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Auntie Hot Key – Getting into publishing

Hi there! It’s time for another Auntie Hot Key post where we answer all your burning questions about publishing.


This week, I am here to hopefully give you some helpful advice, and the questions we got this week were all about how to get into publishing. For those that missed it, we did a post recently where we all shared our own experiences of how we got “in” – so do have a look over there too. But, in the meantime here goes!

Hi Laura! Okay, so you get internships I’d say by doing two things – the first is research, and the second is being proactive. Research will help you find out the many jobs that exist in publishing, and there really are many! I say this a lot but many people just assume they want to be editors, but there are so many other interesting parts to how a book gets made. For me, I love Marketing and PR because you are involved in the whole process: from deciding which books get published (the editor asks our opinion to see if we think the book has a market), to talking to the author about why and how they wrote the book, to brainstorming ideas of how to promote it, and then getting people excited about it when it is published. We did a video series a while back about all the roles, so check this out.

In terms of getting internships I’d say try to have a sense of what department you’d like to work in. Editorial departments do get inundated with intern requests so perhaps look at other departments that you think are interesting. Plan ahead – many intern placements get booked up 6 months + ahead, so get your application in early. Think about paid vs unpaid: many work experience placements are unpaid, but these shouldn’t be longer than two weeks and you should get your travel expenses reinbursed. Longer internships should always be paid, so make sure you are not being taken advantage of. Paid or unpaid though, you should be professional and proactive. When you are there, talk to as many people as you can and learn as much as you can. Even if you are shy, don’t just sit at your desk and not make the most of your time there – this is your chance to make yourself memorable, make sure you take it.

This is definitely a common problem. However, while many of the major publishers are in London, there are lots of other publishing houses that aren’t based here, and often you can learn more from doing work experience at smaller places than in big companies. For example – Naomi, our editorial assistant here, did work experience at Chicken House in Somerset before getting her job at Hot Key. You don’t just have to look into book publishers either – why not look into magazines, newspapers, websites, educational publishers, local book festivals, book shops, libraries and schools? All have a part to play in helping you learn skills which will help you get a job in publishing eventually. Also, our own Sales & Marketing Executive Cait Davies used her holiday from a paid job to come to London and do work experience, staying with family two hours outside and commuting in everyday – so it’s about showing initiative and looking out for the right opportunities. She moved here once she got a job, not before, which is the right way round!

That’s an interesting one. I would say that ‘most’ entry level jobs in publishing do list a degree as a requirement. But, that’s not to say, we wouldn’t necessarily see someone who didn’t have a degree if they had lots of great work experience already. I certainly know a few people at major publishers who didn’t go to university so if you don’t want to go, or can’t afford it (which is a very real situation for many people) there are options definitely. Just make sure you have a plan of how to get the work experience you need and work hard while you are doing it. Again, as above, there’s all sorts of paid jobs that can relate to a publishing job eventually. One of the most common is working in a bookshop – there is nothing better than already having the market knowledge and understanding how to recommend a book to your customers.

If you do go to university though, I wouldn’t say there is a certain degree you should do. Some of us did do English, but really you should do a degree that you’re passionate about. You’re going to spend three years of your life studying, at great expense, so make sure it’s something you enjoy! Livs in our team did Theology and it certainly makes an interesting debate in our team every time anything about the Vatican comes on the news! I often think doing a different degree can make you stand out in publishing these days – as long as you can show skills that transfer to the work place (time management, organization, writing, debating etc) then you should just do what you want to.

Many people also think you have to do a Publishing Masters to get in. That’s certainly a popular route, and it does help you get contacts in the industry. But again, its absolutely not a requirement. For me, if I’m looking at a CV for someone that has a Masters vs someone that hasn’t – it will still be the person’s specific application, their interests and work experience/outside experience that will be help me make the decision. It isn’t a given that just having a masters will give you an advantage.

If you have any other questions, leave a comment and we might answer it in the next Auntie Hot Key post!