This issue we spoke to Jodie Harrison, who is an Operations Assistant at Octopus Books, part of Hachette about her publishing journey and current role.
Why did you decide to get into publishing in 2023?
Having moved back up north from London in 2017, I had given up on the idea of working in publishing. After doing some temp work I went on to have two children and almost six years away from the workplace. I had spent a few years thinking/worrying about going back to work and had almost given up on getting an “exciting” job when I saw the Operations Assistant role at Octopus, based in Sheffield, where I live. I was so excited! I sent an application and was lucky enough to be shortlisted for an interview.
As someone who’s just started in the industry, what advice would you give someone looking for their first role in publishing?
I would say always think outside the box with regards to experiences you have had or are looking to gain. I had previously worked in an operations role but worried that I wouldn’t get the job because it was entry-level! I had no publishing experience, so aside from my previous work experience my application focussed on how at university I had run a group for mature and postgraduate students, volunteered for a community radio station and studied abroad, all of which gave me lots of transferable skills and were great examples to use during my interview. If you don’t have any previous work experience then think about other ways of gaining experience, volunteering for your local library/bookshop/community magazine/charity shop. There are so many opportunities online now too.
Also, you may have your heart set on an editorial job but don’t discount roles in other departments. Every job is a foot in the door, and it can be really helpful to gain an understanding of what other departments do across the business, and to get to know different people and their roles (you may even decide to follow a different path!). Not everyone is able to get a publishing internship, but I think any previous work experience can help prove that you’re capable of the job. And there’s nothing better that interviewers like to hear than someone who can demonstrate why you love books. Have you been to book festivals or other author events? Do you love your local library? Don’t underestimate the power of dropping a pile of books published by the company you’re interviewing for onto the desk during your interview (admittedly easier during an online interview like mine). One last thing is that you don’t have to be based in London any more to get into publishing. Hachette has regional offices across the country where the cost of living is a lot cheaper than London!
What is it about Hachette, in particular, and the new Sheffield office, that brings you to work every day?
I have found Hachette to be really progressive, diverse and inclusive. They care about their staff’s wellbeing, which to me as a neurodiverse, perimenopausal woman is so important! I work from home twice a week which is great from a family and work/life balance point of view. Everyone I’ve met at Hachette has been so friendly. Not to mention the fact that they publish brilliant authors!
The Sheffield office is one of the regional offices and it’s great, because you never know who you might end up chatting next to. A marketing director? Head of sales? A publisher? We all work for different divisions at various levels, which is definitely a bonus when it comes to meeting other colleagues across Hachette and finding out what other people across the business are working on. I don’t ever plan to live in London again, so it’s been great to be able to get into an industry I’d aspired to for so long while living in a great city like Sheffield.
As someone who’s neurodivergent, are there any initiatives/schemes at Hachette which you have experienced that you would recommend? How did you find the application process?
It was actually the advert that not only made me want to go for the role, but encouraged me to apply despite my neurodiversity, as it clearly said if you need reasonable adjustments for the interview then let us know. Because of this I declared my (as yet undiagnosed) ADHD on not only the HR diversity form but in a box on the application form itself. I explained that I was awaiting a diagnosis but would probably need additional support (and I’ve definitely received that). My reasonable adjustments included being given the interview questions in advance, preparing and bringing my own notes with me to the interview, and not having to do a test. I was very nervous before the interview but being able to prepare ahead of time really helped me.
Hachette has a neurodiversity policy to help staff like me as well as access to an employee assistance programme which can provide emotional support among other things. They also offer a range of employee network groups, which staff are encouraged to be part of. These can be a great way of meeting others and contributing to how policies and network groups can be developed in the future. I have joined the Neurodiversity sub-group of the Accessibility Network which has allowed me to make friends with other neurodiverse colleagues and share ideas on different ways of working with neurodiversity. In the day-to-day my manager is super supportive and always happy to look at ways to assist me in the way I work.
What is the most unexpected or exciting thing you have experienced as an Operations Assistant?
Being tasked with preparing an urgent reprint because one of our authors has gone into the top ten has definitely been a highlight (reprints are when we order further copies of a book, so retailers don’t go out of stock). Then seeing that author on TV or hearing them on the radio and knowing that you have contributed to getting that person’s book into the world is a great feeling.