To mark the graduation of our class of 2011/12 this week we asked award-winning graduate Laura Vile to reflect on what she learned on the Publishing MA and how it has helped in her first publishing role.
I have been working at Hodder as a Marketing Executive for seven months now and I am really enjoying it. Every day is different and I am building on what I learned both from the MA and my previous job as a marketing assistant. My weekly tasks include writing and actioning marketing plans, delivering customer service, writing press releases, updating our five (soon to be six) social media profiles, organising events, liaising with authors and designing adverts and inserts. On average we launch around twenty physical products a month. Since each book is marketed individually – not to mention our apps – it definitely keeps us busy!
I am certain that without having done the Kingston University Publishing MA I would not be in the job that I have now. Taking a chance as a ‘mature’ student encouraged me to leave a role where I had learnt everything I could and go for a position I really wanted. Looking back, I can see that there are three aspects of the MA that really made a difference to me: my work placement experience, the broad-ranging learning opportunities and the people.
Road-testing a future career while on work placement
I used my work experience as a road test, to try to figure out what I wanted to do. Initially I thought I wanted to work in editorial, and I had even applied for editorial assistant jobs (with no luck) prior to starting at Kingston. My placement in an adult editorial department made me realise I actually wanted to be in marketing, which is also what (I hope!) I am good at.
Not only did my time on placement give me some much needed direction, I also worked alongside other interns, making some great friends who I am still in touch with (we send each other jobs or internships we see advertised…). It also enabled me to see the whole process of publishing a book (which we had learned about on the MA) in action: an eye-opening experience!
Making the most of learning opportunities
My advice to anyone starting out on the MA would be to make the most of all the different modules and experiences on offer. Every session I went to made me feel so much more confident in my knowledge of the industry, and I understand the real world of publishing better because of it.
The experience of developing a new product proposal for one of our assignments means I feel for the editors who present their titles at Hodder’s acquisition meetings, plus I understand what’s going on! We are a small team within a big company and we work really closely together; building close relationships is vital and having some prior knowledge of what people do helps a lot with this.
What I learned on the course helped me respond to questions in job interviews about issues as diverse as ebooks, discounting, digital rights management (DRM) and social media. Also, the opportunity to practise interview skills came right before my interview for this job. I know having gone through likely questions with lecturer Judith Watts and work placement officer Cathy Smith helped me so much!
Building contacts at all levels
One of the most valuable aspects of the course is the people you interact with. Everyone you meet on the course, from your classmates and lecturers to the numerous guest speakers, can give you invaluable advice and may provide a link to the job you really want.
Like it or not, networking is a huge part of getting into this crazily competitive industry! It is easy to do, with regular events run by the SYP or BookMachine, and the London Book Fair (LBF) too. The LBF seminars were really interesting, though there were so many of them! My top tip is to spend two days at LBF if you can. I spent the first day wandering around like a rabbit caught in the headlights because there was so much going on – the second day was definitely more productive!
Everything you do throughout the MA comes in handy when you get that dream job in the industry, since you are living all the theory you have previously learned. For me, research I undertook for my assignments has been useful in lots of different situations. I recently found myself speaking up in a proposal meeting about a reprint of an erotica how-to book because of the knowledge I gained while researching the insane rise in erotica on ereaders for my dissertation! So, on the day I graduate from Kingston, I think it’s fair to say that completing an MA wasn’t just an academic achievement: the experience has also given me practical knowledge and skills that I use every day in my professional life!
Laura Vile is a Marketing Executive at Hodder Consumer Learning. She has a degree in English Literature and worked as a Marketing Assistant before enrolling on the Kingston University Publishing MA. Laura won the coveted Best Overall Contributor prize for her year, as voted for by fellow students.