The Publishing Post
Industry Insights: Eleanor Smith
Eleanor started her publishing career as an Editorial Intern at Richmond ELT. She then moved to Princeton University Press, where she now works as a Rights & Audio Assistant. She is also Events Officer for SYP Oxford. Here, she talks about working in educational publishing. She can be found on Twitter at @eleanor_smith96.
How did you get into publishing? Did you always want to work in academic publishing as opposed to trade?
I studied French and Spanish at university but didn’t consider a career in publishing until my final term at university. After graduating, I attended the ‘Get Into Publishing’ course to learn more about the industry and applied for lots of different roles. I didn’t know whether I wanted to work in academic or trade publishing – I just applied everywhere and hoped for the best!
My first job was a paid editorial internship at Richmond ELT in Oxford. I then joined Princeton University Press in January 2020 on a six-month contract as International Rights Assistant and was fortunate enough to be kept on permanently as Rights & Audio Assistant!
What role does Rights play in the publishing process?
The International Rights department ensures that the author’s intellectual property is used to its greatest effect. When an author signs a contract with a publisher, they can choose to grant the publisher the ability to license subsidiary rights (such as translation, audio, digital and film) to third parties. Licensing these rights generates income and raises the profile of both the author and the publishing house.
For translation rights specifically, we tend to get involved once the book is close to being published – once the text has been finalised, we can start licensing it to foreign publishers. However, it’s not all about new releases! One thing I love about Rights is working with the entirety of Princeton’s backlist, as foreign publishers often pick up on a book many years after its initial publication date. In that sense, we help preserve the longevity of a title, once the initial hype and buzz has died down.
What does being an Audio Assistant involve?
Princeton produces its own audiobooks and licenses the audio rights to our partners. I’m responsible for the administrative side of this which involves anything from liaising with our licensing, production and distribution partners, checking permissions, communicating with authors and managing the audiobook records on Biblio. You need to be good at managing processes and keeping track of lots of moving parts!
What does a typical day look like for you (if there is such a thing!)?
Due to balancing both International Rights and Audio responsibilities, no two days are the same!
I provide administrative support to both teams, and some of my weekly tasks include responding to submission requests, checking cover art permissions, updating Biblio records, circulating/processing contracts, checking and sending out author copies of translated editions and writing weekly round-ups.
Book Fairs involve a lot of additional preparation in the weeks beforehand. For example, in the run-up to the fairs, I will schedule meetings, put together an appointments guide, collect materials and help put together the Rights Guide.
What was the interview process like? Did you have any unexpected questions?
For PUP, I had one in-person interview, and then a more informal chat with the Director of the department. Amongst other things, I was asked about my previous office experience, why I wanted to work in Rights and for PUP and how I organise my time. I remember that I was asked about how I dealt with conflict, which I wasn’t expecting, but it makes sense as sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with authors!
What advice would you give to people who are applying to academic publishers? How can they stand out in the application form/interview?
My top five tips would be:
Emphasise transferable skills on your CV, especially organisational, time management and administrative skills, good communication and teamwork.
Look at your prospective employer’s website/social media channels to see their recent acquisitions/releases, as these might not be well-publicised in mainstream media.
Some academic publishers also publish trade books, so being aware of publishing trends in serious non-fiction could be useful.
If applying for a job in International Rights, check out the publisher’s International Rights catalogue and think about why they’re choosing to market those particular books for translation – if you could talk about that in an interview, I think that would be pretty impressive!
Check out events run by the Society of Young Publishers, especially SYP Oxford (a bit of a cheeky plug) as these often feature academic publishers. It’s definitely worth mentioning on a cover letter if you heard that publisher speak at an event!
Ultimately, I think a lot of the advice for applying to trade publishing houses still applies, be clear in your application about why you want to work for that particular company, doing that particular job.
Who is your inspiration in the industry?
I want to give a shout-out to the rest of the SYP Oxford committee, who have been so adaptable during these strange times. I was also fortunate enough to be mentored by Rebecca Smart earlier this year as part of the SYP OxForward mentoring scheme, and she was such a great sounding board when I was planning my early steps in the industry!
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently doing Claire Fenby’s Middlemarch July read-along challenge and am really enjoying it (although I am very behind schedule, whoops…)