What was your route to getting your job as Publicity Manager at John Murray Press?
It was quite a long journey! My first ‘internship’ was a couple of weeks at Oxford University Press in my second year of uni – in the medical books department of all places, so do take anything you can get!
I moved to London after doing an MA, and secured the eight-week paid (!) internship at Profile Books where I first discovered the comms side of publishing, and knew that was the direction I wanted to go in.
From there I moved to Zed Books as Marketing & Publicity Assistant, where I began working on my own campaigns. Then onto small business services publisher LID Publishing, where I was solely responsible for publicity campaigns on all titles. After that it was onto Unbound, where I was finally working on more trade-focussed campaigns for two years before joining my current team at John Murray Press as Publicity Manager – my first role at one of the big publishers!
I love that you've worked across a number of different publishers! So what inspired you to seek out a job in publishing in the first place?
I’ve always been a reader and knew from quite early that I wanted a job in the media sector, whether that was journalism, radio or books. From doing my A Levels I’d settled on publishing and just made it my aim.
Having now gone through the process, is there one piece of advice you would give to anyone looking to do the same thing?
Be prepared for disappointment. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve interviewed and not got the job, or not even got to interview stage. It’s a lengthy process and you need a certain amount of tenacity as there’s generally no fixed progress like the grad schemes on offer in other industries.
More and more places are now offering paid work experience/internships so do keep an eye out for those, and regional opportunities – both Hachette and HarperCollins have/are opening offices around the country (even the North!) so there will be more opportunities cropping up outside of London.
How did you find the interview process when you were starting out?
Daunting! There’s no two ways about it, it’s always going to be really scary before you go into an interview, but if you are prepared you should be fine once you’re there.
One thing I have found slightly frustrating in publishing is the time it takes to make decisions. I’ve gone a month post-interview without hearing anything before, but this is down to the fact that generally HR aren’t interviewing/making decisions like in other industries – it’s the people on your team who will be doing their day job at the same time, so it means being patient!
So true - and I've been one of those people before, recruiting for a role at the same time as doing the day-to-day work and definitely not being able to respond as quickly or give applicants as much feedback as they might want because I've been so stretched for time.
Is there specific prep that you would recommend for anyone currently interviewing – or hoping to interview – for a publishing job?
Always search the publisher/imprint on The Bookseller – you’ll find all their latest news and acquisitions on there, so you’ll be up to date.
Also, use The Bookseller to look at the publishing industry overall – what’s happening with indie bookshops? Who’s opening an office where? Particularly in the past few years there’s been a focus on diversifying the workforce across race and class, and minimising the gender pay gap.
Finally, have a good idea of what YOU like to read – I’ve been asked this in every single interview.
It's really interesting that you brought up the long-overdue focus on making publishing a more representative industry. What positive change would you like to bring to the publishing industry?
I’m really passionate about extending the world of publishing beyond London, and beyond the white middle class.
I’m from a working class Northern background, so unpaid internships were impossible for me to take, but, more than that, I felt culturally unprepared. For a long time, it felt like I didn’t fit in and my opinion wasn’t valued. But working class northerners read, as do POC, and LGBTQ+, and the industry needs to be more open to diverse groups.
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John Murray Press website.