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As part of #WorkInPublishing week (16th-20th November), we thought it would be useful to aspiring publishers if we shared the journeys of two members of the Comma team. Read on to find out more about our staff, their roles, and their top tips for entering the industry!

Becca Parkinson – Engagement Manager

How did you get into publishing?

I knew from around the time I did A Levels that I wanted to have a career in the literature sector, in particular publishing, so I worked on a couple of magazines, wrote book reviews for the student newspaper and other bits and bobs whilst I was an undergraduate. I then took part in a paid internship funded by my university at Comma Press just after I graduated from my BA in English Literature and was offered a job after an initial trial period.

What does your role involve?

My role is incredibly varied, but for the most part encompasses sales, marketing and events. I organise most of our public-facing book launches, liaise with our sales team, printers, distributors and booksellers and handle all of our metadata to name just a few of my responsibilities.

What does publishing mean to you? Why this industry?

I’m so happy to work in an industry full of friendly, kind and open-minded people. I believe wholeheartedly that books and reading are essential to our development, throughout our entire lives, and I enjoy being a small part of the journey of a book (or a single story) from the author’s mind to the reader’s hands.

What is your favourite thing about your role?

How varied it is keeps things interesting, and also how many exciting projects I get to be involved with, from producing and editing our podcast, to organising writing courses around the country.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring publishers?

If you’re struggling to get work experience directly in a publishing house, then try to get industry adjacent experience if you can – volunteer at a literature festival, work in a bookshop, or just get experience in an office. It will strengthen your CV and give you something to discuss in your cover letter and interview.

And lastly, what are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished Girl, Woman, Other, which I thought was absolutely incredible, and have disappeared down a Bernardine Evaristo interview rabbit hole. I’m just starting Dolly Alderton’s debut novel, Ghosts.

Zoe Turner – Publicity and Outreach Officer

How did you get into publishing?

I did an English degree so I’ve always been literature-focused, but I did a Masters in Film Production because I wanted to learn how to make films and research the form in more depth. Doing a practical Masters in the arts set me up well to enter the industry, as I had the opportunity to do internships for a variety of organisations such as a film locations office and a community art gallery which grew my skillset and gave me a taste of what a job at a not-for-profit press might be like, despite not having such a position completely in mind. Throughout university I took on extracurricular projects from publishing new writing online and writing for the student magazine to organising film screenings – this experience was invaluable to getting me to where I am now.

What does your role involve?

As the publicist at Comma I manage our press campaigns, securing coverage for our books and projects across online platforms, radio, national and international press in the form of reviews, interviews, features and more. As outreach officer I organise our large-scale conferences for aspiring writers and publishers with various partners. I’m also a series editor for the publisher, co-editor of The Book of Newcastle. I also assist with marketing and fundraising.

What does publishing mean to you? Why this industry?

I just love words, the stories we tell and how we tell them. We understand each other this way: by expressing ourselves carefully, by reading, listening and interpreting these expressions. It matters what we choose to put in print and I’m very lucky to have a hand in that, especially working for a publisher that translates voices from all over the world and works to platform the most marginalised.

What is your favourite thing about your role?

The two favourite things about my role are a) managing our large events and opening up worlds and opportunities to people, and b) editing new stories to make them the best versions of themselves.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring publishers?

Get involved in any literary or even general arts projects that you can and if you can’t find any around you, create your own and collaborate. This drive and an understanding of how things such as publications, events, blogs, exhibitions etc. are pulled together will make you stand out.

And lastly, what are you reading at the moment?

I just finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books). Other books I’m in between and waiting to start include Radical Attention by Julia Bell (Peninsula Press), Homie by Danez Smith (Chatto Poetry) and Between Beirut and the Moon by A. Naji Bakhti (Influx Press).

If you would like additional tips and advice on entering the industry, join our live Instagram Q&A on Friday 20th November, at 3PM. Questions can be asked in advance on our Twitter thread:

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