An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘magazines’

Introducing Editorial Assistant Rosalind Moody

Welcome to another interview for the People in Publishing feature on my blog! Today’s interviewee is a good friend of mine who works in magazine publishing and has interned for a number of books publishers. We met through a mutual friend, Sam Stevens, and encouraged each other through harrowing job searches through the publishing industry! Rosalind is incredibly ambitious, extremely hard-working, and very talented. I can see her being a huge success in the publishing industry and I hope to continue learning from her. Below she discusses her job search, her current job, the benefits of interning, and gives advice on getting your foot in the door.

Please introduce yourself and describe your background and your career.

The lovely Rosalind Moody

The lovely Rosalind Moody

I’m Rosalind Moody and I’m a graduate from the University of Hull. I studied English and Philosophy and achieved a 2:1. Since my second year of university, I’ve completed unpaid internships at Endeavour Press, Simon & Schuster UK, Hodder and Stoughton and Just Imagine, a specialist children’s bookseller in Chelmsford. Last Christmas I was offered a job as Editorial Assistant at Colchester-based publishing company Aceville Publications who own a lot of major craft magazines, as well as other well-known titles such as Great British Food, Your Fitness and Natural Health. Make it Today is a new title I’m helping to develop but actually I’ve just been transferred to a more established magazine called Homemaker. I’m really enjoying myself and I’m constantly learning!

Having worked as an intern in books publishing and now as an Editorial Assistant for a magazine, what would you say is the biggest culture difference between the two types of publishing?

The biggest culture difference is who pays the bottom line. With books it’s just the reader to make the profit for the publisher, so no wonder the book is vulnerable at the moment. With magazines it’s the readers and the advertisers who all pay their way. So, although that means we as the magazine publishers have lots of people to please, money comes from two different directions – sales, and how well we direct our readers to our advertisers’ networks. Things work at different paces too – in magazines, you have to be prepared for things to change, and quickly. Rightly so, I think: if we see a trend, we can jump on it straight away and capitalise on the excitement, such as the recent surge in sewing after The Great British Sewing Bee became so big. I do quite like the quickened pace though – my first magazine comes out every six weeks, and the one I now work on is every four weeks. Publication dates for books are announced a year or 18 months in advance. I like it because I get to see results of my work within weeks, which is always really satisfying, and there’s more of an instant feedback with our readers too; there’s a lot more conversation between our team and our readers than there is between book editor and reader, whose job it is to be virtually invisible and let the author’s voice come through the best it can. Social media has helped to cement this kind of relationship, but our names and headshots are all over the magazine anyway! I enjoy this kind of relationship, and I always have the reader in mind when I’m ordering in any product, writing introductions to projects or interviewing a person who’s popular in the craft industry – what would the reader most like to read?

A big similarity between magazine and book publishing, however, is that they are just two types of effective editorial, which in my book is an idea being communicated in the most creative way, from one person to a page. In buying a book or a magazine, the reader is buying into escapism, an inspiration: a book and a craft magazine both give the feeling the reader can go anywhere or do anything in their mind. The reader is still buying an idea or an ideal of themselves. Finishing a pattern from one of dressmaking issues is like making it to the end of the book. Satisfying, and the better we’ve made our product, the more likely it is they’ll finish it!

Why was work experience and interning so important and valuable in your job search? What is your point of view on Book Careers’ decision to only deal with internships and work experience placements that are paid?

I think the stand they’ve taken is great; someone needed to, and hopefully others will, although it’s unlikely it will catch on. It’s hard to be expected to do six months’ worth of unpaid internships and then live on a pittance when we finally get hired in an entry level job, but that’s what most of us have to do to work in this exciting, frustrating industry of publishing. I count myself lucky that I could do my four unpaid internships, and ‘lucky’ isn’t the word a lot of people would use to be able to work for free I’m sure! My parents were supportive and I live a 45 minute train journey outside of London. Good editorial thinking is a skill, so why aren’t we being paid for it? My internships experience was brilliant though, aside from the financial matters – I learnt things from putting together an adult self-teaching language pack to commissioning ebook jacket covers to proofreading Kylie’s latest biography! My main problem though, is with a company called Creative Access that only advertises internships to BAME or ethnic minorities – isn’t that positive discrimination? I think publishing would be more vibrant if anyone from any background was in it, so why should we care where they’re from? Pay them the same and see who does better on their own merit.

