Ilaria Crysel completed her MA in 2019 at the University of Derby, whilst Melissa Hawkins is currently completing her BA Hons English Literature with Publishing degree at the University of Plymouth.
With today’s job recruitment in publishing at an all-time low and internships being delayed as a result of Covid-19, we have seen lots of discussions among publishing hopefuls thinking about completing a BA or Masters in publishing. In this feature, we speak with publishing hopefuls Ilaria Crysel and Melissa Hawkins about their own experiences and thoughts on doing a publishing degree.
When asked about their motivations behind studying a degree in Publishing, Ilaria revealed: “[whilst] looking for postgraduate courses, I stumbled upon a publishing MA, and it just made sense to me.” It was her love of reading and talking about books and wanting to share this with other people that compelled her towards an MA.
For Melissa, it was through her internship at Way With Words, a literary festival in Devon, that she began to consider a degree in Publishing. “It was from conversations with writers, publishers and literary agents that I decided I wanted to pursue marketing and publicity in a creative setting, with an end goal of working within the publishing industry.”
Both Ilaria and Melissa hoped that their degrees would teach them a lot more about the industry as a whole. Melissa wanted to gain valid and up-to-date industry information, as well as the confidence to apply it within the industry, and she feels as though the workshops with professionals and assessments chosen throughout her course have really put her new skills into practice. Ilaria hoped to learn more about the full process of publishing a book and believes that her MA has covered all aspects of this, from editorial to book cover design and typesetting.
Ilaria comments that the biggest thing her studies have taught her is to not be fixated on one part of the publishing process. She says, “you probably have a specific area in mind, like editorial or production, but you might find you would be suited for sales or marketing as well!”
Similarly, Melissa believes her degree has shown her how vast and extensive the industry is. She explains that her degree had opened her eyes to “some incredible Indie presses, the world of magazine publishing and the opportunities to engage with a new audience of readers when commissioning a title.”
Choosing to complete a degree or Masters in publishing is a big step for a lot of people. Melissa advises those considering a degree to “read, read and read,” as diversely as possible in terms of titles and genres. Ilaria says to choose the university you study at very carefully: “different universities offer different programs, so pick wisely what’s better for you.” If you did choose to do an MA, then Ilaria advises to take advantage of everything that comes your way and ask lots of questions.
Will Publishing Degrees make you a stand-out candidate for future roles?
Ilaria believes that her MA will, purely because of her insider knowledge that she otherwise wouldn’t have. Melissa thinks that her BA will show her commitment to the industry but doesn’t think that her degree alone will help her to stand out. She expands, saying “it is evident that industry experience and a love for the role you’re applying for is also essential in helping you stand out.”
When asked whether there were any cons to studying publishing, both hopefuls commented on the competitiveness of the industry. Ilaria thought that her MA would be a “foot in the door” and lead to employment straight away, which unfortunately isn’t the case. She warns to be prepared to receive some rejection emails (but hopefully not too many). Melissa echoes this sentiment: she also emphasises the competition waiting for her at the end of her degree when it comes to applying for publishing roles. She believes that everyone deserves to pursue a job they love, so looking for a graduate job will naturally come with its ups and downs.
In terms of publishing Masters, Ilaria states that her degree has enabled her to network, from receiving talks from industry professionals and attending the London Book Fair. This does involve some initiative though: “it’s the students’ responsibility to follow up and create those connections outside of university.”
Despite Covid-19 making job hunting difficult for most hopefuls, Ilaria still believes that her MA has helped her with employment opportunities, especially in interviews. She feels as though the knowledge she has gained meant that she could easily answer questions about different roles and show off her in-depth knowledge.
Finally, we wanted to know whether they would recommend studying publishing to someone who is considering it, and they both said a resounding “yes”. Melissa states “if you’re looking for a degree that instils confidence in your ability, as well as setting you up with vital skills, then this is your degree!” Ilaria agrees, adding that an MA is a great way to figure out what part of the industry you’d like to work in, as well as the skill set needed, so you could be virtually prepared for any role.
We hope that this article has shed some light on Publishing Degrees and answered some of your questions! A huge thank you to both Ilaria and Melissa for taking the time to help. Be sure to follow them on their socials:
Ilaria’s Twitter: @ilycrysel
Ilaria’s Instagram: @basicbookwitch
Melissa’s Twitter/Instagram: @gracefullymel