LBF 2012: How to get into publishing and how to get ahead

Like all of you, I love books. My dream is to become a very important publisher in Italy one day, perhaps to start a company that will become successful enough to offer some healthy competition to the big conglomerates now reigning over the Italian publishing market.

Recently, I went to two very helpful conferences held by the Society of Young Publishers at the London Book Fair  – “How to get into publishing” and “How to get ahead in publishing”. It was amazing to meet people who work with books for a living. I also found out that many writers have a parallel career in publishing, but it is not the case that publishing is simply some sort of solution to supporting themselves while working on the masterpiece that will make them famous. In fact, getting a job in publishing these days is just as difficult, if not more, than getting your book published.

Random House HR Group Director Neil Morrison gave us dismal figures for entry level publishing jobs: 300 applicants for every position. That’s some serious competition. Mary Ann Kernan, Programme Director of City University’s Publishing Studies MA, explained how publishing companies are expecting more and more from applicants of entry level jobs precisely because so many people want to work in publishing. Employers can ask for whatever they want when they are recruiting, even for an entry-level role. They encourage applicants to be multi-skilled and versatile, to have a good knowledge of design software such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator, and at the same time an understanding of e-commerce and various web applications and social platforms, as well as personal qualities like motivation, passion, flair, commitment. Preferably, you would also have previous experience in a similar role – but how do you accumulate experience if no one will give you your first start? Clearly, there are no easy answers, but there are things you can do to get closer to your dream job.

Here’s some advice for you if you want to get into publishing (partially from me, but mostly from the experienced speakers at the SYP conferences):

  • Think digitally. Enhance your digital skills because it will be the key to getting you a job. Digital is the future.
  • If you can’t get work experience, show initiative and start doing it yourself – create a blog, an ebook, a website. Just show them that you are willing to work hard and learn, and always do the best you can.
  • Demonstrate that you can multi-task across editorial, sales, marketing and technical fields.
  • Use social media. A speaker at the conference told us she had found her employer via Twitter. She emailed them to get work experience and instead she got a JOB.
  • Be aware of changing roles in the publishing industry.
  • “Don’t tell, show.” This was what my teacher used to tell me, and here, I mean it specifically for your CV. Telling employers that you are capable of handling various responsibilities won’t impress them; instead, show them through actual examples of your work. Tell them why what you’ve done is relevant.
  • Get to know people with the same goals in life. They open the door to possible collaborations.
  • Be nice to everybody and network. Listen to insiders’ advice and experiences.

For more, the Society of Young Publishers also has a Careers Guide for getting into publishing.

Emily Cleaver

About Emily Cleaver

Emily Cleaver is Litro's Online Editor. She is passionate about short stories and writes, reads and reviews them. Her own stories have been published in the London Lies anthology from Arachne Press, Paraxis, .Cent, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, One Eye Grey, and Smoke magazines, performed to audiences at Liars League, Stand Up Tragedy, WritLOUD, Tales of the Decongested and Spark London and broadcasted on Resonance FM and Pagan Radio. As a former manager of one of London’s oldest second-hand bookshops, she also blogs about old and obscure books. You can read her tiny true dramas about working in a secondhand bookshop at and see more of her writing at

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