“In magazines, you have to be prepared for things to change, and quickly.”

Having been through the harrowing process of finding your very first job in publishing, what would you say is the most valuable piece of advice you can give to current job searchers?

Be on EVERY recruitment network; Brand Republic, Guardian Jobs, Gorkana, The GRB team, LinkedIn Jobs. Seek the help of publishing recruitment agents too, even though some are more proactive than others. Say no to the jobs they tell you about that are just not ‘you’; they will be a waste of your application time! Give yourself an edge, too – that was advice I was given by the Sales Director at Hodder and Stoughton. My edge was working from the bookselling side at Just Imagine, where I worked with PR people from the publishing houses. To follow on from that, meet anyone you can at any book event you can tag along to, and you never know who you’ll meet – some of my best contacts from internships have not been the employer themselves but other interns or people you meet at events you’re helping at. For example, I met a theatre critic for the Guardian when I was interning at Just Imagine while she was promoting her new children’s books, and since then she’s taken me to the theatre in London with her at least three times. I was in my element!

Lastly, as you become more experienced, make sure you apply for jobs you think are just out of reach, or for a role for a publisher you think would never even consider you – you never know! I still don’t know why I didn’t get other jobs, but what matters is someone saw my merit and now I can go back to bigger publishers later. By the end of my search, I wasn’t applying to much because I didn’t need to: I was just invited to interviews because my name was out there and my CV was being passed around companies like Orion! I think publishing is survival of the fittest – you have to really want it, because the job search will challenge you, and some will just give up and go into another industry. If you want to do that, fine, but once you’re in, you’re in!

What would a working day in magazine publishing look like? What is the most enjoyable part of your current job and equally the most challenging?

I’m one of those people who find the most challenging the most enjoyable, so I would have to say that would be liaising with our advertising staff and their clients as well as the suppliers I want to feature editorially in exchange for a prize or a product. These are the people I have to really be the ‘people person’ I am with, as it’s all about the money at the end of the day! That’s the most challenging bit – getting what you want for free, when they want the most editorial space for free! You rarely get editorial completely for free – words cost money! Other times in my day would be spent interviewing people, either on the phone or through their press team via email, and organising high res images and extract with publishers. That’s not to say we’re stealing content for our magazine; we’re just repurposing material, which is what I love about magazines – recycling content to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Only then, when deals have been made, loose ends have been agreed, comes the writing, the actual editorial bit! I love making a story out of a feature, and really giving our Make it Today-ers and Homemakers a good read that has some meaning or inspiration. Press week is really when the editorial and proofreading skill comes in, as we’re editing right on the proofs and making changes with the designers on the Macs, from small proofreading corrections to honouring house style to completely reconfiguring the layout of a page.

It was probably the best thing I could have done to start working in magazine, as I get to talk to so many people in so many different publishing companies – I probably have more widespread contact than I would if I worked in their company, but the best thing is, if I want to get back into that, I have a great understanding of how it works from the magazine side. Plus I’ve learnt to crochet, patchwork and am going on a dressmaking course, and I can call it ‘work’!

“Don’t be afraid to ask people who have given you opportunities for more opportunities either.”

In what ways did working on the Hull University paper The HullFire equip you and prepare you for a job in publishing?

