Publishing Scotland Conference – COSLA – 24th February 2015.
With the hope of recapping a little bit of each of the speakers and events at Publishing Scotland through these blogs, it seems the SYP event is a good place to start for student advice. The panel had Rosie Howie (Bright Red), Sam Missingham (HarperCollins), Dav Bedi (Booksource) and Katy Lockwood-Holmes (Floris Books).
Social media v. face-to-face.
Sam Missingham had been vocal in her talk earlier that day about the power of social media, and simply said you had to “hustle hard”. It’s a people industry, and you should already be trying to make contacts across social media, as it’s full of active conversations from all parts of the industry. At the core: flattery is a good way to get someone’s attention.
Katy, however, prefers to talk face-to-face. She thinks this might be due to being part of a smaller company, but she enjoys meeting students as they’re always on recruitment mode: “We’re looking for new skills, and you are our new skills.”
Dav has 200 ideas a day on how to improve his business, but not the resource. You can do that, he says, but he needs to meet you, or for you to tell him that, for him to know you’re the person he needs. Make him interested in you. Always look beyond the first job description – do more, aim for the next one up from the beginning.
With this turn to interviews, Sam adds that you should sit forward and have eye contact in an interview. If you have an area of interest, no matter how niche, create something online to showcase it and build skills. Also, if you’re going for marketing she’d expect at least 200 twitter followers. If you can’t market yourself into a following, she’ll question it.
London Book Fair
Rosie recommends going in mind with something to research, like part of your dissertation. Everyone there is busy and jumping between meetings, it can be intimidating. Sam adds that there are tons of free events, and always a career event, so to make sure to attend. Don’t bug rights people, 90% of their annual work can take place at LBF. Find people in advance, ask for help. People are very welcoming.
Internships & skills
Floris take on two interns a year, unpaid, but notes that these are directly relevant to the courses that the students come from. It’s to help them experience working life in the industry.
Rosie says you should never work for six months, full time, unpaid. Get experience, but don’t be taken advantage of. Use the time when studying to get experience. Dav adds an interesting point: if you’ve taken six months unpaid, he will question the candidate. He understands the experience aspect, but it doesn’t seem an intelligent decision.
Sam notes that a bookshop is another great place for experience. It’s a big route in. You also need to reflect the diverse readership through diverse staff, so she doesn’t like to take people from the same background year on year, otherwise they’ll just get the same results.
One internship area, or several?
“It depends on the person you are,” says Rosie. She tried lots of things, different areas and worked out what she gelled with best in the end. Dav adds that if you focus just now, you limit your options. No publishing postgrad student has aimed for book distribution, but many do go there. It gives you a good understanding of publishing, as distribution is a particularly important part.
“Everyone wants to do it,” Katy says, referring to editorial. It’s the most popular and known position, but the hardest to get into and most competitive. Broaden mind to other options.
If you have an interest in design, but no experience, what do you do?
Try a graphic design course outside of your own course, Sam suggests. Design is competitive and skills are required. Do pursue it, it’s such a brilliant part of the industry. Katy adds to master InDesign, and just show a demonstrable interest.
Magazine v. Book publishing
A question targeted for Sam, given her background in magazines like the Bookseller – is there a transferability between the two industries? “I thought of books the same as magazines,” she explains, “but it’s not.” The digital magazine move has happened already, and they’re dealing with a whole lot of data. People should employ more magazine people, marketing needs more people from that data-background. But skill-wise, there are a lot of fundamentals that can work for both.
If 90% of publishers shared a common personality trait, what would it be?
They like the smell of books. They’re genuinely nice people.
Finally: If you could give yourself one retrospective piece of advice, it would be…
Don’t be afraid of people.
Keep moving. The industry moves so quickly.
Build your own audience.
Keep asking questions.