Breaking into the publishing industry: standing out in a crowded room

Kingston University MA Publishing Student Stacey Hill takes us inside a publishing careers event at Kingston University.

Publishing Industry

Breaking into the publishing industry with tips from the experts of the field. Image: Flickr/Kate Ter Haar

I recently attended a Spotlight on Publishing event at Kingston University, which gave advice on how to get into the publishing industry, with the added opportunity of one-on-one interview practice and networking! The evening began with a panel talk and discussion by industry employers including Random House, Alain Charles Publishing, Reed Business Information, Haymarket Media Group, The Society of Young Publishers and Byers Ink.

Led by Andrew Turner, the 2012 chair of the Society of Young Publishers and a Kingston MA Publishing graduate, the discussions about breaking into the publishing industry led to these tips:

  • Make sure you read the job advertisement thoroughly. You need to really understand what you’re applying for and describe your skills in a way that matches the job description.
  • Be commercially aware. Show you are current and up-to-date with media/publishing issues and trends. Read The Bookseller, Gorkana, Publishers Weekly and anything else you can get your hands on.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes you may need to take what you can get in order to work for the company you want. Once you’re in, it can be easier to progress to the department of your dreams from there. That being said, this topic raised a little debate within the panel; some thought that in larger corporations it may be harder to move around…
  • Make your application as personal as possible – potential employers want to know YOU, what you like and what your interests are (of course, you should be able to link these interests back to publishing in some way).
  • Do extracurricular activities, the more niche the better. Show that you’ve already invested your time in the industry and that you are serious and interested. This could be anything from starting a blog to contributing to a local magazine or newspaper. Show that you go the extra mile!

After the panel discussion it was time for some one-on-one interview practice! We were to be interviewed for four minutes by one of the industry professionals, who would then spend a minute giving us their feedback. My group was last to be interviewed so I had a little time to prep myself and have a glass of red wine for Dutch courage!

My first interview was with Random House. The recruiter began by asking me why I wanted to go into publishing… and I fell at the first hurdle! I gave some guff about my past work experience being a natural progression to working in the publishing industry and then proceeded to blag the rest. At the end of a very red-faced four minutes I received some constructive feedback, such as the fact that I needed to get to the point of my answer and not tell my whole back story. I had slightly better luck next time as my second interviewer was my own MA Publishing lecturer Alison Baverstock. With someone I knew, I was able to relax a little more and found my answers came more easily. Alison told me that my interview style was very natural and that I came across confidently, though I needed to sound a little more decisive in my answers and stop wildly gesticulating with my hands (as I am prone to do).

Finally I was interviewed by Haymarket Media. As this was my third interview of the evening, I felt a lot calmer. Or maybe that was the impact of the red wine? I also found the recruiter’s interview style a lot less formal and so it felt more like we were having a conversation. Afterwards, he said I came across very confidently and polished. He proceeded to tell me about an upcoming internship with Haymarket and gave me his business card. Success!

All in all, I found the advice to be sound and helpful, and the interview practice was extremely valuable, if a bit nerve-wracking! I would highly recommend future Spotlight on Publishing events it to anyone looking for advice on getting into publishing. You gain some essential advice, and it never hurts to network.

StaceyStacey Hill is currently enrolled in the MA Publishing programme at Kingston University. You can read her thoughts about the Publishing world in her personal blog: Publishing Student.

Discover more tips on getting into – and getting on in – publishing with these posts:

Keep busy and carry on

Five top tips to get your first job in publishing

Getting ahead in the publishing game

Developing your career in publishing


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