As I write this, it’s hot. It’s been a bloomin’ marvellous weekend of sunshine and much-needed Vitamin D. This time last year I was almost in Paris, France, watching 2 full weeks of French Open tennis. Bliss…
Last week I was back at Hachette HQ aka Carmelite House. This time meeting a non-fiction editor and a publicity person. It was encouraging to hear that both had non-conventional routes in, and one of them also entered the industry aged 26 – which gave me hope as someone also entering it in my twenties. I then spent the day at Hachette on my laptop, getting stuff done from the rooftop outside in the glorious sunshine (they have plug sockets outside too, a dream).
I’ve also been upp-ing the applications this week. I’ve been continuing to try to write lovely, tailored, genuine cover letters. Surely something must land soon, right?
For example, there’s a role at Penguin Random House, which I found out about from someone I met there who is about to leave, and said I sounded like I could be a good fit. She’s passed my CV and enthusiasm onto her boss. I’m waiting. There are also a bunch of schemes I’ve applied to and waiting on, so fingers crossed on those. This week needs to be another ‘speculative week’ of emailing publishers to try and get some work experience, even if they’re not necessarily hiring a junior.
At the same time, I’m keeping a constant close eye out for bookshop vacancies, literary festivals happening in the coming weeks, and so forth. Anything to keep me busy, that will give me relevant skills and experience (and CV points), and perhaps some money in the pocket, too.
I’m back at Carmelite House tomorrow, for a couple more meets. Fingers crossed on those.
Here’s to a productive week, with more sunshine.
Fun fact: On the 5th floor at Carmelite, there are 2 male toilets and 4 female ones.
Also: I went to my 1st spoken word event ever this week, at the 100 Club on Oxford Street. Good vibes!
So this post was penned last week, been a bit late typing it up + hitting “send”.
I love it when a plan comes together. And I love it when momentum builds and I don’t feel so uncertain all of the time! After the excitement of #GetaJobinPublishing weekend, and reflection that followed, I’ve been left feeling increasingly content with the direction I want to take. I have decided that a PR and/or marketing role – ideally a blend of the two – would suit me well. Not only would it offer variety (e.g. people-facing stuff, creative work, and so forth) but also sits quite centrally to lots of other departments and stakeholders in publishing. This would mean I could use skills I already, as well as learn an awful lot, which is an ideal scenario. Plus, it means I get to interact and build relationships with authors. Altogether, a really good opportunity to learn the ropes in the industry. With my background in recruitment, I’ve also been thinking about sales in the back of my mind, too – however PR/Marketing is my 1st choice.
On Tuesday, I was back at Hachette UK, meeting another editor from one of the LBF panels. As well as giving me greater insight into where editorial fits in with the rest of the departments (after #GetaJobinPublishing weekend, everything is starting to come together and make more sense!). Said editor also encouraged me to really hone in on what I wanted, after this info-gathering stage. He encouraged me to, if you will, take that next step and commit. Again, just the advice that I needed. Next, it was off to King’s Cross to meet someone currently working in Rights, but has also done work in Editorial and Production. More than anything, especially with someone who is fairly early into their publishing career, I enjoy hearing about their journeys up to, and into, publishing. The theme which keeps being described to me when it comes to getting into publishing is “perseverance and luck”. As Harvey Dent says, you make your own luck.
Finally, I was off to Penguin Random House, this time to meet someone introduced to me by a mutual contact. She was my age (in the same school year, in fact), and has worked in Marketing from the outset, but has done lots around events, too – her role is varied, and actually quite unique. My eyes have certainly opened – it turns out just because you work on of the “big houses”, doesn’t mean that you can’t work in a varied role. Again, she was very helpful and open, sharing her story and what she does.
Today (Thursday), I met with someone else who I also met at LBF, and – this is really getting boring now – she was so very helpful. She works in a small PR/Marketing team (focusing on the former), and brought along some actual material that she has produced and used in her role. She is actually one of 3 girls who met at LBF last year, and now all work in publishing and live together! A lovely story if ever there was one. They’re kinda like the Bronte sisters of the publishing world… this might not be the best anology, but it’s the one I’ve come up with.
