Some advice for jobseekers

By Laura A Lacey, on 11 May 2013

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

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Placements, Book Fair and World Book Night

By Laura A Lacey, on 27 April 2013

It’s been a busy few weeks for us UCL publishers. We’ve been on work placements, essay-writing, job hunting, dissertation planning, World Book Night celebrating and London Book Fair-ing.


Most of us are in the middle of our 5 week industry placements. So we are in publishing houses across the capital, with a couple further afield: everywhere from Penguin to Bloomsbury, and literary agencies to digital publishers. A lot of us have also been given the chance to work in different departments, including editorial, marketing, publicity, sales and production. We’ve been getting a taste of what it’s like to work in a real life publishing house and putting into practise all the skills we’ve been learning in the past months, as well as learning some new ones.



15th-17th April was The London Book Fair, which many of us were attending for the first time. It was certainly a unique experience! Some students were there as representatives of their work placement companies but we all got time to wander around in awe and soak up the atmosphere. Some of the seminars were particularly interesting, including SYPs ‘How to Get Into Publishing’ where our very own Samantha Rayner was a speaker and some of our class were involved in the organisation. I’d like to say a big thank you to all the publishers, agents, printers, authors, speakers and organisers who made us feel so welcome and put up with our questioning when they almost certainly had better things to do.

And lastly, a belated Happy World Book Night for Tuesday. A couple of our students were givers for the event this year, handing out 20 copies of one of their favourite books. Congratulations to Julia Kingsford for making the event run so smoothly and thanks again for the inspiring lecture she gave us a couple of months ago. Long may WBN continue!

When you play the game of thrones you either win or you die…

By Laura A Lacey, on 11 April 2013

By Stacey Riley

As a die hard fan with unshakeable love, I’ve been aware of the series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ for a few years now. However, the rest of the world has only just caught up. I’m no longer met with blank faces when I drop my coffee and complain, “Oh Seven hells!” or when I answer the phone to my friend Matthew with the greeting, “Morning, Blood of my Blood”.

The series’ new publicity is partly down to the fact that HBO acquired television rights to the books and is now shamelessly plugging the third series, Mondays, Sky Atlantic. 9pm. Sham


elessly plugging. However, the television series has been a huge success. With a fantastic cast (particularly great performances by Peter Dinklage [Tyrion Lannister], earning him the Emmy and the Golden Globe Award for Supporting Actor), stunning backdrops and a great script (obviously – great books) it wasn’t ever going to be any other way.

The publisher of A Game of Thrones in the UK is HarperCollins Voyager.

Although I did give my Grandad the first book to read the other day,
Me: “Read this Grandad, you might like it. It’s really good.”
80-year old Grandad: “Yeah? What’s it like?”
Me: “It’s like.. Lord of the Rings meets -”
80-year old Grandad: “-what’s Lord of the Rings?”
Me: Facepalm.

Seven hells. Apparently not everyone in the world has caught up.

Read all the books you wish you’d read…

By Laura A Lacey, on 29 March 2013

Oyster last year announced they had raised $3million to create a service for eBooks that works along similar lines to Spotify. They seek to oystercollectively license eBooks from publishers: including fiction and non-fiction, and everything from bestsellers to classics.

Oyster have partnered with media and technology companies, as well as publishers. This mirrors the growing trend across the creative industries as owners of intellectual property seek to exploit their copyright in all possible formats, and sellers try to provide services above and beyond simple content delivery.

The trendy-looking New York-based team (pictured) are focusing on Access, Discovery and Mobile:

ACCESS: By adopting a subscription model they believe readers will be able to enjoy books more freely, dipping in and out of new authors without investing money: ‘This leads to a more fulfilling experience built exclusively on taste and relaxed reading’.

DISCOVERY: They realise that discoverability comes down to many factors and a lot of chance. They believe by combining ‘discovery with consumption’ they are removing frustration that comes from receiving recommendations in many locations.Readers will enjoy the process of discovery by sharing the same library with their friends, with no need to hunt for links.

MOBILE: Their claims as far as mobile goes are perhaps less easy to agree with: they claim their market research has shown that all readers (from avid to casual) ‘love reading on smartphones’. This has certainly has not been my experience. Perhaps it will be in future – as mobile devices become larger and more comfortable to read on it is thought ‘phablets’ will be one of the most prolific devices for sale.

