#WorkinPublishing: Moving from academic to trade

If you hadn’t noticed by now on Twitter, I have made the proud leap from academic publishing to trade fiction publishing in the last couple of weeks. While I fully enjoyed academic, especially the resources and training, there’s nothing quite like understanding every word you’re reading and getting excited about tweeting for books you absolutely love. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I’m going to give you my top tips for moving from academic into trade, including some key things to be aware of.

Firstly, a little bit about me:

  1. I completed a Publishing and English undergraduate degree at Loughborough University in 2017
  2. I joined the Mark Allen Group in magazine and journals publishing in September 2017
  3. I left to pursue marketing in publishing, joining Springer Nature in April 2018
  4. I have recently left Springer to pursue marketing in trade publishing, joining Canelo in July 2019 as Marketing and Publicity Executive

During that time, I joined the Society of Young Publishers, attending many events and networking with lots of people. I represented Springer Nature for BookMachine events, spreading the word. More recently, I took part in the SYP Ahead mentorship scheme from September last year which helped massively in progressing to my current role. I also joined the SYP London committee in January as the Communications Officer. I have run this fairly successful book reviews blog since 2017.

With all this in mind, my first tip for moving into trade publishing is:

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH TRADE PUBLISHING

Just because you’re not currently working with the bestselling fiction and non-fiction in the UK, doesn’t mean that you can’t be actively involved in the industry in other ways. No employer will take somebody seriously who wants to move into the industry but isn’t aware of movements and trends in the industry.

How to keep in touch?

  • Subscribe to The Bookseller emails and read the daily updates; this keeps you in the know about publishing as a business which is VERY important
  • Subscribe to publishers’ newsletters and emails and read them weekly to know what’s coming out and which books are big
  • If you’re somewhere the SYP have a branch (London, Oxford, South East, North, Scotland), join us and attend events, follow us on Facebook and Twitter where we live-stream from events so you can keep in touch with us even if you can’t be with us physically
  • Follow book reviews blogs to see the biggest books, as they will often have blog tours and be reviewed many times around publication date
  • Attend bookish events; Waterstones have PLENTY of events on wherever you are in the country, so go to book signings, author panels and understand the way these work and listen to authors speak about their relationships with publishers and agents

Tip no.2

USE THIS INFORMATION IN SOME WAY

So, you’re keeping in touch with the industry and know what’s going on. So what? Using the information you’re gathering to express your opinion and stance on industry goings on is a great way of showing publishers that you are serious about this industry.

Ways of using the information include:

  • Creating a book blog/podcast/book tube/bookstagram to express your opinion on books; becoming a reviewer in any of these formats is an excellent method of letting people know what you like to read
  • Being involved in Twitter discussions; while less tangible, actively engaging on Twitter can show publishers just how serious you are about working in publishing and will give them an idea of your voice and whether you’d be right for their company
  • Have public conversations about it; when attending an event, network and converse with others about your opinions and things, if you’re at a panel ask an interesting question – these things do not go unnoticed

Tip no.3

MAXIMISE THE SKILLS IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE

Basically, work as hard as you can in the job you’re in. Just because it’s not necessarily where you want to be, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excelling at work. If you’re in a big company, like Springer, there will be multiple training and development opportunities, so utilise them while you can. I personally became a Google Analytics expert, took Excel courses, as well as self-organisation, multi-tasking and basic marketing skills development courses all which allowed me to become a more analytical marketer, which helped me get my trade publishing role.

Ways to do this:

  • Take on any and all opportunities of interest to you; say YES to things
  • Take advantage of any training and development assets
  • Do your work to the best of your ability and secure yourself an excellent reference
  • Get yourself organised and learn to multi-task, as you will need this in trade

TIPS FOR ACADEMIC TO TRADE

Specifically looking at academic to trade publishing movement, it is important to consider what you’re doing now that may be similar to trade publishing.

In marketing, social media will almost always be used in every role, whether organic or promoted. If you don’t get to use this at work, set up a bookstagram and try boosting a post for £5 over 2 days, practising targeting options and finding a niche audience. Read up on social media advertising and how it works, specifically considering ways you would promote books using it. If in academic, you’ll probably be using this already and it is very similar. Practise at every opportunity!

Pro tip: Amazon Advertising (AMS) is like a simplified version of Google Adwords. The targeting is more simplified, but it is similar in that you’re targeting solely using the products placed on Amazon, then using keyword or product targeting to reach your audience. The best thing about it? You get direct sales results.

Copy-writing is the same no matter what your role, the product or industry. PRACTISE at every opportunity. While I wrote tweets for scientific research articles at Springer, I would practise making them as relatable as possible to both academics and the general public. I am now writing tweets about fiction books, which is more free and creative, but the voice I developed in my previous role has helped exponentially.

Think about the ways traditional publishers are organised;

Hachette (overall company)
Hodder & Stoughton, Little Brown, Hachette Children’s (big imprints)
John Murray Press, Dialogue Books, Pat a Cake (sub-divisions)
Books (products)

For my team at Springer, it was

Springer (overall company)
Nature, Springer, Macmillan (big journals/imprints)
Scientific Reports, Nature Communications (journals/sub-divisions)
Collections of articles (products)

Being able to identify this made it SO much easier to explain to interviewers, most of whom had never worked in academic publishing. Figure it out for the team you’re currently in, and identify what you’re working on/promoting that is the main ‘product’ so you can relate it to a book.

The main thing to remember going into trade is that you’re working with CONTENT, they are working with CONTENT and being able to identify how you’re currently working with it versus how they are currently working with it is essential.

KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES. If a job ad suggests working with Amazon advertising, research it, but know that it will be something you’ll need teaching. When an interviewer asks if you’d need support in any areas, this isn’t them trying to catch you out; this actually means they’re probably considering you for the job and you should answer honestly.

So, this has been longer than I expected it to be, but there it is. My main tips for moving roles. Also, do not be hesitant to move from assistant – assistant level if moving up isn’t working for you. Once they realise how competent you are, you could be promoted in no time!

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