How to use this summer to crack book publishing

Posted on June 25, 2019 in Scotland

Publishing is an undeniably oversaturated industry. A lot of people want to work in it, which is brilliant, because it means you can laugh in the face of anyone who says physical books are a dying art. But it does also mean that it’s hard to find a way in, and to stand out whilst doing so. Here is a list of free and cheap bookish things to do this summer that aren’t an unpaid internship, but will be twice as rewarding (because the best reward of all is not doing unpaid labour).

Come to SYP events

We have a programme of monthly events which take place UK-wide, so come along to meet us and chat about this wily, beguiling industry. This week in Glasgow, we at SYP Scotland are hosting a career speed dating night for people at all stages of their publishing careers – whether you’re looking for a career change, want to get into publishing, or are just curious about the industry itself, please come along! We’ll have speakers from across the publishing industry available on the night of the event, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask them questions, learn more about their specific roles, and more. The SYP Scotland committee will be attending, so if you’re feeling shy, we’ll make ourselves known at the beginning and you can feel free to stick by us.

Volunteer in a charity shop that sells books

The first thing I heard when I started seeking advice from industry professionals about working in publishing was: get a job in a bookshop. ‘Perfect,’ I thought, ‘wiling away the days in a bookshop sounds like a delight.’ But as I began to job hunt, I realised that a lot of the booksellers in the small indie bookshops I love to frequent aren’t fresh-faced publishing babies like me, they’re industry professionals in their own right. So I volunteered in a British Heart Foundation Books and Music shop, whilst studying and working. This helped me to get a job bookselling at WHSmith, and then at an independent bookshop. As a bookseller, you are aware of industry trends and become more knowledgeable about genres you wouldn’t necessarily read. Working with so closely with books might also help you realise whether this is the industry for you, and if it is, this shows potential employers how serious you are.

Get on Twitter

I’m not saying it’s time to completely abandon using Twitter for memes for the sake of using Twitter for networking. But how about a happy medium? By following publishing houses, people who work for them, and people who are vocal about the industry (@pubinterns, @thatpubblogger), you’ll absorb a lot of information about what publishing entails. By following specific publishing houses, you’ll increasingly be able to distinguish company-specific marketing strategies, campaigns, and general tone. This can be invaluable in applications and interviews, in order to let a company what you know and love about them.


It’s an obvious one, but if you want to work in publishing, your number one rule should be to read as much as you can, and as widely as you can. Try to read widely – read bestsellers, but also read outside of the trends and across a range of genres. Try to read in a range of ways, physical copies, but also audiobooks and ebooks. Consider if you like these formats, and if you don’t, why is that? Working in book publishing means spending a lot of time reading and talking about books. What better way to prepare? It’s also pretty jammy to be able to call reading ‘job prep’. Enjoy it!

Blog about your summer reading

You can follow a summer reading list, or just take whichever of your library loans comes through first, but blogging about what you’re reading will keep you motivated to read. At first, try reading what you are most interested in, as these are the easiest titles to write about and review, but if you’re not comfortable posting about it online, keeping a reading diary is a good start. Still, it’s free to create a WordPress blog, or to follow #bookstagram on Instagram and access a community of like-minded book lovers. Publishing houses also often rely on book bloggers to spread the world about new releases, so this could help you become familiar with current industry professionals.

Sign up to The Bookseller’s free newsletters and job bulletin 

The Bookseller is a weekly magazine which reports on publishing industry news. It has a number of free newsletters for people at all stages of their publishing careers, including those looking to break in. For example, the Books in the Media newsletter is a weekly email about which books are making a splash in newspapers and on social media. Jobs in books is a weekly careers email, and covers both job opportunities and updates on people making careers switches within the industry. As an aspiring publisher, I’ve often been advised to keep on top of ‘what’s happening in the industry’, and both of these newsletters help faciliate this undeniably overwhelming task. 

Go easy on yourself

This might actually be the hardest tip to follow. Publishing is popular for a reason – it’s a brilliant industry – but scrolling Twitter, writing book reviews, and having your inbox inundated with book news can become overwhelming, especially if it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. It’s a hard industry to crack, so try not to be disheartened if things don’t seem to fall into place at once. Lots of the things on this list are slow burners which could pay off in time, or can be done as and when you are able to. And in the meantime, I’d reiterate that finding a community of people in a similar position to you can really improve your mindset. SYP Scotland career dating event, anyone?

By Niamh Anderson. 

Image credit: LWYang via Flickr.