I then popped into Insight Inspired (recruitment agency) to officially register and meet with Chloe Daniell, who manages the entry-level desk there. She’s very personable, and they’re the only agency I’m currently registered with.
Then, after an hour getting some laptop stuff done in a coffee shop (I forget which), it was then time for ding ding the main event of the evening…
Literary Bingo, with the SYP.
Originally, I had intended to go along to the BAME in Publishing event which, I had been informed, was not always open to BAME-rs not currently in publishing; so I thought I’d pop along to an event I was allowed in. Long story short, I missed the boat securing my ticket, and ended up being allowed to go to SYP after all (thanks Aimee + co!).
It was cool to see some familiar faces there (a couple I’d seen earlier in the day!) from London Book Fair – both those “in” and those “trying to get in” publishing. A couple of folks I’d connected with Twitter were also there, and we had the chance to say “hi” (hey Carl and John). It’s a small world, really. I also got to meet a couple of new friends on the night, sat at my table.
One of the highlights of the night was when the flat trio of Hannah, Katy and Molly (aforementioned Bronte sisters) all getting bingo when a particular book was called out. Spooky, eerie, magical.
Luck was also with me on the night, and I left with 6 books. I felt both greedy and smug at the same time. It looks like I chose well, too, as mum and dad were eyeing up a couple of the ones I brought home.
On Friday, I happened to spot a tweet in my feed from someone I’d briefly met at LBF (hey, Jessica!), and had since exchanged tweets with. She was no longer able to attend the #GetAJobinPublishing course se had paid for, and was kindly offering to give up her ticket to someone from a BAME, low-income background. Having not had a proper salary for the last couple of years, I am currently on a low income; I’ll be paying this forward for sure. It’s amazing what such acts of kindness, however big or small, can do for someone else. This time, I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end.
I felt particularly fortunate, as this was an event I had seen online, but for which I couldn’t justify the cost for at this time. The group in attendance was a diverse one of all backgrounds (and certainly more men than I’d seen at the panels at LBF!). What lay in store for us was lots of information about the publishing industry.
Organised by The Literary Consultancy (TLC), and the wonderful Aki Schilz, with the course’s three musketeers who were delivering the course: Jason Bartholomew, Jessica Killingley and James Spackman (like the Scatman, but more Spackman), all ex-Hachetters with ample experience between them.
The course took place at the lovely Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell over both Saturday and Sunday, and here’s what was covered over the two days:
– an overview of the publishing industry (from better-known ‘editorial’ and ‘marketing’ through to lesser-known ‘rights’ and ‘production’) – each of the above areas broken down, and with a list of “joys” and “challenges” – routes into publishing (from work experience/internships to recruitment agents) – covering letters and CVs – interview tips (with a mocked-up roleplay) – networking + useful org’s – an author’s perspective: Chris Cleave shared his wisdom via his list of “unpublished truths” – lots of Q’s and A’s throughout, finishing with a big one at the end of Day 2
We also had little breaks throughout the day, and a longer lunch break, with lunch provided on Day 1. There was also the opportunity here for some chatting and mingling – and spotting others we’d seen on Twitter also using the #GetAJobinPublishing hashtag! In particular, I got to meet and spend time with Manveer (instantly recognisable – and the opposite of his twitter bio, btw), who it turns out I share a lot in common with!
For me, these two days were just what I needed. After still buzzing from London Book Fair, which had re-affirmed that publishing was the environment that I wanted to be in, I have been information-gathering to try to decide where in publishing I wanted to be – so that my job search could be more refine and, more importantly, I could have conversations/interviews where I was able to articulate what it was I wanted to do. (That said, as is also widely encouraged for your 1st job/start of your publishing career, I am keeping my options open – a slight contradiction!).
Hence, the overview of the different departments in publishing was really useful/ Equally, it was handy to know what Jason, Jessica, and James (triple-J, Union J?) look for in applications they receive. We were also able to hear from 4 more lovely speakers – Sharmaine Lovegrove, Briony Gowlett, Yassine Belkacemi and Hamza Jahanzeb. Each offered their unique story/journey, talking about what they have done and what they now do – I found myself listening attentively to each one.
