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Insights from the ‘UCL Careers: Insights into Publishing’ event

4 January 2019

UCL Careers recently hosted a panel event around getting into publishing and understanding what a role in the industry involves. Here’s what our panellists had to say:

Hannah Ray, Editorial Director at Macmillan Children’s Books

‘Editing means different things in different companies. My role as Editorial Director is around 30% creative and 70% business-focused – such as costing and selling strategies. Highlights include having the opportunity to work with both established authors and new talent. Challenges include working to deadlines when there are so many people involved – such as when people get sick and there are many people waiting for the book.’

 headshot of Hannah Ray
headshot of Allie Collins

Allie Collins, Editor at Bloomsbury Sport/Freelance Editor

‘When you work freelance, you have more control over your own time and projects. Conversely, working in-house means you get to see books through from start-to-finish. Sometimes a challenge as an editor is managing authors’ expectations – such as the design of the front cover –  so often you need to act as a mediator.’

Tom Atkins, Freelance Proof-reader  

As a freelance proof-reader you come in at the end and cast a slow lengthy glance over the proof pages – so you get to work with paper and pencil! It is great if you love spotting flaws – like spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes and any minor plot inconstancies. Working freelance can be lonely though, and you don’t have guaranteed work or a pension – not to mention that you have to do your own tax returns!’

headshot of Tom Atkins
headshot of Ella Kahn

Ella Kahn, Literary Agent at Diamond Kahn and Woods

As a literary agent you are at the beginning of the process – essentially a manager for authors. You may work with a range of publishing houses – both large and small. You often will meet editors for coffee and lunch to build up a picture of what they are currently looking for in a commission. It is both a sales and editorial role and you have a close relationship with the authors you represent – often being both a nanny and a lawyer for them. You might get over 50 submissions from authors a week, but only take on 1-2 people a year. Highlights include working with authors and championing them to get the recognition they deserve. Challenges are dealing with rejection – on both sides. You have to handle turning people down and getting turned down by publishers.’

Top ten tips on getting into publishing

  1. Have passion: this is a very competitive industry. Everyone’s CV is impressive, so tailor your cover letter and light up when you talk about the industry in your interview. It is not enough to say ‘I love books’ and don’t have an overly romantic view of the industry – there is a lot of business to it such as profit and loss. So show you have negotiation skills and that you can use an Excel spreadsheet. Communication and relationship-building skills are also vital. Show transferable skills.
  2. Understand the importance of networks: start to meet people now, whether this is professionals or peers also pursuing this industry.
  3. Do your research: when applying to publishing houses, learn about the books they publish – look at things like Amazon rankings and understand the different genres.
  4. Ask insightful questions at interviews: good examples include “What is coming out soon?” “Which books are you most excited about publishing in the next year?”.
  5. Be aware of current trends: Know who the big authors in your genre of interest are.
  6. Consider taking a job in a department that is not your first choice: once your foot is in the door you might be able to change departments.
  7. Follow key people on Twitter: try searching hashtags such as: #askagent #askapublisher and #ukya
  8. Want to work freelance? you might want to start in-house as it is very rare editors will work with freelancers they don’t know. You can start doing freelance work on the side.
  9. An MA in publishing can be useful: it gives you a great overview of the different areas, but it is not a pre-requisite, as publishing is trying very hard to be inclusive. If you want to do a professional course, ensure it is an industry recognised one.
  10. Keep going! Be resilient and thick skinned – you will get interviews. Learn from interviews you fail at and ask for feedback and put it into practise.

Want to learn more?

 

How to get into publishing

4 January 2019

What is considered ‘publishing’?

publishing: the occupation or activity of preparing and issuing books, journals, and other material for sale (n.) 

To put it simply, publishing is about making concepts public; connecting people who create content with people who need that content.

Roles in publishing exist across the media industry, involving not only the production of books and journals but also magazines, newspapers, business media, musical scores and graphics – to name a few! As our world becomes more technologically advanced, new multi-media formats also contribute to shifting industry opportunities, challenges and career paths.

Publishing is a competitive industry, with notoriously few advertised entry-level positions. Whilst some organisations recognise this and are developing routes into the industry for a wider pool of candidates, these remain highly sought-after. The most common routes into publishing include postgraduate qualifications, work experience placements, graduate training schemes, networking and personal recommendations. Candidates with a strong work ethic and transferable skills developed via experience in other sectors, are also well regarded.

