By Ian G Evans, on 13 November 2019
Since September, Michele Spinicci and Laura Garcia Rodriguez have been interning at Welbeck Publishing, in preparation for the Frankfurt Book Fair. I chatted with them about their experiences—read on for helpful insight into what it’s like to work in a busy publishing house, and for advice on securing an internship in publishing!
To start with, tell me a bit about Welbeck. What size publisher are they? What kinds of books do they publish?
LGR: Welbeck is a medium to large sized publishing house.
MS: About 60 people work there.
LGR: They’re an independent publishing house, and they mainly publish non-fiction and children’s books. For non-fiction, there are many categories. They publish history and reference, art and lifestyle, music and entertainment, sport…
MS: Puzzles. A lot of books on video games.
LGR: They also work with a lot of licensors, like Disney and FIFA.
Any notable authors we would know, off the top of your head?
MS: I don’t think the author is the most appealing or attractive element. Usually the books are highly illustrated, and often they’re books made for big brands like Disney and FIFA. Usually in the book presentations the author isn’t really emphasised.
LGR: They mainly commission authors. For example, this year, it was the anniversary of the Second World War, so they asked someone to write a book about this. They told us that there are people whose job it is to think of ideas. If we had ideas for new books, we could always send them in.
What was your role at Welbeck? What were your day-to-day activities?
MS: We worked mainly in the context of the Frankfurt Fair, so I sent a lot of emails to potential customers or people interested in acquiring the rights of our books. The very interesting thing is that you talk to a lot of customers from all over the world, so Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, and Northern Europe.
LGR: Apart from sending emails, I also sent physical copies of the books. I also made a sales sheet, which is a sheet they send to customers on all books of the same type. For example, I would put all the FIFA book covers on a sheet, as well as basic information like how many pages it has and the format, and I made it beautiful with a background of a football stadium. I did that for FIFA, puzzles, and Mensa, which are crosswords.
MS: I also did a lot of research into potential customers. For example, I researched which kinds of publishers publish football books in Eastern Europe because they could be interested in buying the rights to our books.
LGR: Yes, or now that it’s the Guadalajara Book Fair, the woman in charge of Spanish and South American rights has a book of all the publishing houses who attended Guadalajara Book Fair last year, and I had to go website by website to see what they publish and whether they would be interested in our books. It was a lot of research and sending emails to everyone saying, ‘This is our catalogue. Have a look, and let us know if you see something interesting.’
MS: There are also websites in which a country’s main publishing houses are listed, and you have to check all of them to see who is publishing books that are similar to Welbeck’s, and therefore could be suitable customers.
Can you tell me about the application process? How did you find it? Do you have any tips?
LGR: We were asked to send a CV, and then had a phone interview. Be authentic. I felt I was being very ‘me’ in the interview. It’s mainly you telling them that what you want to do is learn, and it doesn’t matter the job they have for you. I remember telling them, ‘I don’t mind. Even if you want me to move boxes, I’ll be there.’
MS: This is absolutely true. You have to really show you want that job and you’re ready to do a little bit of everything. You also have to try and stand out a little bit, so show something original. In my interview, we spoke about my volunteering activities and some works in theatre I did, and she was very interested. Half of the phone call was about it. Even outside publishing, your experience can be valuable.
LGR: Also I would say because this was a phone call, try to be in a place where there isn’t a lot of noise. Our boss interviewed someone before Michele who was on the street and didn’t have a lot of signal, so she couldn’t consider her because she couldn’t understand anything she was saying.
MS: Yes, this is quite trivial, but it’s absolutely true. Be at ease in a place where you’re confident.
What do you think has been the most challenging part of the internship?
MS: I’m slow, so I really had to speed up. The first two or three days were very challenging because I couldn’t stay in the timetable they wanted. The Frankfurt Fair was upcoming, so they had a lot of pressure to do things fast. Even doing trivial things, like sending emails, you have to be faster.
LGR: I would say doing the sales sheet. I don’t know exactly what they want or what I’m doing is what the publishing house wants. It’s something they’re going to send and people are going to see.
Conversely, what’s been the most positive or rewarding part of the internship so far?
