Publishing wasn’t something that really occurred to me as an option until I took a part-time Christmas job at Waterstones. It was there that I utterly fell in love with the book world - getting advanced copies from publishers, reading The Bookseller for the first time, learning all about the wider mechanism that made these things I had loved all my life. This love accelerated quickly, and soon I was applying for publishing grad schemes and internships.
The only problem there is that most publishing internships are not paid, and the majority are in London. With only 13% of the UK population living in London, how are the remaining 87%, myself included, supposed to spend 3 months living in London unpaid?
Don't fret - there is an alternative to selling your kidneys and hauling down to London. It is a brilliant time for literary events in the UK and every day a new literary festival seems to crop up. Take YAShot for example, a new one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade ‘festival’ curated by Alexia Casale. It is taking place in the centre of Uxbridge on Wednesday 28 October 2015 in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge. Now yes, this festival is in London, but they are all wonderful opportunities to grow your skills and they are happening all over the UK. Here is a comprehensive list of all the festivals taking place around the UK.
Working at literary events such as YAShot, you are exposed to a huge amount of experience, people and resources related to publishing e.g.
- what goes into the event organisation
- the wording and look of promotional resources
- what the marketing looks like and how it works
- how to write copy (If you get offered to write anything, grab it with two hands! if you don't get offered, suggest it. Copywriting skills are gold dust in publishing, duh.)
- the logistics that go into arranging and event and pitfalls to avoid
- how to communicate with and manage authors and other stakeholders…
What volunteering gives you is something to talk about at interview and that golden goose egg – transferable skills! You also get to meet incredible authors, publicists, publishers and fellow publishing career hopefuls who happily shower you with advice and encouragement if you’re not too shy to ask. Getting to know people and building relationships is a big part of the publishing so endeavour to meet at least one new person at every event you go to. I know this is a catch-22 as a lot of bookish people are inherently shy, but it will pay dividends.
I still volunteer at my local library to keep in touch with what's going on, to get to know lots of titles and meet new people. Many libraries don't have the budget to take on volunteers now, but research initiatives like the Summer Reading Challenge which takes on volunteers to help run the project. I did this in 2014 and it was ridiculously fun, as well as a great insight into what's happening in the industry.
So get researching things happening in your area and get volunteering, it'll be the best thing you do for your publishing career this year! YAShot will soon be looking for volunteers soon, so if anyone does wants to travel down to London for 1 day volunteering, check out their website.
|Me on the job with Chris Riddell (current children's laureate) and Paul Stewart|