Finally, it was great to hear from author Chris Cleave, a thoroughly nice guy and whose personality-type (infj) is just one letter away from my own (infp)! I also got to chat briefly with Chris in the pub that some of us went to afterwards; I was going to make a quick exit, but forced myself to go along. I got to chat more with other attendees too, and met another infp (hey Hana)!
Just like London Book Fair, this weekend just re-affirmed that these are the sorts of people that I want to be around. Whilst we’re all trying to get in, there’s a real feeling of camaraderies and wanting to support one another – an “all in it together” kinda vibe.
This was a spur-of-the-moment weekend, but one that came along at just the right time. Thank you, universe ✨
So, last week was amazing and exhausting in equal parts. After 3 consecutive London Book Fair days, I had a day of respite on Friday, before an Indian wedding all day on Saturday.
I’ll be honest, having taken some time out this last year or so to re-energise and re-focus, I’ve been feeling concern about ‘making the right choice’, whatever that may be. The tricky thing is – there isn’t a ‘right choice’! And there’s no way of knowing what something will turn out like, or feel like, until you’re kinda there already. So for me, it was reassuring to hear that no one really seems to know what they’re doing, especially when first entering the industry. I mean – how can you know what something is, without doing it?
This is why I’m now embracing the prospect of work experience. Nancy Adimora, a previous trainee on Harper’s BAME scheme, describes it best here: “The primary purpose of the traineeship is to give you an opportunity to learn”. I mean, this is what work experience is all about, right?
Anyhow, here’s what’s been happening this week:
Following up on connections made I made sure to follow-up via email or Twitter (as I felt appropriate) to folks I met over the course of LBF, or that spoke on a panel. The recruiter in me is used to ‘following up’ like this, and I – as usual – just tried to be honest in my interactions, whether it was a simple ‘nice to meet you!’ or ‘thanks so much for your honesty when speaking on yesterday’s panel!’. Everybody loves a lovely email. I mean, who wouldn’t? (see below for more here). Similarly, Twitter is a platform where publishing folks are at. If an email feels uncomfortable/too formal, even a quick “thank you” tweet or DM can go a long way.
I visited Hachette HQ
One of the ladies I emailed was a lovely one who works for one of Hachette’s imprints. She was a panellist I’d seen in the week – and she told me that I was the only person who had emailed her and followed up. She was so generous with her time, and gave me some great advice. Though there isn’t any physical room to take on an intern at this time, she said she’ll keep me in mind if something arises. Her imprint is one I’d love to get experience at – the books they publish are cool, they are fairly new and the team seems really cool.
More applications + emails So the advice I’ve been hearing, including from the lady at Hachette, was just to apply, apply, apply. I guess this sounds obvious – but it’s not until recent days that I’m feeling more confident in publishing as a prospect, and about my own experience/abilities. I’ve probably sent out more emails/applications this week than I have any other. Still not heaps of applications, but I’m definitely stepping it up and getting there. I’m trying to just “do” before the self-doubter/critic/perfectionist in me takes hold and tries to stop me from applying.
What’s happening next week? More meetings
I’m pleased to say I’m meeting a couple of other publishing folks next week, in Marketing and Editorial respectively. One of these was introduced through a mutua contact, and the other was someone I met after a Church service about 3 years ago, and somehow remembered she worked in publishing as well as her name and surname! (I think I was connected with her on Facebook previously, so her name managed to stick). A meet is more effective than an email exchange, or even a phone call, and again I’m hoping to see where these conversations might lead – who knows, one of them might just lead to getting some experience. I’m waiting to hear back from a couple of others, too – so the diary is nicely filling up for me.