LGR: Also doing the sales sheet. Everyone congratulated me and told me they loved it. I was only supposed to do one for FIFA, but since they liked it they asked me to do one for all the books they had. It was rewarding. It was something they liked and they trusted me to do something more than just tidying the shelves. They trust you. It’s great.
MS: I would say doing the marketing research for the same reason, because you’re looking for potential customers and you’re developing your own ideas. It’s beautiful if they consider it valuable. You feel valued.
Finally, do you have any lessons learned from the internship or any words of wisdom for our fellow publishers-to-be?
LGR: I would say always ask questions. For me, it’s sometimes hard because they’re working all day and they’re very busy, so you have to interrupt them. They’re doing something that’s way more important than what you’re doing, and you’re going to ask them a question about how to send an email, maybe, which is a bit pathetic. Still, they’re there for this. Also, if you mess up an email, it’s still important, so ask them as many questions as you have.
MS: It can be embarrassing, but you definitely have to do it.
LGR: Yes, and always ask if there’s anything else you can do once you’re finished. Ask if you can do something valuable or you think would be appreciated.
MS: I would say be very careful with details, also with the most trivial things. Show that you really care for what you’re doing. If you’re writing an email, for example, use the proper font that the publishing house uses. Try to do everything as best as you can, because in the end after quite a lot of time it’s clearly appreciated because it shows you care for what you’re doing.
Massive thanks to Michele and Laura for sharing their experiences! If you’re doing something publishing-related and would like to be featured in the Blog (or would like to recommend someone else who should be), please contact me by email, or on Facebook or Twitter.
By Charlotte Webster
By Ian G Evans, on 31 October 2019
Below is a small collection of book suggestions from Twitter and Instagram for those who can be persuaded to indulge in some international horror this Hallowe’en!
The Beetle by Richard Marsh
(Picture Credit: Penguin Classics)
The Beetle is an English horror story about an Ancient Egyptian supernatural entity that torments a British politician for defiling a sacred tomb. It was written in 1897 and initially outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was published in the same year.
The Wish Dog and Other Stories
(Picture Credit: Honno Press )
The Wish Dog and Other Stories is a collection of 18 short stories written by Welsh women. The stories range from a chilling retelling of Babes in the Wood to a story about a lonely woman who seeks companionship from an imaginary dog.
The Decapitated Chicken by Horacio Quiroga
(Picture Credit: Livraria de Travessa )
The Decapitated Chicken is a Uruguayan short story about a couple who have five children. After their four sons are stricken by meningitis, they begin to neglect them. When their fifth child is born, parental neglect leads to a horrific conclusion.
Der Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann
(Picture Credit: Barnes and Noble )
Der Struwwelpeter is an illustrated children’s book of rhyming stories written by German psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann as a means of scaring children into behaving. One story depicts a girl who burns to death while playing with matches.
Le Horla by Guy de Maupassant
(Picture Credit: Furet du Nord)
Le Horla is a French short story written in 1887 about a man who unwittingly invites a supernatural being into his life. Spanning four days, the narrator journals his growing fear that an entity is watching him sleep…
Gyo by Junji Ito
(Picture Credit: Medium.com)
Gyo is a Japanese horror manga series about an invasion of Okinawa by undead marine life that has mysteriously grown legs. These sea creatures are driven by an odour known as the death stench. This story notably includes an undead great white shark with legs (see picture).
By Ian G Evans, on 28 October 2019
Hi! I’m Lucy Owen and I’m really excited to be part of the UCL Publishing Blog team alongside Charlotte this year. I’m originally from Scotland, so if you see anyone hanging around in a kilt, eating haggis or drinking Irn Bru, that’s probably me. I did my undergrad in Classical Studies at Newcastle University, which I graduated from in 2017. After quickly realising that all a degree in Classical Studies is good for is winning the occasional pub quiz, I began work at a media company in Edinburgh, where I stayed for two years. I then went on to work for the Underbelly Press Office at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival before moving down to London in September. I write the occasional book review on my blog howtomessupyourtwenties.blog in between talking about my everyday life. I’m also a big horror fan and I love a good biography. I’d really like the UCL Publishing Blog to be a useful platform that everyone can use and learn from; so if you have any ideas/suggestions please feel free to get in contact via email/Facebook/Twitter/carrier pigeon!
