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Breaking into Publishing
Publishing is a fascinating industry where you will meet interesting people who are endlessly passionate about their jobs, and be part of work that is really exciting, varied and continually adapting to new developments. As a result, careers in publishing are popular, and it can be difficult to break into the industry - especially when you’re first starting out.
As you likely know, the best thing you can do is to get experience in publishing. But that’s easier said than done! For Work in Publishing Week, we’ve compiled a few top tips to get you started on your publishing career.
There are hundreds of publishing houses, including a lot of small or niche ones that you might never have heard of, who typically receive fewer requests for experience than the largest companies. Look into the different businesses available (Publishers Global Directory is a good place to start) to find one, then email them to ask if they could offer you any experience. Make sure you’ve done your research on them beforehand and that this is reflected in your approach – don’t send the same blanket email to everyone.
Most UK publishing houses are based in London, which isn’t convenient for everyone, and isn’t good for the diversity of the industry. The Publishers Association run The Spare Room Project, to match aspirant publishers from outside London with publishing people in the capital who can volunteer a spare room for the duration of a work experience placement.
While formal work experience and internships are good, there’s a lot you can do yourself to develop the skills publishers are looking for. If you’re interested in editorial, the attributes employers will be looking for are attention to detail, proof-reading, word processing, or desktop publishing. A lot of entry level positions will involve data entry – something many temping agencies will be able to help you get experience in.
If you’re interested in marketing, you will need to be creative, with good copyrighting skills and enthusiasm to develop market knowledge – for example, you could start a blog about something your passionate about, and find ways to promote it.
Editorial is probably the most popular area people looking to develop a career in publishing aim for, but there are interesting jobs in every corner of the industry. Sales, rights, publicity, design, finance, legal, production – these are all fulfilling careers, and all crucial to the successful running of a publishing business.
Do you need a degree?
Increasingly, publishers are removing degree requirements from entry level positions, and work experience and being able to demonstrate your skills are more important. Cambridge University Press also offers apprenticeships for school leavers to get their first step on the publishing ladder.
However, for some roles degrees will still be required, particularly those which require specialist knowledge. Some universities offer degrees in Publishing, which can give you an excellent understanding of the different functions of the business. Publishing M.A.s in particular are likely to offer work experience and internships at different companies.
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