At the annual intern event of the Society of Young Publishers junior staff members from various Scottish publishing houses gave, in a rare opportunity for us fledgling publishing students, insight and information on how to get one’s foot in in the publishing business. Sobering realities were spoken, albeit in warm tones.
The panel of eight, chaired by Dr. Padmini Ray Murray of Stirling University’s publishing studies, shared their labour intensive attempts of cracking into publishing – starting from advice on how to write a thorough research dissertation that can be used to one’s benefit when applying for a job, to some of the bittersweet intern experiences (such as having to promote a baby food cook book and actually having demonstrate the excellence of the cook book by eating some of the gourmet choices, and thus securing a rave recommendation) and with the comforting notion that a lot of luck is in question, and it might take months (or as in one case) about a year before a young publisher would land on their first job within an actual publishing house.
The key is to do as many internships as possible, to be social, hardworking and foremost, to be proactive. Nothing will be gained from sitting on one’s bum, waiting for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to just drop in your lap in the form of a job advert or offered internship through the (hopefully) varied connections. The general consensus between the panel was to be bold enough to contact publishers and publishing houses, big and small, and tell them you are available to work for a week or two weeks and to emphasize on top your already existing skills the fact that you are out to learn. Naturally this should go with a thorough knowledge of the publisher’s goals and previous titles, just so you can dazzle them with a proper explanation as to why you think they would be the best to provide you with invaluable experience.
Interestingly enough, many in the panel mentioned how applying for smaller companies is in many ways a better opportunity, as big publishing houses have enough to deal with as it is and often do not need interns in the way smaller companies are able and willing to take a youngling in with open arms — especially if they are willing to work, FOR FREE.
Armed with new motivation and more hands-on information (it is always good to know others have struggled as well) on how to secure an internship and further on, a career in publishing the students filed out to the Edinburgh dusk, ready to try out their own publishing wings as soon as possible – secured with the conviction of actually being ready to eat that baby food, if it comes down to it.