Here are our top tips if you are job searching and going to the London Book Fair (LBF).
1. Don’t expect to find a job at the London Book Fair. If you are coming it is to seek information, look around and keep up with developments. Be prepared to potentially make contacts and network. Our tips for networking will help.
2. Exhibitors. Unless they are recruitment consultants or training providers they are unlikely to be at the LBF for you; Exhibitors are there to buy and sell and do deals. A publishers’ output for the next few years may rely on the business they do at the fair, so bear this in mind if someone is curt with you if you are asking questions. Likewise if you are going from stand to stand trying to pitch your unpublished novel to a publisher at the LBF.
3. Do not go around handing in your CV. There is probably no one on the stand who is from HR and even if someone does accept your CV it is unlikely to make it back to the office. Much better to check their website afterwards and see if they accept speculative applications, before emailing your CV to the office instead. However, business cards are the standard level of communication that one would expect at a Book Fair. We recommend Moo for business cards* and lots of our clients have had a successful experience using them.
4. Do go through the list of exhibitors (search by category, rather than alphabetically is useful) and make a note of which stands you want to see. Check out the floorplan too so you don’t walk endlessly for miles – we have been asked to point out that you should WEAR, FLAT, COMFORTABLE SHOES!
5. Do look at the stands of the exhibitors that you want to see, noting the following:-
- Look how busy they are. This could be an indication of how well they are doing at the moment.
- Notice how many staff are on the stand.
- Look at the stand design and layout. Is it good or bad? Would you do anything differently? These are always useful discussions for future sales and marketing staff to have at job interviews.
- What book or series are they promoting at the moment? Look at the walls and the sides of the stand. What are their lead titles? Again, excellent points to discuss at an interview.
- If they have catalogues or brochures to give out and you are up to carrying stuff, then take one. (Check they are free; and bear in mind that the copies of books on the stands are not for retail sale – this is a trade only fair). Although you can view publishers’ catalogues on line, taking a hard copy to an interview speaks volumes.
- Check out the competitors of the publishers that you want to work for. What are they doing differently? Is it better?
- Make some notes so you don’t forget what you have seen!
6. Do go and look around all areas of the exhibition, so that you are informed of new developments and opportunities.
7. Do go and visit the recruitment consultants if they have stands, especially if they have had your CV for a while and you haven’t been put forward for anything. Putting a face to a name is a great way to remind them that you exist.
8. Seminars. There are lots of free seminars going on throughout the fair (over 270!). Here are our favourites:-
How to Get Into Publishing
How to Get Ahead in Publishing
Building the Publishing Workforce of the Future
Challenging Tradition – What Skills are Trending Now?
Writing the Future – Black and Asian Authors and Publishers in the UK Marketplace
Why the Editor is Invisible No Longer
We are All in it Together – Collaborate or Compete
Including the Excluded – Diversity and Inclusion in Action
Creativity, Coding and Commercial Savvy – Fusion Skills for a Future in Publishing
The Real New Publishing
9. Parties. Towards the end of the day you will notice a number of standing setting up for drinks parties. If you are fortunate enough to be invited don’t get drunk and use our tips on networking to see you through the event. Networking events include Book Machine and Byte the Book.
10. Follow up! If you’ve made any useful contacts at the fair, don’t waste the opportunity and follow up promptly.
As you know, for a long time bookcareers.com has said a two week unpaid placement is bordering on acceptable. You might have noticed that, since the beginning of the year, even these have been removed from the bookcareers.com website. This is because we no longer endorse any unpaid work, unpaid work experience placements or unpaid internships. This includes opportunities where ‘reasonable travel and lunch expenses will be paid’.
The only time we will make exception is when, as stated by the National Minimum Wage guidelines, this is organised as part of your college or university study. But even then, if you are going into a place of employment regularly, and are expected to fulfil tasks that otherwise would have been completed by a paid employee; we will expect you to be paid. At the very least this should be the National Minimum Wage.
Frequently, we have seen an increasing abuse of unpaid placements. From being asked to do tasks which no one on work experience should do (clean the toilets) to having to accept a placement where your travel costs far outweigh the expenses paid. We are regularly seeing structured placements with set tasks at set times, which borders on breaking the guidelines of an unpaid placement. We have also seen a number of grey areas, where both employers and individuals are saying ‘it’s ok because…’. We hope our actions remove any question of ambiguity or misunderstanding.
It has also spread to the point where people believe that they MUST complete an unpaid placement to work in the publishing industry; this is not so. I recently overheard one member of an Editorial Team from a major publishing conglomerate giving the advice that the only way to get a job there as an Editorial Assistant was to work there for free first. Yes, a major publishing conglomerate, with shareholders, profits and dividends, who are aiming to promote diversity on one hand, in practice appear to block all access to diversity with the other.
