An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘networking’

Insights from one year of working in publishing!

In just a couple of weeks, I will have been working in publishing for a year. Me! This is something I thought I could only dream of when I was struggling to get myself on the career ladder. It was not easy, but sheer determination and stubbornness paid off. I have learned an unbelievable amount already, and I don’t think I will ever stop learning for as long as I’m working in the industry. But that is, perhaps, what makes this career so attractive to me.

Currently I work as a Publishing Editor at an academic publishing house called Emerald Group Publishing. To mark my one-year anniversary in my dream industry, I have put together a short list of basic skills that I feel are essential in gaining (and keeping!) that all-important first job in publishing. These may sound like buzz words that are packed into every job ad out there, but they are there for a reason. Ignore them in your applications and/or daily work and you could find yourself being overlooked for an interview or promotion.

1) An ability to deal with a large workload and manage time effectively.

There is a funny hoodie that sells, with the slogan: “Publisher – Only because Full Time Multi Tasking Ninja is not an actual job title.” I can’t stress how true this actually is. In my roles as Editorial Assistant/Publishing Editor, I have been, and will continue to be, bombarded with a large number of tasks per day, of varying sizes and urgency. If you can’t handle workload prioritisation and management, and the idea of multi-tasking brings you out in a cold sweat, then you either need to take a time-management course or reconsider your career choices.

This image is from

This image is from (greattee design)

2) A good knowledge of the industry.

Publishing is a rapidly changing industry – fact. If you don’t try to keep up-to-date with the latest developments, you may find yourself at a disadvantage. If, like me, you work in academic publishing, then learn more about and research the academic publishing industry. But don’t stop there. Learn about the other sectors – Trade, STM, Professional, Educational – because you will find that they share a lot of the same trends and that they can help inform what you do in your own sector. Besides, you just never know where your next opportunity lies.

3) An interest and presence on social media.

Publishers are experts in the dissemination of information, so you’re missing a trick if you’re not savvy with at least a few of the main social media apps. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and many more offer you the opportunity to spread your message far and wide to vast numbers of people for free – if you learn to do it correctly. Get yourself out there, get yourself known, and start building up your network.

4) A willingness and a passion for learning from other people and departments.

This kind of work is entirely collaborative. Each publication, app or service requires teams to work together effectively. Sometimes, when you’re working in one department every day, it can be difficult to see how some tasks and processes fall into the bigger picture. It is for this reason that I urge you, once you’ve secured that all-important first publishing job, to make and take the time to find out about what other departments do and what they’re working on. How can you help? How will this, in turn, help improve what you do? Why are things done in a certain way and what can you learn from this? How can things be improved for the benefit of everyone? Shadowing people in other departments, or meeting up and having a chat about what they’re up to, can be invaluable.

5) An ability to adapt your skills to your working environment.

As I said before, the publishing industry is changing at an alarming rate. Becoming stuck in your ways will lead you to getting swept away by the tide. The digital landscape presents an amazing opportunity for publishers to grow and develop and take advantage of how customers share information. You need to be open and willing, at all times, to build upon your own skill set in order to stay valuable in a disruptive world. If you cannot, or will not, take the time to learn new skills, somebody else will. Don’t become replaceable. Adapt and evolve, and be happy to do so.

6) A personable demeanour and ability to form strong working relationships.

We work with people, end of story. They are our bread and butter. If you don’t get along easily with others, or are unwilling to make an effort in social situations in and outside of work, you won’t get very far in publishing. No matter which sector you work in, you will be dealing with authors, editors, typesetters, vendors and sales people, illustrators or designers, publishers, IT and finance professionals…the list goes on. The work can only be done effectively in a harmonious environment. This is not to say that you have to like everyone – no one in the world likes every single person they meet – but you have to be able to put differences aside and work professionally and efficiently together.

You also need be able to network effectively, which isn’t always easy. However, networking is vital in this industry and the more you practise, the better you will get. It’s a very small world out there – you want your name to be recognised, and for the right reasons. Who knows how you will be able to help each other with projects in the future?

Me and my team at Emerald Group Publishing

Me and my team at Emerald Group Publishing (I am on the right!)

This is only a short list, because I realise I could go on and on. Is there something you feel that should be added to the list? Add to the discussion below!

