I am writing to you to let you know how the next year of your life could be. I also want you to know that just because you haven’t got onto the Penguin scheme, or an internship with Hachette, that there are other ways to integrate yourself into the book world, while working in similar roles to get that all important foot in the door of publishing.
Congratulations, you’ve graduated! You’ve got a degree and you know the industry in which you want to work. Give yourself a round of applause; many graduates have absolutely no idea, so you’re already a step ahead. But now you’ve got to figure out how to step into the publishing industry. So take the most basic steps to begin with:
- Get reading NEW books! Publishers want to be impressed by somebody who not only has memorised their list, but who has read some of their books published in the last 2 years. It shows market awareness and a willingness to follow the trends.
- Look at your location; are you living in or out of London/Oxford? Research publishers in your area, but don’t restrict yourself. Getting a job in any creative industry can benefit you when looking to get into publishing. Getting office experience should be your no.1 priority if you don’t have much.
- If you live in London/can afford it, check out the internships route. But, be warned: there are just as many candidates competing for those internships, so don’t expect it to be much easier.
- Join the Society of Young Publishers, subscribe to The Bookseller, follow your local bookshops and socialise within the industry! Attend book launches, where there’s always at least 2-3 members of the team who worked on the book. Plus, you often get free drinks and nibbles. Attend author talks and mingle because many people in the audience will be working in the industry or authors.
So what could realistically happen over the next twelve months?
Well, you could get a job in book publishing right away, it be great and live happily ever after! But for the 99.99% of you who will not get the first, or even fiftieth job you apply for, what could be in store for you? Honestly, everything. You will discover more kinds of publisher than you ever knew existed before. You will learn more about books, the different departments and where you would best fit in to the industry. But how will you do this?
Get a job in the role you want, rather than focusing on the company. Yes, everyone wants to work for Penguin or Harper Collins, and who can blame them? But not everyone can, at least not right away. Working for a publisher, whether academic, scientific, trade, fiction, non-fiction, independent or huge, will look good to other publishers. So, focus on figuring out which area you’d like to work in; if you don’t enjoy publicity for an educational publisher, chances are you won’t like it in a trade fiction publisher either.
If you already know what you want to do, then take courses. There are lots of free courses that you can take, and lots of expensive ones too if you can afford it. I know; the publishing degree was meant to be the only course you would need, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work like that. Check out free tutorials on Microsoft Excel, content marketing, email marketing, Google Analytics, PhotoShop and much more which can only help boost your career possibilities.
Remember: other companies can train you in everything you need. Do not turn down a marketing job because it’s not for a publisher if they have online training you can do in your own time; this is your chance to learn all the right skills while earning money. If after six months, you then see a vacancy at a publishing house, then you’ll be able to apply knowing much more than you did before.
BUT: be prepared for rejection, and potentially lots of it!! Publishing is insanely competitive and you will be rejected from at least a few jobs. You might be one of the lucky few who are invited to interview and lose out then, which can be more crushing. When I say be prepared, I mean for your mental health. Do not take this lightly; you need a good support group during this process and to talk about how you’re feeling post-rejection. But seriously, take a job in another kind of company if you need the money to get by, or if you simply need to take a break! It will not be looked down on by anyone in the industry.
And, even though it’s hard and horrible: DON’T WORK FOR FREE! Do NOT take unpaid internships; they should at least cover your travel and food expenses if they’re not offering you a salary for the time you’re there. You may think you’ve not got anything to offer, so why would they pay you, but you MUST value yourself always. Unpaid work is called work experience and should last no more than two weeks!
What if you have a job in the industry?
- Be kind to publishing hopefuls. You were just like them and they are working just as hard as you did to get the job you’re in, so be humble and offer as much advice as possible.
- Keep going to events and making connections. Just because you have the job doesn’t mean it’s where you’re going to be forever, so keep in mind all of the above advice and keep in mind where you want to be in the future. Don’t get complacent for too long.
- Don’t assume that because it’s a big deal at your publisher that it is industry-wide. Always explain to people what’s going on in your job and what your latest exciting acquisitions are, as we will always be interested.
The main piece of advice I can give all publishing graduates is to integrate themselves in the industry; make friends and connections and be nice to everybody. Be open and honest about your intentions within the industry and people will be more than willing to proof read your CV and cover letter, send you job vacancies they see that you’d be interested in and will be genuinely excited to hear any good news.
Take a job at a magazine/journal/medical/newspaper publisher and just do your best to own that job while learning all you can to move into the book industry at some point. I was in your position a year ago, and now I’m a marketing assistant for the world’s biggest scientific journal, have plenty of close connections in the industry and lots of people who will read my CV/cover letter and support my journey as I support theirs.