The people fulfilling these opportunities are rarely fresh-faced with no office or life experience; almost to the point where we are seeing ‘career interns’, individuals who have spent months, or in some cases over a year, drifting from unpaid placement to unpaid placement in order to get a foot in the door because it is preferential to unemployment.
Yes, the publishing industry has people pounding on the door, saying ‘let us come and work with you for free’ but just because there are people willing to do this it doesn’t mean we should exploit or accept their very kind offer. If anything, the industry should be acting with more of a sense of responsibility not to exploit or abuse this generosity or naivety. This includes inviting willing hands to ‘come and help out during a ‘busy period’ when there is a ‘major book launch’. Companies used to pay temporary staff for that; if someone is doing it unpaid they are taking the place of a paid opportunity.
The whole situation of unpaid placements has done nothing whatsoever to address the diversity of the industry. If anything, it has compounded and exasperated the whole diversity, class and social mobility issue. The fact remains that diversity within the publishing industry is poor and getting worse.
The only time you should be working for free is when spending time on your hobby or when volunteering for a charity. Publishers (and Literary Agents) are not charities. All work experience placements MUST be paid, at the very least the National Minimum Wage.
If you are on an unpaid placement and would like us to speak to the publisher concerned please contact us in complete confidence, and we will do what we can to alert the publisher of the National Minimum Wage guidelines.
What you can do instead of an unpaid placement
HMRC – National Minimum Wage Guidelines
Over the years I’ve spoken to hundreds of Human Resource Professionals about how they select and sift through the masses of CVs and applications they receive in order to find THE ONE; the perfect candidate for the role.
If you think about the process, you can visualise HR going through a mass of CVs, looking at the matching skills for the role, and saying ‘No. No. No. No. Maybe. You’re Wrong. You’re Wrong. You’re Right!’ before they even start on a point-scoring exercise.
When it comes to diversity, could part of the issue be that this process is all about exclusion rather than inclusion? That sometimes the amount of CVs can be so overwhelming (David Shelley CEO of Little Brown recently mentioned 900 applicants for an Editorial Assistant role) ; and we are looking to find fault and rejection rather than find the positives and retention.
I reiterate my statement of before; I see many diverse candidates who want to work in publishing; recently my latest training course was full of skilled diverse candidates, yet they are not getting a look-in with the current publishing recruitment process.
It is the same with the interview process. That very often interviews are geared to ‘cutting down’ or ‘weeding out’ the shortlist. The truth is, if you want to find fault in someone, you can and you will. Often the ‘perfect candidate’ is very far from perfect.
What if, the situation was shifted? What if, instead of always looking for the negatives in candidates we started to look for the positives? That we focussed on inclusion, whatever that inclusion looked like? What if, when we interviewed we all treated candidates like our best customer, someone who we had to build rapport with at all costs, instead of someone who might be desperate for employment? Do you think our diversity levels would improve, if instead of looking for differences, we concentrated on similarities; in particular, the similarities in candidates between their skills and the skills and competencies for the role? Do you think the industry would be saying “you’re right” to more diverse candidates than “you’re wrong”?
To facilitate change we have to change the way we are and change the things we do. Repeating the same exercise over and over and getting the same results is the path to failure. If you are truly committed to diversity, start looking for inclusion instead of exclusion.
As a celebration of International Women’s Day 2015, here is a podcast of panel talk I gave to the Society of Young Publishers Oxford Branch in July 2010 on the subject of the Careers of Women in Publishing.
You’ve probably read lots of blogs and newspaper articles about the best and worst jobs in the world but even in a great industry like book publishing there are times when we have to do things which could be described as the ‘worst’. They might not be on your job description but someone in the office has to do them, and it could be you.
Two things that always spring to mind are:-
When I was working for Andre Deutsch Publishers, the founder Andre Deutsch CBE had injured his ankle skiing. The bandage had come off and needing replacing. I was the only person in the building listed as the company’s registered first aider so I had to bandage Andre Deutsch’s foot. It was clean, it did not smell but (and I am truly sorry Andre) it was not a pleasant experience for me.
Within the same company a very long time ago we had major building works going on next door and a nasty smell had developed in one of the downstairs departments and we called in the builder to investigate. The builder came to find my boss with the answers but sensibly he was out at lunch. So instead, he took me down to the office where the smell was unbearable and showed me 9 decomposing rats hanging down from an air vent. I don’t think I ate for days afterwards. I’m not sure how ‘Health and Safety’ would deal with this today but the rest of the building carried on whilst the situation was rectified.
