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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Industry Insights: Interview with Claire Philip, Freelancer and Children’s Non-Fiction Editor

By Gabriela Kaczmarek, Molly Arabella Kirk, Anna Cowan and Kat Lenahan


Can you tell us how you first got into publishing? Was this always an industry you wanted to join and how long did it take you to get your first position in publishing?


I started at Miles Kelly Publishing as an Editorial Assistant the summer I finished university. I was very lucky – I sent an enquiry letter to see if they had any entry-level positions and it just so happened that someone junior was leaving. I was so nervous during the interview and called the owner the wrong name! But they gave me a chance. Throughout university, I had thought about getting into children’s publishing, as I loved one of my uni modules on children’s literature. My other thought was to go into journalism, as I was good at editorial writing, but I had a bad experience working at a tabloid paper one summer, so I avoided that!


You have worked in publishing presses and now as a freelancer. How would you say your working day has changed since becoming a freelancer?


My working day used to start with a rushed commute, but now everything is much more relaxed. In-house, I’d always have a jam-packed schedule. Now, my days are much slower but also much more productive and creative. I tend to work mornings or afternoons, as I’m not full-time. I have a fifteen-month-old who keeps me busy the rest of the time! I love freelancing for the freedom and flexibility it gives me, but I do miss having colleagues. This is one of the reasons I’m in the process of setting up a freelancing circle with some people I’ve worked with in the past. We’ll be launching soon…


On the topic of freelancing, have you got any advice for those who would like to go down this route? What is the best way to start?


I was able to start freelancing because I had made lots of contacts in publishing who knew they could trust me with their projects. I would advise working somewhere for at least a few years, if possible. If not, I’d make sure I was qualified by taking courses with either the Publishing Training Centre or the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) and I would network as much as I could by attending as many industry events as possible. I’d join CIEP, invest in plenty of CPD and learn basic business, marketing, digital and audio skills. You can learn so much online for low cost – it's worth it.


You run an editorial training and mentorship programme for those looking to get into children’s publishing. Can you tell us a little more about what the programme covers and how people can get in touch? 


Yes! I wrote my course in 2020 during the first lockdown when all of my freelance work was put on hold. It is a highly creative yet practical course that can be delivered over three or six months, and essentially consists of live video lessons where I explain everything there is to know about children’s publishing and the book-making process. There is extensive written material, guides, templates and resources as well as audio interviews with other publishing professionals. Each module includes homework and participants are required to complete a book proposal to create evidence that they are ready to start in publishing. Participants have gone on to work for companies including Penguin, Hachette and Pearson. If people are interested in finding out more, they can email their CV to me at claire@clairephilip.com or they can contact me on LinkedIn.


From your own experience working in the industry for over fifteen years, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?


The biggest challenges I have faced have been around pay and how tricky it is to live and work in London without financial help either from parents or a partner with a significantly higher wage. I think it’s a real barrier for a huge number of people getting into publishing and it’s often a problem for experienced publishing professionals who want to progress financially.


Where do you see yourself in the next few years, and do you have any advice for those in publishing looking to progress?


Over the next few years, I will be focusing on delivering my course as well as freelancing, although I am open to working for a publisher again. I’d also love to pitch more picture books and non-fiction titles because my mind is always full of ideas. I’m also planning some creative workshops for publishing hopefuls in the North West. I’m a mentor for Children’s Books North this year and I’m keen to help encourage more action up north!


My advice for others looking to progress would be to regularly evaluate what it is they love doing and to come up with incremental career goals. I did this as an editor when I wanted to become a writer – I put myself out there even when I felt like an imposter. It can be really scary to dream big, but publishing is an amazing industry full of kind people who want to help, and I’m a firm believer that we make our own luck by doing the work and taking opportunities whenever they arise.


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