The 2014 Kingston Publishing Masterclass season ended with wise words for us all to take into the New Year. MA student Katie Hatcher digests the treat of a lively visit from Sam Missingham, Head of Audience Development at HarperCollins …
Full of energy and light, Sam came to encourage us future publishers to get out there and “hustle” our way into the industry. “Ask for it,” she told us, “because someone will probably give it to you.”
I’m someone who tends to not ask. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries, inconvenience anyone, or make anyone uncomfortable. But this industry that is all about who you know, and networking, making contacts, and asking for help is vital to getting your foot in the publishing door. If you’re like me, this is a pretty terrifying prospect. Fortunately, our guest was able to soothe these fears with her hustle tips.
Sam didn’t start out in trade publishing. She worked in magazines for more than eighteen years. Her move to HarperCollins was spurred on by her courage to ask for the opportunity. Once at HarperCollins, she set to work innovating ways to get books into readers’ hands. One way she did this was walk into the romance and erotic fiction department at HarperCollins and propose an idea: what if they were to create a romance literature festival and host it online? They loved the idea and the Romance Festival 2014 was born. Not only was it easy for authors and readers to attend, but HarperCollins also was able to obtain a great deal of useful data on what readers want. It was a great success and they hope to make it an annual event. None of this would have been possible if Sam had been too afraid to ask.
Publishing is all about the hustle and Sam had plenty of tips on how to make the most of a career in the industry. One important hustle tactic is to get connected, whether it’s online or in person. Sam’s favourite way to connect online is Twitter. According to her, “If you aren’t on Twitter, you don’t get it.” Use Twitter to connect with publishers, authors and other players in the publishing industry. I tweeted at Sam before she came to speak to us and she retweeted me and tweeted back; so we connected before we’d even met! It’s definitely an easy and practical tool and everyone should be utilizing it.
You should also be connecting in real life. Go to conferences such as the SYP conference and BookMachine. Check out book fairs in your area. Meet people and make connections that you can later use to get a leg up in publishing. Sam said that people are generally willing to do what they can for you, so don’t be afraid to step up and ask. After all, the worst they can say is no.
Another important hustle tip is to stay informed. Keep up with what is going on in the publishing world so that you aren’t caught off guard by the fast pace of the industry. Subscribe to the Bookseller and follow Futurebook. Be aware of the big players such as Waterstones and Amazon.
Sam also emphasizes the importance of figuring out what it is that you bring to the table. Where do your strengths lie? What are you good at? What are you really passionate about? Once you figure this out, work on your elevator pitch. You need to quickly convey how you’ll add value to a company to employers. The better perfected your pitch, the better your chances are of getting that job, project, or whatever it is that you’re asking for.
There are lots of ways to hustle. To some people, it comes naturally. Others, like me, have to work at it and practice. Having Sam come speak to us was inspiring. All I’ve heard since I started the MA Publishing program was how important networking is, but no one ever really told me how to go about it. Sam broke down the “hustle” game into smaller, more obtainable tasks and made the whole subject a lot less daunting. So take this and run with it! Get out there and hustle! I certainly intend to.
Katie Hatcher @KatieHatcher610
Sam Missingham @samatlounge
and to further inspire you: