This is a guest post from Sarah Blake. Sarah is a part-time librarian and current student on the Publishing Masters at City University.
Relating all the things I’ve learned on this course would take a long time, so for now I’ll elaborate on some of the most pertinent points that have cropped up over the year:
1. We don’t need no editorial! (Hear me out.)
Chances are, if you want to work in publishing, you’re aiming for an editorial position. Reading manuscripts for a living! What a life! That’s what most of my class, myself included, seemed to be angling for, as we entered the hallowed halls of the MA.
Right now we’re stumbling out the other end with marketing, sales, rights, production and a whole lot of digital management dancing in our eyes. While the twinkle of editorial work is still definitely there, it’s no longer our Holy Grail. Editorial, we’ve learned is not just reading submissions but also commissioning books, managing company backlists and – the horror! – working with occasionally temperamental authors.
Still, there’s nothing to stop us, or you, from trying for it later on, since…
2. And now for something completely different.
…the roles in publishing are shifting all the time, thanks to the fluctuation of the trade itself. There’s nothing keeping you in production or marketing for the whole of your career, and in fact you should be exploring every possible outlet that’s available to you. I was encouraged to apply for every job offer the university forwarded to us, within reason. Even if it’s something you didn’t ever envision yourself doing, such as sales or rights, everything is valuable experience and gets you further into the workings of the industry.
And for those who moan that the publishing industry is doomed, doomed, we’re all going to die, there are new roles opening up in the industry all the time. And this is because…
3. The future’s bright
When I applied for my course, I knew it placed a large focus on digital aspects. Innocent that I was, I had no idea what was in store. I worked on projects that involved us creating and producing hypothetical, physical books, with all the marketing and production that would entail. But I was also analysing the selling power of apps and e-books, wrapping my mind around the concept of the gigantic expanse of meta data, and creating my own interactive media projects. I learned to code, to use HTML, even – gasp! – to use Photoshop.
Argue all you want about whether the e-book will replace the physical book, but the future is digital. Publishers and authors alike have seen the light and are digitising their backlists. Online databases are amassing vast amounts of digital content to make available to as many viewers as possible. Apps and interactive comics are finding new and vibrant ways to use technology to tell stories.
4. And the excellent news?
All that digitisation needs many hands in order to process the data, create metadata and make it all accessible. And we’re here, tech savvy, smiling and at the ready.