Interning, building a network and pursuing editorial opportunities can be as beneficial as publishing qualifications, members of the Society of Young Publishers told the IPG International Forum.
Speaking on a panel chaired by Archna Sharma, founder of Neem Tree Press, three members of the SYP discussed their own entry to the publishing industry.
After graduating from York University, Amy Wong, SYP vice-chair, expressed her dismay at “how London-centric publishing is", and the challenge of breaking into the industry. She described how she took part in a New Writing North scheme to get access to editorial opportunities, eventually landing an editorial assistantship with Leicester-based Sweet Cherry Publishing.
“One of the many benefits of working with a smaller publisher is the broader experience you get,” she said, commenting on how her work expanded to audiobooks and e-books. Wong said it wasn’t necessary to have official publishing qualifications to get started: “I haven’t felt it has hindered me at all not having [a specific publishing qualification] — that’s not to say it’s worthless, you’re definitely going to get an overview of the industry and a peer support network, but generally I’m wary of saying you need to pay for something to get a job. A lot of it can be learned on the job, particularly at entry level.”
However Tanu Shelar, chair of the SYP, and academic and community marketing assistant at Yale University Press, London, studied for a publishing MA at Kingston University, and also interned at Duckworth Press.
Zooming in from Mumbai, she said: “For me, I needed to do the MA in publishing — I wanted to go to the country where the books I read are from — for me as an outsider it was beneficial, networking. I agree you should not have to pay to get a job, but where I come from it’s a given that if you’re getting into that job, you get the degree. The networking helped, and the course helped me a lot.”
SYP events officer Taliha Quadri credits her involvement with her university magazine as key to landing her first editorial stints after graduating. “It led to my career as a copy editor for a business research agency,” she said. After pursuing publishing jobs, she opted to take a masters in creative writing and co-founded The Selkie, a not-for-profit new writing magazine. She took a lot of courses including proof-reading and editing training, and is now a freelance proofreader, whose clients have included Bloomsbury and Hodder Studio. For her, it was important to have certain courses on her CV, as hallmarks of quality for prospective clients.
“Qualifying for the job is important if you’re pursuing a freelance career, but not necessary if you want to go in-house — publishers give you the training,” she said. “I was new to the industry so people didn’t really know who I was, so having certain names on your website or CV helps — I think that did push Bloomsbury and Hodder to hire me.”
The lack of diversity in the industry has affected all three women. Shelar said before entering the industry in a professional capacity, she hadn’t been aware of a lack of representation. “It was very sad, I didn’t know there were these added disadvantages. I was often in rooms when I was the only one who looked like me,” she said. Wong added: “I already feel tired about how often we have a conversation about this and how slow it is to change in the industry.”
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