The newspaper really prepared me for a magazine job because they both demanded me to be creative with feature ideas, as well as all the business matters such as setting various people deadlines regularly and having a quick press cycle to keep up with. I also am familiar with InDesign, which is immensely useful from my time laying up endless sections of The Hullfire. I feel like I’m pretty good at crisis management too; if a contributor says on their deadline day that they decided not to contribute anything in the end, you can’t argue with that. You just rearrange your ideas and pages and swiftly drop them from your list if you can afford to!

You have experience in proofreading, editing, copywriting and blogging, amongst other things. Which would you say you enjoy the most and why?

I find it exciting to get a piece of work which is fresh to my eyes and dive in. I do a lot of copywriting, from little captions in a chatty magazine style to sustaining an engaging tone throughout a lengthy feature, but I enjoy the variation and the writing practice I get every day is great. When I’m blogging I can write whatever I want, and publish it however I want, so I love the freedom – you can probably see what I mean if you visit my blog and have a scroll through! The only problem is I don’t have a deadline for my blog, and so I like the discipline of magazine deadlines – they are clear cut, fuss-free and final.

“The publishing business is as much about personalities as it is about books.”

What recent developments in publishing excite you the most?

I love that someone who is a book journalist on the telegraph Gaby Wood can head up the Man Booker prize – there is movement within the industry, and more and more women are chosen for the big posts. I like to hear about children’s publishing due to my last internships at a children’s bookseller, new education apps from my time at John Murray Press Teach Yourself, non-fiction from my time at S&S and digital news from Endeavour, which I’m still involved with. More recently, I find it fascinating that the latest craze, adult colouring books, have become so popular – even bestsellers on Amazon! Now we’re including smaller adult colouring in books as bonus gifts with our craft magazines, and I love that there’s that crossover between art, books and magazines, as there is with almost every type of book product in the publishing industry.

The last thing I would like to add would be to put yourself out there on every level. Do you have your social media updated and relevant to publishing? Is your CV perfect and has it been checked by a HR professional on an internship? Have you got a blog that you update and promote? Don’t be afraid to ask people who have given you opportunities for more opportunities either. For example, you could shadow the team on a press night when it’s not expected of you to be there. Always say thank you, because you will be remembered for your style. The publishing business is as much about personalities as it is about books.

Rosalind x

You can follow Rosalind on Twitter @MiniRoyMoody

You can read her blog at www.themoodymuses.wordpress.com

Please post below if you have any questions for Rosalind, and I will get them answered!

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An interview with FutureBook founder Sam Missingham

Anyone who knows anything about the publishing world know that an interview with Sam Missingham is a Big Deal. Having worked for publishing giants such as the Bookseller, FutureBook and HarperCollins, she has forged an immensely successful and influential career in publishing and marketing within the books industry.

I’ve been an admirer and follower of Sam’s for a while now and I was very excited when she agreed to undertake this interview for my blog.

The lovely Sam Missingham

The lovely Sam Missingham

Can you give my readers a brief overview of your career so far?

 Sure.

I’ve spent the vast amount of my career working in magazine publishing. I started at a very small company that published financial technology titles. I learned a huge amount working in a small business with a very entrepreneurial boss. He taught me a few simple but important things – everyone in the company should be able to answer the phone & give a decent answer to any question about the business, also, pretty much every call coming into a business is a sales opportunity – if you understand everything that you sell.

I then worked at Centaur on many of their B2B magazines, including Marketing Week, Creative Review and New Media Age. I launched their community site MAD.co.uk (for marketing, advertising & design professionals). This is where I learned about building audiences/communities and the various ways you can get people to pay for content. And yes I was MAD Marketing Manager for a while 😉

 I took a career break to have my daughter, move town & divorce (why not do all of it at the same time, right?). I then worked for several years as a freelancer/consultant, always working on circulation & subscription strategy work. I worked on consumer magazines at Future Publishing on titles about weddings, cars, photography & design.

Seven years ago I was offered temporary freelance work on The Bookseller, where I stayed for 5 years. This was the most fulfilling 5 years of my career, mostly due to falling in love with the book business and being part of the industry while it transformed so dramatically. I launched the FutureBook community, blog, conference and awards while I was there which I am still very proud of.