What careers can I have in publishing?

A career in publishing can vary depending on both the sector and department you work in.

Some of the more common sectors of publishing include:

  • Academic
  • Consumer
  • Educational
  • Professional
  • Scientific and technical

Within these sectors are a wide range of departments. For example within the book publishing industry, typical departments include:

  • Contracts: working with editors and literary agents or the author to negotiate the terms of the contract.
  • Design: reviewing the book and liaising with editorial and marketing to create a visual identity and oversee its implementation – from the jacket to the cover and interior.
  • Digital: creating, implementing and maintaining new and existing web initiatives, including the organisation’s own web offering, online features and marketing campaigns.
  • Editorial: acquiring and editing a manuscript, and seeing it through to publication.
  • Managing Editorial: overseeing the whole editorial process, including working with both editorial and production to keep an eye on schedules for both the finished product and wraparound materials.
  • Marketing: creating and producing creative campaigns, using methods such as digital and print advertising, social media and events, to promote and share the book with consumers.
  • Publicity: from author signings to social media schedules and pitching to newspapers, television and radio, the team are the vital connection in promoting the book to the media.
  • Production: overseeing the manufacturing process, from manuscript to book. This could include typesetting, working with suppliers and printers, and budgeting.
  • Rights: managing the licensing of the rights of any original publication both at home and abroad. Common examples are translations, audio editions, sequels by other authors etc.
  • Sales: working with outlets to ensure the book is readily available to consumers, such as online, bookshops, supermarkets etc.

These are all on top of ‘business-as-usual’ operations, such as Human Resources, IT, Finance etc.  Many organisations will also have additional departments such as audio, digital production (e-books), in-house distribution, packaging etc.

If you’re interested in finding out about the different functions of each department, you could check out this handy guide by Book Jobs. You could also explore the different teams at Penguin Random House, the largest of the ‘Big Five’ publishing houses.

What qualifications do I need?

Whilst MA courses in publishing are available (including at UCL!) and are an effective way to start building a network of contacts, it’s certainly not a requirement to work in publishing. If you’re considering a postgraduate course, it’s just as important to think about you want to gain from the experience, and weigh this up against the cost implications and other ways to reach the same goals, such as work experience. There are also some technical roles where a related degree would be valuable – such as a designer or digital engineer.

It is also a common misconception that the publishing industry focuses on hiring English or Literature graduates. In fact, it’s experience and drive that are vital proof of your motivation and skills for a career in the industry.

How do I get a graduate job?

There is no ‘one route’ into this industry, and it entirely depends on the type of role you are looking for. Some organisations highlight the importance of work experience when they hire for entry-level roles. Work experience is a great way to work with professionals in your area of interest, make connections and build up your skill set. Other organisations will readily accept candidates with experience in other fields that has given them transferable skills – think of it as the back door in.

Spent time working at a digital marketing agency? That could have set you up with the skills you need to succeed in the digital team at a publisher. Getting jobs in the industry can also be influenced by referrals and recommendations, so it is useful to start building up your network as soon as possible.

Publishing Graduate Schemes

Although graduate schemes in publishing are gradually becoming more common, competition tends to be high for a limited number of places.  Current schemes include but are not limited to:

  • The BAME Trainee Programme from HarperCollins, a twelve-month rotational traineeship around the business in London. Last year, applications for places starting in October 2018 closed in mid-April.
  • The Cambridge University Press Graduate Programme, a fifteen-month rotational programme experiencing different business streams. Last year, applications for places starting in September 2018 closed in February.
  • The Scheme from Penguin Random House UK, six-month editorial traineeships for applicants from a BAME or socio-economically disadvantaged background. Last year, applications for places starting in September 2018 closed in May.
  • The Fresh Chapters Traineeship at Hachette, a twelve-month BAME traineeship, half of which will be spent in editorial, and the other half in another department. Last year, applications for places starting in October 2018 closed in early July.

