I am fortunate enough to live near Hay-on-Wye in Wales, home to the famous Hay Festival. During my search for publishing work experience earlier this year, I called by the Hay-On-Wye offices to see if they were able to offer me anything…and they said yes! For two weeks I was a resident in their offices and what a lovely place to be!
The offices themselves are located in an old hall with beautiful wooden floorboards and large windows. Book cases and posters lined the walls (plus a coffee machine right by my desk!); I can honestly say I was in heaven. Also, the people were nice – a big point I guess!
I was assigned the task of reading a book, the author of which would be appearing at the festival and providing interview questions. It was a good book and I, for one would not complain if this became my full time job. Aside from this, I spent my time organising press clippings, creating spreadsheets and trying my hand at proof reading.
Proofreading opened my eyes to the skills that I certainly need to work on; such detail went into the program, it quite astounded me. It also developed my grammatical skills – a target to work on in the future. It was great to experience ‘office life’ a bit more and to understand how the place is run. Everyone was lovely and always willing to answer any questions that I threw at them, which contributed to a pleasant two weeks there!
I thoroughly enjoyed working at the Hay Festival and am going to make every effort to return and try to learn more about their international festivals (they run internships). In the mean time, onwards towards some more exciting ventures…
It was around the 6th March 2012, I had just received my first work experience placement in a publishing house, Walker Books, in the Marketing and Publicity department. I can only describe myself as bouncing off the walls! Walker Books produced many of my own childhood reads; I was extremely happy to be visiting their headquarters to see what goes on behind the scenes.
As a country girl, the prospect of travelling to London on my own was quite daunting, never mind that I would be entering a new work place…shock horror! How was I going to cope with the tube? Well, off I went and I am coping wonderfully.
After arriving an hour and a half early on my first day (nothing like being on time), I was given a tour of the building, introduced to a number people and shown the ropes. As an intern, I was given jobs such as mailing out post and fetching certain books from the stock rooms – which sounds thrilling but it contributes to your basic understanding of what goes on. I was also allocated research tasks such as looking at blogs from book reviews to beauty campaigns; this proved incredibly fascinating. However, the highlight has to be writing press releases for J. Smith by Fougasse, the life-size version of the one in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. It is an incredibly beautiful book and is due to be released at the beginning of May.
I also spent an afternoon in Foreign Rights which was overwhelming when I saw the numbers that they were dealing with! However, it was an extremely interesting experience. Those in Foreign Rights are able to attend the international book fairs such as Frankfurt and Bologna. There is so much still to learn about the UK market that getting my head around the foreign markets is quite a task!
Overall, it was a thoroughly good experience and I learnt a great deal. I owe a big thank you to Walker Books!
Walking up to the entrance of the grand exhibition hall, I was filled with excitement and uncertainty as to what each day would bring! I flicked through the pages of the LBF directory: the vast number of companies was overwhelming.
As the morning of the first day began, the atmosphere was electric. The theme for LBF 2012 was China, and walking around it truly felt like that. Oriental symbols, pictures, fashion, people, food even! Heading towards the Author’s Lounge, as ‘Fast-Print Publishing Assistant’, I was ready to be of assistance.
Throughout the day, Leah and I spoke to authors interested in self-publishing and listened to their unique stories. Each author shared an individual tale about the inception of an idea for a book that they had transcribed onto paper. Their passion for writing was admirable and their personal journeys spoke levels about their commitment to being published. Conversations never ran dry but were always exciting and totally unpredictable, and so each day I came home exhausted.
The second and third day brought further excitement, and we spent a little more time walking around the fair and understanding the different areas of publishing. It was interesting to see the different cultures of organisations as people conversed over coffee or discussed business contracts – diary in one hand, iPad in the other. We attended a seminar on ‘Careers in Publishing’ organised by the SYP, providing guidance on how to break into the industry. It was both insightful and entertaining; it gave me many useful tips for the future!
Around 4pm each day the fair became quieter as people made their way home and companies began packing up. At this point, I was able to reflect on the day’s activities and simply breathe in the atmosphere, whilst coming to the realisation that I was actually quite tired and needed to put my feet up!
By and large, the experience was invaluable and certainly provided insight into the world of Publishing. I hadn’t realised how many different areas of publishing there are, and how friendly people can be. It appeared that people work hard in the industry and still maintain an amiable, calmness about them that was pleasing to see. I relished the opportunity to be part of London Book Fair and hope to be back there next year, perhaps working for a publisher!
By Rebekah Ducat
The most important thing to remember from the second masterclass in our series – ‘A career in publishing: all you need to know,’ by Suzanne Collier and Suzanne Kavanagh – is to “read and understand instructions,” although there is much that was learnt besides that.
These two lovely ladies tested the brains of us publishing students with quizzes on the industry, brilliant asides (what is the future of publishing? Will we eventually need anti-gravity space readers?), and thought-provoking ideas on how to get into it and how to advertise you!
A predominant theme running through was that publishing is not as elusive as it seems, even if it is quite exclusive. Networking is required to get in, but they still need to hire because they need to expand and improve upon their services. Ultimately, publishing is ‘an industry like any other, and it’s aim is to make money.’ Worrying about the elitism and gatekeepers, it’s easy to forget that!
Statistics comforted students though, as they showed that publishers were still recruiting educated individuals – that degree isn’t a waste! They also showed that certain sub-sectors were still struggling to be filled, so don’t focus on being an editor: maybe it’s not what you think it is, and maybe you’d be better elsewhere! Keep an open mind, and get as much as experience as you can (just don’t get caught in the free labour cycle!).
The main points we took away were that you are never too old to stop learning, so expand your skill sets; make contacts – you never know when you might need them (or them you!); get experience from all areas, and then make up your mind; use every tool possible to market your passion (Facebook, Twitter, blogging sites, and LinkedIn are just a few named free tools that can help with this!), and finally just have fun – the industry is filled with papers, long hours, coffee and cakes, so if you really want to work there, get a sense of humour and prove that you’ll pull out the stops! Who could refuse you then (with a good CV, of course)?
The dull day outside was immediately forgotten once I stepped inside the halls of Earls Court Exhibition Centre. I had been let out of work for the morning to visit the London Book Fair (thank you, Walker!) because they felt that it was worth the visit, and it truly was. There was a buzz to the place; it was so bright and alive. It was certainly an experience walking through those doors for the first time! There were people browsing and people striding around like they ruled the world, and indeed, this is where it happens; British and international publishers come together to deal.
This year the book fair was focused on the Chinese market (heads-up: next year it’s Turkey!). I wish there had been the opportunity to ask about that market, but everybody was so busy with their sales. While that was unfortunate, there was so much else to focus on. The Book Fair has everything you could want, from children’s publishing houses like Little Tiger to small independents from the far corners of Wales. There’s something there for everyone.
Soon I had to head upstairs to my chosen seminar, which was the SYP’s ‘How to get into publishing’. The hall was really busy (lots of competition but nice to know there’s hope for publishing yet!) but having a prime seat I really felt a part of what was going on. The talk was brilliant with Neil Morrison, Alistair Horne, Mary Ann Kernan, and Suzanne Kavanagh contributing, all of them experts in the industry. Before I knew it they were asking for the last question and the talk drew to a close. How disappointing but really useful!
Next year I plan to visit many more seminars, as there was so much on offer and so much to learn. It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing and so I look forwards to what the future brings!
Photo courtesy of Rebekah Ducat