Only time will tell if their venture will be successful and how many publishers will be willing to give up their content for a limited fee. Currently it is in testing mode with just a few. Their aspirational aims certainly sound idyllic:

“We are building Oyster for an audience that aspires to read more. Read all the books you wish you’d read. We hope to bring books to the center of people’s lives through a beautiful product and the feeling that the world is your oyster.”

Happy World Book Day!

By Laura A Lacey, on 7 March 2013

Happy World Book Day from everyone at UCL Publishing!

All across the UK today, children will leave school clutching their £1 book token that we all remember so fondly. As ever, pupils will be able to get £1 off the price of a book or exchange their token for one of the specially produced WBD short stories.

Since WBD began in 1995, these titles have always represented the greatest in children’s literature, with something to appeal to everyone. This year sees a Horrid Henry title, Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: Funny Invention, and new books by beloved children’s authors Cathy Cassidy and Anthony Horowitz.

They also now run a Young Adult campaign, including a free downloadable app, a forum for book discussion, and a chance for budding authors to have their own novellas showcased.

It’s wonderful to see that so many publishers are supporting this worthy charity and continuing to inspire children to read. I’m sure that many of us on the course will be lucky enough to get involved when we graduate.

But for now, I urge everyone to celebrate by cracking the spine of a book that’s been calling to you from the shelf, or indulge in a beloved tale from your childhood, and remind yourself of why we’re all so committed to working with books!



By Laura A Lacey, on 6 March 2013

50 shades of greyNow that I’ve got your attention you might be interested in this…

Thankfully, E.L. James and Random House did not favour this in-your-face approach to marketing Fifty Shades. This week, as part of a triple whammy of brilliant guests from marketing professionals, we were treated to a case study of the rise and rise of this unavoidable phenomenon. Sarah Page of Random House gave us an inside look at their massively ambitious marketing campaign and explained why they didn’t need to big up the content.

Traditional techniques were used in a big way: with posters on the underground, at railway stations, airports, and in the print media. The recurring message was ‘Discover the book everybody’s talking about’, giving no clues as to the erotic nature of the book. Nor did the cover give anything away, instead appearing more innocently like a crime thriller. The press coverage, twitter storm, and word of mouth among women up and down the UK did all this for them. Random House just wanted to encourage readers to get involved in the conversation by reading the book, the media frenzy increasingly did the work for them.

Amazingly Random House acquired the UK rights to the self-published eBook and six weeks later had it printed and on shelves. Sarah stressed that speed was essential if they were to trade off the buzz already created amongst Australian and American women. The sales team worked hard to get the retailers on board quickly, using statistics of how well it was selling across the pond. Spaces in shops were already booked up so the publishers provided good, old-fashioned dumpbins, especially in supermarkets where prices were rock bottom but volume was high. The publishers decided to release all three at once; it was feared that if readers had to wait they would lose their enthusiasm and, from a commercial perspective, sales would be driven to internet sources. This certainly paid off and the books famously became the fastest selling book in UK history.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Sarah’s presentation came next, as she revealed how they started to broaden the appeal of the books from the ‘mummy porn’ audience it had already satisfied. They ran advertising aimed at men who wanted to find out what their partners were reading, opening up the gift market with the cheeky line ‘Give her what she really wants this Christmas’, and women over 40… Yep, that’s right, they targeted the granny market with a full page ad in Saga magazine – who knew?

So what next for a woman who has saved hundreds of marriages, inspired the conception of a generation of babies, single-handedly kept Ann Summers in business, and generally upped the country’s libidos? Well, she’s keeping that a secret, but you can be sure it will be another publishing phenomenon.

By Laura Lacey, working towards a career in trade fiction.

‘Good’ and ‘bad’ literature: Why the Iliad is mere chick-lit

By Laura A Lacey, on 26 January 2013

By Swéta Rana, future sheet music publisher.

“The importance of the critical faculty in the publisher’s reader dwindled, while the faculty of gauging the public mind and guessing what would sell became increasingly valuable … a purely commercial affair” – Encyclopaedia Britannica 11, 1911


Publishing was given a damning indictment in 1911. Apparently fiction publishers have little to no regard for literary merit, instead seeking to make money from undiscerning readers who, it seems, will read any old thing. Greedy, conniving publishers churn out mind-numbing material for financial gain. The common intellect is dying, and publishers don’t give a damn – in fact, they’re savouring it.

This description of publishing relies on the concept of quality. There must be a distinction between literature of great quality which is intellectually stimulating to readers, and that of lower quality which is intellectually stunting. Shakespeare has to be more worthwhile than a book by, say, Sophie Kinsella – it is of higher quality, intrinsically ‘better’. There is an immutable difference between good and bad writing, and the publishers’ mass output of popular writing is, seemingly, bad.

