Highlights From The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) London Autumn Annual Conference
By Stephanie Selçuk-Frank and Hayley Cadel
The Publishing Post was delighted to be represented by our founder and Editor in Chief, Chelsea Graham, on the “Publishing Reportage” panel at the annual London Autumn Conference of the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) in person on Saturday, 26 November and online. The SYP are a volunteer-led organisation, with regional branches across the UK, who aim to support publishing hopefuls and those within the first ten years of their career.
The conference, entitled “Publishing Inside Out,” provided an excellent opportunity for hopefuls to gain rich and deep insights into the industry. A wide range of professionals were invited to discuss their experiences and unpack what forces are shaping the future of publishing for the better.
Keynote: Showing Up As Your Authentic Self
The conference opened with an uplifting and inspirational keynote from the CEO of Bonnier Books, Perminder Mann, discussing the importance of being your most authentic self to succeed in the publishing sphere. Growing up dreaming of being an actor, Perminder honed her showmanship as a sales assistant for a leading publishing house, where issues regarding the lack of diversity and the lack of empathy for working parents were stark. She initially joined Bonnier Books because she valued the flexibility it offered and has risen to be a torchbearer of its following values: every perspective matters, every story matters, every future matters and every voice matters.
Pathways To Publishing: New Beginnings and Career Shifts
There is no one way into publishing. An eclectic panel featuring a publicity assistant, an editorial assistant, a literary agent and a book careers adviser following Perminder Mann taught me that. While being able to navigate Microsoft Excel may be useful and writing emails to a professional standard won’t go unnoticed, overall, an unwavering enthusiasm for books and the ability to sell your transferable skills will make you stand out above all else.
Publishing Reportage: Hot Press, Book Columns and Newscasting
After two panels, one discussing the life of a book from pitch to publication and the other unpacking the notion of publishing as business, the seats reshuffled and the electives to discuss publishing reportage took to the stage. The organisations represented included The Publishing Post, The Flip, The Bookseller and Main Characters podcast, each outlining who they are, what they do and what their organisation represents. Two main pieces of advice shone through this panel: firstly, publishing reportage is an incredibly useful tool for hopefuls. Following industry news will not only educate you on the language used within the publishing offices, but it will also familiarise you with the books publishing houses are acquiring and publicising. Secondly, don’t be afraid of job hopping in your twenties. Joining and learning from different departments will provide you with a holistic knowledge of the publishing sphere. This will heed your career journey, further down the line.
Expectations vs. Reality: What Publishing Is Really Like
Aside from the in-person conference, SYP London hosted a series of online panels throughout the week, with one focusing on the expectations vs. reality of working within publishing. It is impossible to discuss an individual’s journey into the industry without discussing the fierce competitiveness of entry-level roles and the panellists gave some great advice regarding applications. Whilst a love of books is important, hopefuls need to essentially rewrite the job advert in their cover letter, utilising key words and demonstrating how their office skills match the criteria specified effectively. They should also incorporate a strong awareness of the market and engage with the company they are applying to. Barriers to entry and retention were also discussed, as well as the limited pay. Overall, the panel noted that whilst things are improving, there is still work to be done.
The Impact of Publishing: Sustainability, Resources and Social Impact
In this panel, global issues and the influence that publishing has on the current climate crisis were explored. Acknowledging the rising cost of books, the panel believed that people will still continue to buy books. However, the price of books and what is considered normal to pay for a book will need to change in the future. Despite the rising costs, the importance of holding on to your core values was noted. Interestingly, Renard Press discussed their climate positivity and their aims to reduce their environmental impact by offsetting their carbon emissions and their initiative to plant a tree for every order they receive.
To round off the event, the SYP London looked to The Bookseller’s Rising Stars to discuss the future of the publishing industry in regard to diversity, equity and inclusion, followed by a networking event. For a limited time only, the online panels are still available to stream, so if you missed out, there is still time to catch up! For those based in Scotland, the SYP Scotland will be hosting their annual conference in April 2023!