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To land a publishing job you'll need to be confident, qualified and ambitious, with a passion for reading books as well as knowledge of industry trends and your target audience
To hide or publish individual pages, visit Controlling who can see your site's pages. Before publishing your site, use our site launch checklist to ensure your site is ready. If you're using the Squarespace App, Site Availability is only available on the iOS version. For tips on making your site more visible to search engines, review our SEO tips. Publishing jobs come in a variety of mediums, from print to online, periodicals to pamphlets, and novels to newspapers. While Publishing is its own industry, the need for Publishing professionals is found in a variety of other industries, including healthcare, education, government, and corporate business.
'Graduates should consider a career in the industry if they are passionate about reading and interested in what makes people read the books they do,' explains Carolyn Mays, managing director of Hodder & Stoughton.
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Opportunities exist in editorial, design, production, marketing and sales departments and, with the popularity of eBooks, the growing digital market.
We asked experts at two top publishing houses what you should expect from a career in publishing and how you can stand out in this fast-paced industry.
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Study a Masters in publishing
An undergraduate degree is the prerequisite for most publishing jobs, as is a good level of computer literacy.
However, it's a false assumption that English is the ideal subject for entry into the profession. For most publishing roles, degree subject is irrelevant, unless you'd like to work in subject-specific publishing, such as science, medical, history or art. In these cases, a degree in one of these subjects could improve your chances.
Postgraduate courses in publishing are becoming more popular, and while they won't guarantee you a job or a higher salary, they can help you to stand out.
If your first degree is in a completely unrelated area, an MA in publishing can also provide you with industry-specific knowledge and skills, and a network of contacts.
Universities that offer Masters courses in publishing include:
- City, University of London
- Edinburgh Napier University
- Kingston University London
- Plymouth University
- University College London (UCL)
- University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)
- University of Derby.
To see what's on offer, search for postgraduate courses in publishing.
With any experience, paid or unpaid, make sure you get the most out of your time...be proactive and show interest in the work around you
Look for a publishing internship
The number of applicants for publishing jobs far outweighs the number of positions available. Therefore, it's vital to give yourself an edge by gaining some form of work experience, either during your summer breaks or immediately after you graduate.
Internships and placements give you the opportunity to discover what it's like to work for a publishing house and if the career really is for you. Almost all employers expect to see this kind of experience on your CV.
For Carolyn, when it comes to being noticed nothing beats experience. 'Internships and work experience schemes are so popular because they give us a chance to assess the individual,' she says. 'Are they a hard worker, cheerful, enthusiastic?'
'If you impress the publisher at this point, they might think of you first when they have a suitable job.'
Most publishing jobs are based in London, where entry-level prospects are good. 'There are always opportunities in one department or another, but some areas, such as editorial, are more popular and competitive than others,' adds Carolyn.
The majority of companies advertise internship opportunities on their websites. Matthew Hutchinson, publicity manager at Penguin Random House, recommends checking out industry sites such as The Bookseller, which is free to sign up to and sends out weekly jobs bulletins.
'It's important not to get taken advantage of by unpaid work experience. Penguin Random House and a growing number of other publishers now pay work experiencers a minimum wage.
'With any experience make sure you get the most out of your time with a team by asking specific questions about their work, requesting experience in other aspects of their role, putting yourself forward to help out with a specific project, or asking to be introduced to colleagues in other departments. Two weeks will go by very quickly, so be proactive and show interest in the work around you.
'Social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and blogs are also great resources for finding out about entry-level programmes and connecting with people in the industry,' he says.
'Staying in touch with any people you meet face-to-face is also important. Sending a short email, just to say hi and to tell your previous mentors where you've gained experience recently could go a long way, and shows initiative.'
Alternatively, you could start your own literary blog and promote it via your social networks; you never know whose eye it may catch.
Getting a publishing job
Roles vary depending on the type of publishing and the department you work in, and while pay is reasonable you won't find top-level salaries in publishing, so you'll need a genuine love of what you do.
Areas of book publishing include:
- commercial or trade
- professional (finance, law etc.)
- scientific, technical or medical (STM).
Digital publishing is also a growing field, especially in academic, educational and STM publishing.
Matthew explains why it's important for you to choose the right area to work in. 'Graduate responsibilities include supporting the publishing and creative process, so having an interest in, and passion for the kind of books being published is essential.'