Literary Bingo Having joined the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) a couple of weeks ago, and then met a couple of new friends at LBF who are also going along, I snapped up one of the last remaining tickets for the ‘Literary Bingo’ event next Thursday evening. At £3 for a ticket as an SYP member, an absolute bargain. I’m looking forward to having more fun and conversations – and maybe, just maybe, leaving with a book or two. I hear that all of the titles have numbers in them, apparently…
More applications I am intending to ride this current wave and keep sending out both applications and emails. After all, it is always going to be a numbers’ game to some extent, and I mustn’t get too complacent. I’m itching to get in now, so I just need to make it happen.
“Get a job in publishing” course I’ve literally just found out in the last few minutes that I have a free ticket for The Literary Consultancy’s “How to get a job in publishing” event, which would ordinarily cost £150. It came about as a girl I met at LBF (Jessica) is now unable to go, and I just happened to see her tweet… the two days look fabulous, and I’m sat here right now feeling very fortunate indeed.
PS.In other news, I spotted Afua Hirsch on the bus this week… she looked busy, so I scribbled a note out for her on the bus and gave it to her. She followed and DM’d me the next week to say thanks! #MajorFangirl
✏ Written: Friday, 20th April 2018 @ 11.01am & 1.32pm
This article is part 3 of a 3-part series. You can also read summaries for Day 1 and Day 2.
Today was the third and last day of London Book Fair. *weepy noises* Having been out late two evenings in a row, I decided to be kind to myself and just go along in the afternoon. I was helping out at BookCareers’ ‘career clinic’, and looking forward to doing so for 2.5-3hours.
Unfortunately, I’d gotten a little complacent with timings to get there, setting off later than planned. Coupled with traffic on the bus to Richmond, I was running late, so quickly got an Uber to get to Olympia.
Once I’d got there everything was pretty much set up, and the ‘advisors’ themselves were arriving. My duty for the day was time-keeper and bell-ringer, the idea being to ring a bell every 5 minutes to keep advisors aware of the time, so that as many of the visitors as possible got to sit down with them, if they wished. It was a good idea – though I did find myself just ringing the bell and mildly annoying whoever happened to be nearby when I did so. It certainly lightened the mood, though! I also wandered about making sure the advisors had enough water in their bottles – it was warm in the room, especially when it was full of people and eager conversation.
The energy in the room was great, and I did my best – between time-keeping and bell-ringing – to mingle with those who’d come along. Like yesterday, today’s was a nice crowd. I’m seeing a theme here… Interestingly, I saw just 3 guys during the course of the whole afternoon, again highlighting the gender disparity at entry-level in the publishing world.
I was also able to speak to a couple of the publishers and recruitment consultants towards the end when it got a little less busy; I recognised a couple of the latter from Twitter, and one of yesterday’s panels, respectively.
Aside from feeling good about helping out, the main reasons for offering to volunteer was just to mingle and meet likeminded others, like yesterday’s socialising in the Cumberland Arms pub after the Fair. It was interesting to chill with the other volunteers, too – turns out that we were all trying to get into publishing. Others I spoke to over the course of the afternoon (attendees and volunteers) had work experience/placements/interviews and such already; though I’ve only just starte dgetting my CV ready and sending off applications, meeting others has actually – rather than make me nervous – inspired me to ride the momentum/boost in energy to be more proactive. A couple of deadlines fall next week, so I’d best get my act together! It was so nice to connect with others, and make more potential friends and Twitter friends.
Last year, apparently everyone was told to leave the Olympia building at 5pm sharp. This year, it wasn’t until after 5.30pm that we were warned that the doors were about to be locked, so we’d best leave.
I carried on talking to one of the volunteers as we walked together to Baron’s Court; it turns out she also writes stories, and has actually written a series which seems nearly ready, but for some editing. I hope she publishes these and gets them out in the world one way or another.
A fitting way to end what’s been a really great 3 days, leaving me with energy, inspiration, self-belief and excitement… with some nerves in there too. “I wonder what we’ll be up to this time next year” I mused out loud to another volunteer just as we were looking around one last time and leaving.
This article is part 2 of a 3-part series. You can also read summaries for Day 1 and Day 3.
I only got to Kensington Olympia just after 3pm today, after yesterday’s long day of Book Fair followed by dinner in town. This morning was vital for recuperation, and the gym/spa session definitely helped.
