How I got into the publishing industry: Vicky Joss

Vicky Joss, Marketing Manager at Head of Zeus, talks about how she got into marketing, gives interview tips and also flags some of the changes she would like to see in the industry.


What was your route to getting your job as Marketing Manager at Head of Zeus?

I did my MA in Publishing back in 2017, then did a month-long internship at Head of Zeus, where I am still now as a marketing manager. This was focused mainly on digital marketing for the commercial imprint, Aria, and it’s something that I fell in love with pretty quickly. I would definitely urge those looking to get into publishing to really explore other routes in to publishing rather than an MA, though. It was interesting, but pretty much all my working knowledge came from my current job. Experience is definitely key and something that stands out to employers, and it’s great to see other publishers starting to run paid and remote schemes now.

That’s definitely a great piece of advice, and I don’t know that many applicants would realise that an MA isn’t essential or, perhaps, needed. So what inspired or encouraged you to seek out a job in publishing?

I had just finished my undergraduate course in English Literature, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it. I think I spent about two months in a hospitality job where people screamed at me daily before I started investigating the creative industries. Publishing had never been offered as a career path at school, so there was a lot of learning for me on where I might fit in the industry. I applied to the MA then moved to London six months later.

Having now gone through the process, is there one piece of advice you would give to anyone looking to do the same thing?

I wasn’t confident AT ALL in approaching the industry, and I had no idea book Twitter even existed. A huge amount of author and industry activity happens on Twitter, so I would definitely recommend setting up an account, even if you just scroll through a few times a week or engage by RTing. Having an active Twitter account is extremely useful to me now and I wish I’d started earlier! Also check the Bookseller every so often to see what’s coming up in the future – it always helps in publishing interviews to know what’s coming up.

How did you find the interview process?

Head of Zeus is a small independent, and the interview process was extremely informal. After I finished my one-month internship, my predecessor recommended me for a three-month internship as she was leaving, and I sat down for a coffee with my would-be bosses. We spoke mostly about what I liked to read, although I spent most of the time trying to wipe my really gooey hot chocolate off my top lip!

Ha! I feel like the informal interviews give such a good insight into what it might be like to work for certain people. But whether it’s informal or formal, it makes sense to still do the same amount of prep. Is there specific prep that you would recommend for anyone currently interviewing – or hoping to interview – for a publishing job?

Do your research on the company: the books they’re publishing, the marketing campaigns they’re running, their big books for the year and any announcements they’ve made in The Bookseller/Bookbrunch recently. Have a think about your favourite books, the books that you enjoy from the publisher and why you want to work there. This will most likely be because of their books (because, books!) but it’s always good to mention their campaigns, the training possibilities, the ethics of the company and the team you might be joining, etc, to show that you know a little more. I would also remember not to be too rigid in your answering (they don’t want perfect answers) and to be you. I’ve definitely made the mistake before where nerves meant I over-prepared hugely and none of my personality shone through in the interview.

I totally agree – personality is such an important part of finding the right applicant, and anyone who’s recruiting will look to build a balanced team. So, what positive change would you like to bring to the publishing industry?

Where to start! There’s been a huge amount of talk about the industry’s approach to diversity recently, and one thing that I would really like to see is more diverse voices in commercial fiction. It’s something that we’re currently looking to make more accessible, and I’m definitely now in the education stage of how I can help move the industry forward. I also want to break the London bubble. As someone who is from the Midlands, I would have killed for the opportunity to stay closer to my family and still work in publishing. It’s fantastic we’re starting to see HarperNorth and Hachette open offices, but I’ve also read concerns that the move to the North basically misses out on the entire Midlands, and losing all that talent would be a huge shame for me. Lastly, and this one is a lifetime bugbear: stop calling romance/women’s fiction “trash” or “fluffy reads”. It’s a hugely profitable industry, populated by smart, kick-ass writers with a huge amount of talent, and they are constantly side-lined for literary fiction. No more!


Vicky Joss on Twitter.

Head of Zeus on Twitter.

Head of Zeus website.

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