Diary of a Publishing Wannabe

Posted on September 1, 2008 in Uncategorized


I’m 21, I live in the centre of the country’s most exciting city (London, obviously) and am on the ridiculously long holiday (four months!!) that we students happily take for granted each summer. So how am I taking advantage of this extended break from, well, student life?


My best friend, like any sensible girl, is strolling along the boulevards of Paris, partying the nights away in Montmartre and generally breaking the hearts of young French men. My flatmate is preparing for his ski season and my brother has booked a week in Vegas.


I, on the other hand, am perched on a broken chair in a dingy attic room, surrounded by perilously leaning bookcases, sticking scraps of paper together and wondering how I have managed to glue the scissors to the desk.

‘Poor girl’, I hear you cry, ‘Why on earth has she chosen to spend her last glorious summer in this fashion?’ The answer, alas, is that I want to be a publisher.


Getting into the publishing industry is as competitive as ever, with the number of people vying for places on the various publishing courses and MAs rising as the need to make one’s CV stand out becomes increasingly necessary.


As anyone trying to get onto a course or land an actual job knows – work experience is crucial. It not only provides an insight into the day-to-day workings of a publishing house (and your commissioning editor’s penchant for gin), but also proves your commitment to the industry. After all, you’re not going to spend five hours straight sticking labels on press cuttings if you’re not determined to forge a career in the publishing world, are you?


In light of this, I fired off a stream of emails to nearly every publisher within a five-mile radius (which amounts to quite a few when you live in central London).


Despite the eleventh-hour nature of my requests, I was lucky enough to receive several offers – it transpires that August is the best month to offer your services, as the regular underlings are off on holiday, leaving a mountain of paperwork behind in their care-free wake.


All was going well on my first day. I dressed smartly, arrived perfectly on time and smiled charmingly (or was it creepily?) at everyone I met. After three punishing hours of standing at the photocopier, however, the realisation sunk in that, a) I was not going to be editing manuscripts on my first day, and b) that I really, really, shouldn’t have worn those new black patent five-inch stilettos. Just think of the money, I told myself. Oh no, wait…I’m working for free.


Unfortunately it’s impossible to avoid these kinds of duties. I have spent whole days filing press cuttings and using Google to find phone numbers, emails and addresses. The important thing is not to be put off. By efficiently and happily completing the most mind-numbing of tasks, I was soon requested to help with much more interesting projects. 


In the last three weeks I have written press releases, composed royalties contracts, formatted and paginated manuscripts, emailed leading academics for proposal reviews and, finally, the holy of holies, I was asked to proofread and edit an entire manuscript for a novel. For a girl who has always loved books (as a seven-year old I’d wake up well before dawn so I could read for a couple of hours before school), this was a dream come true.


As my rush-hour bus drags itself back across the river, I comfort myself with the knowledge that not only have these few weeks proven to myself that publishing is definitely for me, but they will also – as we halt at red lights opposite the glistening expanse of stone that is the HarperCollins building – prove worth it in the long-run.