By Victoria Hart, aspiring publicist
Now most of us have finished our illuminating five week work placements a lot of us are entering the job market. With that scary process in mind here are a few tips from industry professionals that were given at the Society of Young Publisher’s ‘Getting into Publishing’ seminar at the London Book Fair. The panel was made up of Neil Morrison, HR at Random House, Samantha Rayner, Lecturer at UCL, Sophia Blackwell, Marketing Manager at Bloomsbury and Jessica Leeke, Senior Commissioning Editor at Simon & Schuster.
Neil Morrison started the talk off by saying that at Random House, they receive 250 job applications per assistant role, which is a huge number for an entry level job! He said that there are a lot of really high quality CV’s that come through, and his advice was that the clearer the application, the better. If you want a job in publishing, he said that all applications should have perfect grammar and spelling and they should be edited properly. He emphasised the word ‘quality’ quite a lot. He said each application should be tailored and suited to the publishing house you are applying to.
Social networking is key, all careers and work experience opportunities at Random House are posted via social media. He also said there are a number of stock questions that you will be asked at interview level. The most obvious of them all is, ‘what is your favourite book?’ and this is a question I’ve been contemplating for a very long time. My problem with this, is that every book is my favourite at the time of reading it. I don’t think I’ve read that book that has ‘changed my life’ or ‘made an impact’ just yet. So, if someone asks me that question, I’ll probably end up spitting out Dracula or something. What? It is a good book. He also said that companies are starting to interview via video rather than in person.
Next up was Samantha Rayner. She was talking about how an MA in Publishing can help, how it is beneficial in building contacts and getting an overview of the industry, which I can vouch for. So all you really need to know about this part of the talk, is that an MA is an amazing thing to do, and it guarantees you a work placement for 5 weeks with a publisher/literary agent that suits you.
Next was Sophia Blackwell. Sophia spoke about how she got into publishing starting at Routledge. She said that getting work experience with a big publisher can be a game changer when applying for jobs. She encouraged all work experience, and said that the more you do, the more chance you have of getting close to your goal. Sophia also said that blogs are good and are a good way of communicating yourself – so there we go, I’m doing something right! She also said LinkedIn is good, and interacting with people on Twitter is a great way to engage and communicate as well as learn from people already in the industry.
Sophia gave some brilliant interview advice, she said first of all, RELAX, when you’re in an interview, you are in a privileged position and you must respect that. She said that publishers like you to have your own opinions, and your own thoughts, but she said that you should never assume and don’t over romanticise. Publishing is still a business, they need to know that you understand that. She also said, don’t be taken advantage of. As much as you need the work experience, you need relevant work experience, and this will count.
Last of all, Jessica Leeke took the stand. She said that keeping your goal clear and sticking to it will give you more chance of actually getting it and if you know what you want, then you will do anything to get it. Later, when asked what type of person gets into publishing, Sophia said the person who perseveres, the one who says yes, who really wants it, is the last one standing. Jessica talked about how she started at Harper Collins and gained valuable work experience there, then she went on to do placements, one of which was in sales at Faber. She said that we shouldn’t overlook literary agencies, because they are great places to gain experience. Copy-editing and proofreading skills are really helpful, most publishers have grammar and spelling tests.
A great piece of advice was to read what other people are reading, especially from the Bestseller chart. You must have a lot of author care to be an editor, you must accept the lifestyle because it is not just a job. To prepare, she said you must know who the authors are that the publisher you are applying to publish. You must also know the charts, focus on their best sellers, brush up on HTML skills, and she also said, find out what they’re NOT good at. This can make you an asset.
All in all, say yes to every possible opportunity. Enjoy learning and gaining experience because it will help you when you start applying for jobs. Make your CV’s and applications concise and clean, with no grammatical mistakes, edit and improve them like your life depends on it. Don’t forget to add your personality in, they want people, not robots!
By Victoria Hart
(Image from http://mashable.com/2012/09/01/social-profiles-job/)