In Ancient Greece, Plato declared a similar stance. Deriding emotional poetry which stirred the passions, he claimed that such literature was harmful – it steered people away from pure philosophical truths, which can’t be reached through emotions. It was bad writing, sheer entertainment. In contrast, he named other literature good, but only that which directed readers towards truth (such as, funnily enough, his own works).

The epics of Homer, Hesiod and others that Plato dismissed as low quality are now almost universally regarded as the pinnacle of great intellectual reading. Yet, seen as reliant on sentiment and relatable situations, they were practically the chick-lit of Plato’s day. ‘Quality’ is too subjective to declare as truly inherent in any piece of literature. These once scorned poems are now held up as classics. And it isn’t simply time that changes perception, either. Yann Martel’s agent Derek Johns claims modern masterpiece Life of Pi was initially rejected by at least five major publishing houses, and Penguin editor Simon Prosser admitted to being one of those who disliked the manuscript: “I hold up my hand. Taste is very subjective.”

Simon is right – taste is very subjective. Someone might prefer Sophie Kinsella’s warm, relatable stories to Shakespeare, just as another might dislike Life of Pi, or reject Homer as poor writing. Whilst it is true that the majority will often agree on certain things – for example, that Romeo and Juliet is better than Confessions of a Shopaholic – these claims are not unshakeable. It’s conceivable for Kinsella to be as greatly regarded as Homer; the thought is perhaps as unthinkable to us as reverence of Homer would have been to Plato.Sophie Kinsella - The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

The notions of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reside in an entirely subjective realm. The quality of literature lies in how different people react to writing. These individuals unite to form a market which can publishers analyse, and fit production of material to. If publishing is commercial, this is because taste, quality and artistic merit are all somewhat commercial too. They are not unwavering attributes, but are decided by many subjective viewpoints coming together. Books cannot be ‘good’ or bad’ until people decide what they think of them.

An Appreciation for Indexing

By Laura A Lacey, on 22 January 2013

By Stacey Riley, an Aspiring Agent

Did you assume that indexes were computer generated? Me too!

This week the UCL MA Publishing class was given a talk by guest speaker Ann Kingdom from the Society of Indexers. She delivered an interesting and detailed presentation on how an index and indexers work.

Indexing is one of the final stages of the production process and indexers are often squeezed for time, having to produce their work under pressure. Ann defines an index as being ‘a structured sequence – resulting from a thorough and complete analysis of text – of synthesised access points to all the information contained in the text.’ It is this ‘thorough and complete analysis of the text’ t
Ideally, an indexer should be familiar with the subject of the book he or she is working on. Indexers often have high academic qualifications or industry experience in the specialised area. They are required to read the text and, using their skills and knowledge, decide what to index and what terms to use. Unlike a full-text search, which retrieves too much information, an index tells you the most important references and indicates which aspect of the topic is dealt with. Indexers also bring together synonyms and metonyms used in the text.hat requires human intellect and decision making that a computer isn’t (yet?) capable of.

The decisions made by the indexer have to fulfil users’ needs. For example, they might have to consider which is more user friendly: ‘strings’ or subheadings.

Clegg, Nick 110–112, 115–116, 120–125, 126, 135–144, 150, 152, 159, 165–172, 187


Clegg, NickSociety of Indexers: Information from A to Z education 110–112, 115–116
family background 120–125, 152
language skills 126, 150
as MEP 135–139
as MP 140–144
as party leader 165–172, 187
television appearances 140, 159, 166, 171

They may also be required to edit their index, whether this is because of limited page allowance for the index specified by the publisher, or because the index is not as efficient as it could be. The above entry, for example, could be edited to combine subheadings as below:

Clegg, Nick
education 110–12, 115–16
family background 120–5, 152
language skills 126, 150
political career 135–44, 165–72, 187
TV appearances 140, 159, 166, 171

Ann also gave out some examples of ‘how not to do an index’. This included one that was simply an alphabetical list of every recipe that appeared in a soup cookbook – and, as a result, wasn’t very useful. If you had a particular ingredient you wanted to use, you would have to read through the entire list to see which soups contained that ingredient.

Additionally, Ann also mentioned the occurrence of circular referencing in some indexes. For example:

Geese, wild see wild geese
Wild geese see geese, wild

This too is of no use to the user, apart from creating a bit of humour!

For more information, see the Society of Indexers’ website and The Indexer: The international Journal of Indexing