If you ask me what was the best task I’ve ever done, I would answer “EVERYTHING!” including the author signings where only 5 people turned up. As much as I write about workplace difficulties and some of the major challenges facing the industry I know I have been extremely privileged to have had a fantastic career so far, and its a career I intend to continue. There are so many great opportunities within our publishing roles for all of us and sometimes we don’t celebrate this enough. So if you are working in publishing today give yourself a big round of applause and celebrate; you are very fortunate.* For today it is confession time, what is the best or worst task you’ve ever had to face?
* If you are not working in book publishing and would like to be, get in touch, we may be able to help.
No doubt, like many others, you’ve read the results of the bookcareers.com salary survey and you think now is the time to go in all guns blazing and negotiate a pay rise. Hold on, step back, don’t go blustering in straight away and ask for more money because the ‘survey says so’. Do some research first.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how to negotiate your salary. You can guarantee that almost every HR Director and Senior Manager reads what I write about salary issues, and if I posted everything you should do, they will know your tactics, and we don’t want to give them that advantage do we?
- Can the company afford to give you a pay rise? Is it doing well? Have you seen quarterly figures, profit warnings or predictions of losses? Do you have access to the Company Accounts or forecasts? If the answer to this is no and it is a Limited Company have you checked out the accounts on Companies House?
- Is it financially viable to give you a pay rise? Does the company only give inflation-driven pay rises? Be wary of pushing your salary higher than the company can afford as it could put your job at risk. Are there others in the team whose costs might affect salary? Also as well as salary there is a financial cost to employing someone, such as national insurance, bonus, benefits, and
- Why do you deserve a pay rise? What have you done that proves your worth to the company? Have you managed to influence a project or the success of a book? Have you saved the company money? Have you taken on extra responsibilities? Do you have high pressure or demanding tasks? Are your input and experience directly relevant to the company today and moving forward? Have you kept your skills up to date and ahead of the company’s needs?
- Draw as much information together as you can, and have at least 6 points written down on a piece of paper (don’t share this with your boss). This will also help you if you have difficulty in remembering exactly the reasons, statements or figures.
- Be sure of your ground before asking. Publishing is over-subscribed and when the boss mentions the queue of people wanting to do your job, they could be right, but the queue of people don’t necessarily have your expertise and are unlikely to come in and do the job in exactly the same successful way you do. It also costs companies a lot of money to recruit both in potential advertising costs and the management time taken up interviewing, as well as any on the job training. Even someone who ‘can hit the ground running’ still has things to learn.
- Do not be impulsive, act hastily or make rash statements “If you don’t give me a pay rise I am leaving” or bring in life issues “I am looking to buy a house”. These statements whilst deeply affecting your life are irrelevant to whether they pay you the right salary for the role. As much as stating the extra hours you work, and comparing your salary to the cost of living might help, they don’t carry as much weight in negotiation as stating your direct financial input would.
- Remember if your job involves negotiation your negotiation skills are likely to be severely tested when it comes to discussing salary. Don’t give in at the first hurdle; use those tough negotiation skills you apply in your job and are so well known for.
- Be prepared for the counter-arguments, such as “if I pay you more, then I have to pay the person sitting next to you more” and “there is a queue of people waiting to step into your job”; be sure of your value before you start negotiations, and also be prepared for the flippant responses. I once asked for a salary review and my boss said ‘How much am I paying you?’ and I replied accordingly and he paused for a moment before responding “I’ve reviewed your salary; you’re paid enough. Next question!”
- If the money is not forthcoming or you don’t get the answer you want “let’s see how things go” then fix a date for a review, maybe in 3 or 6 months or tie it into your appraisal. You can also ask for recompense in other ways, such as extra holiday, training or more flexible hours.
- Finally, remember that none of us really work in publishing for money; we all do it for love!
An edited version of this article was originally published online at book machine.
If you’ve been on the job market for a while – or even if you’ve only just started looking for a job – why not give your job search a Spring Clean?
It is very easy for your job search to feel stale; always looking at the same job boards; always checking the same websites or always chasing up the same recruiters, but if you’re not getting jobs, or there seems to be a lack of jobs to go for, maybe it is time to give your job search a whole new approach.
When you are Spring Cleaning your home, very often you start at the very beginning and assess what needs to be done. Now is the time to do the same with your job search.
