Our Marketing Assistant, Jess, shares some tips for people seeking work experience in the publishing industry.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness both ends of the spectrum in the publishing industry; I’ve been an intern, and I’ve met several interns since I started working for Seren in December 2014. This doesn’t make me a publishing expert by a long shot, but all the same there are a few tips I can offer to those of you currently seeking work experience in the publishing industry.
1) Think Ahead
Most publishing houses are very busy, and slots for work experience fill up quickly. If you want some work experience for the first week in August, you’re not going to get it if you email a publishing house in the last week of July.
I’d recommend looking into internships around a year in advance. That might sound crazy, but that year will give you plenty of time to plan your transport and possibly your accommodation – all of the major publishing houses are in London, but not everyone lives there!
To give you an idea of the timescale you’re looking at, I interned with Parthian Books in the last week of July 2014, and I first contacted them in September 2013.
2) Look outside London
I know from experience that when you start looking into publishing work experience it can feel like every single publishing house that has ever existed is in London, but that’s not the case at all. If you’re a little concerned about seeking work experience because of your finances – paying to stay in London only to work for free isn’t ideal for most people – there is a solution: look for your nearest independent publishing houses.
There are independent publishing houses all over the UK, without exception; England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own independent publishing houses, and most of them will accept interns. In Wales alone Seren, Parthian, Honno, and the University of Wales Press all offer work experience.
We’re based in Bridgend, which is ideal for any of you who happen to live or study in south Wales; we’re only 20 minutes away from Cardiff on the train, so we get quite a few students from the Cardiff area, though anyone’s welcome to apply just so long as you’ve completed your A Levels!
Parthian Books‘ Marketing and Editorial Office, where I interned, is based on the Swansea University campus itself, so it’s ideal for those of you who study at Swansea or live in the area.
Honno Press specialises in books written by women and is based in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre – perfect for those of you who live or study in Aberystwyth!
University of Wales Press is based in Cardiff, and is ideal for anyone interested in academic publishing.
You don’t have to read every single book that’s ever been published by the company you’re looking into – in fact you don’t have to read any unless you want to! – but at least give their website a little browse so you know the kind of books they publish; if you’re interested in academic publishing, you might not find a fortnight at a publishing house that specialises in children’s fiction all that helpful. (Although I have to admit that, personally, I think experience is experience, and you might discover a real passion for an area of publishing you hadn’t even considered before if you try something new!)
4) Don’t panic, Mr. Mainwaring!
When you at last secure that internship, I know it can be a little nerve-wracking stepping into a professional environment, no matter how many part time jobs you’ve had. Just remember: it’s work experience. Nobody expects you to be an expert in the publishing industry, otherwise there’d be no point in work experience at all, so don’t be afraid to ask questions – in fact we love it when people ask questions! The interns that want to know more about the industry are the interns we tend to remember most vividly, and if you make a real impression you might find yourself being considered for a job a little further down the line.
So smile, talk to us and ask questions – we don’t bite!
5) Do it all again!
Never stop looking for work experience, because every placement looks impressive on your CV, regardless of what it is. Perhaps you do a week of work experience in publishing and then a week on a hotel reception desk – that’s not going to lower your chances of getting a job in publishing! All that shows is that you’re willing to work; trust me, nothing will put your potential boss off hiring you more than a huge gap on your CV where you haven’t been at university, haven’t been employed, and haven’t done any internships or voluntary work.
The more work experience you do, the more networking you’ll do, and if you manage to secure several bouts of work experience in various different publishing houses you’ll have a whole host of professionals under your belt, and if they can’t offer you a job they can at least give you a glowing reference.
Tl;dr: Plan in advance, look all over the UK, do your research, ask questions, and keep on looking!