One of the most exciting moments of my professional life, was when Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins’ CEO offered me a job running events. Until that point I had NO experience in books, so I appreciate the leap of faith he made employing me. I have now been at HarperCollins for 18 months and I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing. My remit is to come up with engaging events and campaigns across our entire list to put more books into more hands. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

 You originally studied maths and Russian at university. What lead you down the publishing and marketing career path?

Oh I forgot to mention above that I was also a spy for the KGB for a while. Kidding aside, I enjoyed studying Maths & Russian and although I haven’t used either of them directly, logic and arithmetic are useful skills to have in marketing. I didn’t exactly choose my career in magazines – I graduated in a horrible recession and it was the only job I could get. No regrets.

I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing

Over the years and in your many marketing roles in the industry, what are some of the biggest changes youve experienced?

 I suppose the most significant and seismic shift would obviously be the Internet. I worked on a magazine charting the very start of the Internet around 1996, a time when businesses were launching websites for the first time. So, everything that has followed; email, ecommerce, social, apps etc. Hard to imagine now.

Youve won and been nominated for a number of big industry awards. Can you possibly pick one or two that you are most proud of and/or most touched by and explain why?

 Well, I’m proud of all of them. But being runner-up for the Pandora award for outstanding contribution to publishing takes some beating. Also, I was a runner-up to Dame Marjorie Scardino. How cool is that?

In your view, what role has social media and digital played in attracting more people to reading and the industry? Why has it been so effective?

 Wow, not sure I can do that question justice as the impact is so huge and varied. In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors. It has also facilitated an open and engaged conversation amongst all book-lovers. Authors can now talk directly to librarians, bookshops to agents, book marketers to readers. There is certainly still a way to go for publishers to fully maximise the opportunity social offers, but that’s the fun and challenge of continual change.

 In terms of digital, it would be impossible for me to understate the impact Amazon has had on the book business. Not least creating an ebook ecosystem that actually worked. They are a phenomenally impressive business, a week hardly goes by where they haven’t launched a new program, service or tech innovation.

Digital has had impact across all areas of our business in areas too many to mention; in no particular order, significant shifts in the last 7 years: the Ipad, apps, Wattpad, KDP, mobile, YouTube – the list goes on

For those unfamiliar with virtual events  how do they work and what are the benefits? What have been particularly successful and challenging about the ones you’ve launched?

Yes, these have been great fun. The virtual festivals replicate literary festivals, but are delivered on social media. I have organised virtual festivals in romance, crime and SciFi, delivering engaging programs for readers/fans. I suppose the thing that is significant about these festivals is that they are publisher-agnostic, open and inclusive and global – everyone is welcome. As far as know, no other publisher has run events/campaigns where they have included other publisher, organisations and indie authors. My view is we all have the same aim – more books into more hands and working together genuinely puts the reader at the heart of what we’re doing. How many readers buy books from just one publisher, for example?

There have been a few highlights during these festivals, one being Margaret Atwood’s Twitter Q&A – she is a goddess. We also had Agatha Christie’s publisher answering questions about what it’s like to publish the Queen of Crime. Fab.

You have worked as Head of Events & Marketing for two of the biggest publishing organisations in the UK today The Bookseller and FutureBook. What has been the most rewarding part of these experiences?

Launching FutureBook and building an engaged community as the book industry transformed. During this time I made many friends across the industry, many of whom were gracious and supportive when quite frankly I knew nothing.

 Most rewarding part of publishing? The people, by a mile.

In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors.

How important is collaboration in this industry?

 Extremely, as mentioned in my previous question. A rising tide lifts everyone, yes?

How does it feel to be a huge influencer in the publishing industry and what qualities do you feel are essential for a person to become successful in this area?

