Book events: Take advantage!

In 2017, publishing is more competitive than ever before with people wanting to enter the industry from all different angles. It can be frustrating, especially when you believe that you have more interest in something and yet another person gets the job based on an internship or a well-written cover letter. For me, I grew up in the North with exactly zero exposure to the industry. I went to Loughborough University which has exactly zero connections to the industry. But I studied publishing and English. I have known that I want to work in publishing since I was 16 years old, but have never had advice on how to go about it.

If you think it’s like a normal job application, forget it. Your CV must display a demonstrable level of office experience and a certain level of effort to gain experience working with books. Your cover letter must include an explanation of why you like a publisher’s books and their company, proving your research. It must also articulately display why you are right for that job point by point. And you should probably keep it to less than 500 words. It’s tough.

So, what can you do to get ahead if you have no book publishing experience? You can get an office job in London or Oxford, as they are the publishing capitals within England. Once you are located in these areas, it becomes easier for you to meet people in the industry. GO TO EVENTS. I only moved to London a few months ago and understand that you cannot possibly make every single event, but if you want to meet somebody specific, go to an event that they are attending or speaking at. Join the Society of Young Publishers and Book Machine. Go to the London Book Fair, which is free for students and for paying Book Machine members! Your options are endless.

I went to my first SYP networking event recently, and it was incredible. I introduced myself to lots of people, found out where they work and what they do. I even chatted to people about how they got into book publishing. Many did internships and lived with their parents *groan*, however others entered into it through accepting loosely relevant roles in non-publishing companies and applying until they got a break, while attending events.

At SYP and Book Machine events, you never know who you might meet; they could be your next boss, or the hiring manager for a role you’ve applied for. Either way, take advantage of the room full of people stood around you who just want to chat about books and publishing and are more than willing to offer advice, follow you on Twitter and might even offer to give you CV and cover letter feedback.

Do not be scared; I understand that for less extroverted people, it can be terrifying to talk to strangers. My advice is to find another person looking alone and a little lost and do it together. Chances are that they might know somebody! Also, if you are on Twitter, tweet about going to the event, as people might recognise you from your picture on social media and introduce themselves which will make your life much easier. All bookish people are really friendly, so just go in with a smile on your face ready to mingle!

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My NaNo tips

So, NaNoWriMo is nearly over (OH GOD!), and maybe I have not yet written as much, or as quickly as I would have liked. During this month, I have been dealing with a busy month at work as my responsibilities have increased; helping the boyfriend get a new job (SUCCESS!); a bit of family drama; and trying to make it through a 700+ page Stephen King book. Phew, Christmas cannot come quick enough!

I thought that I would share some tips for if you decide to try NaNo next year, or if you do not win this year (there’s still time), but need to get back on the horse.

For new writers:
Practice writing in sprints to get used to writing a bit every day.
Try different methods – 500 words at a time, 2,000 all in one go, 10,000 in a day, etc.
Have realistic goals in terms of your daily life; I have a lot on, as can be seen above, and that’s without competing in pole competitions right now, so I knew I would probably only just succeed (which I still plan on doing)
Read around the genre before you start writing in it
Have a basic plan, including:
Main 5-10 characters
General order of events
3-5 most important events
Any note-worthy conversations
If you are more organised, create a template for yourself to fill weekly.

For current NaNo-ers:
Read through what you have written
Note what you like about it
Note what you don’t like about it
Throw out the negative list
Try again next year – and use the tips above to get yourself going again!

I am currently on less than 30,000 words, but with a weekend to myself, no book events or dance classes, or money to do anything, I can officially sit in and write write write for two days straight. I will be aiming for 10-15,000 words over the course of the weekend.
Remind yourself through this process that nobody else has to see it, and if you want them to eventually, then the edits can come later. The focus of NaNo for me was to get me to finally start writing a novel as I have said I would since I was a child. 50,000 words is certainly not enough for my novel, but it will be a great starting point.
Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t manage to win. Be proud of yourself for trying, and take note of things you could do differently to better manage your time next year.

My week in reading

This weekend has not been very successful in getting much of anything done. Therefore, this week, I aim to blitz my way through the rest of the novel I am currently reading, start reading a new ARC from NetGalley, and read a Walker children’s book.

I am currently reading Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties. I enjoy taking my time with any King novel, as I like to take in the sheer beauty of language used and the raw character elements. I am over halfway through, so this week I aim to complete it.

I have been given permissions to read A Guide for Murdered Children by Sarah Sparrow from Penguin on NetGalley, and am ready to give this one a good read, despite current average reviews.

Last week, I won a children’s book from Walker in a Twitter competition, so am ready to give that one a good read. I am sure it will provide some much-needed relief from the other two more serious books.

I will be continuing with my NaNoWriMo novel, of which I have gotten halfway through (25,000 words).

