I want a career in publishing and I have a degree in advertisement and public relations. How do you think someone like me should start working in that world? I am really interested in your opinion. Thank you!! :)

Asked by Anonymous

It’s usually the same route regardless of what department you want to work in because entry-level (i.e. assistant) roles usually mostly involve administrative support + more specific support in that department. You just need to make sure you can demonstrate an interest in (and knowledge of) that particular department (so marketing or publicity, in your case?) and the publisher you’re applying to.

I’d say to get a job in publishing you need a mix of luck and determination. You need to demonstrate administrative skills, plus skills/knowledge/interest in marketing and/or publicity within the publishing industry. I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems like the most common way into publishing is through work experience (i.e. internships). Here you can see what it’s like to work in publishing, make contacts and gain experience that you can talk about in interviews and on your CV. Make the most of your time (ask questions; if you’re interested in something in particular, ask if you can help out; be careful, quick and efficient and they’ll remember you; be friendly!) because it’s often unpaid, so you don’t want to waste it.

I did three short (two weeks) unpaid internships with publishers during university and after I had graduated – this is pretty much what everyone does. I then saw a paid marketing internship advertised a couple of months later at an academic publisher, so I applied and did that for a year. It enabled me to gain relevant marketing skills, which then got me a marketing assistant job in non-fiction. I left my job this year to take up a role as a marketing executive in children’s publishing, which is what I’d been aiming towards for four years. It took me a year and a half to get a job in publishing and then another two and a half years to get children’s publishing job. But other people get publishing jobs while still studying, other people get the dream job after a few months, and others just take the first job they’re offered, regardless of what department or publisher it is. But it can take other people years to even get into publishing.

It’s often about being in the right place at the right time (hence the luck) and about knowing the right people (hence the importance of making contacts). But most of all, when you’re applying for roles, put the work in (hence the determination). It’s not fun applying for jobs (it’s awful, actually), but the more you work on your application the more you’ll start getting interviews, which brings you one step closer. You don’t have to rewrite everything each time, but tailor your application to that particular publisher and role. Does it mention you’ll be managing the publishers’ social media accounts? Talk about your knowledge of Twitter and Tumblr, and how that publisher has (or has not, perhaps) used those platforms. How have you used those platforms? Follow publishing publications like The Bookseller or Publishers Weekly to keep up with the industry.

I’d also say don’t be picky and don’t just apply for your dream job. Unfortunately, there’s just too many people and not enough jobs. Publishers can see hundreds – and I’m not exaggerating – of applications for each role. Perhaps don’t apply for a job that has absolutely nothing to do with what you want to do (but there’s always skills to be gained anywhere e.g. booksellers and lit agencies, although not working for publishers, are both relevant), but don’t just apply to the large publishers or fiction publishers. Don’t just apply for editorial because that’s all you know – you might enjoy other departments more.

And lastly, don’t NOT apply for a job because you think you won’t get it. Just don’t.

I know my advice can seem a little depressing, but I wish someone had told me how hard it’d be and how hard I needed to work for it, and perhaps it wouldn’t have taken me so long! Do bear in mind that my experience is also UK-specific, but don’t think it differs all that much in other countries. There’s more options (MAs in publishing, other routes), but this is my experience of getting into the industry.

what do you recommend as a degree for working at a publisher? is media arts a relevant degree? thanks!

Asked by Anonymous

I don’t think you have to have studied a specific subject to begin a career in publishing, especially because you might not know what department you want to go in to before you start university! For example, editorial, marketing and rights are all very different. English Language and Literature can be helpful for editorial and is quite common amongst publishing people, but no one has ever told me they’d prefer if I had an English degree - I studied Sociology and I work in marketing.

It might be a little different in the US or elsewhere - I’ve seen marketing jobs sometimes say a marketing degree is desirable, but they’re not common in the UK and so aren’t required. Some people may undertake an MA in Publishing (but again, it’s not required).