How To Get Ahead In Publishing

Posted on April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Our second seminar session at The London Book Fair was on How to Get Ahead in Publishing. We had an excellent panel of four industry experts who have all come from very different and creative backgrounds.

The panel was as follows:

Michael Kowalski, CEO, Contentment
Jon Slack, Director, DSC South Asian Literary Festival
Bea Moyes, Director of Content, Ether Books
Sophie Rochester, Founder and Editor, Literary Platform

Michael Kowalski was the first up and as the founder of Padify, Contentment’s first digital product he explained the importance of start-up companies. Although start-ups can be risky and time-consuming, they can also be incredibly rewarding. Michael’s first start-up was Pulp Faction, an independent publishing house. Padify, his second start-up converts book content into a digital format – perfect for the transforming industry. Michael also pointed out that traditional publishing roles are now changing as the general reading experience of a tablet user is also evolving to incorporate social interaction and blogging sites. These changes should be embraced and seen as a great opportunity not only for newcomers but also for those of us who are already in the industry and planning our next career steps. There are huge skills gaps which are becoming even more evident as the digital landscape progresses. Social marketing, coding and software programming are just a few of the areas that are opening up. There is no need to learn coding if you don’t already know it, but there are some fantastic resources out there to get your teeth stuck in to. Attend events, watch Youtube clips and read blogs, immerse yourself in the new technology and you will learn things as you go along. These little snippets of knowledge will help keep you ahead of the game. Start-ups are the new talent pools, so jump in and get involved!

Next up was Jon Slack, who through a very snazzy slideshow demonstrated how perseverance is the key to success. From barman to office junior, Jon has pretty much done every job there is, but all the time he has kept the bigger picture of publishing in mind. The point here is to remember that while you might be in a menial job doing boring photo-copying, you can apply this to your CV and make it work for you. Big yourself up and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and prove your worth.  His top tips for getting ahead were:

•    Be aware –  of the market, of products and of your competitors
•    Be fearless – network, introduce yourself and take risks
•    Be pragmatic – an ugly word, but a very important one. Really apply yourself.
•    Persevere – none of us would be here if we gave up. This industry is competitive, but it is also rewarding.

Bea Moyes was the inspirational speaker for me at the event. She graduated in 2010 and is already the Director of Content at Ether Books, a publisher devoted to publishing short content for people on the move. Bea first realised that she wanted to work in digital publishing at our 2010 SYP annual conference. A question was asked at the conference: Who wants to work in digital? Bea said hardly anyone raised their hands, which didn’t make much sense as this is the future of publishing, and so she bravely decided that digital publishing was the route for her. Bea made lots of good points including how even the editorial departments should be thinking digital and commissioning content for digital products. She also encouraged us to be savvy and innovative, think outside the box and see what happens.  Ether Books proudly disrupts the traditional publishing model by directly connecting their writers to their readers, and building a social community around their readers. Publishers need to take risks in order to keep up with their readers, and if we want to get ahead in this industry then we have to take risks too.

Last but not least we heard from Sophie Rochester, Founder and Editor of the Literary Platform. Sophie’s golden nugget of advice was to map out your career. Make a five-year plan and see where you want to be. Then get investigating. Look up people and find out who has the jobs you want, network and talk to them and find out the routes they took. You’ll find that most people are very happy to chat to you about their jobs, mostly because everyone in this industry is so passionate about what they do and more often than not will want to help you succeed. Be interested in everything. This is an incredibly exciting time to be in this industry. Don’t feel isolated, talk to other industries and work out how publishing crosses over into other media outlets. Ask questions and be curious. And finally, be nice to everyone. Publishing is a small world and you don’t want a small slip-up to stop you from getting to where you want to be.

Thank you to all our wonderful panellists at The London Book Fair, we all had a great time and your advice is as always, greatly appreciated!