• The Publishing Post

The Publishing Conference: Free events Round Up

By Marouso Menegou


During the last weekend of April, Comma Press and Manchester Metropolitan University co-hosted the Publishing Conference 2021, an online event for both publishing hopefuls and young professionals in the early stages of their careers.


The programme included two free events that were streamed live on YouTube and a ticketed package for eight presentations from industry professionals that took place in closed Zoom sessions.


On the 24 April, Sarah Cleave from Comma Press introduced James Spackman of The bks Agency and The Spare Room Project. The conference started with ‘An Introduction to Publishing’ that was a comprehensible overview of the UK’s publishing industry. Then, the speaker further elaborated on the anatomy of a publishing firm and its departments, intellectual property and royalties.


James Spackman recommended The Content Machine by Michael Bhaskar for anyone who wants to get further insight into publishing. For those looking for their first job in the industry, he suggested following the work of the Publishers Association, The Bookseller, Creative Access for their “terrific work towards diversity”, BookMachine, the Stationers’ Company, SYP and @PubInterns on Twitter. Specifically for marketing and publicity he referred to the Book Marketing Society and the Publishers Publicity Circle, while for those interested in production he suggested following @_prod_squad_books on Instagram.


Even though networking is challenging for many people, especially in the early stages of their career, James Spackman offered a few ideas such as going to events, being brave and asking for advice from people already working in the industry. Aspiring publishers were encouraged to be open-minded and consider organisations of different sizes and specialisms, to develop a “systematic approach” while applying based on “constant awareness of deadlines.”


As for publishing interns, the agent and publisher recommended that all young professionals should not be thinking twice about asking questions. Of course, it was highlighted that the cornerstone in every aspect is honesty and commitment.


Closing his presentation, the speaker made an extensive reference to the Spare Room Project and the Spare Zoom Project. These resilient schemes act as a supporting element for young people and aspiring publishers from outside of London who either need a short stay in the capital for an interview, or who need access to advice from accomplished individuals in the industry.


At the start of the second free panel on the 25 April, Rosie Hilton, SYP North Co-Chair, introduced Suzy Astbury, Managing Director of Inspired Selection. Hilton went on to present Raakhi Vadera, HR Manager at Pan Macmillan and Anne Ashworth, Head of Employee Apprenticeships at Pearson PLC. After sharing their experience regarding their induction to publishing, the speakers argued on what could be a strategic approach when it comes to applications. They also discussed internships, London-centrism and how looking for a job in publishing during the pandemic might be the best time to try breaking into the industry.


The panellists emphasised that understanding an individual’s strengths and abilities is necessary to decide which department is more suitable for each candidate. Organisations such as Inspired Selection and Pearson PLC are definitely worth working with to increase one’s chances of getting their first job.


As for apprenticeships, it became clear that all people aged over sixteen can apply and that showing enthusiasm, especially for learning, is a primary asset! The panellists also claimed that digital skills are a plus but not essential, as these can be learned during an apprenticeship.


They suggested tailoring cover letters to the job description by focusing on transferrable skills and promoting an honest approach throughout the application process, which can let the recruiters or HR team know what you can bring to a team or company.


Emphasis was given to additional skills such as creativity which is a vital trait for all roles in the industry, as well as proficiency in programs such as Excel. Needless to say, that showing passion for the industry and the publisher, identifying trends and having an eye for what can be commercially successful can prove to be the steppingstones to achieving that dream job.


In an effort to prevent candidates from being on the ‘naughty list’, some common mistakes were highlighted. Among those, were the incidents of cover letters being addressed to the wrong publisher.


The main emphasis of this two-day event was increasing transparency, accessibility and inclusivity in the industry especially for those living in the North. Both panels are still available on Comma Press’ YouTube channel.


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