How to get your first job in book publishing

How to get your first job in book publishing

Breaking into the publishing world can be tough. Whether you want to work in editorial, design, marketing, production or research, figuring out how to get your first step on the ladder can be daunting. But, fear not. Help is at hand with our amazing tips on how to break through and get your first job in publishing.

The publishing industry now includes roles in all manner of disciplines, from design and marketing, to editorial and production. Are there any degree subjects that lead to more opportunities for new graduates?

While there are definitely specific degrees that will help e.g. an MA in Publishing – it also depends entirely on the sector you’d like to move into as well as job role.

Science graduates of all types can often do well in science, medical and technical (STM) as they have a background in scientific study and peer review. An LLB (legal degree) is a must for some of our professional publishers.

Of course, a lot of our candidates have a degree in English Literature which does provide a strong foundation for publishing jobs but it’s not always enough on its own and will need to be paired with internships in order to stand out from the crowd.

Getting work experience in a publishing house can be difficult. Do you have any tips on how or where to get relevant experience elsewhere?

Publishing houses are always looking for interns but because there are so many seeking work experience, it can be tricky. People’s natural inclination is to go for the big publishers but sometimes it’s better to find a smaller or independent publishing house and email them directly.

It’s worth keeping an eye on websites that mention internships, such as the Society of Young Publishers Jobs Board (companies post internships here), the Independent Publishers’ Guild and there’s a more general one, Mediargh, which posts internships in media.

With a few internships under your belt, you can then get paid temporary publishing workthrough Atwood Tate which will help to build on your experience further.

How can you make your CV stand out from the crowd?

Above all, CVs should be clear and succinct.

If you don’t have much work experience, you should refer to extracurricular activities (and we don’t mean hobbies!).

There are lots of events, fairs and launches in this industry, as well as a huge online community of publishers and agents. How important is it to network and build contacts?

Networking is crucial as publishing is such a small world, where everyone knows each other.

By attending different events, you can get to know people, hear about jobs, and make an impression on managers who you may end up sitting down with for an interview.

‘Networking’ sounds daunting but it doesn’t have to be a scary experience – by just popping along to various functions and being yourself, you’ve won half the battle!

A brunch, a talk, a pub quiz – here’s your chance to shine! It’s also helpful to make up some business cards to give to people you meet. You can take theirs too and write on it about what you were speaking about then send them a friendly email afterwards to follow up.

Should graduates send speculative applications to publishers? Or is it better to wait for a vacancy to be advertised?

It doesn’t hurt to send a speculative application but this sometimes works better with smaller publishers. Big publishing houses are inundated with enquiries and applications of this kind won’t always get a reply.

If you do send a speculative application, do your research, know the publisher’s lists and write a tailored covering letter with reasons why you want to work for that specific publisher.

Here, at Atwood Tate, we also sometimes send speculative summaries to hiring managers who know us. These summaries are a brief but engaging breakdown of a candidate’s skills and experience targeted for that manager.

If a hiring manager is in need of candidates with those skills they get in touch to ask for more details about a specific summary and to also ask to see the CV.  Our clients trust us to send the right people with the right skills and background for them.

Practise your letter writing – but send them wisely.

Many interviewees feel they must read the publisher’s entire back catalogue before an interview, or know all of the new titles they plan to release in the year. What are the key things to know about a publisher before going to an interview?

While there’s no such thing as being too prepared, publishers don’t realistically expect candidates to have read the entire back catalogue.

A degree of knowledge about some recent and previous publications and authors is good. The publisher isn’t concerned about trivia so much as passion – if you care about the work they do and what they publish, this will come through in the interview.

The questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Why have I applied to this publisher?
  • What works have they produced that I’m impressed with?

If you can answer these honestly, you’re on your way.

What should you include in your portfolio to impress at an interview?

This depends on your area of expertise.

If it’s marketing, then share some blogs you’ve written or campaigns you’ve implemented. If it’s editorial, share writing samples, again using examples that are similar to that publishers’ content. For design, provide samples of your work that  match the publisher’s style.

You don’t need to overload this; a few key examples are fine, and if they’re interested, they can always ask for more.

The publishing industry changes constantly. What are the key trends those looking to break into the industry should be aware of?

Atwood Tate do a lot of networking and attend various conferences and seminars so we can keep up with the constant and exciting changes in publishing.

Here are a few key book publishing trends trends

  • Publishers are looking to get content to people in different ways, such as with the explosive popularity of Pokémon Go and virtual reality.
  • Young people who spend time online want content that is relevant, engaging and personalised to them.
  • Teens gobble up print books by YouTube stars.
  • An interesting trend in the driver of print book sales was the demand for adult coloring books.
  • DAISY now work with publishers to make sure as many books as possible are published in accessible formats. The Marrakesh Treaty facilitates access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled. It was the fastest UN treaty to ever be signed, and it came into force on 30th September 2016.
  • New research from Nielsen shows that the most important element of successful book sales is uploading a cover image with book data. Revenue from rights departments flows to the bottom line. Historically there has been minimal investment in the infrastructure of rights departments; and this too, can be an ideal place to focus for increased revenues.