Work Experience

A slightly less competitive way to ‘get a foot in the door’ is through work experience. Many organisations run work experience or internship programmes – and if they don’t advertise them directly, there’s no harm in getting in contact and seeing if something can be arranged. Current work experience opportunities include but are not limited to:

  • Oxford University Press runs an eight-week internship programme for graduates throughout July and August. In 2018, the deadline for applying was in March.
  • Penguin Random House has a summer internship that runs throughout July and August. In 2018 applications closed in April. They also recruits four times a year for paid two-week work experience placements. The Spare Room Project supported by Penguin Random House, also matches interns from outside London with people in the book industry who live in the capital and can offer them a place to stay.
  • Hachette run Fresh Chapters, an eight-week internship programme in editorial, marketing or publicity as well as ongoing one week placements (advertised via Facebook and Twitter).
  • Harper Collins offer an internship programme of up to six-months as well as four-week work experience opportunities (advertised via Twitter).
  • Bloomsbury have a paid internship programme, with four intakes per year across Marketing, Publicity and Editorial. Recruitment for April 2019 will begin in February 2019.
  • Blake Friedmann offer three-month internships on a rolling basis. They also run the Carole Blake Open Doors Project – a two-week, all-expenses-paid shadowing scheme for students from under-represented backgrounds.
  • The Guardian offer two-week work experience placements in the Guardian and Observer Editorial departments, across a range of desks, typically between March-June and October-December. Applications for 2019 opportunities will close on 7 December 2018.
  • Dorling Kindersley offer internship and work experience placements. Check back for opening times for 2019 internship opportunities, work experience applications are received on a rolling basis.
  • The Publishers Association occasionally recruits for internships and short work experience.

In fact, a lot of organisations will invite applications to work experience schemes via their websites. Remember not to disregard the smaller, more independent, publishing houses – their schemes are normally less over-subscribed and in some cases can last longer than an average fortnight placement.

You can also use social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – to gather information and make industry connections. For example, if you want to work as a Literary Agent, follow both the literary agencies and the literary agents! You can also follow accounts dedicated to sharing jobs and opportunities such as:

@publishersassoc

@PubInterns

@BookJobsUK

Find out more about upcoming Themed Week Events or catch-up on events you missed on the Themed Week archive.

Getting into Publishing – Event Round-up and Top Tips

ManpreetDhesi9 December 2015

Our Getting into Publishing panel discussion on Tuesday 1st December 2015 provided attendees with fantastic insight into this sector including industry trends and hot topics, typical roles and responsibilities and how to stand out as an applicant. Catch up on key points from this discussion below and read about the panellists in attendance here.

> Panellists extolled the  benefits of gaining work experience in smaller and/or independent publishers where you can get varied hands on experience and insight. There are very limited places on graduate schemes with major trade publishers (for example, only 4 places at HarperCollins) so being open to working in different roles in a wider range of publishing companies is encouraged at the start of your publishing career. Building up wide ranging work experience in different types of publishing companies is a positive. Don’t just go for trade publishing (it is considered by many the most glamourous) but consider other types, such as scientific manuals and journals, academic press or working at literary agents.
> Useful resources recommended for finding out about companies and hot topics in publishing are the Writers and Authors Yearbook, Bookseller (especially the jobs board) and The Society of Young Publishers. A useful event is the Futurebook annual conference.

> Don’t focus too much at this stage on getting a particular role in a particular company – it’s about trying to get a starting role. It’s a lot easier to change jobs within the industry once you’re in and move between imprints within a parent company. Try to be well-rounded and open to different roles at the start. At the very least, you’ll be able to appreciate what each job role does even if you aren’t good at it when you try it yourself – what makes someone good at one area (i.e. production) makes them terrible at another (sales)! agents.

> Be aware that you will start from the bottom, despite having a degree. Be humble and be prepared for the coffee making and photocopying, but also be enthusiastic and curious about what is going on more widely in the company. During any work experience strive to make the most of it and have a good attitude, as hiring often happens by referral and a remembrance of an awesome intern when vacancies come up in the company (“We have a editorial assistant job coming up – why don’t we contact X to see if they are still available, they were great!”)

> Build your awareness of which books and publications are linked to which publishers, their body of work, key successes. An industry trend is that many major publishing houses have acquired lots of smaller companies (called imprints).

> Key skills required for publishing roles are relationship management, project management and attention to detail. Relationship management examples were given of sending each bookstore manager a personalised book choice with an individual note, maintaining relationships with authors and with key individuals in different internal departments. A suggestion for building relationship skills is to listen to conversations during any work experience and see how publishing professionals deal with situations / respond to clients. Project management is also an important skill as essentially you will be looking after several projects simultaneously, for example various book launches.