Firstly, examine the type of job you are looking for. Does it exist? Is it called something else? Can you estimate how many people are currently employed in the job that you want to do? In summary, how realistic is your job search? If you’re looking for exactly the same role that you are doing at the moment, or you were doing for your previous employer, you need to think again. Publishing, even digital publishing, is constantly changing and looking for the same thing is no longer relevant. Look at your skills and see how they match the jobs that are on offer; this should guide you towards the best roles for you.
Now you know what sort of job you are looking for, rewrite your CV / résumé – don’t just update it. It is so easy to ‘add-on’ to a CV: your latest job title; your last role, but again, look at the jobs that are on offer, what skills are they asking for that you can do but you haven’t mentioned? For example, within marketing it was always taken for granted that you would be involved in brand management so you never mentioned it on your CV, but employers are now asking brand management as a skill on its own, so if you have this experience add it in.
Be consistent and ensure whatever skills you have are followed through in your online profiles; for example if you have brand management experience you might have the same avatar or photograph across all the social networks you use, as if this was a brand or logo you were managing.
Make sure your CV doesn’t go over two pages and do proofread it manually – there are so many spelling and grammar mistakes which Spellcheck overlooks.
Review the letter of application that you send with your CV; you might have a formula for writing covering letters but this shouldn’t be obvious to the person recruiting. If you only have one paragraph in the middle that you change and everything else is the same, this is no longer good enough. Publishers want to employ people that want to work for them and you need to demonstrate this throughout your letter, without going over the top.
Look at how you network and who you network with, whether it is online through social networking or in person. For your online networking, review your profiles and update them accordingly; ensure that as well as friends, you are connecting to people who may be able to advance your career, either with information or a potential job role. If you are networking in person, examine what organisations you are networking with and whether the network is helping you meet the ‘right’ people and make the ‘right’ connections. A good connection doesn’t have to be able to offer you a job, but may help you access skills and knowledge, and in this changing world, you need to keep up to date with what is going on. What about your pitch or ‘elevator speech’? Does this need revising and updating? If you are not getting the right responses you can’t be saying the right pitch to the right people. Is your pitch good enough? Who are the right people?
So in summary, as with a Spring Clean: look in every corner of your job search, start at the beginning, review everything you’ve been doing, have you missed anything? Have you overlooked something? Aim to look at things with fresh eyes. Give all the documents you use in your job search a polish and ensure your professional appearance isn’t dusty too.
If you’d like personal help spring cleaning your job search we recommend our training course
How to Job Search in Book Publishing.
A version of this article was originally published in Publishing Talk Magazine
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we often ask children; I know I was asked numerous times when I was a child. Originally I wanted to be in the Police, then when I chose my options I wanted to be a Social Worker. By the time it came to receiving Careers Guidance in school, I’d settled on working in retail, and planned to train in management for Marks and Spencer because I thought it was the right thing to do.
I was sent to Redbridge Careers Service for a Careers Guidance Interview, and the options were ‘Do you want to work in an office/shop/factory/indoors/outdoors? -Delete as applicable’. At the time there was no guidance for working in a particular industry or profession, no internet to discover opportunities available, and aside from the few days I’d spent drawing pictures in my Mum’s office when school was closed, no real experience of the world of work.
This is a scan of my actual Careers Guidance Interview Statement.
Careers Guidance Interview Statement
At school I was always the person chosen to tidy the English Department’s cupboard of books. When they relocated the cupboard from one side of the school to the other, the Head of English asked me to come in especially to help organise. Yet no one at school or in the Careers Service ever told me I could work in publishing; no one ever told me I could work with books and this is why, after I fell into publishing by accident at the age of 16, I have spent most of my publishing career letting others know that they too could have career with books. I often describe publishing as a vocation; it definitely is for me – is it for you too? What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’? Were you told about publishing as a career?
We are delighted to see that finally Alison Baverstock’s classic title HOW TO MARKET BOOKS has been updated to cover the digital age. This really is a key book for anyone working with books, be you working directly with the content or an established marketeer who thinks they know it all. If it is anything like the previous edition there will be something in it for everyone and a review will appear on here later. You can purchase your copy using the link above.
To celebrate National Careers Week we will be updating the bookcareers.com website daily with new information and comment culminating in a live twitter chat from 12.00 noon on Friday, 6th March 2015. You can participate in the twitter chat using the hashtag #bookcareers and by following responses from the @bookcareers twitter account.
You can follow all the tweets from National Careers Week by using the hashtag #NCW2015.
National Careers Week takes place from 2nd to 6th March 2015 and it supported by a number of major organisations, including the Career Development Institute. Suzanne Collier from bookcareers.com is recognised by the CDI as Registered Practitioner of Career Guidance and Development, operates to CDI’s code of ethics and commits to at least 20 hours a year of continuous professional development.