Finding a job
The popularity of the publishing industry means that competition for entry-level roles is strong, so relevant experience is important – even if it's only for a short period, e.g. two weeks.
Paid experience can be difficult to find, so many students work voluntarily at first. This isn't a financially viable option for everyone especially as many publishing houses are based in London, but The Spare Room Project may be able to help. This is an organisation which matches interns from outside London with publishers who can offer a spare room.
There are also other ways to obtain experience that will be interesting to employers and allow you to build a useful network of contacts, for example:
- Work on a student newspaper or magazine.
- Produce a departmental student newsletter.
- Join the Society of Young Publishers.
- Be active on social media. Either Twitter or Instagram : lots of publishers have dedicated careers channels and advertise vacancies on social. One alumna got her first editorial job through a Twitter vacancy…
- Work in a bookshop to find out what consumers think/want. You can learn how to write copy, what is selling, and what competing publishers are doing.
- Attend events that will expose you to the publishing industry. Find out which events the Careers and Employability Service is running.
- Create a relevant blog.
- Freelance as a copy editor or proof-reader. Big publishing houses will continue to curate content, and employ an ever-increasing army of freelancers.
- Consider Creative Access internships.
The Publishers Association provides links to a range of blog posts about working in publishing.
Entry-level jobs are usually obtained through networking and word-of-mouth, rather than advertised vacancies. Occasionally, publishers will advertise vacancies on their own websites.
Large publishing companies may recruit more formally. Penguin Random House runs The Scheme, a 13-month entry-level programme which aims to attract the marketers of tomorrow. The scheme invites applications from a BAME (Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic) community, and/or from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Social media channels and blogs are also recommended places for finding out about entry-level opportunities and networking with people in the industry.
Don't be put off by a temporary contract, this is a way to build your experience and make useful contacts.
Skills requirements will vary depending on the role, but key skills include excellent spelling and grammar, enthusiasm, flexibility, self-motivation, and good interpersonal and communication skills.
Data collected from employers in the industry identifies gaps in:
- sales and marketing skills
- technical skills
- business skills
- leadership and management skills
- skills in using software packages
- skills to develop content for multiple platforms
Skill sets are changeable and have shifted dramatically in five years. Certain roles may rely on data analysis skills or benefit from coding knowledge whereas in other areas of the industry an awareness of digital marketing skills is advantageous. Identifying trends and technical skills are important today, especially in editorial work.
In an online world awash with content, the publisher is arguably even more important, as it has a role as curator.
Most entrants are graduates, and for the majority of editorial roles, degree subject is not important.
In certain areas of specialist or academic publishing a master or PhD may either be a requirement or advantageous.
Relevant experience and appropriate skills are more important than qualifications, and postgraduate-level study is not usually a requirement.
However, in certain areas of specialist or academic publishing a masters of PhD may be either a requirement or advantageous. It is also worth noting that some postgraduate courses in publishing include industry placements which can provide useful networking opportunities and give you the advantage of structured experience.
A new route is the Level 3 Publishing Assistant Apprenticeship. Several publishing houses including Bloomsbury, Penguin Random House, Harper Collins and Springer Nature have all introduced this route and it is available to graduates.
For students with language skills, these can be an advantage when combined with good commercial awareness and a love of reading. A role worth exploring is Rights. Publishers increase revenues by selling foreign rights in their titles. Alternatively get a job as a translator, and seek work with a literary agent or publisher. You can shadow authors who come to the UK, or do this abroad. One World, for example, have staffers who speak and read Italian, German and Russian. A language is a boon, but you need to know both markets – UK and foreign. They don't always follow each other, so what works in one country, doesn't necessarily work in another.