> Nobody mentioned reading when discussing their jobs. Panellists stressed that you have to love reading to do the job but you won’t just be sat reading all day, there are lots of other parts of the role involved which make the reading happen for other people.

> Panel quote: “the written word is our life blood” – applications with any spelling or grammar mistakes will not be considered!

> Social media: look at your own presence and make it appealing (and free of bad English!) but also follow people in the industry and at the companies you’re applying for – learn about them, what they like, what they’re interested in, what they’re reading

> Some key industry changes and hot topics include
– the move to Open Access publications– academic publishers have been ahead of trade with this (and are with more new trends)
– major publishing houses have acquired lots of smaller companies (called imprints)
– e-books and digital are no longer seen as a separate division but is part of standard publishing
– Amazon has totally changed book purchasing but recently Bookouture are an interesting company to watch as a innovative competitor to Amazon
– publishers think of the customer as the end reader and not the bookstore, as buying tends to be much more end-consumer led
– budgets and cost are increasingly important as books will only be published if likely to be successful
– self-publishing is more prevalent but tend to be lower quality publications than those  published by established publishers.

> Two of the panellists now work as freelancers. With freelance work, you have to have an established base of clients and credibility, but your hours are your own. Most people move to freelance editing after building up contacts and a reputation in the industry.

– UCL Careers Media Week Team

Media Week is coming…

ManpreetDhesi25 November 2015

Interested in media? Want to hear from professionals in the industry? We have a variety of events during our Media Week, 1st – 4th December 2015, that will give you a great insight into this popular sector!

Media Week

Panel events will involve talks from each panel member about their current role, their career path and tips on how you can progress. You will then be able to ask questions to the panel, so come prepared! The sessions will be followed by informal networking to allow you to follow up to any conversations started in the Q&A.

The schedule of events is as follows:

Tuesday 1st December

  • Panel: Get into Publishing, 17.30-19.00. Hear panel members discuss their top tips for getting into this notoriously difficult industry. Speakers include Dr. Nina Buchan, a freelance Science and Medical Editor, and representatives from Sage Publications, HarperCollins, Collins Editing and UCL Press.

Wednesday 2nd December

  • Workshop: Journalism, 13.00-15.00. Two-hour workshop run by News Associates, the top UK journalism school. This session will involve you writing an article in a mock breaking news exercise. Spaces are limited and you will need to pay a returnable deposit.
  • Panel: Get into Broadcasting – TV, Film & Radio, 17.30-19.00. Speakers confirmed include a Director/Producer/Editor for Slack Alice Films, a Lead Producer for the BBC’s Digital Storytelling Team, a freelance Series Producer/Director/Cameraman, an Assistant Producer for BBC World Service and an Account Director at Precious Media.

Thursday 3rd December

  • Presentation: What is Media Analytics?30-14.30. Media is changing. Data and analytics is key to delivering successful media campaigns and growing clients’ business. Find out more about this growing part of the sector in a presentation delivered by GroupM, global media investment group, and part of WPP.
  • Panel: Get into Marketing, PR & Advertising, 17.30-19.00. Panel members include Claremont Communications, Lloyds Bank, Ogilvy, Periscopix, & Gerber Communications.

Friday 4th December

  • Panel: CVs & Applications for Media Careers,00-14.00. Get top tips from industry professionals on how to make your applications stand out and what you can be doing now to increase your chances of securing a role in this industry. Panel members include Head of Commercial Marketing from The Guardian, the MD of Slingshot Sponsorship, an experienced media recruiter from SapientNitro and a guru around creative industries from CreativeSkillset.

If you are interested in attending any of the above events, please sign up via your MyUCLCareers account. We look forward to seeing you!

Publishing: A world of Content Creation

ManpreetDhesi20 March 2015

Emma House, Director of Publisher Relations at The Publisher’s Association tells us why Publishing is an important sector.

Book and Journal Publishing: one of the UK’s largest creative industries. It generates almost £5 billion for the UK economy; it brought us book-to-screen phenomena such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Paddington Bear. If you have ever considered a career in publishing, you would likely have been attracted to the glitz and glamour of trade publishing and working with famous authors – or the delights of working in children’s publishing. You would likely have considered bringing your skills in marketing, publicity and editing to a career in publishing. Yet this is only a small insight into an innovative, forward-thinking, global, and creative industry with a strong and exciting present – and future.

