Comma and the Northern Fiction Alliance have teamed up with The bks Agency to bring ‘Get a Job in Publishing’ to Manchester, a conference for aspiring new entrants to the industry in the North.
With guest speakers from renowned publishing houses Hachette, Saraband and Trapeze Books, the day is open to those with no previous publishing experience, as well as those who are considering a career-change later in life, and has been designed to reveal the UK publishing industry from every angle; its economics, its disciplines and career paths, its rewards and challenges.
Partnered with The Publishers Association and Manchester Metropolitan University, the event will take place at Manchester Law School on Saturday the 27th April 2019.
Knowing that one large barrier into publishing is economic status, with the generosity of various organisations, from publishers, to literary societies and agents, we are able to offer a range of sponsored tickets to ‘Get a Job in Publishing’ for those who are unable to afford the ticket fee. See the full list of available sponsored tickets and check your eligibility to apply here.
Click here for full priced tickets.
We spoke to Rachel Neely of Quercus Fiction about her experience persisting and entering the publishing industry despite her own financial setbacks. Read her story below:
My journey to becoming an Editor began a few weeks after I had finished a Masters in English and American Literature and was on the hunt for a job. As I searched for jobs related to my English degree, I saw an advert for a position as an Editorial Assistant at the crime and thriller imprint at HarperCollins.
Publishing wasn’t necessarily something I had seriously thought about – I went to a comprehensive secondary school in Belfast, and publishing was never a career that was raised as a possibility or something that the careers service had any information about. Even at my university, one of the top institutions in the UK, there wasn’t a great deal of information on how to get into publishing or what a career in a publishing house might look like. But the more I read about the role at HarperCollins, and what it meant to work in Editorial, the more excited I became. I was absolutely thrilled when I was called for interview.
Coming from a working-class, single-parent family, and having just graduated from a particularly grueling Masters that didn’t allow students to take on part-time work, I didn’t have the means to pay for accommodation in London. Fortunately, I did have a couple of friends who kindly let me sleep on their sofa while I completed the two-week interview process. I got down to the final four but was unsuccessful as the only applicant that wasn’t already an Editorial Assistant elsewhere and looking to move laterally. However, my passion and wide knowledge of crime books, which I have been reading since I was about 12 years old, shone through and, as a result, I was recommended to another imprint, Avon, who happened to be looking for a new intern.
My first tip for getting into publishing is to apply widely for entry-level roles (not just internships!) even if you don’t have a wealth of relevant work experience. A lot of people find work experience through contacts and, even then, anyone doing work experience needs to be able pay for travel and accommodation in London. For entry-level roles, a good degree and a covering letter that demonstrates your passion, as well as some research into the authors you would likely be working on, is often enough to get an interview. Once you secure that first interview you have a chance to impress, and employers will keep you in mind for any internships or entry-level posts that arise if you make a good impression.
My internship at Avon lasted for six months and paid minimum wage for 35 hours a week. I quite quickly discovered that living in London on minimum wage without support from your parents or some savings of your own is really quite difficult. I lived in a series of short-term sublets found on SpareRoom, finding that short contracts of two or three months were often cheaper than long-term lets, as most people don’t want the inconvenience of having to move every few weeks.
I then found the Book Trade Charity. They were able to offer me a bursary of £2000 paid in three instalments during my six months at HarperCollins. The application process was incredibly simple, and I would encourage anyone coming from a low socioeconomic background or currently experiencing financial hardship to google BTBS. They have housing and can provide grants for entry-level applicants coming to London for interviews or to complete work experience or internships.
I absolutely loved my time at Avon and came away knowing that working in Editorial was what I wanted to do. I then did about ten job interviews for entry-level positions (Editorial is particularly competitive so prepare yourself for that!) and again found that the contacts I made during those interviews were invaluable. One interviewer knew another Publisher who was currently recruiting for an assistant and was able to alert me to the position at Quercus, which they thought I would be well-suited to. I’ve now been at Quercus for over two and a half years.
Publishing doesn’t pay particularly well and for someone without any financial support it can be challenging, especially when you see friends earning almost twice as much in other industries, or find that your peers at work aren’t facing the same difficulties as you because they have parents who are in a position to subsidise rent or lend money for a deposit. But I do absolutely love my job, and that makes it all worthwhile.
There aren’t a lot of people from a background like my own in publishing; few editors received EMA at school or depended on financial need scholarships and bursaries (in addition to part-time jobs) at university, but we do exist, and publishing houses are actively looking to recruit more of us! As publishers we want to publish books that feel representative of our readers, that speak to a diverse range of experiences, and provide different perspectives. That can only really be achieved with a properly diverse workforce. Publishing is by no means an easy industry to access and for those of us from a low socioeconomic background, it can be particularly challenging to find a job, but don’t let that put you off if publishing is your dream!
Rachel Neely is the Editorial Assistant at Quercus Fiction. You can follow her on Twitter @RachelNeely22