Speculative applications: what is the point?

If you are interested in applying for publishing jobs, especially at entry level, you will know that the available opportunities are few and far between. Not every ‘editorial assistant’ or ‘marketing assistant’ role matches your skill set, or the potential career progression from a role at one company will differ wildly from that at another. On the larger publishers’ websites you may see a link for speculative applications, or an email address to send a CV to which will consider you for roles for a certain time period. Publishers like Harper Collins and Conde Nast even have talent networks which you can upload your CV to.

You may be thinking ‘what is the point?’ of these kinds of applications; if there is a job role they are recruiting for, it will go live and you will still be competing with the same amount of people, so surely a fresh application will be more beneficial? On the other side, however is the consideration that if you have already registered yourself in their network, you will be on their radar, they might recognise your name and this could help you. It also shows a knowledge of their company that you reached out before there was a job to apply for, and proves that you are interested in their company. These things will always work to your advantage.

The way to see speculative applications is as though you have gone to an event in your region, met with a publisher and given them your business card. They will know who you are, what you do, and that you have a genuine interest in this industry and their company.

Do not shy away from sending speculative emails to their ‘jobs’ emails, also. People prefer not to do this because they think they are pestering and again that if there was a role, surely it would be online, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, they know that they will be putting a job live in coming weeks, but if they receive your email and CV first, and they find it satisfactory, they might choose to interview and hire you without looking elsewhere because it is a lot easier for them. You have just cut their workload in half. Another potential (but less likely) scenario is that they think you are so talented, that they create a new job role specifically for you.

This method of getting your name out there, particularly when you are not based in a location like London or Oxford where there is a different publishing event every week, can be likened to your social media presence. I have spent the last four years denying that Twitter can help, but believe me, you can build a network of contacts you have never met without having to awkwardly email them or sending them a direct message on LinkedIn and praying that they think you are an acceptable contact to have. I have recently been connecting with more and more influential people on Twitter, which I know can only help my future prospects.

Twitter is also an excellent way to get your writing noticed. If you review books on your personal blog, share them on Twitter and TAG the author AND the publisher. They might choose not to read it, but if they do and they like it, they will probably remember you.

Another alternative route into publishing, through alternative applications.

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Getting into publishing: Don’t be afraid of the alternative route.

You’re about to graduate with an English degree, maybe a publishing or creative writing masters, and are unsure about what to do with your future. And then somebody suggests becoming an editor. Your mind goes through the possibilities: reading constantly as part of your job; correcting language, grammar and punctuation WITHOUT people getting annoyed; actually spending time with authors of incredible books?! Where do I sign up is what you will be thinking.

However, as amazing as editorial positions are, consider all those thoughts again. Those thoughts will have gone through a million other just as qualified candidates from other universities. Now don’t get me wrong, you may have had your heart set on being an editor since you were 16 like me, but that does not always mean that you will get there straight away. There will be thousands of rejections because there are thousands of applicants.

What I am imploring you to consider is two things: maybe not editorial, maybe not book publishing. You do not have to begin your career as an editorial intern/assistant in a book publishing house to end up as an editor in a book publishing house. The first thing that ANY publisher wants to see is your passion for the industry. Start by getting a job – any job – in any kind of publishing and go from there. You cannot work your way up the publishing industry ladder without being on it in the first place. And, it is always easier to get a job if you already have a job.

So, consider these departments; marketing, design, finance, recruitment, rights, publicity. Then, consider these areas of publishing; magazines, journals, digital, self-publishing, independent, newspapers, scientific, humanities, the list goes on. I have listened to talks about alternative routes into publishing, and many people have started in various departments before making the change into editorial later in their careers, and many have started working in different areas of the industry and managed to transition over to books when the right job came about.

The publishing industry does not care how you got into it, but just that you were passionate enough to get into it. Because, regardless of the department or area, it is still fiercely competitive to get an entry-level position in publishing. This means that the industry will commend you for getting into it in the first place. From here, attend events, connect with industry professionals on LinkedIn, get involved in Twitter conversations about the area you want to get into. Write book reviews, join NetGalley to get on publishers’ radars. Once your name starts becoming one people recognise, you are much more likely to get through to the all important interview stage of a job application.

Another important thing to start doing during university and your first job is to start reading around the industry. Sign up to the Bookseller, join the Society of Young Publishers and at the very least, follow their discussions on Twitter. Get an understanding of which publishing houses do what, where your favourite authors and genres are published and, therefore, where you could eventually see yourself working. This will make your life and future job applications a lot easier to make.

I am working in the editorial department for a magazine and journal publishing house on a graduate shame, and would encourage other people to take these options seriously. You never know, you may fall in love with another part of the industry. At the very least, you will start to develop the skills needed to eventually work with books and authors.

