Location, Location, Location: Work Experience Edition
Work experience is hard to come by, but it can be even more difficult depending on where you live. Publishing is very London-centric, which can pose numerous problems for those who can’t or don’t want to relocate to an expensive city. Plus, there are some fabulous independent publishers dotted across the UK which offer just as valuable work experience.
In order to continue this discussion, we spoke with publishing hopefuls Belinda Stiles and Sarah Shaw, who have completed placements at both London-based and non-London based publishers. Both completed work experience at Penguin Random House in London, and Belinda completed one with Carcanet Press in Manchester, and Sarah with Luath Press in Edinburgh.
Both hopefuls chose PRH in London as they wanted to experience what a major UK publishing house is like. Sarah emphasises the importance of this work being paid: “I live in Scotland and so would not be able to afford the travel and London living costs involved in any unpaid placements.”
Whilst working in London was more accessible to Belinda, she recognised how important London is to the industry and was excited to be involved.
In terms of their non-London based publishers, Belinda chose Carcanet as they are one of the leading names in poetry. She was able to stay with a friend, stating, “I just love Manchester as a city in general – it has such an eclectic mix of the new and old.”
Sarah’s placement at Luath Press was unpaid, but as she already had a flat in Edinburgh, she could easily commute. “Luath is one of the few Scottish publishers which offers experience, and so it offered a valuable opportunity.”
Belinda and Sarah both highlight the exciting atmosphere of working in London. “Working with PRH felt like working at the centre of the UK Publishing industry,” Sarah says. She also enjoyed meeting other people on placements, as Penguin has two major London offices.
Both of Belinda’s placements were central to the cities they were located in, so they were easily accessible.
Despite Edinburgh being a smaller city than London, Sarah’s placement occurred during the Edinburgh Festival, The Fringe, “so the city was very busy, which created a friendlier feel in the office.” The smaller office at Luath meant that she got to know her colleagues well despite the short length of her placement.
Both locations will have their drawbacks – according to Sarah, working in London involved a long and expensive daily commute; “the city as a whole has an unfriendly feel,” especially during the busy rush hours.
Belinda also emphasises the draining journeys. “Thankfully, the internship was paid so this covered the cost of my train and tube journeys.”
In Manchester, Belinda was able to walk to the office but could imagine this commute also being busy, though train fares are typically cheaper in Manchester.
Sarah had commuting difficulties in Edinburgh, mainly due to the business of the festival and the more touristic area where the office was based.
When asked what stood out about their non-London based publisher, Sarah states that she got to engage with Scottish authors which are often neglected by English publishers. “Luath offers a Scottish voice in the publishing industry, and I found that many readers engaged with this voice.”
Carcanet’s reputation stood out to Belinda as she was able to work with poetry from all over the country. “Working in a smaller office for an indie press was a great insight into publishing outside of London and definitely showed another side to the industry.”
We wanted to know whether either hopeful had an ideal location for a publishing job. Belinda said that she’s happy to relocate anywhere for the right opportunity. “I think publishing houses both within and outside of London have their advantages and disadvantages, but if there’s one thing I did learn it’s how everyone who works in the industry loves what they do regardless!”
Sarah, on the other hand, would love to work in Edinburgh, not only due to its more affordable living in comparison with London, but because of its strong literary history.
Our final question was: ‘Is London the only place to be for publishing?’ According to Sarah, other cities can be just as lucrative as London. “As the industry spreads through the UK, I believe that local voices will increasingly enter the industry both as publishers and writers,” which will diversify and enrich British literature.
Belinda reiterates this sentiment, saying other cities have a lot to offer, too. “I think it really depends on what you want from a publishing role and whether you want to be part of larger or smaller operations and teams. I would definitely encourage anyone interested in the industry to try out both if this is available to them.”
There are some incredible London-based publishers, but that does not mean we should overlook smaller and more local presses – they are just as valuable to this industry, and as these two hopefuls have shown, there’s a lot to be learnt from them.
Special thanks to Belinda and Sarah for taking part, check out their socials below:
Belinda’s Twitter/Instagram: @thethreadblog_
Sarah’s Instagram: @sarah.shaw1