How we got started in publishing pt.2

Posted on June 16, 2020 in News & Reviews

Next up in our series on how the SYP committee got into publishing is Anna Shannon, SYP UK Treasurer 2020.

There are many routes into publishing. For me the power of stories and words drew me to the industry. I was keen to learn more, so I elected to study a Business Studies and Publishing under graduate degree at Oxford Brookes University. It was a combined degree, an option which I am immensely grateful for. The ability to switch hats and apply learning from one discipline to another was useful and helped me see things in a slightly different way to my peers who were not studying a combined degree.

Being a student sponge and absorbing the publishing knowledge

The publishing programme at Brookes is very well recognised, recently being classed as number 1 in the 2020 Guardian University Guide. There is substance behind this ranking, translating into the working world after, with Oxford Brookes students being the second most prevalent university students in the publishing industry, sandwiched between Oxford University and Cambridge University (Publishers Association, Diversity Survey of Publishing Workforce Survey, 2019). The course and the lectures instilled an excitement and love for publishing (thank you to Angus, Leander, Beverley, Jane, Sarah, and the many others who taught with such passion).

Work experience – does the shoe fit?

During my studies, I took a one-year placement year (part of my Business Studies course) where I worked at E. P. Barrus in the marketing team, learning to put my learning into practice. Alongside this, I also completed two-week work experience with Oxford University Press in the Higher Education Division during the Christmas break. Work experience is a theme you often hear about in people’s publishing careers and I have friends who have had countless work experiences and internships to try and get a foot in the door, as it is that competitive, especially for editorial positions. Unpaid internships are a hot topic in the industry, as the unpaid element excludes many people, making the industry much harder to access. (Being a part of the SYP, we only promote jobs and opportunities that explicitly are paid and that state the payment figure. Because we all know ‘competitive salary’ means zero….)

Hunting for a job

Following my graduation, I was on the hunt for a job. I secured a spot on the Graduate Marketing Internship Programme at the Business School at Oxford Brookes University which was due to start in September. I had the summer to think about, and found a fab opportunity to work for a marketing agency, BabelQuest, which initially was a three-month scheme. I was given so much support to grow and develop, fine tuning my marketing knowledge. September rolled around, and I was due to start at the Business School. Suddenly, I was on the staff side, no longer a student – hello real world! I was given the opportunity to work 8 hours a week from home for the marketing agency alongside working full time for the Business School. I was delighted as it provided me with additional learning opportunities and experience two kinds of marketing strategies at the same time.

The graduate programme’s end was looming so I started thinking about where and what I wanted to do. There was the possibility of working fulltime for the marketing agency which was appealing on many levels, however, the industry they were mainly working with was not something I was passionate about. Publishing on the other hand was. I looked for roles that married up my marketing experience with publishing interest and looked at organisations which had a strong ethos that I believed in (I think this is really important, as it taps into your motivation and serves as a strong driver).

Hello, academic publishing!

I landed a job at Oxford University Press as a Marketing Assistant in the Medicine Books team, starting my four-year OUP journey, where three promotions later, I am now an Assistant Marketing Manager in the English Language Teaching Division.  During that time I worked with print books, online products, journals, and an array of teaching resources. It seems easy when reading it back, but I had to apply and interview for each step up, usually having two interviews and tasks for each stage. It also includes a job I went for and didn’t get, which is a part of life, but the key thing is to learn from that experience, not to dwell on disappointment. I asked for feedback and went away to work on what I could do to improve. And to be honest I am grateful for that lesson, because a better one came up a few months later (life is funny that way). ‘Failure’ is actually the key to our success, as it makes us sharper and more focused, giving us that chance to be better. For any publishing hopefuls who are reading this, if you know *why* you want to work in publishing, you will find a way in and/or up. Keep going.


Anna Shannon is the SYP UK Treasurer, previously 2019 SYP Oxford Co-Chair. Over six years working in marketing, with four of those in the wonderful world of publishing, Anna works for Oxford University Press in the English Language Teaching Marketing Team.

You can follow Anna on Twitter @aashannon