of them gave insight into their various departments, as well as telling us their publishing journeys.
My best bits
Aside from the networking at lunch and in the breaks, my best bit was hearing Hamza discuss his entry into publishing. His story inspired the entire room, as he relayed going to China to work, learn Mandarin and do internships, completing four internships and finally getting a job at Pan Macmillan in the UK.
I also loved hearing from Jessica about marketing, as well as talking to her directly about the department and what they look for in applications for assistants and executives. I liked having a proper insight of what you could expect in a trade fiction publishing house in a marketing department, so that I could see how closely it aligns with what I am currently doing in scientific publishing. It was great to learn that I am learning the right systems and completing similar activities.
I also absolutely loved hearing Sharmaine’s story; she is one of my biggest inspirations now for the incredible work she is doing to get representation for unheard authors. Dialogue Books is her new venture within Hachette and they will be bringing stories from BAME, disabled, and other underrepresented authors to our world. She makes me very excited to be joining the publishing world at this moment.
What I took from it
I took a lot from this course. It is, of course lovely to hear that moving between industries and departments is possible, but it was a little frustrating for many of us in the room who already feel that they are communicating their transferable skills properly, yet still losing out to those who have completed multiple internships. What I took from this part is that you need to attempt to have as many similar skills as possible; go and be trained in various areas, do a proofreading course or a marketing diploma to prove you are serious about this career and to increase your skill set. I feel that it is very important to note that if you have use in work, or taught yourself to use systems used in publishing houses, then you will be at a distinct advantage.
Having a true understanding of the job you are going to be doing is a massively important takeaway; if you’re going for an editorial assistant position, make note of the job description – if it doesn’t say you’re going to be working directly with texts and practising editing, then don’t say ‘I look forward to working with texts and editing them/meeting with authors’, etc. in your covering letter or interview. These are points to note about your goals and what you hope to gain from this job. For example, an applicant for a marketing assistant position might say ‘I hope to gain invaluable experience from assisting with social media duties and providing administrative support, so that I can eventually apply this when I run future campaigns as a marketing executive or manager’.
Finally, I took away from it that there are many entries into the publishing world and that there is nothing wrong with any of them. Book selling is a massively useful skill for publishers, as is reviewing books, working in customer-facing roles and understanding people.
Oh, and there is nothing wrong with wanting your boss’ job. When they ask where you see yourself in 10 years, or what is your long-term goal, saying that you want to be them and do their job is both flattering and shows real ambition as well as a desire to work for that company and brand for a long time.
Overall, I really enjoyed the course. It was suitable and appropriate for people with next to no knowledge of publishing, whilst not being too basic for those of us with some understanding already. I loved the interview role play, the dos and don’ts for cover letters and the interactivity throughout the whole weekend, being invited to comment on or ask questions about any of what they said. The only improvements I would recommend would be to have a CV structuring session, so that people could understand how to structure and present, whether to use images or colour to reflect some personality and how best to write those bullet points explaining what you currently do in your job. Aside from that, it was excellently organised, offered great insight into the world of publishing and made people a lot more confident about their ability to get a job in publishing!