Working in Publishing Day, 2013

Every year the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies hosts a Working in Publishing Day (#WiP13) for its postgraduate and third year undergraduate students. It is a day of networking, starting with seminars on prospecting employers, interview techniques and covering letters, then moving on to ‘speed-dating’* with various publishing professionals and finally cresting on a keynote speech. (And then, because it is publishing, wine and more networking.)

My day started with a mad dash to the bus, without my normal hat and instead with my hair up – if you know me, this is a big deal; my hats are my comfort blanket and putting my hair up is something that I find daunting. But this blog is not about me and my head-related anxiety. This is a digression.

After the mad dashing whilst thinking I’d missed the bus because I could hear bus sounds (it turns out the one before, which doesn’t go to Oxford Brookes, was late), I arrived two hours early. I did this on purpose so I could sit in the canteen and read and not think about what questions I might ask the professionals. If I thought about them any more I might have forgotten the ones I already had.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I was excited.

I opted to take the seminars on prospecting employers and covering letters, while I didn’t learn anything too new or ground-breaking it was reassuring to confirm what I already knew. I took that as a sign that I was doing things correctly, at least a little. Then came lunch, cake was had, cake was good.

We were all (read: I was) pretty nervous as we waited outside for the ‘speed-dating’ to start, what would we ask? What would they think? Would we be able to find the companies we signed up for? (Why you ask? Helena Markou summed it up brilliantly on Twitter: ‘Today we will be testing publishing students ability to alphabetise under heat and time pressure in our pm speed-dating #WiP13‘)

I filled all of my nine slots by visiting:

  1. Barefoot Books
  2. Felicity Bryan Literary Agency
  3. Oxford University Press (Digital/Web Marketing)
  4. Inspired Selection
  5. Bookcareers
  6. Redwood Publishing Recruitment
  7. Atwood Tate
  8. Garnet
  9. Osprey

I originally left my last two slots free so I could sneak around and see if there were any companies without booked appointments – I got lucky.

It was great being able to talk to professionals in an informal manner, get to know what they did and ask for much-needed tips and tricks for getting a foot in the door of the publishing business. Everyone was encouraging and offered brilliant advice (you may have seen an abundance of ‘thank you’ tweets to them all – to my followers: I am not sorry). I feel a lot more confident about venturing into the working world once my degree is over. The advice I was given mapped out exactly how to start climbing for my ideal-I-could-live-on-a-cloud-and-laugh-gleefully-for-the-rest-of-my-life dream job, something which I was struggling to work out before today. The niggling doubts have lessened and I am feeling that little bit more like an adult; an adult who can.

After the ‘speed-dating’ sessions we studenty-types carted a chair each across the hall ready for the keynote speech with Richard Charkin of Bloomsbury. I loved this talk. I was buzzing from the ‘speed-dating’ but by the end of the speech I couldn’t stop smiling. It was funny, there was a lot of laughter but it was also very real. He talked about some ‘mega trends’ including the flight from the high street worldwide; the dominance of companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Sony; globalisation; the idea that information should be given for free; and the fact that publishing isn’t solely limited to publishers any more.

My favourite quote from the talk was probably this one: “I stole a laptop once, from Google, to make a point.”

You can read about why here. Charkin was incredibly quotable and it was a pleasure to hear him speak. I might be wrong but I think the speech may have been recorded, if it was I will endeavour to find the link and post it here in a later entry.

So that was WiP13. It was brilliant. Many thanks to Sheila Lambie, the OICPS team and the publishing professionals for making this happen (and, for some of them, ducking out of IPG13 to see us!). I had a wonderful time.

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* I am putting it in quotes because I was not actually trying to woo these people, but if I managed it and they love me and want to employ me, well, I’m here and waiting. (It is at this point that I feel I should parody A-ha’s ‘Take on me’ but I won’t.)

Barefoot Books, Oxford: I found myself in Wonderland

I found myself in Wonderland by Elou Carroll

I found myself in Wonderland by Elou Carroll

Last weekend, I popped into Barefoot Books to pick up a copy of The Snow Queen and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, when asked if I wanted them to be gift wrapped, I proudly announced that the books for me; I read them that very same day and they read as beautifully as they look. Barefoot is a beautiful place, and a publisher I would very much like to secure an internship at (fingers crossed for my application!) and perhaps one day work. The studio is not just a bookshop. It’s like a day out; if I had children, I wouldn’t take them there just for a look, I would take them there for an experience. We would stay there for hours (and then buy everything).

In the words of Leah Lesser from the Barefoot blog:

When was the last time you walked inside a store and felt as if you had entered a different world, or stepped inside your favorite story?

When I stepped into Barefoot, I found Wonderland, Narnia, Neverland… I was in another place, plucked right from somewhere magic. As soon as I stepped through the gate, I bubbled with excitement and as soon as I opened the door my face was taken over by the most gigantic grin. Everything was so bright and colourful and the first thing you hear is children giggling in the back. One child was so excited about the books that he couldn’t stop running around and almost told his dad which book he would choose for him for Christmas. I don’t think I have ever seen a child so excited, let alone so excited in a book shop.

It was beautiful to see and that little boy is one of the reasons why I would love to work in children’s publishing. To make a child that happy, that awed about books, would be a wonderful thing.

Below is a video of the studio in question. While you can’t feel the magic properly until you’ve been there, this can give you an idea.

I have never seen a book shop I have loved so much. I am collecting a street in my mind, a street filled with beautiful book shops. Some are old, some are new, some I’ve not yet visited  but Barefoot sits at the top, on a hill, a bright light with the wind rushing whirring around it like rustling pages.

Barefoot books: The Snow QueenBarefoot books: The Twelve Dancing Princesses