The Society of Young Publishers host great events for those getting into the publishing industry, and How To Get Ahead In Publishing was the next step after getting your foot in the door. Joined by Roly Allen (Ilex), Helen Huthwaite (Avon Books) and Catherine Burke (Sphere Fiction), the session was packed with great advice.
It’s not a race.
Each spent about a year in their first roles, primarily editorial assistants, before they opted to move for one reason or another. Catherine learned that “it’s not a race, but it’s good to move even if you don’t feel ready.” Successful people go outside their comfort zone and take a leap of faith. It can be frustrating to stay in the same place for too long, notes Helen, but you don’t have to move out if you don’t move up quickly. That doesn’t work for everyone. As long as you’re learning, it’s good.
What about getting promoted and having an assistant yourself? Well, it’s something to get used to. It’s key to surround yourself with good people, regardless of level. When you come in, make yourself invaluable and they can’t do without you, and you’ll follow the same route.
Environment plays a big part. It’s easier to talk in rights and sales and learn what the job involves; you can’t talk the same way in editorial. It’s about learning how to communicate. Helen was told she was too enthusiastic about a title – just pitching that she loved it and not its many benefits to the company. She soon learned how to sell what she believed in.
Celebrate your successes.
Shout about your successes. Don’t be shy. Talk about it, be known for what you do well. Standing and saying “I did this” is impressive. You need to not only think ‘How will I do this?’, but how you will take it a step further and do it differently. It’s all part of showing what you’re capable of.
Networking is tricky because the industry attracts introverted book nerds, but it’s essential and will push you out of your comfort zone. It is fun, though, albeit strategic at times. Knowing no one is terrifying, but it does get easier after a while. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll make those friends.
Moving companies can seem unsettling – Catherine thought she was institutionalised at 24 after three years with her company. It’s amazing how quickly you settle in a new role. Remember: no one remembers the first three months, so don’t worry if you take a while to settle. Just remember that the reasons to leave are that you’re desperately unhappy, not challenged, or you’re offered your dream role. Not because it’s taking a while to adjust, as it’s something all go through.
You have to make mistakes.
“I will stay as long as I feel challenged,” says Helen, on what she told her boss. The industry thrives on the passion of those in it, and as long as you’re passionate, the sky’s the limit.
But what about errors? “You have to make mistakes otherwise you’re not doing anything,” notes Roly. Step back and analyse what you’re doing, how you could have done it better. Put yourself in other people’s shoes, and how they would have preferred you dealt with things. Learn and evolve.
And a parting piece of advice from each:
Careers are long and the industry is small, so be nice to everyone and be a positive person. Passion. The industry thrives on passion. Books succeed when they have champions. Be reliable. Don’t neglect what makes you special and unique. Stay informed. Become an expert in what you love.
A great insight into the next step of the publishing ladder!