By Meghan Capper, Tanvi Jaiswal, Misha Manani and Georgia Stack
In this issue, we cover part one of our interview series with publishing professionals. Ellie Pilcher from Bonnier Books joins us in conversation to share her insight on company transparency, rising through the publishing ranks and knowing your worth as an employee. Thank you Ellie for your great advice and willingness to take part in this issue!
In conversation with Ellie Pilcher at Bonnier Books UK
“I’m Ellie Pilcher, I’m Head of Fiction Marketing at Bonnier Books UK, working specifically on titles published under the Zaffre and Manilla Press imprints. I previously worked as a Marketing Manager at Avon, HarperCollins for three years and prior to that at Canelo and Atwood Tate Publishing Recruitment in various admin and marketing roles.”
How have you found job descriptions vary between entry-level roles and senior positions?
“Since 2017, I have noticed that more entry-level roles are advertised with salary or salary bands which is exactly how it should be. However, senior roles in publishing still are not. Any level higher than executive (which is about the second rung up the ladder) doesn’t tend to have a salary band at all which makes it very hard to negotiate pay rises or a starting salary at a new job.
Job descriptions are also a lot more detailed, however, this has its pros and cons. For anyone at an executive level and above, it’s great to see what a role actually requires, but it feels like ‘entry-level’ roles are ‘experienced-level’ roles. It’s very difficult to understand the jargon, expectations and workload, not to mention having the ‘required’ experience necessary to get an interview.
The industry is moving in the right direction when it comes to job descriptions, but it does feel like it’s dragging its heels a bit.”
If they have, how have the publishers you have worked at supported your career prospects and progression?
“Conversations about progression in my previous two roles were sporadic as a result of a variety of factors, such as the pandemic, being a digital start-up and senior staffing changes. However, they did happen and were for the most part positive without specific detail.
My current employer has risen to the occasion though, and I’m enjoying the transparency and clear objectives they give me, not only as an employee, but as a manager. I know how to support my line reports progression of the team, and I know what I personally need to do to get to the next level, which is incredibly motivating.”
How long do you recommend someone to stay in their entry-level position? How did you know/figure out when it was the right time to move and advance in your career?
“There’s no precise time to stay or leave a role; it will depend on the company, your motivations, your experiences etc. I was in an entry-level role for eight months before I moved to an executive level by changing companies. That was quite fast, but an opportunity arose, and it worked out.
There’s always a little luck involved, and interview skills are imperative, but if you’ve been in an entry-level role for six months and an executive role appears that you feel confident you could do, then go for it. It likely means moving company as career progression internally typically takes longer, but it depends on the job, your confidence, your happiness and generally what you want to do within your career.”
How did your experience in interviews vary between entry-level and higher roles?
“Strangely, I am someone that enjoys interviews. For me, the thing that’s kept me calm in all the interviews I’ve had within publishing was knowing that I was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me. 75% of the interview is them finding out whether I would be a good fit for their company and the other 25% is me deciding if I want to work for them. No matter what level you’re at, that should always be the case.
At higher levels you earn the right to be frank about your options in the interview, asking what they can do for you in terms of progression, benefits, salary etc. At entry-level it still feels like you have to earn those conversations upon getting the role.”
What are your top tips for those hoping to be promoted or progress in their publishing career?
“Always keep looking for those key opportunities. If you read a job description where you fit the bill entirely, then apply for the job above it. You should always start your next role at the bottom rung of the ladder i.e. you know the basics and can run with it, but there’s still a lot to learn. You’re likely to stay longer within that role – which is great for the company hiring you - and it will be exciting, worthwhile and a lot more fun.
Never be afraid to ask for help or for feedback. It can only help you improve your applications, knowledge and network.”
Thanks for reading Issue Fifty-Six! Join us again for Issue Fifty-Seven, where we will cover Upskilling Tips for Dissecting the School Curriculum.