Week 3: Settling in…

Well, week 3 was a lot more successful! I am finding my place at work, meeting lots of new people and socialising more. I am learning to live by myself properly, and keeping myself busy in the evenings.

Work is definitely improving; I’m being given more responsibility, and have signed up to various training courses to hone my writing and design skills. I find myself constantly busy, and can generally figure out things to do even when I haven’t been given a direct task. There are constant free biscuits, cake and chocolate being brought in, which is great for motivation, but not so great for my skin or waistline!

I have met some more really nice people who I can get along with, eat lunch with and chat with on a younger person’s level. I even went for drinks on Friday night with some work friends, so definitely feel like I am settling in properly now.

My elite pole course at Pole Fit London is incredible; I am being taught by Hannah Rose Keynes right now, who is the current UK Elite Champion. She’s crazy! The people there are super funny and supportive, I already feel like part of the family.

As I continue to learn dance hall and afrobeats at Ignition, I am discovering a different side to my body and abilities. I am loosening up, and find that it helps me to remain chilled in everyday situations. I am generally a lot less stressed than I normally would be because of it.

I also competed in Midlands Pole Championships. I was proud of how I did, considering my lack of preparation in advance, and the video and pictures look great! I am happy now to train not for competitions, but for my own personal goals, such as strength, flexibility and specific tricks.

Overall, it has been a good week. I look forward to this weekend, since my boyfriend is coming to visit (FINALLY), and we’ve got loads planned. I can’t wait!!

Week 2 in London

I went into week 2 with a much refreshed mindset, ready to throw myself into work, dance and start making friends at work. I have to say, it’s ultimately paid off!

Work has been interesting, with lots to research and write. I’ve even been given some on-going tasks and editorial jobs to do, so I am getting a lot out of it. I have signed up for a refresher course on InDesign, and am ready to start my NCTJ Level 4 Diploma in Magazine Journalism. I feel like I’m taking the first real steps towards my career as an editor.

I have attended 3.5 hours of dance classes, 2.5 hours dance hall, and an hour afrobeats. I have fully enjoyed learning some routines and letting myself go for a few hours a week. It’s also improving my stamina massively! I’m doing this at Ignition Dance on Brixton Hill for just £8 an hour, or £14 for two.

As for making friends, I have made an active effort to talk to more people my age at work, which is paying off, as I have been invited out next weekend.

I am back in Loughborough this weekend, and will be competing at the Midlands Pole Championships in Semi-Pro in Nottingham tomorrow, so wish me luck!

Week 1 in London

Last week was one of the toughest of my life. I was suddenly alone in London, my housemates very busy most days and evenings. I started my job which took longer than expected to settle into. I tried out some dance classes which were the highlight of my week, and I felt homesick for Loughborough. So I booked a train ticket and went back for the weekend.

Being in London on your own for the first time is very daunting. My house was cold, I couldn’t find the heating system, and my WiFi connection was terrible. I went to Curry’s PC World and got myself a WiFi extender for £30 which works a dream.

Starting work, I felt very positive. I met my manager who gave me a brief tour of the building, and enjoyed seeing a friend for lunch. However, there was a lack of stuff for me to do. For the initial three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), I was mostly being trained in the basics of magazine editorial work. I enjoyed learning the style guide, as well as having the chance to sign up to InDesign training and the NCTJ course.

On Friday, I had a real induction, where I was told what they wanted me to do while I was there. Luckily, my manager was very accommodating to my personal goals.  I was given editorial tasks, and promised one on one time with the layout designer so I could put into practice my InDesign skills.

That afternoon, the company offered after-work drinks from 5pm which was fun, and I met some new people and started making friends. That same night, I was back in Loughborough. I couldn’t wait to see my boyfriend, and celebrate his birthday with him. And, since I’m going back again this weekend for the Midlands Pole Championship, I won’t spend a weekend officially on my own in London till next weekend!

Moving to London: Day 2

Do you like fish markets? If so, Brixton is definitely the place for you! There is a fish market, a butchers and a vegetable stall on every corner. Which is amazing, as I love food.

I’m halfway through my second day in London, my parents have officially gone and left me, and so far I am not hating Brixton. I have managed to buy a full sized mirror for £10, and navigate myself without getting lost for two hours, wahey!  Although London is busier than most other parts of England, it is no scarier, nor less friendly. Everywhere is buzzing all day and night which makes for a lively atmosphere. It is the perfect place for graduates, and younger adults (under 40) who wish to live the fast life.

My Tesco order arrived last night in the time slot, so no complaints thus far. The street food looks amazing, and I’m sure I will be trying lots of it in the weeks to come! I now need to figure out how all the appliances work in the kitchen, and potentially try to cook something halfway edible. Updates will follow…

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