 Huge influencer is overstating things. The qualities I try to bring are enthusiasm, a genuine passion for books and the business, a broader interest in news and trends with a little irreverence, perhaps. One thing I am particularly passionate about is supporting students and people at the early stage of their careers. I see that has my responsibility and also very rewarding. Nothing better than seeing someone fly.

What would your advice be to someone interested in the industry in terms of attending literary and publishing events?

 Id recommend you attend London Book Fair  lots of free events and also talk to people in the coffee queue. Making contacts is the NUMBER ONE thing that will help you at every stage of your career. Also, Byte The Book, Book Machine and SYP all run excellent events throughout the year.

Youve worked on both newsletters, magazines and now books. How important do you feel working on a variety of publication types to be when building a publishing career?

 Not sure the publication types is the important bit. What is more valuable is working in different types of businesses. As I have said many times, retail experience is extremely useful, particular bookshops. But honestly, the skills you learn dealing with customers directly cant be underestimated. I grew up in a flower shop and also spent many years working in shoe shops and waitressing.

Working in other entertainment and digital businesses would also be useful. My philosophy is that no skills are ever wasted, so gain as much experience as possible.

Who are some of your favourite and more approachable authors and publishers that you have worked with and why?

I had the privilege of running an event with George RR Martin & Robin Hobb last summer. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Spending an evening with George RR was how I imagine hanging out with Mick Jagger would be. A total rock star. He invited all of the Game of Thrones cosplayers back to his room after the event – you’d could see the real connection with his fans. Robin was an absolute delight too.

 On Twitter, there are a number of authors I think rock; Ian Rankin, Joanne Harris, Jill Mansell, Lindsey Kelk to name a few.

You can follow Sam on Twitter: @samatlounge

Check out The Bookseller and Futurebook sites.

Introducing Writer Graeme Roberts

Today’s People in Publishing interview is with Graeme Roberts, journalist, writer, and PR professional. Graeme and I worked together when I worked on the Hull Wasps Basketball programme as Game Night Editor. I would send my match reports and previews and other type articles to Basketball Magazine, a magazine on which Graeme was working at the time (and discusses in this interview!) Here he talks social media, newspapers and print, and his love of writing…

Graeme in Dublin

Graeme in Dublin

Please introduce yourself and give us a bit of info about your career and career path.

My name is Graeme Roberts, 29, from Manchester, UK. I would describe myself first and foremost as a writer. It’s a fairly broad term but I think it’s the most apt. I currently work in public relations for a research and consulting company called GlobalData, which means I write, edit and interact with the media on a daily basis. Before that I was a journalist for Basketball Magazine and I still do some writing for my local club, Manchester Magic. I recently undertook some freelance work for Basketball England, the national governing body, reporting on a number of their finals events. Writing is what I most enjoy doing. I love words and I’m thankful that I’m able to do something creative every day.

When did you know you wanted to work in the writing and media industry?

I don’t think I really knew what I wanted to do until my late teens, if not my early twenties. I got into writing at secondary school, when my English teacher encouraged me to write poetry. I compiled a large collection of poetry in my young adulthood and it helped me through a long period of illness. Deciding that I wanted to write for a living was part of the recovery process. It gave me a purpose and it still does.

Which of your achievements so far are you particularly proud of?

In writing terms, my proudest achievement is probably having my work published in the Manchester Evening News, which is my home city’s main daily newspaper. There’s something special about seeing your name in print. Digital is great, but there’s something about print that gives me a tingle. Perhaps it’s the smell of the ink? Outside writing, I worked on the statistics team at the basketball tournaments at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. That was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience, made all the richer for being able to share it with my brother, Matt.

There’s something special about seeing your name in print. Digital is great, but there’s something about print that gives me a tingle. Perhaps it’s the smell of the ink?

What attributes do you feel are essential in a successful journalist?

