Friday, 11 December 2009

5 Things That Helped Me Get a Job in Publishing

So, I've been working at Pearson Education for about two months now. I feel so lucky to have a job at the moment, especially in a competitive business such as publishing. I remember going to the interview, being extremely nervous. My voice probably trembled; I couldn't answer all the questions. But the interview lasted for nearly two hours, so I thought that had to be a good sign.

I really didn't expect to get the job. But luckily for me, I did. And I've been reflecting back on what I thought went right for me. What advice could I offer to others trying to break into the publishing industry?

Here are five things that I think helped me get my job as an editorial assistant:

1. An independent project

While I was looking for a job, I edited, created and (self)published an anthology with the writers of an online writing forum. (I wrote a post on this here: 'Shot Glass Stories - Reflections on Editing an Anthology'). I took a copy along with me to the interview. Even though I only had a proof copy (with a typo on the front page), and the story that my interviewers read was about a one night stand, they seemed pretty interested in it. I guess that this showed that I was enthusiastic about publishing, and capable of managing my own project. I imagine that it also made me stick in the minds of my interviewers - I wonder if anyone else they interviewed had anything like that?

2. My degree

More and more people these days are going to university and getting a degree. I went to a pretty decent university, and studied English Literature with Creative Writing. Fairly relevant to the publishing industry. I had considered trying to get a Masters degree in Publishing, but I was lucky enough not to have to do this. Some of the other editorial assistants at my work place have Publishing Masters, though; doing an MA in Publishing is still a good option if you are trying to get into the industry.

3. Work experience
I spent a few weeks gaining some experience by working for a small publishing house called Whittet Books. It was really great. I only did about four or five hours a day, and worked from the publisher's office in her house. Shirley was really, really lovely and I loved helping out with the books. If I hadn't done this experience, I would not have got my job at Pearson: it was Shirley's relative who told me of the vacancy. Plus, I learned some valuable inside information about the publishing industry.

4. Who you know
It is not just what you know, but definitely who you know, too. My mother's partner's daughter-in-law (yeah... I think that's right) works in a book distributor's. They recently bought out a small publishing house. They needed an extra pair of hands... thus, work experience at Whittet. You know the rest. So, my point is, exploit your contacts! Ask around. Socialise and integrate with people who are already in the business. They might be able to point you in the right direction.

5. Research and preparation
After submitting my CV, I was called for an interview. But I was also given a couple of research tasks to complete before the interview. I took the whole day off working for Whittet to focus on this. I took a good three hours or so researching these tasks, and then another good three hours or so writing it up and presenting it well. I wasn't confident that I had done this well enough, but my interviewers seemed to like that I had printed off copies of my work for them - I think they only expected me to talk about it. I also researched Pearson, since I didn't honestly know a great deal about them. I felt well prepared for my interview.

There are a few other things I think helped. But these are perhaps the main ones. And, as always, a little luck wouldn't go amiss!


  1. Good info. I think the biggest factor definitely is the "who you know" part. It seems that networking is the most quoted advice from people in the industry. So, with that in mind, remember me when I submit my book to you LOL. :P

  2. Nice post, Sophie. Networking definitely helps in any industry -- although I got my first publishing gig (so many moons ago) by going through the yellowing pages and cold calling every publisher in the city (in the days before the internet).

    You're a smart cookie. You work hard. You'll do well with whatever you choose to do.

    Just make sure you do an EXTRA good job while in your probation period (3 mos here)then they'll have to keep you :)

  3. "yellowing pages"
    I love it.
    I mean't Yellow Pages, obvs


  4. So, Critters Bar helped you get a job in publishing? Neato! But seriously, you did a great job with the anthology. Shot Glass looks good.

    Well done you.

  5. Voidwalker - sure! If you want to write a Nursing textbook, or a Business/Economics textbook for university students... I would happily consider it! :P

    Robin - that's cool. What was your first publishing job?

    Rob - yeah! More reasons to love Critters Bar. And aw, thanks, I'm glad you liked the antho.

  6. Great info--especially since I am now considering a career change to work in the publishing industry. By the way, I am now a new follower thanks to Literary Rambles. :)

  7. Hi Pam! Thanks for dropping by. I'll post more topics about my experience in the publishing world, so I hope my blog will be of interest to you :) I see that you are currently doing an MA in creative writing - how are you finding that?

  8. I always like to drop by for helpful tips and news. Great blog, Sophie. I also decided to try out online critiquing from your post about Karlyn. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. Aw, thanks for asking Sophie. My first publishing gig was "editorial assistant" for a company called Opus Productions. I was 22. We produced pretty photo/coffee table essay books about sports and music celebrities (Brian Adams, Joe Montana, Muhammed Ali, Wayne Gretzky, etc.)It was quite exciting to see my name in the back pages -- but I'd prefer to see it on the cover these days ;)

  10. Lol... nursing textbook, um, I'll get back to you on that. :P


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