As competition for jobs is fierce, it's important to keep an open mind and not discount any opportunities, e.g. if your end goal is to work in editorial, don't turn down an admin role or a job in the marketing department. You'll still learn about the company and make valuable contacts, and you never know where these jobs might lead and what internal vacancies may arise.
Opportunities differ depending on whether you work for a large or small publisher. Each has good and bad points. For example, the chance to meet and work alongside high-profile authors is more likely at bigger, well-known publishing houses, while access and exposure to other departments and experienced colleagues is more likely in smaller publishers.
'The best way to find out where you fit is to gain experience in both and then reflect on what you do and don't enjoy about them,' says Matthew.
No matter where you work, there's no denying that working alongside people who share your passions can be incredibly rewarding. 'You get the chance to work with a variety of creative professionals, all under the same roof and towards the same end goal,' says Matthew.
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If you have a voice, Medium claims to have room for it—no matter your background or choice of topic. The community blogging platform is the ultra-inclusive place to find content by everyone from former Vice President Joe Biden to actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to your college freshman cousin who reviews dance shows in her spare time.
As founder Ev Williams—who also co-founded Twitter—put it: “Medium is not about who you are or whom you know, but about what you have to say.”
So is it worth cultivating a Medium presence? I use it as a back-up plan when I’m itching to write something but can’t get an editor to bite on the pitch. Whether such content will stand out among the clutter online remains an open question. But even if no one reads your work on Medium, putting it out there and flexing your writing muscles can’t hurt.
Still, you should keep in mind that publishing on a third-party site means giving up ultimate control of your work. If the site changes its practices or goes down for good, your articles could sink with it. Here are some pros and cons to becoming a Medium contributor.
Exposure through storytelling
Medium has reach. It averages about 60 million readers per month. So unless you’re a blogger with an established audience, you aren’t going to beat that exposure starting from scratch with a personal website. There are plenty of examples of writers using the site to jumpstart careers—success stories like Srini Rao, whose viral article led to a book deal.
With a reputation as a home for more creative storytelling, Medium differs from other contributor pages like HuffPost or BuzzFeed Community. Amid its staff picks, Medium features inspiring, engaging stories that usually elicit an emotional response. When perusing the suggested articles on my page while researching this post, I ended up spending 30 minutes reading about the woman who made Mario Batali’s apology cinnamon rolls, an American Airlines flight attendant whose uniform is literally poisonous, and an AirBnb tire swing accident that killed a reporter’s father. The stories covered the whole spectrum of personal narrative—some were fascinating, others humorous or undeniably honest. It all made me eager to read more.
Medium also pays. In 2017, the site introduced the Medium Partner Program, which compensates contributors based on a system of “claps,” its version of a Facebook like. For a place that writers may use as a back-up plan, that’s not a bad deal.
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The drawbacks of third-party publishing
While a partner program is a great incentive for people to publish on Medium, freelancers shouldn’t expect to get rich. By signing the rights of their work over to Medium, writers agree to a weighted cost-per-clap system that doesn’t always work in their favor. Medium members pay a $5 subscription fee every month, which is the cap for all of their claps.
If a member claps for five stories in a month, each author gets $1. But if someone else claps 250 times, that person is literally giving each author their two cents. Under this system, a story with 300 views can make far less than a story with 23 views. So which is better: More money or more exposure? That’s something every contributor has to decide.
It’s also important to remember that even established sites may not offer a permanent home for your work. HuffPost recently ended its free contributor platform in favor of new opinion and personals sections. Should Medium change its practices or even shutter, writers could lose their platform and an archive of their work.
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An additional drawback to using a third-party site like Medium is that you lose SEO juice that could otherwise go to your personal website. You’ll still have work published with your name on it, but it’ll weaken the connection to your work that lives elsewhere.
In order to control ownership of their work, freelancers should consider using Medium as a secondary platform that directs readers to their personal websites. Publish a post on your blog and then repost it on Medium to get those extra views, with a handy link to your site and newsletter tacked on the end. After reading Geraldine DeRuiter’s aforementioned cinnamon roll article, I followed a link to her blog and ended up reading her other published work and following her on Twitter. Medium is the reason I’ve become a fan of hers.
While it’s unlikely that Medium alone will be the launchpad that skyrockets your career, freelancers should at least try out the site. Who knows, it could just be where you finally find an audience for your personal essays about underwater basket weaving. And if not, then at least you’ll get a free home for your work as a consolation prize.Image by iStockphoto