I’ve been in the publishing industry for nearly two years now and I still feel like I’m new to it. I am still learning so much all the time, from events, interactions with other publishers, and in my day-to-day work. It’s a tough industry to break into, there’s no doubt about it - it’s competitive, low-paid and largely based in London, but it is also full of the most passionate, friendly people who have a real love for books and for publishing.
In my opinion, there are two really important things to remember when you’re trying to get into, or move around in publishing.
Firstly, you need to own what you do. No matter what you’re doing, either in your job or work experience, you should have the confidence to say: "Yes, this is what I am doing and this is what I want to do with it." It may not be your ideal job or where you want to be but if you can demonstrate what you have taken from the experience then it will show an employer that you’re enthusiastic and making the most of opportunities. I used to be ashamed when I told people I was in STM editorial admin. To me it was pretty boring and I was worlds away from my dream job in trade marketing.
When I was looking for my next job I quickly fell into the thought that I didn’t know anything or have any experience, but then I realised that I had 18 months’ worth of academic experience. I knew the journal process inside out, what it was like to work with authors and obtain copyright permissions, and what a tough market the academic one is. These were skills I had developed and I needed to use them to my advantage rather than wasting them by apologising for not being in trade. Publishing is not just about trade or editorial, there are so many different roles, divisions and subjects, and it’s all great. There is no right or wrong in publishing, as long as you make the most of what you do, you could end up enjoying something you never really knew much about before.
Secondly, Twitter can be your best friend. Sometimes it seems like everyone there is to know in publishing is on Twitter, and they’re all talking to each other! As well as the ability to send your 140-character thoughts into the Twitter-abyss, Twitter is the biggest way to keep up with what is going on, what books are hot right now and who is working where. It’s also a way to network. It opens up opportunities to interact with people that you would never otherwise be able to. The industry is largely dependent on getting to know people and getting them to know you too.
The publishing world can feel like its own bubble, and although it may seem easier to stand on the edge and just look in, interaction is the key. Recently I attended an event where two people recognised my name when I introduced myself and that was almost certainly down to Twitter. I may not be a big name, or known by everyone but Twitter interaction gives me the confidence to approach a publisher at an event and introduce myself. I then try to follow it up with a friendly tweet to say how nice it was to meet them. If I put my name out there then it has potential to be recognised next time.
At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping at it - don’t give up even if it might sometimes seem fruitless. My favourite thing about people in publishing is that everyone is here because they truly love it and if you do what you can to show your passion then opportunities will start to arise.
Emily Finn is a marketing assistant at SAGE Publications.
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