Stack of books

February 24, 2022, by aeyam24

Spotlight On Publishing – What I Learnt

By Anna McConachie, English student blogger

Publishing is a growing industry. Last year UK consumer book sales climbed 7% to £2.1bn according to a BBC News article. If you’re an English or humanities student like me, I’m sure you’ve considered it as a career. Here’s what I learnt from a recent publishing event hosted by the Careers team:

Led by the Senior Careers Adviser, Julie Callaghan, the event saw three Nottingham alumni speakers talking about their careers in publishing; describing their career journey, what they love about the sector, and helpful hints and tricks to help you break into the industry.

Why publishing?

If you need any convincing, the talk shed some light on why the publishing sector is such an exciting place to be:

1. Growth

All three speakers agreed that publishing is a growing sector of interest. This is largely as a result of the pandemic, where many people rediscovered their love for reading. Moreover, whilst previously publishing presence has been limited to London, recently there has been growth in regional publishers, creating more diversity across the country and more opportunities for those based elsewhere.

2. Breadth

Tom Cookson, Business Director at Pan Macmillan, says his favourite part of publishing is the range of genres a book lover is introduced to, and the breadth of projects you work on. For example, he was involved in the publishing partnership with Markus Rashford. Eve Wersocki Morris, Publicity Manager at Simon & Schuster, loves the combination of creativity, organisation and social aspects her role gives her. Frankie Banks, Press Officer at Little Browns, loves that the industry focuses on creativity and imagination.

3. Future

There is a greater need for diversity, something that is changing and accelerating in publishing. Moreover, there is greater demand for skills young people have, such as an understanding of social media and digital marketing strategies.

Breaking into the sector

Each speaker highlighted that there are lots of different ways to break into the sector, by discussing their own journeys into publishing.

Tom took a non-traditional route, by first learning the commercial ropes for different industries, acquiring financial qualifications, and finally entering the world of publishing as a financial analyst.  As a business director now, he is responsible for identifying and explaining the trends we see across the commercial side of publishing. Working with editorial, sales and comms to acquirecommission, market, sell and distribute books, Tom aims to improve and expand the reach of publishing and encourage a lifelong love of reading in people.

Eve began in a PR agency before moving into the publishing sector, learning how to head up PR strategy for campaigns, working in broadcast, print, and digital press, and pitching authors for interviews and books for review. She now creates and organises events, presents to literary festival programmers, and supports authors at events and festivals. Before this, she undertook lots of short work experience stints, including marketing work experience at the Nottingham Playhouse.

Frankie took a job as a receptionist at Hachette Book Group and used every opportunity to network, before applying to more traditional roles within the publishing sector. Her job as a press officer has her writing press releases, pitching books to journalists, taking author meetings, and planning and working events. She says she faced a lot of rejection before finally getting her dream role.

All three speakers stressed that there are many opportunities to enter at one area and progress to another, and suggested that one of the most helpful things a student can do is get a job related to books, such as a sales assistant at Waterstones.

Tips to make yourself stand out

The speakers also gave some great advice on helping secure a role in the publishing sector or at least getting your foot in the door.

1. Show your love for reading outside of your application; consider creating a bookstagram, or tweet about books you have read and tag the publisher and author.

2. Networking is key; use the connections you already have and generate new ones by using LinkedIn or emailing department heads or HR – just remember not everyone will want to talk to you.

3. Know your audience; read the trade press and have an understanding of the commercial sector by demonstrating a curiosity for what people are reading, what motivates those choices, and how they interact and hear about books.

Key points to remember

  • Publishing is more than just editorial work! There are so many roles that you can get involved with.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a non-traditional route in.
  • Apply to all the work experience and internships you can – remember there are opportunities in areas aside from London.
  • Get any role, show a passion, and follow what interests you.
  • Demonstrate commercial knowledge.
  • Publishing is a small world; impress everyone you meet.
  • Consider applying for a smaller publishing firm to begin with as the big five will be very competitive.
  • Be patient and persistent.

Find out more about careers in publishing, see all upcoming events, or book a careers appointment to discuss your career ideas. 

Good luck!

Posted in Alumni StoriesCareers AdviceChoosing Your CareerEmployer InsightsStudent Bloggers