Hi everyone! I’m Charlotte Webster, and I’m passionate about cats, pasta, and books (obviously). Right now, I’m into dystopias, sci-fi, and fantasy, but I can be persuaded to read pretty much anything. I’m hoping to become an editor for an academic publishing house, and am particularly interested in copyright and open access. I’m really excited to be working with Lucy this year on the UCL MA Publishing blog. As this MA will serve as a network for us in the future, I’m hoping to use this space to write profiles on our fellow MA publishers-to-be (Why are you interested in publishing? What academic background have you come from? What area of publishing do you hope to go into?). I also want to keep you all updated with interesting publishing events. Most importantly, I want to make this a useful space for you guys, so please do let me know if you have any ideas! You can contact me via my UCL email (firstname.lastname@example.org), Facebook, or Twitter.
By Ian G Evans, on 10 May 2019
‘Of the boy I was, there is no trace. It comes down to memory. And I remember nothing.’
An identity deliberately wiped out by memory, Testament tells the story of Joseph Silk – esteemed artist, beloved grandfather and Hungarian Holocaust survivor. Kim Sherwood’s Bath Novel Award winning debut is a compelling yet harrowing novel, inspired by true events, which explores the complexity of grief and identity.
Upon Silk’s death, his granddaughter Eva finds a letter from The Jewish Museum in Berlin. They request to publish Silk’s testimony as part of an exhibit on Jewish artists impacted by the holocaust. The document reveals Silk’s traumatic experiences throughout the Holocaust from labour to death camps. A past life once well hidden and shrouded in secrecy, has now been exposed. Eva searches to unravel Silk’s true identity, discovering her grandfather’s haunting tale and the way in which it has constructed fragile familial relationships. Eva must decide what to do with the testimony. She knows that by allowing her grandfather to be portrayed by his hidden history, the narrative of his identity will be changed indefinitely. Yet, the atrocities Joseph faced from his experiences during the war and as a refugee must be preserved. Silk’s new found past has given Eva access to an unexplored family history. This complicates her decision on how to immortalise her grandfather – as the artist he worked so hard to become, or as the man who so desperately deleted his history. The combination of the two creates an impossible burden for Eva.
Sherwood admirably transitions between narrative voices seamlessly from Eva in the present day to Silk as a teenager. Through this dual narrative, the reader bears witness to Silk’s testimony. This narrative choice is a clear strength of Sherwood’s. Alongside the cleverly interspersed testimony questions throughout the text, a vivid image of Silk’s suffering is created. He reveals the trauma of loss and the guilt of survival, a feeling he can never shake, and one that forces a wedge between himself and his brother, László who he fears he has lost forever. Silk’s experiences have left him with an irreversible psychological scar, one that will haunt his family for generations to come.
This is an incredibly ambitious debut. In her Acknowledgments, Sherwood exhibits the depth of her research, including work with the Hungarian Committee for Attending Deportees and The Royal National Institute of Blind People. Her research is convincingly explored through an impressively beautiful text. I was gripped by the events that underpinned the man he had become in the exposition of the novel. The story demonstrates how perceptions can quickly change with knowledge. The twists and turns of the novel emphasise this, successfully managing to keep readers on their toes. The novel so well encapsulates the themes of grief, guilt and cross generational identity as well as what it means to be Jewish today. Although deeply emotional, what I found impressive was the author’s ability to leave the reader contemplating the formation of identity: ‘We are here because history doesn’t happen in the past tense.’ This poignant message assured me of Sherwood’s talents. Tackling such a sensitive topic through intelligently written prose is no mean feat. I look forward to whatever comes next from this talented author.
Testament is published by riverrun
By Ian G Evans, on 10 May 2019
Following the announcement of the Desmond Elliott Prize’s 2019 longlist, ten students from the Publishing MA course were invited to review the ten nominated titles. The 2019 longlist reveals ‘recurring themes of trauma, ownership and abandonment’ and features an extraordinary range of stories. This year is the 12th edition of the Prize, which celebrates debut novels written in English and published in the UK. It is named after Desmond Elliott, a literary agent and publisher.
The Desmond Elliott Prize’s 2019 Longlist: