Hachette - Insight into a new office, and a Job in Books

I went along to the Insight into Publishing event at Hachette UK this month to see how it would compare to last year’s event.

Sylvia Aggrey, an HR manager at the group, showed me around each open-planned floor of the publisher’s new building. At the top of the building is a roof terrace with subsidised café, wild flower beds, wooden benches and lawn with a spectacular view over the river Thames. As we went down to the lower ground floor for the event, I couldn’t help thinking what a different proposition a job here was offering from that of the offices of the year before.

Of course publishing is hard work too and the candidates for this year who had entered to be there that day were about to find out what working in a large trade and educational publisher would entail. Speaking to a few of the entrants, one who had travelled from Scotland commented that she didn’t know what she wanted to do yet but working with books was important. Another was just beginning her search and one from Cambridge wanted to work in trade publishing. The room was made up of mostly women but I felt that the candidates were from slightly more diverse backgrounds than in 2014, which is encouraging.

The panel at the front were Martin Neild, m.d. of Hodder and Stoughton; Kate Agar, senior commissioning editor at Little, Brown; Alan Samson, publisher for Weidenfeld and Nicolson/Orion non-fiction; Yasia Williams-Leedham, art director at Octopus; Alexandra Office, senior production controller at Hodder and Stoughton; Frances Doyle, digital strategy director for Headline; Vickie Boff, publicist at Hodder and Stoughton; Emma Burns, PR manager at Little, Brown; and Emma Thawley, rights. A lot of experience in the room.  I was excited to start tweeting out to my followers @Jobsinbooks throughout the morning.

The purpose of having such a big panel is to showcase all the main areas of publishing so the audience can really decide where they want to work. Neild said at the beginning that he wanted Hachette to be the best publisher to work for and throughout the discussion invited questions, made sure everyone could hear everyone else and got good answers from his team.

Samson made the statement that fiction should be called non-fact and there was nothing non about an amazing genre of publishing. He also had plenty of stories, depth and humour to impart. Agar spoke about the differences faced, when editing children’s books, of age groups and engagement. She was asked whether Hachette had lost sales due to digital and she said that they felt younger markets still preferred a physical product.

Each speaker went through what they did, how they got there and anything they felt might be insider knowledge about their sector of publishing. Questions were asked and it felt very inclusive and friendly, like anyone could ask that question about working in publishing without feeling shy.

I left at lunchtime but am sure the rest of the day was as useful as the morning session. Break-out sessions were planned and over Twitter in the afternoon I saw tweets about minds changing on where to work and general excitement that for a day, a group of young publishing industry hopefuls could explore what working in publishing was really about.

If you are running a similar scheme and would like to get in touch, email maria.vassilopulos@thebookseller.com.