The UK’s publishing sector can be divided into 5 sectors: trade/consumer (fiction and non-fiction including children’s); education (school books); higher education textbook; English Language Teaching and dictionaries; and academic journals. All aspects of publishing have been and are going through considerable change. The internet, Amazon, government policy and changing consumer tastes and needs have all driven change in the way we consume content and publishing is building its own pathway through these changes.

Publishing will always require the traditional roles that it takes to run a business in this sector. A good eye for writing talent, strong editorial acumen, and knowledge of the various ways to take content, to curate and market it and finally deliver it to the consumer, are key skills that the industry values. The industry prides itself on having the very best these roles in order to add value to the author and the consumer. Non-traditional “publishing” process roles such as Legal, HR, Finance and IT are all essential to the industry and anyone studying these disciplines could do far worse than consider bringing their skills and qualifications to publishing.

What is little known however is the range of new roles and new skills that publishers now seek to bring to the industry. Over the last 5 years, digital has become fully embedded in publishing and we are now seeing a need for people with strong skills in data analytics, digital marketing, digital production and design. Consumer insight teams have grown, as have departments looking to transform book IP into other multimedia. The industry has never been more international and “sales” roles encapsulate the need for export sales, translation rights sales and skills in building global partnerships. The academic book and journal industry is crying out for scientists, researchers and engineers to bring their knowledge and talent to the industry and the education publishing industry values those with a strong background in the education sector – especially teachers. Entrepreneurism, imagination and a passion for content are attributes which are attractive to employers and a demonstration of innovation and flair long way.

So if you thought you knew publishing, or thought it was only for English literature graduates…….think again! Our industry needs YOU.

Hear more from the Publishers Association in a free webinar available to all University of London students on Wednesday 25th March, 1-2pm.  Register here.

Career tips from an Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House

ManpreetDhesi19 March 2015

This blog post originally appeared on the Develop your Career blog

Paul Kilbey, Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House, shares his experiences in Arts publishing.

How did you get into your role?

I’ve wanted to work in publishing for a long time.  I studied music at university but was always more interested in writing about it than performing or composing, so I gravitated towards jobs where I used language.  After a while teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad, I moved to London and was lucky to be able to do a couple of internships, building up my professional experience.  There were then a few years working in and around classical music for startups, and I got my current job in the Royal Opera House’s Publishing and Interpretation team a couple of months ago.  I am also a freelance writer specializing in classical music; I write for a few magazines.

Over the last few years I have written a lot of articles for a number of predominantly online publications.  This has been really important for developing my writing skills, although it hasn’t always been the same as a conventional grounding in journalism or publishing – it has all been fairly off the cuff, and online is totally different from print, both in terms of how it works and also the standard expected.  All the writing made me well qualified for my current role – I’m an Editorial Assistant – but I still have plenty to learn.

What do you do day to day?

It’s very varied, and the workload changes depending on what projects are coming up.  There is always work to do preparing for future productions, although of course it gets busier in the immediate run-up to a show.  I have work to do in a number of areas including writing, proofreading, liaising with advertising clients and also working with publishing software.

What are the best things about working in your role?

My colleagues are very nice, and it’s an exciting place to work, with the rehearsals and performances happening all around us backstage.  And after a few years with very small companies, I am still hugely enjoying the perks of working for a major employer – cafeteria, IT support, payroll department, etc. Most of all, the job is an ideal mixture of my interests – classical music and publishing.  I’m lucky to be able to work in both at the same time.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that any sort of office experience is good.  Employers want to know that you can be trusted to correspond with people in a professional manner.  I had done very little office work on graduation, and this probably set me back a bit.

As for writing online – there can be huge benefits to doing this, but only if you’re serious and sensible about it, and aware of its limitations.  Blogging can lead to all sorts of interesting things, and so can writing for the many websites out there that will take your content, publish it, and not pay you.  But, unsurprisingly, doing this can also be very unrewarding, both financially and professionally.  You shouldn’t confuse success in these media with professional experience in journalism or publishing per se.  My advice is that if you’re considering writing for a blog or another website, it’s crucial to remember the value of what you’re doing.  This means two things: firstly, that you know what you stand to gain from your writing, even if you’re not being paid (are you gaining useful experience? Exposure? Nothing at all?); and secondly, that you only write things that you’re confident are good enough to merit publication.

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