It’s hard to say because I don’t really feel like I’ve been successful in journalism. I’ve only really been doing it for a couple of years and l was full-time for less than a year. I think it’s a very competitive industry and you need to be prepared to work hard to progress, but you also need some luck and to know the right people. I like to think being a skilful writer, both in terms of your content and your ability to craft language, is important, but I  sometimes read a newspaper and just despair at the stuff they print. These things are driven by demand, but I often wish there was more demand for greater substance.

 

What was the most rewarding part of working for Basketball Magazine?

I think it was just getting to write about something I enjoy. I’ve been a huge basketball fan since I was 11 and I’m very passionate about the game. The beauty of it is that it’s as simple or as complex as you make it, so there’s always something to write about. I’m incredibly grateful to Iain Roberts (no relation), who set up the magazine, for giving me my first break, but ultimately it didn’t work out because the market is very tough. To say British basketball is a niche market would be an understatement. We were only the second print magazine in the country for basketball at the time and now there are none. Digital is killing print, but that’s not necessarily all bad. It’s probably good for the environment. I think the real problem facing the industry is that people are no longer as willing prepared to pay for news because they can get it for free. It saddens me that the media has to rely more and more on advertising revenue rather than quality content to sustain itself.

I think readers should become your fans because of you have something meaningful or interesting to say, not because you make a strong sales pitch.

You are very successful on social media both as an individual and for the companies you’ve worked for. How important is social media in the industry now and how can we make the most of it? 

 I have a lot of followers on Twitter but I wouldn’t say that’s a fair indicator of aptitude. I follow a lot of people and it’s a reciprocal thing. In reality, my level of interaction isn’t brilliant. I suspect that’s partly because I use Twitter to moan about my first-world problems like the weather or public transport delays. On the flipside, I would agree that I’ve used Twitter in a professional capacity to achieve some success. We were able to drive a lot of traffic to Basketball Magazine’s website through Twitter, but a lot of that is down to it being a medium that the typical basketball fan likes to use. Twitter is not as relevant for GlobalData, as its clients are a very different demographic. We tend to find LinkedIn is our strongest suit, as it’s a more business-oriented social network.

 

Equally, what should we not do with social media? Any pitfalls to avoid?

 I believe the biggest mistake you can make is to constantly spam people. I follow a lot of authors on Twitter and many of them use the platform almost exclusively to promote their own books. It’s a huge temptation when you self-publish, which I’ve experimented with myself, but it can be a big turn-off. Self-publishing is tough, so I can sympathise with people using any possible means to get their work noticed. However, I think readers should become your fans because of you have something meaningful or interesting to say, not because you make a strong sales pitch.

What is the most enjoyable part of working in PR?

It certainly helps that I work with such a passionate and talented PR Manager in Emily Packer. She deserves a lot of credit for our success as a team. For me personally, seeing something I’ve worked on being used by a major international outlet is the biggest buzz you can get in PR. We’ve been featured in some of the world’s leading publications, such as the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent, plus we’ve featured on the BBC News website a few times. I’m at an advantage with GlobalData, because the company produces some genuinely unique research into the healthcare and energy industries, but we still have to package it to grab the attention of the top outlets.

You were swiftly promoted in your most current workplace due to your speedy success. What would you say are some of the fundamentals in effective PR and media exposure?

 Some of the reports we receive from our analysts are highly technical, but we’ve found that it’s the sound-bites and the key findings that journalists and editors really crave. There was an instance not long ago with our GBI Research brand where we were struggling to find the best approach for a press release on a report into Alzheimer’s disease. We decided on an angle based on one of the more eye-catching findings and the press release led to an enquiry – and consequently some press coverage – from The Sunday Times. That doesn’t happen on every occasion, but I do think you have to understand how the media works and what appeals to your target audience.  

What are your goals for the future?

