This week is Work In Publishing week, run by the Publishers Association. Over on twitter, you can follow #WorkInPublishing to find information from various companies who want to open up the field and attract more people to the business.
So it seems wonderfully fitting to announce this week that I will be starting as a Junior Editor at Igloo Books from 13th December. Based in Northamptonshire (literally surrounded by fields), Igloo are part of Bonnier, and specialise in mass market publishing, for non-traditional booksellers such as supermarkets. They aim to sell books to people who didn’t plan to buy a book in the first place – making it an extra challenge to design and market their products! They do adult non-fiction and gift books, as well as a range of children’s books too, both non-fiction and fiction. I’m extremely excited to start! And, as my birthday is in November, anything positive which happens at any point in the month I automatically consider as a birthday present. Happy birthday to me!
Many people this week are offering advice about jobs in publishing, information about what different roles entail, and tips on how to write a cover letter or a good CV. For my part, I feel like it is still too early for me to say exactly what will or won’t work, but I can talk about my own experience.
It took me about 17 months, 80 applications, and 23 interviews before I got my job offer. Feedback was that I was close, or second place, several times. It was hard, and disheartening, and it ground me down but I just kept plugging and trying to do what I could to make my applications and interviews that much better.
As you can see I focused mostly on editorial – I did apply for marketing, rights and sales roles, but was less successful in trying those avenues. Part of this is likely because I am not suited to those roles – which I knew. Marketing, publicity, and sales require a very gregarious sort of person, someone with energy and confidence. I am capable of switching that on for a time if necessary, but realistically it isn’t something I can sustain, and afterwards I am exhausted. Whilst I do enjoy the work, and I find the fields fascinating and exciting, in the long term I knew it wasn’t right for me.
A lot of advice you will receive is that you should not write off potential alternative routes into publishing, because you may be surprised by what you enjoy. This is true, but I also think that for me I knew my temperament, strengths, and weaknesses, and I knew what I would and wouldn’t enjoy. Coming into the field at a slightly older age, I have had quite a large amount of work experience. I haven’t been actively unemployed since I was 13 really, when I started with a regular babysitting round (two regular houses, three as-and-when, and occasional events). From there it’s been a variety of waitressing, retail, and administrative jobs, with a couple of memorable cleaning jobs thrown in for good measure. I’ve learned what I like and what I don’t. I’ve learned where I flourish and where I struggle. And I’ve learned that silver serving buttery vegetables is extremely hard when you are 15 and have biceps like noodles.
So whilst keeping an open mind is important, it’s also good to know yourself. If you have a job you know you want and you know you’ll be good at, work on trying to make yourself as appealing as possible. Pick out the key skills for the role – do you have those already? Are there ways you can develop them? Internships are good, but if you can’t afford to take time off or travel to London, what other routes are there for you to build and showcase your skills? Blogging is a good way to show your engagement. Vlogging is also a great way to do this, and requires that you have the patience to spend hours editing, and don’t hate the sound of your own voice as you listen to yourself over and over. If you want to go into marketing and publicity, make your social media work for you to show off your skills. For my part, I took on a volunteer role editing articles for a local church magazine, and began to develop myself as a freelancer.
My advice is to make the use of all the resources you can – ask people for feedback on your cover letter, CV, and interview technique. BookCareers offer consultations on employability, the SYP have networking and careers events, various recruitment agencies specialising in publishing such as Inspired and Atwood Tate are great places to register and they will offer you advice on your experience. Try to get to events if you can, even if it is only one a year, just to meet people face-to-face. Engage with people on twitter, and then say hi to them in person. Just as a note, Inspired cannot put you forward to any publisher you have applied to on your own in the last twelve months if you register with them, however they are excellent at suggesting publishers you may not have been aware of, and other routes into the field.
I’m also always happy to chat and try and help if I can.
Other good people to check out:
Most importantly from my experience is not to give up. It can wear you down and exhaust you, but in the end it just seemed like it was persistence that did it for me. I applied for 80 jobs across 17 months. I had 23 interviews. There seemed to be no end in sight. But try not to let it beat you, if it’s what you really want. I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do, and that seemed to harden my resolve.