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What I’ve learned as a publishing intern – Yassine Belkacemi

I’m currently looking at the notes I made on the first day of my internship in the Publicity department of John Murray Press. There is a list of tasks that include scanning press cuttings, managing databases, drafting press releases, handling invoices and updating the website.

Eight months later, these duties are a matter of routine and my role in the publicity department has expanded so that I now assist closely on John Murray Press’ big titles, occasionally travel around the country to work at our authors’ events, manage my own list of books, pitch and speak to journalists in the national press and personally feel that I am having a positive effect when it comes to promoting the vast array of wonderful titles that comes from John Murray Press. How did I progress from my first day to now? Here are a couple of things that I feel have helped me on my way:

Observe: When you are peering through the shop window of publishing, pressing your nose against the glass wondering how you can get one of those internships, jobs, work experience placements on display, you do everything you can to break through that glass: You read news items on publishing, follow the industry’s movers and shakers on Twitter, subscribe to newsletters, read The Bookseller. Once you have your foot in the door all this pre-learned knowledge can seem miniscule compared to what you actually don’t know! This can be both overwhelming and discouraging at first. The machinations of how your department works, how your colleagues operate, the strategies that are in place, the vision of your team to make the book the best it can be – these aren’t a Google search away, or in 140 characters.

Therefore, keenly watch how your colleague deal with different situations – How do they talk to this person to resolve a problem? What do they research before they begin proposing an idea to a senior manager? How do they organise themselves to make a certain process run smoothly? By noting the details in the everyday work behaviour of those around you, you quickly catch on and in time you will be able to assume more responsibility because you will know what to do because you’ve been carefully watching.

Listen: The art of listening can tend to be overlooked. In the creative industries where there is a slew of applicants vying for a sliver of vacancies, we automatically think we need to shout from the rooftops to be recognised. Contrarily, I’ve found being a good listener the primary tool to being recognised.

Listen to those around you whether it is their advice, instructions, insight, experience and apply this to your work. You will markedly improve in a short space of time if you listen.

Once you get into publishing through work experience or an internship, you have a short amount of time to stand out. The capacity to be able to take on board information and put that into practice may seem an obvious and basic trait but it is one that I’ve learned (from making mistakes) that should never been skimped on.

Ask: There is a finite of information and knowledge you can acquire by sitting at your desk. I’ve found that by asking to go to book festivals, sitting in on meetings that involve sales, marketing and editorial your outlook on the publishing landscape becomes more detailed and informed. By placing yourself in situations where you interact with festival goers, booksellers, and other departments you grasp how you can fill in certain gaps in your work and how you can apply your own unique skills effectively during in your role.

Personality: Being a Creative Access intern, I think you are automatically marked as being separate from the norm due to the mission statement of Creative Access. That’s what Creative Access highlights, a lack of those from BAME backgrounds working in the creative sector. So, here you are, in your office, wanting to fit in, trying to figure out the dynamics, making small talk, attempting not to say anything embarrassing.

I say this (albeit a little trite and clichéd) – just be yourself. By being separate from the norm you offer something new and interesting – your background, heritage, hometown, upbringing, views, opinions bring a distinctive edge in an industry that is beginning to change. Share your personality and you’ll fit right in.

Yassine Belkacemi – @Yassa_Yassa, Publishing trainee – @johnmurrays