CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JAN. 30, 2014
version 7, draft 7

How to Get Into The Competitive World of Publishing

There are no tricks to this one. There are lucks that can strike but your pot has to have some gold already for it to strike some more.

The publishing industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. It is meticulous, overbearing and cruel. But is also a beautiful practice which for many has become a way of life. The first few years could be a struggle if you are put in an entry level position and you will be if you are a graduate with unpaid work experiences but over time it becomes a win- win situation.  

The beautiful thing about the industry is that it is all encompassing. It is everywhere and in everything- right from bill boards in malls to mug souvenirs of your favourite quotes. It can take you no matter who you are- a marketing assistant, an editorial assistant, a blogger, a digital assistant, a photographer, a writer and even a sound technician. But and this is the most important part- you have to be good at what you do.

Like every other booming industry which is going through innumerable changes in the digital age, publishing has no time to stop for you. It all lies in your CV and cover letter and being the industry it is you better check every sentence twice or thrice before sending them out.

So, what do you have to do?

Publishing industry work experience:

Most top publishing firms offer ‘Work Experience Programs’ and ‘Internships’. It will be listed under their careers/jobs section. These are usually unpaid programs for anything between a week and two months. The demand for these are high and it is necessary that you apply well in advance and be very flexible with your availability. Certain firms open specific internships as per requirement. There are both editorial and non-editorial work experiences. Non-editorial work experiences can place you in marketing and publicity departments, etc. depending on need. Be aware that in course of the short time you have with a publishing industry it is your responsibility to further your foray. Your supervisors will extract work from you- you may have to do odd jobs for them but they will not stop to teach you. You will have to observe, ask questions as and when necessary, and build a good rapport with them.

If you bag an internship with a publishing firm, please make sure your basic computer skills are polished. Also learn how to connect to and use printers, photocopiers and basic HTML before starting the internship. Familiarise yourself with basic SWOT analysis. Penguin Group UK offers internships in several locations across UK. Publishing firms which are usually sought out by students include:

  1. Hachetthe UK
  2. Harper Collins UK
  3. Bloomsbury Publishing
  4. Oxford University Press
  5. Cambridge University Press
  6. Pearson
  7. Walker
  8. Little Brown

Bagging an internship in one of the above firms would mean entering a mega publishing model. There are other smaller independent publishers like Icon Books who take in interns. Work experiences and internships do not pay much and the basic of travel expenses and a maximum of 50 GBP per week is paid.   

Other Editorial Experience:

Be it student run magazines or an unpaid experience for a periodical released by a charity organization- every editorial experience counts. Try to gain multiple editorial experiences and with magazines covering varied sectors. But remember, it pays to show longer periods of involvement. Be very specific when mentioning the type of editorial work done in your CV. If you are a University student, it is essential to work for your University magazine. It shows involvement, enthusiasm and adds to your ability to manage time.  

Relevant Degrees:

This is a hugely contested criteria. Depending on the department in focus degree requirements have varied. Editorial Departments have usually favoured candidates with an English or Writing degree. Having a Masters degree is very important but again, there are several students who’ve moved from internships to permanent positions without having to pursue a Masters degree. But it is certain that in the course of moving up the ladder, you will have to consider getting a Masters degree.

Several universities in UK and USA are offering courses in publishing and digital media which can increase job prospects. Also, these universities tie with firms for direct placements and internships. MBA and other business administration degrees, marketing degrees and law degrees are relevant for non-editorial jobs. The following Universities offer publishing related degrees-

  • University of Stirling- MLitt / MRes in Publishing Studies. They also offer a PHd related to publishing and print culture.
  • Edinburgh Napier University - MSc Publishing
  • Bath Spa University- BA/ BSc (hons) in Publishing. They also offer postgraduate courses in Arts Management, Creative Technologies and Enterprise which can lead to a publishing career. 
  • University College London- MA Publishing
  • City University London- MA Publishing Studies & MA International Publishing

Other Universities such as Anglia Ruskin, Middlesex University, University of Central Lancashire, etc., also offer degrees related to Publishing.

Trainings:

There are short term courses or workshops offered by publishing networks which will help you learn and network. Most workshops are expensive ranging anything above 185 GBP for a day's training. 

The Publishing Training Centre in London offers online courses on Understanding Book Publishing. They offer distant and online courses apart from a wide range of short term courses such related to Editorial, Book Production, Journal Publishing, Marketing & Publicity, etc., These courses are priced anywhere between 200 GBP and 850 GBP but student discounts do apply. 

Publishing Scotland in Edinburgh offers short courses related to publishing all year long. They offer courses in proof-reading, copy-editing, editorial management, etc., A day's training costs around 185 GBP. 

Book Industry Communication offers courses pertaining to digital communication and digital publishing (ONIX, XML, etc.) Training of this kind will definitely be a perk as more and more publishing industries are venturing into digital modes of publication. 

Entry Level Positions: 

There are many publishers who are accepting applications for entry-level positions. These entry-level positions usually offer the basic pay of 18,000- 24,000 GBP with benefits. Most entry-level positions also involve commissions. Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Atwood Tate Publishing, Random House, Quadrille Publishing etc., have opened up entry-level positions for Assistant Editor, Publicity Manager, Trainee Copywriter, etc., Most entry level positions are advertised for a very short period of time. 

Get to know:

The publishing industry is in constant conflict and growth. Get to know about them. Read about it, subscribe to their newsletters and feeds. There is more to a publishing firm than the books or magazines they publish. They are a business too. Read about recent mergers, imprints, what they specialise in. It is very important to get to know about the markets they deal with. What books make it to airport book stalls and which ones get to be hard bound? Familiarise yourself with hierarchies- entry level positions to the senior most positions. Understand what role each person plays and how they play it. Statistics are very important. Keep them on your fingertips. Recent government rules against unpaid internships have resulted in several independent publishing houses (eg: Alma books) removing their internship programs. 

 Writing/ Reviewing Experience:

If you want to get into the Editorial Department, it is important to have a record of constant writing. Not necessarily published creative work but articles, reviews, etc., It is important to have an opinion. Maintain a blog- review plays, books, music, what not. Freelance for magazines and have a substantial amount of work published- either online or in print.

Tech friendly:

The publishing world is moving to digital modes. We have ebooks, audio books, podcasts, etc., and it is becoming more important to be tech savvy. Be active on social media. Blog, tweet, update statuses. Maintain a good social image. Get to know how to and why to use Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Wattpad, etc., It is important to know Word and Excel inside out. Also, it is a perk if you know how to use photoshop based platforms.  

Speculative applications:

It is worth a shot to send in speculative applications. See it as an opportunity to express interest in the firm rather than a particular position.

Networking:

Attend book launches, seminars and meet people. Talk to them, sell yourself. There are several literary festivals organized and attended by publishers. Follow necessary people via LinkedIn or Twitter. Keep them updated about your blog via Twitter.

Links:

The following sites can help you get to know about job prospects and also will keep you updated on publishing news.

http://www.equalityinpublishing.org.uk/

http://www.bookbrunch.co.uk/page.asp?pid=index

http://publishingperspectives.com/

http://thesyp.org.uk/

http://www.ipg.uk.com/

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