Introducing Freelance Editor Helen Stevens

My relationship with today’s interviewee proves the power of networking – I met her at a Society of Young Publishers event in Leeds after befriending her on Facebook in a Proofreaders and Editors group. Helen supported me a lot through my job hunt (and trust me, I never let anybody on Facebook forget that I was job hunting!) and told me about the two Editorial Assistant vacancies at Emerald Group Publishing near where she lives (I was successful in applying for the second one!) Not only this, but as my interview was at 8 am after a gruelling 4-hour coach and train journey, she picked me up from the train station and drove me to the Emerald offices. She sat with me and gave me advice and support until I plucked up the courage to go in there, and then picked me up and took me for tea and toast (ALWAYS a winner if you want something from me!) before I headed back to Hull. I owe a lot to this woman, and I admire her a lot. I only hope to be as good an Editor as her one day!

Never underestimate the power of networking, folks! Not only do you get to make lasting friendships, but you never know just how valuable those friendships can be in helping each other advance in their careers. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to repay the favour for her one day.

Helen Stevens, Freelance Editor.

Helen Stevens, Freelance Editor.

Tell me a little bit about your background.

After graduating I worked for 8 years in the NHS in Lancaster as an admin officer and then a personnel officer.

How did you get into editing and proofreading?

While on maternity leave from my NHS job I decided I’d like a change of direction. I took a distance learning course in proofreading and then started sending my CV to publishers. I took on my first proofreading job at the end of 1995.

Did you find the transition to self employment to be a challenge? Did you feel excited or scared?

It was a challenge in some ways, although I’d already left the ‘9 to 5’ world of work, so that side of things wasn’t as much of a shock. I was excited, as I loved the work and enjoyed the flexibility and variety.

How long have you had an interest in editing and publishing?

Since I decided on my change of career. It wasn’t something I’d thought about before that.

What three things would you say are essential for a freelance editor to have?

Perseverance, flexibility, and a good supply of Yorkshire Tea.

…it’s a good idea to be on the look-out for new sources of work all the time.

Do you focus on a particular type or genre of writing?

I’ve always worked on non-fiction, although the type of work I do has varied over the years. In the beginning I proofread a lot of self-help/instructional books. Now I mainly edit material for non-native-English authors, including reports for an EU agency and journal articles for academics.

What are the biggest challenges and advantages you face as a freelancer?

The biggest challenges are, I suppose, the isolation and the lack of security. You don’t have the support of colleagues, as you would in an office environment, for example, and that can be an issue both professionally and socially. In terms of security, I’ve learnt over the years that it’s no good putting all your eggs in one basket, client-wise. I had one regular client who stopped using freelancers almost overnight, but luckily I had other sources of work to fall back on. As well as having a range of clients to keep you busy, it’s a good idea to be on the look-out for new sources of work all the time.

With more and more publishers outsourcing editorial work to freelancers, what must you do to keep yourself ahead of the competition?

Demonstrating your skills in the form of qualifications or professional status is important (I’m an advanced member of the SfEP). As much as anything, though, it’s about making sure clients can find you, and making sure you do a good job for those clients so that they come back for more (and recommend you to others!).

How do you keep yourself actively involved in the publishing industry while working at home?

Being a member of the SfEP is a great way of keeping yourself involved, whether that’s through the members’ forum, the magazine or the annual conference. But social media is also useful for finding out what’s going on, both in the UK and around the globe.

What do you like to read in your spare time?

I usually read fiction, although I’ve just finished Alan Johnson’s This Boy (the first volume of his autobiography), which I’m reading for my book group. Another memoir I enjoyed recently was Catherine Gildiner’s After the Falls, the follow-up to one of my favourite books of all time, Too Close to the Falls.

As a fellow Northerner in the publishing industry, what are your views on the clear North/south divide in publishing? Do people in the North have enough of a say or enough opportunity to have their voices heard in the industry?

Since my clients aren’t ‘traditional’ publishers, I don’t particularly feel this North/South divide. In fact, most of my clients are based overseas, so the North/South divide doesn’t affect me as much as it would other people working in the publishing industry.

I guess the only thing I notice is that a lot of the interesting publishing-related events tend to be in London, which is a shame.

Your favourite writers and books?

I don’t have a favourite author as such. I’ve enjoyed the novels of John Irving, Magnus Mills, Donna Tartt, Patrick Gale, Anne Tyler, Robertson Davies, Ian McEwan… (in no particular order).

You can find out more about Helen and her proofreading, editing and copywriting services here.

Follow her on Twitter @HelenSaltedit

Find out more about the SfEP here.

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