Industry Trailblazers: The Publishing Post

Posted on November 17, 2020 in Oxford

An interview with Chelsea Graham, Founder and Editor in Chief of The Publishing Post.

What is your connection to publishing?

My name is Chelsea Graham and I am an MA Publishing graduate and freelance proofreader, who also founded The Publishing Post in June 2020. The Publishing Post is a free, digital magazine created by publishing hopefuls for publishing hopefuls. We aim to be a voice for people trying to break into the industry and also those who wish to learn more about the publishing industry by providing a platform where, as contributors and readers, publishing hopefuls can develop industry specific knowledge and skills, whilst showcasing their passion and love for all things book-related! Each issue covers a wide range of features, from the latest publishing news and upcoming events, to smaller book features and current bestseller reviews, aiming to create inclusive and diverse content, representative of the modern publishing world.

As the Editor in Chief of The Publishing Post, my role is a big mixture of ensuring the publishing deadlines are met and that all teams have the information they need. I also ensure that the articles make their way through creation, editing and production, and manage all of the admin associated with the magazine.

What issues surrounding access and inclusivity in publishing that you are aware of?

Both the ability to get work experience in publishing and the ability to access free resources that facilitate learning can make the industry inaccessible to those who are interested in it. Anyone who has tried to get a job within the publishing industry is aware of the vicious cycle that involves needing experience but being unable to gain experience to get the experience.

Whilst at university studying for my undergraduate degree, I found that in order to pay for living costs I needed to have a job alongside my course. With next to no time to think about extra-curricular activities or placements that were unpaid, I was unable to gain experience within the industry during this time. I also know many others who despite really amazing schemes like The Spare Room Project, have been unable to apply for unpaid internships, or those paid the minimum wage, because they simply didn’t have the finances required to bulk up the pay and afford to live somewhere new for a month.

Along a similar vein, there is so much information across social media and on company websites about the publishing industry. But, having spoken with a lot of publishing hopefuls, there is a general consensus that the most valuable information and the in-depth explanations of roles combined with interviews and personal experiences, take place at events behind paywalls.

What initiatives are you aware of to try and close the gap?

Although we have to be aware that accessibility initiatives can only be deemed successful once systematic issues are resolved, the industry does seem to be moving in the right direction. In terms of accessibility in the way I discussed it above, I think initiatives like the HarperNorth’s Northern:Lite publishing learning days are a great source of information.

HarperNorth chooses participants randomly and do not base their decisions on a candidate’s previous experience. The Northern:Lite days take place virtually and as such are open to those who are unable to travel for health or financial reasons. I think these events are great and a really wonderful way to learn more about the industry!

How have people responded to any access initiatives your company have led?

When I first set up The Publishing Post and had much more interest than I had expected, I knew that I would not ask for CVs, or previous experience, when assigning positions. I based decisions on those who expressed interest and a commitment to the magazine.

The response to the magazine as a whole has been incredible. We achieved 30,000 impressions on Twitter on our very first publication day and have maintained this figure across every publication day since. The Publishing Post has amassed over 3,000 followers across Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram and has 2.1k subscribers to the fortnightly alert.

Most importantly, we have received so many messages from those who are looking to learn about the industry or gain experience, who have said that The Publishing Post has given them insight they would have otherwise never had. We have had an enormous response to the interviews we conduct with professionals, bookshops, publishers and other publishing hopefuls. Our readers frequently note that when first starting out your search within the industry, and without a big network, it can be impossible to get any insight into personal opinions and specifics about jobs.

We are all really proud of how many people The Publishing Post has helped, and we cannot wait to reach thousands more!

Which group would you like to see more represented and how do you think publishing could be more inclusive of them?

I think publishing as an industry is working hard, but can always work harder, to include those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. I think that a possible way to tackle this, and something I firmly believe would make a lot of difference, is working with schools.

Publishing is incredibly competitive. The earlier you know it is what you want to do, the earlier you can begin to develop skills and apply for internships and work experience. If publishers gave workshops or assemblies at secondary schools around the UK, it would give those interested a head start and a more focussed path. I also think within this, targeting schools that are underfunded, and cannot pay for such events, would be a great place to start.

A lot of our members are at the start of or early in their careers. What wishes or advice do you have for the next generation of people in publishing?

I fall into this group too, so I am not sure how much of my advice has any validity! But, I think that if we all continue to drive the work on accessibility and diversity that is beginning to shape the industry, publishing will be a much, much better place for everyone.