By Zahra Islam, Karoline Tübben and Aimee Whittle
This week, Abby Shaw shared her experience working as a Harry Potter Editorial Assistant at Bloomsbury Children’s Books…
Tell us about your yourney into publishing
I knew I wanted to pursue publishing when I was in sixth form, so instead of doing English Literature at university, I decided to do a bachelor’s degree in Media, Journalism and Publishing at Oxford Brookes.
In my first year at university, I started writing for The Tab Brookes – a student-run news site aimed at Oxford Brookes students. The Tab Brookes is part of The Tab, a nationwide news site primarily aimed at university students. After a year of writing for The Tab Brookes, I did a week-long internship with The Tab, writing articles for their national site. I also became Editor-in-Chief of The Tab Brookes and led a team of writers.
My course leaders and lecturers had mostly all worked in the journalism and publishing industries, so the course modules were helpful – particularly the weekly newsletter we got with work experience opportunities. This is how I came across doing a week-long internship with the independent children’s publisher, Sweet Cherry Publishing. This internship was remote and during COVID-19, and it was perfect for giving me a taste of what publishing was like. After this, in my third year whilst completing my studies, I got an internship with The Sun in their TV and Showbiz department through my course’s newsletter. This internship lasted approximately ten weeks and my name was in The Sun for multiple weeks!
I graduated not long after finishing my internship with The Sun and I stumbled across the Editorial Assistant role on Bloomsbury’s website by chance when I was looking for jobs. Harry Potter has always been my favourite book series and a brand I have loved since I was nine. Coming across my dream job in my dream department felt particularly serendipitous as Harry Potter made me love books and realise that I wanted a career in making them.
What do your everyday duties consist of?
In my role, I have a number of responsibilities. I organise all of our departmental meetings and minute these meetings so that the team always has a record of what we discuss. I’m responsible for coding any expenses we have in the department, as well as invoices. I use Biblio, which is a software used in publishing to keep records of books and all of their details, to make records for new books and also set up pre-order items that sometimes come for free when you pre-order a book. My manager describes my role as the lynchpin of the department, which means that I’m normally the first port of call for any Harry Potter-related queries.
I also help with fact-checking and researching; this means that I’m frequently delving into the Harry Potter books to find answers to questions about characters, or to find certain scenes or quotations. The Harry Potter series contains so much detail and so many characters that it’s important to make sure facts are correct!
How important were your internships in securing your current role?
I think my internships were very important for securing my role. I want to note, however, that only one of these internships was publishing-based – the rest were journalism! I think getting publishing internships is very difficult as they are quite few and far-between, so I tried to get journalism-based internships whilst applying for publishing ones. I think my journalism internships helped particularly with my editorial skills as I was regularly writing my own articles and then getting editorial feedback for these. I think this feedback helped me become a better writer, but also a better editor in the process. The internships also taught me independence and how to time-manage as I often had multiple tasks at one time and was doing them whilst juggling university lectures and assignments.
What is your view on remote/hybrid working?
I personally love working hybrid. In my role, I work two days in the office in London and three days working from home. Hybrid working means that I haven’t had to move to London and that has saved me money and time spent commuting. I love going into the office and seeing people face-to-face; we often have most of our meetings on office days and then spend the rest of the week completing the tasks set in these meetings whilst working from home.
What would your number one tip be for someone looking to break into the industry?
I think what worked for me was having a creative CV. I knew lots of people would be applying for my role and I wanted to make myself stand out, so I decided to make the background of my CV into the Marauder’s Map. I researched the font that is used on the map and styled my CV around its layout. This of course may not work for every role, but taking the time to make the effort and show my creativity really paid off!