Working in publishing is the dream of every bookworm ever to exist. However, that said, in an age of increasing competition regarding the production, promotion, and selling of books it can be difficult to enter into a field dominated by one or two major publishing companies such as Penguin or Bloomsbury. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a job in this area, but getting to this level can require a great deal of perseverance and hard work. Before you graduate this means working toward a first or a high upper second in your degree, but after you’ve reached graduation, it means working on applications for internships and finding appropriate work experience to support your chosen field.
Here are some of my top tips on how I’m approaching the publishing industry which I think might be of use to you too. And remember, when reading this, it isn’t a definitive guide; there is no defined path to our dreams, just as the bumpiest road is quite often the journey we remember and value the most when we eventually reach the destination we were aiming towards.
Getting to grips with as many different titles as you can from a myriad of genres will be one of the best tools in your kit. It means you’ll be familiar with different subjects, voices, perspectives, and styles and part of the job is that you’re interested in the content you’re producing. It’s about being eager to share and engage with new ideas so getting a head start is crucial.
It can also be one of the most exciting parts of a career in the publishing industry. Particularly in the editorial department, there’ll be proofs and advanced copies to get through meaning not only encountering all of these writings before their publication but often also deciding which ones will be going out into the world for publication. Having a sharp eye for mistakes and a keen analytical skill will be things you gain from the exercise of expanding your reading range the more you engage in doing so. Moral?
Make sure you always have a book with you!
Tip – if you really want to challenge yourself, pick something random out of the library. Read through it, write some notes on the content and then decide on things such as who this book is aimed at, how it works towards its target audience and how you might advertise this from within a publishing house marketing team.
Produce and edit your own reviews
Alongside all of that reading widely, whether it be your favourite novel or a blind date with a book, make sure that you write your own reviews. This doesn’t always have to be your immediate response and can wait a while, but it means that you are beginning putting to use all of those analytical skills around books opposed to just saying whether you liked or disliked something. It’s always ok to say these things but you have to justify with evidence, e.g. Weir wrote about space really well but there were often times where the plot had too many coincidences that just didn’t seem realistic. However, considering this is a sci-fi novel set in space and is also fictional, this works really well and helps to keep the structure and plot moving.
As I just mentioned, these reviews don’t have to be your immediate responses nor do they have to go public. I write reviews on Goodreads, Campus Society and here, for which I sometimes plan months in advance. Other times I read something and know exactly what I want to say. You’ll find it is a mix bag and that you’ll settle into a particular routine with your own writing/reading based habits the more you put into practice reviewing and editing.
Tip – If you don’t want to publish your reviews, practice on word documents and come back to them every now and again. You could even carry around a notebook to jot down ideas and then share your progress with someone you trust, like a friend or family member who also enjoys all things book related.
Get involved in some literary + book related extracurriculars
This one is super easy considering the former, but make sure you are communicating with others too as teamwork is a big part of working within a publishing house. I always recommend societies and clubs because they really are the perfect place to grow your confidence and ideas within a supportive community. For instance, because I am particularly interested in writing around the topic of gender I attend Feminist Society where not only can I share my ideas, I can be influenced by the recommendations and thoughts of others.
Work experience is also another important element. Build your CV whilst you are still in education as this means when it is time to start applying for internships and such after graduation, you have something in place to show that you have some knowledge that you are eager to build on which sets you apart from the rest. It isn’t easy to get work experience in publishing either, as you can expect, but if you aim for anything based on book care (library work, teaching literature in schools, volunteering at your local literature festival) you’ll soon have enough of an idea of what promoting and producing books is all about.