Top tips for getting into the publishing industry

I recently attended a very informative session from the Edinburgh University Press on the publishing industry as part of Innovative Learning Week. It served to highlight the diversity of the sector, and that although many people focus on the editorial side of the industry, there are many different elements to a publishing company.

I am grateful to the presenters, Avril Cuthbert, Sales and Distribution Manager, and Ruth Allison, Journals Marketing Manager, of the Edinburgh University Press, for sharing with you, their ‘Top 10 Tips to get into Publishing’

  1. Build up practical office skills. Alongside computer literacy skills, practical office or administrative experience is often essential. It doesn’t just make you a more desirable candidate, but can help you get a foot in the door and an opportunity to keep it there.
  2. Get a contextual overview of publishing. With many different types of publishing and publishing functions, it’s important that you start to learn the dynamics of the industry and how it works. This in return, will help you with the next point…
  3. Get an idea of the function you want to work in. Start to think about what section of the industry appeals most to you. There are lots of different elements to publishing: production, sales, marketing, digital, editorial, finance, rights. Think about where might be the best fit for you.
  4. Keep an open mind. Be prepared to try different roles, experience different settings and be flexible geographically given that the wider UK publishing market offers more opportunities than approaching it from an exclusively-Scottish angle. In an industry that is changing all the time, there is lots of opportunity for movement.
  5. Network and keep up to date with industry news: Trade press and websites such as Bookseller, Times Literary Supplement, The Society of Young Publishers, Publishing Scotland, ALPSP, and Scholarly Kitchen should give you a good start. If you can, try and get to the London Book Fair and attend some of the seminars. Becoming more fluent and aware of the industry developments positions your mindset closer to that of the sector professional.
  6. Regularly visit and follow blogs, websites and twitter for publishing companies. The extent and frequency to which different publishers use social media varies. Whether publishers are promoting authors, engaging with their audiences or using it for more corporate purposes, you can guarantee it is a key way to keep abreast of developments.  
  7. Identify skills and knowledge needed for jobs. Looking at different roles and functions within the sector will give you an idea of the required skills-set. Working on this, in return will help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
  8. Scrutinise your CV, covering letter and personal statement. Publishing is a competitive market. Try to talk about it from the business side of a book. Appeal to the recruiter using your head and not your heart.
  9. Keep a business perspective. Too many prospective candidates spend too much time talking about their favourite authors and not enough time demonstrating an understanding of the wider issues driving their industry and what they have to offer.
  10. Work on building relationships and customer care skills. Yes, publishing is a complex industry, but it’s also a service industry, so good people skills are absolutely essential. Always be as nice and professional as you can.

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