May 9, 2016, by Words on Words

The Experience of Working for One of the Big Five Publishing Companies: HarperCollins

This blog post was written by third-year English with Creative Writing student, Amina Youssef.

The publishing world is renowned for being one of the most difficult sectors to enter, but despite this I am determined to achieve a career in the industry. The best way to gain a step onto the ladder is through work experience, but it certainly proved a lot harder to secure than I had originally anticipated. Over the space of a year, I sent numerous emails, CVs, and cover letters to a whole host of different publishing houses and often wouldn’t even hear back from them. However, I did not let this halt my aspirations and attended a ‘Spotlight On’ event, given by the University at the start of the academic year. It focused on publishing and showcased five speakers who were all involved in different areas of the industry. Having known beforehand that there would be a guest speaker from HarperCollins, I approached him directly after the talk so that I could personally engage with him. I then asked if there would be any opportunity for work experience with the company and presented him with a pre-prepared CV and cover letter. Although I wasn’t certain that this would secure me work experience, I knew there was no harm in asking, as there is much more of a chance of being remembered in person than from an online application form. He said that he was impressed by my enthusiasm and initiative and gave me his contact details. From there I managed to obtain a two week placement at HarperCollins in the Children’s Department for the Easter holidays.

During my time at HarperCollins, I worked closely with the Publishing Operations and Editorial teams, connecting with a variety of people within these departments. The main task I carried out was an independent research project which looked at the way online retailers, such as Amazon and Waterstones, market and promote products published by HarperCollins and their competitors. This concluded in my giving a forty-five minute presentation to the Directors from Publishing Operations and members of the Sales team. I was told later that they were going to act upon aspects of my report and, as a result, contact their retailers – it was great to know that my research had been valuable to the company.

Additionally, I was involved in editing and technically polishing the synopsis for books that were being re-covered and also proof-reading new manuscripts with a critical eye. The work I did alongside the Editorial department was by far my favourite aspect of the placement. I learnt a great deal in a short space of time and it has cemented my desire to pursue an editorial position in the future. Therefore, my advice for those seeking experience within publishing is to not give up: remain confident and always stay alert to the opportunity of speaking to a publishing professional face-to-face. It worked for me – now it’s your chance!

A selection of free books that I was lucky enough to receive from other imprints within HarperCollins

A selection of free books that I was lucky enough to receive from other imprints within HarperCollins

Amina Youssef

[Featured image: author’s own]

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