I felt good, pretty energised and replenished as I made my way to round 2. Here’s what went down:
SYP Talks So, having joined the SYP (Society of Young Publishers) last week, I got my first taste of them with 2 talks. I made sure I got there early for a decent seat, and both of the “Getting into publishing” and “Getting ahead in publishing” didn’t disappoint. The first one was particularly relevant to me, but I took copious notes for both. The the time flew – it was so useful to get tips, tricks, and “thoughts from the inside” from a bunch of lovely folks.
A friend I made my 1st proper pal at the book fair. Juanita was a lovely girl (with a lovely name) who sat next to me for both talks, and we got chatting about all sorts. She’s a fellow introvert and writer, and we bonded from the get-go. I wasn’t looking forward to trudging to the pub afterwards for socialising on my Jack Jones, so her company was appreciated!
And more… And then, as we were leaving the room after the 2nd SYP talk, we got chatting to another lovely person called Hannah, who was totally ace. She works in Rights, an area I pretty much knew nothing about and am now pretty intrigued by. We sat in the pub together, and she told us about what she does now, what she did previously, and how she met a couple of friends (and now flatmates!) through her 1st Book Fair – they’re all in publishing! She also got her 1st experience offered to her at this very pub on that Wednesday night, which was pretty cool to hear about. We also got to meet a couple of her friends, also super-friendly. Seems like the publishing community is a cool crowd. We spoke about all sorts for most of the evening.
After meeting a couple of other folks, I ended up leaving around 11ish. I didn’t get the chance to talk to a lovely (I keep using that word, don’t I?) Sr. Publicity girl as I needed to dash for my train, but I’m going to reach out (update: I have) and hopefully will get to catch up with her soon.
I was pretty knackered as I headed for West Kensington station, but it had been a great day with the talks and the socialising afterwards. I’ve been given lots to think about, especially:
Really honing in on those relevant/transferable skills when I’m sending emails/applications
Thinking about “where” I want to end up (i.e. what part of publishing I want to work in), whilst also being flexible along the way (this seemed to be a theme, and lots of the advice I heard today was along those lines – have an idea of where you want to go, but be open to trying things out)
Hopefully, I’m going to see a couple of new friends in a couple of weeks’ time at SYP’s ‘Book Bingo’ event (memo: need to book my ticket!).
Right now, my head is spinning and I definitely need to hit the sack the moment I walk through the door (sorry family, I’m not going to be the most energetic bunny tonight).
Bring on Day 3. I’ll be volunteering at the BookCareers’ ‘Career Clinic’ from 2pm, which should be fun. And – most likely – wandering about and getting lost beforehand.
✏ Written: Wednesday, 11th April 2018 @ 11.30pm (ish – I ran out of phone battery!)
This article is part 1 of a 3-part series. You can also read summaries for Day 2 and Day 3.
At time of writing, I’m currently sat in Nespresso Cafe in St. Paul’s feeling kinda frazzled. I had actually intended to stay at the LBF all day until 6.30pm, but with a gap in my pre-prepped schedule for the day of about an hour and a half, I decided to be kind to myself and leave. I have 2 more days to come, and a dinner with friends tonight, so energy-management was a sensible move.
Here are the day’s highlights:
Taking it easy I went in this morning feeling fairly calm, despite the nervous anticipation I generally get before going into a new/social situation more on this social anxiety here). I avoided last-minute reading/planning and just went with it. This was very much the theme of the day. I had a couple of things I wanted to go to, and wandered about in between, before leaving early.
On the way in, I spoke to a friendly Brazilian girl who was helping out. She was lovely, and I kinda wish we’d had longer to chat! The cubes there were good, despite the encounter being brief.
The place is huge! OK, so I knew it’d be pretty sizeable, but Kensington Olympia is actually massive. Also, as a guy who’s sense of direction is already pretty bad, the rooms and their codes are hella confusing. It took me a good while to get to the different locations.