I am planning to dedicate more of my free time to work on my own writing and I would love to have a novel published in the next couple of years. I’m a huge fan of literature and film and my dream is to write fiction for a living. My favourite writers are George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut and Quentin Tarantino, so that should make for an interesting mix. I’d also like to travel more, experience other cultures, climb a mountain, fall in love, get married, have kids, do some humanitarian work – a whole list of things. But as long as I’ve got words to work with, I’ll be happy.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/GraemeRoberts14

Do you have any questions for Graeme? Put them in the comments below and I will get them answered!

Graeme in Helsinki

Graeme in Helsinki

Introducing Sports Writer Samuel Stevens

Today I interview a guy I met whilst volunteering as Programme Editor for the Hull Wasps, a National League basketball club in the local area. Volunteering for the Wasps gave me a wealth of experience and knowledge that I never would have had if it wasn’t for the Chairman David Bushnell giving me a chance to try something in a sport I knew almost nothing about! (Thank you very much, Dave – I owe you a lot!) Volunteering is one of the best things you can do, besides work experience, that can help bag you that all-important first job. I am definitely proof of that.

Sam Stevens joined the Off-Court team as Programme Designer and also assisted me with writing articles for the publication. His design and writing skills blew us all away. I admired Sam’s professionalism and skill from the first time I met him. I knew then, and even more so now, that Sam would become one of the great successes of this generation. And he hasn’t let me down so far.

The game-night programme that Sam and I worked on together.

The game-night programme that Sam and I worked on together.

Whilst volunteering alongside studying for a degree at the University of Hull, Sam also edited Hull University’s magazine Hullfire, and he is a very talented sportswriter. He has written for the Daily Telegraph and now works for the Independent. Needless to say, he is definitely one to look out for in the publishing and media world.

Sam Stevens

Sam Stevens

Talk me through your CV and how you got to where you are now.

Up until a couple of years ago I didn’t really see much use for a CV. I definitely didn’t have anything to put on mine! As a spotty teenager, looking like an extra from The Inbetweeners, my first job was with my local Co-Op.

Once my A-Levels were out of the way, I began to develop more of an idea about what I wanted to do with my life. As I have found since, however, this can change even as you get older and wiser.

After working on the students’ newspaper at the University of Hull, I gradually started to find myself on trains heading for internships with papers such as the Daily Telegraph and the Independent. Alongside really enjoyable voluntary spells with Hull City and Hull Wasps Basketball Club, I was then offered a job with the Independent.

Nowadays I’m still working for the Indy around yet another degree, this time a Master’s in Journalism, while I try and scavenge the money to fund my future travels.

We volunteered together on the Hull Wasps basketball programme. How important do you find volunteering to be in helping young people start out in their careers?

Quite frankly, volunteering is the difference between those who make it and those who don’t. It’s all very well earning a first class degree from Oxbridge or wherever but someone who is willing to work for free appears far more employable.

One day I hope discussions about ‘working for free’ are a thing of the past. Of course some companies simply cannot afford to pay their voluntary staff – and I don’t begrudge them for using volunteers to survive – but thankfully we appear to be walking the road towards paid internships for all.

In terms of working for Hull Wasps, I revelled in the reasonability which we were both given by Dave (Bushnell, the Chairman) and I believe that we produced a truly brilliant publication. Considering we were working completely alone on a shoestring budget, I think we can be proud of what we achieved. It definitely gave us a firm grounding which we’ll need in the years to come.

Quite frankly, volunteering is the difference between those who make it and those who don’t.

Tell me about your biggest achievements and proudest moments to date.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment that I was asked to stand up in front of 150 of the country’s brightest sports journalists in London. I had been invited down to the capital after winning an award in honour of the former Daily Star football writer Danny Fullbrook.

radio sam

A charity launch was being held in his honour and I was given the opportunity to drunkenly introduce myself to the great and good of sports journalism. With only the occasional slurring of my words to cringe over afterwards, I somehow managed to escape with a pocket full of business cards and phone numbers. I still consider that evening to be the day where my luck changed and can now even call some of those intimidating journos my friends.

