My journey into publishing
My journey into the publishing industry has been peppered equally with hard work and luck. At the start of my undergraduate degree in English Literature I had big dreams of settling into a life of academia as a professor and researcher. It was a ‘Publishing in Practice’ module that gave me a new direction.
After speaking with the lecturer who ran this module, I found out that not only did my university offer a Master’s degree in Publishing, but that it was in partnership with the Stationers’ Company with bursaries available to cover university fees and some living costs. I’d also started a relationship with a charitable company that provided networking opportunities, and connected with someone in the industry to serve as my mentor.
A Master’s degree brought a lot of hard work. The course covered a range of topics, from digging into the technical nitty gritty of copyright praxis to the creativity of developing an editorial book pitch. I gained a working overview of all aspects of publishing, including some that I am unlikely to experience first-hand.
However, academic achievement alone isn’t necessarily enough to win an interview with a publisher. Another stroke of luck was that I live in a city with a University Press and several small publishers.
Networking can be a fairly intangible process. I found its meaning initially was to discuss my plans with as many people as possible, with the confidence of someone who knew what they were doing. Eventually someone I spoke to responded to put me in contact with a friend working in publishing, and a few weeks later I was having coffee with the head of a small department at Cambridge University Press.
Networking now meant showing avid interest in the roles of the people in front of me. After asking countless questions about what they do and how they got there, I asked if there was any chance that I could shadow them. This led to two weeks of work experience with their team. I then asked my mentor if I could do some similar work experience in his company. I’ve found that the people you meet generally respond very positively to people who take initiative and ask for things.
A combination of work experience and a soon-to-be-completed Master’s degree on my CV got me my first job at Cambridge University Press. I worked four days a week on a temporary contract, went to classes one day a week, and studied in the evenings. The role was diverse and the variety made all the admin tasks worthwhile. I helped with editing material, organising conferences, testing websites and contacting authors and customers.
Unfortunately, the pandemic meant that I lost my job in mid-June. Since then I have applied for more than 50 jobs, helpfully tracked in a spreadsheet, but have so far been unsuccessful. Instead I have begun to put some of that networking practice to use in a new task: my next big challenge is to build a client base for editing.
Networking now means having the confidence to contact people I’ve built relationships with. Past lecturers, past employers and past people-I-emailed-that-one-time have all received an email asking how they are getting on, wondering if they would like to read my dissertation, and informing them that I’m stepping into freelance work. Already it has opened so many doors and sparked new relationships within the industry. I am optimistic that the mix of hard work and luck will see me through to great places.
If you would like to contact Aimee, please email AJ.EditorialServices@gmail.com. You can find more details about her freelance services here.