New year, new career?
If you want to get into book publishing, we want to help you get your foot in the door. Here are some tips for making sure your CV and covering letter help you get that first interview.
When you don’t have loads of relevant experience, it can be tempting to fill your covering letter/CV with waffle. Try not to do this. The person reading them is only interested in the key information. A covering letter can be half a page. An entry level CV can be a page, maximum.
If you have relevant experience, great! But if you don’t (and, really, even if you do), then pick out your transferable skills to show the prospective employer why you could be a good fit for the job. Saying that you love books isn’t enough – there is a lot more to any publishing job than just loving books, and entry level jobs in publishing are very admin heavy (every job in publishing is admin heavy), so pointing out that you’re good with Microsoft Office, diary management and organisation would be a good start. Do you have good attention to detail? Excellent. Can you manage a large and varied workload? Great. Do you thrive under pressure? Brilliant. But be genuine with your claims because if you’re invited to an interview, you’ll be asked for situational examples to back up what you said. And it shows when people are fibbing.
While simply saying that you love books isn’t enough to get you an interview, immersing yourself in books and the book world does help. You presumably read a fair bit already, but read some of the books recently published by the publisher/imprint you hope to work for, or if it's a literary/illustration agency then read work by their clients. Look up their authors/illustrators/agents/editors on Twitter. If there’s a book of theirs you’ve enjoyed, say so in your covering letter – and say why. It’s easy for someone to name-check a book, but if you write just a couple of lines about that book to show you actually have read it then that will come across well. And remember, if they invite you to interview then they may talk to you about the book in detail, so it’s not worth fibbing.
This is important: Excelling in your job/work experience, even if it’s not publishing related, is something to be proud of. Being really good at your job, even when it’s not something you feel especially passionate about, is a skill. If you get a job in publishing, you will do tasks that are pretty mundane for a large portion of the time. Yes, there’s creative stuff, but it’s still a job and it’s a hard graft. Being someone who gets stuff done is a very strong selling point.
Being good with people is also a skill. If you’re a people person, say so – because any publishing job will mean interacting with many people on any given day. The most successful people in publishing are ones who build strong and lasting work relationships. Side note: If you’re not good with people, this is a skill that can be learnt. Like confidence, knowledge and experience, good people skills can be built over time – as long as you’re willing to work at it.
Do not use the same covering letter to apply for multiple jobs. We’d also advise against using the same CV to apply for multiple jobs. Every job ad is specific – consider what they’re looking for, and the ways you can check those boxes.
Do your research. If you can’t be bothered to research the company you’re applying to – by looking up the various imprints and taking note of the books they’ve published recently/will be publishing soon, or by researching their clients and the publishers they work with – then you’re selling yourself short. Publishing jobs require market knowledge and, yes, this is built up over time but it all starts here.
And remember: If you put in the effort, it will make a difference, even if sometimes you have to play the long game. Good luck!