Did you always want to become a writer?

Yes, but not a journalist! I had always dreamed of being a television scriptwriter and often found myself plugging myself in to a set of earphones and listening to dramatic music. By doing this, I could imagine the scenes I would write. I would watch endless boxsets and make notes of lines of dialogue or themes which I liked from each series.

Perhaps one day, when grey hairs start to replace the ginger ones in my beard, I may sit down at my desk and have another go at writing my smash hit.

What advice would you have for somebody hoping to get into sports writing and/or journalism?

Journalism (and any media-based career for that matter) is about who you know, not what you know. By all means swot up on your field of interest and make sure nobody can beat you in a quiz on it, but make sure that you’re meeting new people all of the time. Only that way will you be able to get placements, which lead to internships, which in turn lead to jobs.

Make sure that you’re meeting new people all of the time.

What drew you to sports writing to begin with?

I’ve always had an odd relationship with sport in that I was often the geeky kid with his head in the programme rather than watching the match. My mates would often pretend they didn’t know me when, in my twenties, I’d still be collecting signed memorabilia or sticker albums.

As much as I love sport itself, it’s always been about the fanfare for me. Walking into a new football ground in particular is like walking into a theatre or a coliseum. The smell of burger vans coupled with the roar you only ever hear at football matches still make the hairs on my neck stand on end.

sam awards

Which teams in which sports do you support and why? Do you ever find being unbiased difficult?

They say that the teams you support influence the sort of person you became and I can definitely relate to that! People have often said that loyalty is both my biggest strength and weakness.

After years spent in half-empty stands watching Leicester City play some of the most atrocious football you could possibly imagine, for some reason I continue to stick by them. It must be love!

As part of my role with the Independent I’m very lucky in that I get to report on Leicester quite often. While I must confess that I have been known to jump up and fist pump in the press box from time to time, I’d hope that no such passion bleeds into my work.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but I can detach myself from the events on the field more now than ever.

What do you find the hardest and what do you find the most enjoyable about your work?

The hardest with sports journalism, particularly football, is dealing with the fact that you are often writing for an audience who knows more than you. If, for example, I am at Stamford Bridge writing about Chelsea, I am tasked with writing about the Blues with the conviction of a hardened supporter. Believe me, they’ll let me know if I get something wrong.

The flip side of that coin, however, is people feel so passionately about their sports teams that you are genuinely enhancing their lives if you can bring some good news. The thrill of breaking a story about a club signing a world beater (and watching the joy overflow onto your Twitter feed) is enough to inspire anyone to keep doing this daft old job.

We both attended the University of Hull. What made you choose Hull? What is the most valuable thing your time there left you with?

I actually ended up at Hull purely by chance. I had no intentions of even going to university until the very last day where, typically for me, I suddenly decided that it didn’t sound like such a bad idea after all!

After making a couple of hurried phone calls, I soon found myself strolling down Princes Avenue with a completely new life to be built. The most valuable thing I take from my time at university, in fact, only came to me a few weeks ago. It was all a whirlwind at the time but I really did enjoy some of the best days of my life there.

I met some beautiful, fascinating people that I’ll keep in touch with for the rest of my life while I can barely recognise the boy looking back at me when I see a picture of myself at eighteen-years-old. I didn’t really see it at the time, but I owe Hull so much.

What are your hopes and visions for your career in the future?

Well, at the moment, I’m studying towards a Master’s in Journalism but after that I genuinely don’t know what the future has in store. A few months ago I may have been daunted by that uncertainty but now I’m thriving off it.

I would like to branch out a little, possibly into the charity sector and work within PR. Journalism is obviously my bread and butter but there is a long time between now and retirement and I would be bitterly disappointed if I became a one trick pony.

Depending on when I’m able to gather together enough cash, I’d also like to spin a globe one day and go wherever fate takes me. I may, though, have to rig the results and ensure that my finger lands on a South American country.

You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamuelTStevens

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