Manchester conference opens up opportunity for aspiring publishers

Manchester conference opens up opportunity for aspiring publishers

A conference aimed at “demystifying” publishing saw figures from the London trade travel to Manchester in a bid to increase the diversity of people entering the trade.

Organised by Comma Press, the Northern Fiction Alliance and The bks Agency and sponsored by the Publishers Association, 61 people attended the 'Get a Job in Publishing' conference at Manchester Metropolitan University last weekend, aimed at attracting more diverse candidates to the industry.

Special guest speaker Hilary Murray-Hill, c.e.o. of Hachette’s Children's Group, talked through editorial careers in children's publishing, saying: “You don’t have to have children to work in children’s publishing... About 20% of 11-year-olds in the UK are functionally illiterate and if that makes you angry, if it motivates you, then that is what matters.”

Guest speaker Sara Hunt of indie publisher Saraband, discussed editorial careers in fiction, and Katie Brown, commissioning editor for fiction at Trapeze, led a session on book publicity.

Zoe Turner from Comma Press said: “It was a delight to work with The bks Agency and partners the Publishers' Association and Manchester Metropolitan University on bringing 'Get a Job in Publishing' to the North of England - Manchester currently doesn't offer any publishing courses in the city, but this conference played out like a condensed version of what such a degree would entail, and consequently opened up an opportunity for aspiring publishers in Manchester and its surrounding areas that didn't exist before. Rather than them having to travel to London and knock at the industry's door, London publishing and all its mechanisms was brought to them. The programme of sessions and speakers left no stone of the industry unturned, and instead supplied attendees with the possibility they had been hoping for.”

The bks Agency’s Jason Bartholomew, Midas PR joint c.e.o. and former rights director for Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray Press, Headline Publishing Group and Quercus Books, said organisers would “ultimately love to run three to four courses a year – if not more – throughout the country”.

He added: “The course is targeted, though not mutually exclusive, to those candidates who might not be able to afford 1) an MA in Publishing, or those who 2) have no connections into opening a door to the industry, or those who 3) want to try and have a CV that can grab a potential employer's attention. 

“So, for the trade itself, our hope is that our course adds to the goal of increasing the pool of diverse candidates who enter the trade overall. We always try encourage an open Q&A and interactive style throughout. We want this course to be a place where they can ask any question to us now, in the hopes of that then giving them a leg-up in an interview later.”