I felt a bit like an outsider
Basically, aside from the talks the bulk of the 2 floors was stands for the different publishers, big areas for the likes of Penguin Random House, and little ones for some of the little ones. There were seats and tables, and the chat going on was business-/sales-related. i.e. Not for little old wannabe author/blogger/random dude like me.
But, the vibe was nice
The bookish community (I like that word, ‘bookish’) is a friendly one. There were suited people and more smart-casual/casual folks. Even though I wasn’t such an “important person”, I didn’t *really* feel out of place. Well, except when I finally found a place to rest my feet and tuck into my sandwiches, and was told that a “private event” was about to start there.
I also had a couple of chats, and one with a lovely bookseller who was telling me that she had been here before, for Comic-Con. Turns out she kinda wanted to be an author too, and so was wearing a couple of hats. To be honest, it seems that most folks in this world wear more than one hat. So I don’t feel so strange!
The talks I’m pleased to say that there were a couple of great talks today, one on diversity and another on mental health in publishing. Both were particularly useful for me and, it seems, significant for others. It was encouraging, though unsurprising, to hear that mental health has growing appeal in the literary world.
When I had time during the day / whilst getting lost, I wandered around the publishers’ stands, looking at the books and picking up a couple of catalogues. There are a couple of other stands I want to visit, particularly as I am interested in approaching them to do work experience.
Gosh, I could easily sleep right now. But I’m also looking forward to more – and especially the SYP networking and talks from 3pm!
It’s been an interesting journey getting here, that’s for sure. At school I was the good kid that all the teachers loved (except one of my Maths teachers at secondary school, who obviously just didn’t get me), who put his head down, enjoyed learning(!) and strived for good marks and the praise that came with it.
After GCSE’s, school started getting more ‘serious’, and I chose the equally serious subjects for A-levels. Sciences and Maths. Ouch. I had no clue what I wanted to do (though I’d convinced myself Medicine was a good option – hence the subject choices), and it would have been more handy to choose a wider selection of subjects. I dropped out of uni (twice), fell into recruitment, did a Masters, tried doing ‘my own thing’, and then took some time off. I also dealt with some mental health issues along the way (which were officially ‘diagnosed’ in late 2016 after the ‘own thing’ didn’t work out).
Also, in the last couple of years, I’ve gotten back into writing. At primary and (early) secondary school I had enjoyed English, writing creative stories and letting my imagination express itself. I supposed I never really took it seriously, and I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence too in any case. It was just this thing I was going to enjoy whilst I could, before school got serious and the ‘rest of my life’ was getting closer. Some time in 2015, I picked up a pen. Initially it took the form of blogging, but then I started journalling and have also started writing poetry again recently. I’ve also started my first story in a long time, which started as a short story, quickly became my first ever novella, and looks like it’s going to become my first novel. I don’t do things by halves, you see, which is why getting started is usually a bigger hurdle than I’d like it to be.
I short, I’ve increasingly thought – during this last year (or so) I’ve had off – that I want to do something involving writing. I was looking at content roles and journalism roles initially. Neither felt quite right.
Then, I started finding out more about publishing, and in particular book publishing. Whilst I am never sure about anything (#baneofmylife), something just feels right about it. It’d be great to get some work experience – the usual route into publishing – and try it out for size. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to use previous skills (e.g. recruitment/sales, writing & reading), and hopefully learn new ones. There are lots of areas within publishing, but hopefully I can find what fits. At the moment, publicity/marketing/editorial appeal to me. I know I’d be focusing on one of these eventually, but I’d love to experience all in a smaller house, as a work experience intern. Hey, you’ll never know until you try, right?
What I’ve been up to
– Reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos by people in publishing – how they got in, what they do, etcetera
– Joined the Society of Young Publishers
– Been gathering a list of book publishers, and checking out graduate/intern/work experience opportunities
Coming up – Next week: London Book Fair (Tuesday to Thursday)
– Events/socials connected to the above (tbc – I need to get planning!)
Just like any journey, I’m not sure exactly where this one will lead, nor what will happen along the way. Let’s see what happens – this blog is where I’ll be documenting it all as it unfolds.