Industry Insights: Becca Parkinson
By Leyla Mehmet, Elizabeth Guess, Kathryn Smith and Aimee Whittle
For this issue, we interviewed Becca Parkinson to find out more about her role as a Marketing Co-ordinator at Manchester University Press.
Could you tell us about your journey into publishing? Has it always been your aim to work in marketing?
As an undergrad I was fairly sure I wanted a career in publishing. I went to quite a few "career talks" and sought advice from the careers service, as well as doing my own research. Happily, through the FASS department at Lancaster, I secured two internships, one at Carnegie Books in Lancaster and one at Comma Press in Manchester. I spent a month at Carnegie, mostly proofreading and shadowing staff in production and editorial and doing some work on their social media. Then I went to Comma, for what should have been a month-internship, but due to a member of staff leaving, I was asked to stay on a temporary contract for a few months, which I leapt at! Luckily, I was offered a permanent contract that Christmas and became Sales and Production, then Engagement Manager and stayed for five years. In October last year I took a job as Marketing Coordinator at Manchester University Press. My aim when I entered the industry was just that – to get a foot in the door. Having a literature degree and doing some editorial volunteer work during my undergrad (running two literary magazines), I thought I’d move into editorial (as many aspiring publishers do), but I also didn’t want to be ‘picky’ as I knew publishing roles in the North were scarce. But working at Comma, where my role was so multi-faceted (covering marketing, sales, publicity, editorial and rights) I realised I found the most joy in the marketing parts of my role, so when the marketing role came up at MUP, I felt confident it would be right for me.
What was your experience as chair of the Society of Young Publishers? Would you recommend hopefuls get involved with SYP?
I joined the SYP in 2017 just after I moved to Manchester to be closer to work. I was still relatively new to the industry and looking to meet my peers in the North, so I volunteered to be Secretary on the North committee. It was great for boosting my confidence in things like organising meetings and events, securing venues, taking minutes and networking with people in the industry, including the professional speakers who came to speak to us. In 2018 I took on the role of Chair of the North branch and this taught me how to lead a team and delegate. Volunteering with the SYP, or just attending their events, is a great way to network and develop your skills, whether you’re in publishing, or aspiring to be.
How important are literature festivals in the world of publishing and what is your favourite part about being on the Board of Trustees for Manchester Literature Festival?
Literature festivals are a hugely important platform for publishers and authors to showcase their work and are key to accessing new audiences. I was honoured to be asked to join the MLF Board of Trustees last year and my favourite part is seeing how much passion and hard work goes into running a festival, especially one like MLF that does so much for children and young people, has an innovative commissioning strand and a stellar programme year-on-year. I don’t think people appreciate that MLF, which is a huge annual event, is run by a tiny team of staff and especially after what has been a tricky couple of years for festivals, they deserve so much credit for delivering a festival in 2020 and 2021.
Could you tell us about a project you’ve enjoyed working on recently?
I’ve been tasked with increasing awareness of MUP’s trade list, which was launched in 2020 in bookshops and involves one of my favourite aspects of my job – speaking to booksellers. I’ve created a fortnightly newsletter, which we send to UK booksellers, letting them know about upcoming trade titles, campaigns we’re running, new reviews, etc. I’ve also been working on a booklet to send to bookshops which reintroduces MUP as a trade publisher, detailing some of the exciting trade titles we are publishing and lets them know about the newsletter too. It’s been a great project to work on, especially coming from my trade fiction background at Comma, applying what I learnt there to MUP’s non-fiction trade titles.
What upcoming 2022 book releases are you looking forward to?
I’m working on some exciting trade books at MUP right now, which I hope you’ll keep an eye out for. The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer, publishing in June, looks at the political influences and motivations that defined one of the UK's greatest punk icons, Joe Strummer, who was the frontman of The Clash. We’re also delighted to be publishing The Value of a Whale by Adrienne Buller, which exposes the escalating plunder of the natural world under financial capitalism.