I recently attended Get Into Book Publishing, an accessible, tutorial-led course at University College London. The four-day event, attended by around seventy delegates, was organised and led by Heather O’Connell of Bluebird Consulting.
The course was intended to provide a comprehensive insight into the many different roles available in book publishing, for people with little to no prior knowledge. The course was ideal for students, graduates, or those seeking a career change.
Over the four days, we received presentations from industry professionals representing different imprints of Hachette and Penguin Random House, in areas of the industry including audiobooks, editing, cover design, production, subrights, marketing, and sales. These talks allowed me to learn more about areas of the industry I was relatively unaware of, as well as consider more carefully what I already knew. Also represented was the role of the literary agent; Bryony Woods of Diamond Kahn and Woods shared some of her experiences and challenges in her role.
Among the tutorials about the more conventional areas of the industry, there were presentations by experts representing areas that I had not given much thought to prior to the course. Hazel Kenyon from Nielson gave us facts and figures about the nature of the industry as it stands today; Alison David from Egmont provided an insight into the value of research in publishing; Charlotte Colwill from Foyles revealed to us the quirks of being a bookseller; and Nick Coveney from Harper Collins disclosed how innovation is developing marketing techniques.
We were also given practical advice on recruitment from Suzy Astbury of Inspired Selection and networking from Justine Solomons of Byte the Book. These are two intimidating yet necessary aspects of getting into book publishing so were greatly received by all the delegates, if the frantic note-taking during these presentations was anything to go by. Justine’s advice on networking was followed by a networking drinks reception, held at Stationer’s Hall. Unfortunately, I could not attend this, however I heard it was a great experience for those involved.
Each day we had time to work on projects that had been set by industry professionals concerning topical matters. We were then given the chance to pitch our findings to the professionals and receive feedback. This was a great opportunity to contemplate the many considerations that go into pitching, as well as experience presenting to a large group.
Alongside the invaluable knowledge, we were provided with a membership to the Society of Young Publishers, entrance to the London Book Fair 2018, and the chance to connect to a group of likeminded individuals pursuing similar career paths.
Five key things I learnt:
- The diversity of roles available. The industry is full of a variety of positions that hadn’t even crossed my mind, such as innovation and research.
- The importance of networking. Networking is essential in the industry. Don’t be afraid of it as everyone is in the same boat.
- Creativity is key. When reflecting on what skills they thought would suit their roles, nearly every speaker mentioned the need for creativity.
- Everyone is lovely. The industry is a community of welcoming people with a passion for books.
- This is a very exciting time to get into book publishing. Following the survival of the recession, the rise of the eBook, and the strengthening popularity of audiobooks, the industry is still going strong, however there is an excited uncertainty of what will happen next.
As an introduction into a complex, fascinating, and ever-changing industry, this course provided all that I had expected and more. I hope to see more events like this in the future, for which I will be first in line.
For more information on the course visit getintobookpublishing.co.uk.
Eleanor Smith is a second year English Literature student at the University of Leeds, and hopes to pursue a career in publishing once she graduates.