CVs, niches and social media – the crucial tools to get your first job in publishing


Kingston University MA Publishing student Bonie Santos shares the key points she learned at a recent ‘how to get into publishing’ event.

Penguin Publishers

Penguin Publishers Image: Flickr/ Ben Sutherland

As a fine start to the Easter break, I and some fellow MA Publishing students attended an event promoted by the Children’s Book Circle. ‘How to get your first job in Publishing’ was held at the Penguin offices in central London and reunited four experienced panellists: Mary Ann Kernan, Director of the MA in Publishing Studies at City University; Charmian Allwright, Group Production Director at Hachette Children’s Books; Lisa Edwards, Publishing and Commercial Director at Scholastic Children’s Books (since moved to Carlton); and Suzanne Collier, founder of bookcareers.com.

During a lively talk, panellists raised important issues on job hunting, work experience and the importance of an MA in Publishing. Really important: although almost everyone present wanted a job in children’s publishing, less than 10% of hands were up when we were asked if there were any publishing students (a great advantage for us!). Some of the points mentioned had been covered in the MA already (see our other posts on publishing careers), but some provided fresh advice. Here are those I found to be the most useful:

Selection phase: CVs, covering letters and interviews…

  •  It seems obvious, but spelling mistakes go straight to the reject pile. Keep your CV simple and business-like. Include interests only if they say something about you that might be relevant and useful for the company.
  • Your covering letter is how you present yourself. Be clear, concise, and do your homework: research the company, read their books, tell them why you fit with their list.
  • Don’t wait until the closing date: send your application as soon as you can (or many other applicants will do so before you).
  • If called for an interview: dress smartly, smile and make eye contact. These are key for a good first impression. Plus, it’s not so much about the content of your answers, it’s about how you react to them; so, always have an answer!
  • Ask something about the company: something you’ve seen on the website, something about their digital strategy, or simply say they have already answered your questions during the interview.

Find your niche…

  • Editorial is no doubt the most competitive sector; publicity has become increasingly competitive as well. If you wish to work in one of them, don’t give up, but keep adding to your skills.
  • Production is an immensely varied and deadline-driven department in which you get a very good business sense of how the company runs; negotiation skills and attention to detail are good assets to get into this sector.
  • Unpaid work experience is the best thing you can do to choose where you fit best; don’t be afraid to do as much as you can. Anyway, moving around the company within your first two years in the industry is not a bad thing to do.
  • Do try big companies, but don’t forget that in the small ones, you will have much more to do and get more exposure to the decision-making process (something highlighted in my post about Matching company to job satisfaction).

The importance of a social media presence…

  • If you are not on Twitter, you are likely to miss most of the vacancies advertised by publishing companies and their partners, who are using traditional recruitment channels less and less.
  •  If you are not on LinkedIn, potential employers are less likely to call you for an interview.
  • Make a list of the Top 10 publishers you want to work for; sign up for their newsletters and check their website every week; this way, when you are finally called in for an interview, you will know what’s going on.

Other tips…

  • If you’re older than 26, some people might tell you that you’re too old for publishing: don’t let it get to you! Experience from other areas (even retail) will certainly come in handy when you start your publishing career.
  • Do an MA in Publishing. It’s an invaluable resource and it counts a lot for potential employers.
  • Joining The Society of Young Publishers, Women in Publishing or the Children’s Book Circle will certainly look good on your CV, and will also give you lots of networking opportunities.
  • Apart from the companies’ websites, the Guardian, Bookseller and bookcareers.com advertise publishing jobs frequently. Look out for them – or check the Bookseller job postings on this site (just to your right…).

Bonie Cristal Dos SantosBonie Santos holds a degree in Journalism from Brazil and is enrolled in the MA Publishing at Kingston University, where she is working towards a career in children’s books. She is the winner of the 2013 Kingston Publishing ‘Best Business Brain’ award and a former editor of the Kingston Publishing Blog.

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