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!