Publishing Q&A

What’s it like Working in Publishing? | Part 2

What’s it like Working in Publishing? | Part 2

Time for part two of my publishing Q&A. Don’t forget to take a look at the previous Q&A to find answers to internships, my publishing work experience, and more.

Let’s jump in!

Quick disclaimer: All opinions are my own and do not reflect on any of the companies I have worked or am currently working for.  

Question 5: I am a uni student looking for a summer internship/work experience in publishing. But I am struggling to find anything that doesn’t clash with my academic timetable/deadlines. Do you have tips for getting around this?

This depends entirely on you and your timetable. My first internship, which I did whilst at university, was one day a week at a literary agency. They were flexible as to what day I came in. I also had two free days on my timetable (excluding weekends). So it was fairly easy for me to schedule it in. But a lot of universities are going to have a much more structured timetable and you don’t want to miss lectures.

The first thing I would do is talk to your lecturers and/or career advisers. The whole point of university is to learn and develop skills for future jobs. And publishing requires experience so you need to see how flexible your university is at allowing students to gain insight during university time.

Secondly, summer internships are very popular and schemes are even more so. Applying early, getting your CV sorted now will help. Also, talking to people on social media can really educate you.

Think about where you’re applying. Big publishing houses do blocks of work experience, i.e. two weeks or one month or three months experience etc. Which are really popular. Smaller, independent publishing houses might do less than that and offer only a few days a week. And literary agencies may only need a person for a few days/weeks to help out.

Top Tip: I recommend getting the latest Writers & Artists Yearbook as it has a list of all of the literary agencies currently open in the UK. And it can be a great way of searching through their websites and seeing which have running internships and vacancies etc.

You can even email and offer your services to agencies, literary scouts, or PR agencies. Around March/April, during the London Book Fair period, literary agencies, rights agencies, and publishers are swamped with submissions, paperwork, and contracts. So start offering your services soon because a lot of people will be needing a little bit of help.

Top Tip: For summer internships, show interest via social media first before applying. Try and get noticed along with your application.

Question 6: Do you have any tips for someone a) does not live in London and b) is disabled and housebound at some of the time? Have you ever come across anyone in the publishing sector with similar limitations.

Oh wow, what a question. If I am being entirely honest I’m not sure how best to answer this question. But I’ll give it ago and I hope it helps.

A) If you don’t live near London the other hubs of publishing within the UK are in Edinburgh and Oxford. Elsewhere, there are publishers but they are generally smaller or independent publishers with smaller teams who outsource some of their work. It’s good to search for some of these publishers and see what they offer.

Also search for other businesses linked to publishing outside of the cities such as PR agencies, literary agencies, and sales/distribution businesses. They can sometimes have jobs outside of the city that are more accessible and still related to publishing.

B) Being disabled should not stop you from getting a job in publishing. If it does that is discrimination and is entirely wrong. If you’re housebound from time to time then that can be problematic, only for the fact that some jobs require you to travel or be in the office 5 days a week. But there are other jobs that can be done from home or freelance.

For example, I know a lot of people in publishing who do proofreading, copy-editing, designing, and social media from their homes. You need to be approachable and have suitable skills to do this. But you can email independent or smaller publishers to offer your services or promote yourself through a website or blog so that publishers can find you.

Also, whilst perhaps not paid, you can be a book blogger or vlogger. Someone who reviews books for publishing houses via their own website and/or YouTube channel. I work with a lot of bloggers and they are incredibly hardworking and valuable people in the publishing industry.

I hope that helps.

Questions 7: Is it a bad idea to mention in applications/interview your negative views on something they’ve published? Or is it better to steer clear from discussing these books?

Don’t be negative at all! If you have a negative opinion of a book that is entirely your right. But if you’re trying to please somebody (which ultimately you are, in an application or an interview) don’t tell them that they need to do a better job or that you dislike their work.

You can spin it on its head and say that you would love to be able to develop their books, or their covers, social media etc. But don’t say that you think it’s terrible. Arrogance vs confidence is very a fine line to walk. But ultimately publishers want to hire you to do a good job. So instead of criticising what they’ve done previously suggest ways that you could do the job differently.

Question 8: I’ve been working in marketing for just over 2 years in unrelated industries. But now I have an MA in publishing and want to focus down on this industry. Any advice on how to show that my skills are transferable despite not actually having had any publishing job yet?

Fab question. I’m going to start it off by saying that I would highly recommend you contact a publishing recruitment agency and get added to their list.

Agencies are normally happy to take on MA students with a little bit of admin/marketing experience from previous sectors. They will be able to help you develop your CV to fit the criteria of jobs you’re interested in applying for.

As for doing applying independently, I would suggest you highlight the transferable skills that you have developed in your previous marketing role. For example, social media advertising. I would also mention any successful campaigns you’ve run and how you can apply what you did/learned to market a book. And finally what you learn on your MA course.

If you got any experience through your MA course, be it in creating a book or marketing a book, let them know that too. And try temping in publishing to gain that all-important publishing work experience.


Thank you to everyone who sent in questions for me to answer via social media. I hope I have helped in some way. I’m always happy to answer any publishing-related questions people have so feel free to comment below or tweet me @ElliePilcher95.

Love Ellie x

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