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Brighton rocks for our inaugural publishing masterclass of 2020

Creative Access hit the road for the first 2020 event in partnership with The Publishers Association. Aimed at encouraging under-represented audiences to pursue a career in publishing, we were thrilled to be hosted by University of Brighton in the Sallis Benney theatre…

With a 100 strong audience of wannabe publishers, our panel kicked off by talking about their routes into the industry. Jason Hook, Publisher at Ammonite Press said he did everything “back to front”; dropping out of college to write freelance. He then wanted to get an editorial job but was told he needed a degree so went back to University and finally got the job of his dreams – only to be made redundant when the publisher merged with a larger company. Cut to now and Jason is publisher and author for non-fiction and illustrated publisher Ammonite Press, which is part of the much bigger group GMC. An amazing journey!

Following her degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, Saidah Graham started her career doing social media for her university. She then went on to do a Masters in publishing media at Oxford Brookes. Her degree helped her get some internships including one in the licensing team at Wiley before securing a role via Creative Access as Trainee Office Administrator that resulted in her getting a permanent role at Bonnier Books as a Rights Assistant working across a variety of children’s and adult imprints.

Explaining her current role, Saidah said: “When a book is acquired, we agree with the agent and author whether we have any other rights (e.g. to translate it into another language, to make an audiobook, to make a TV show). Our job is to meet with publishers around the world to talk about their industries and what kind of books they are looking for. If they want to buy something, we work out an agreement and write up a contract. Once that’s signed, the publisher can translate the text.”

Jason spoke about the income from these extra sales which are needed to make a profit out of book publishing, saying there are always surprises; he was convinced his word puzzle book wouldn’t work overseas but a German publisher bought and translated it into their own version.

Saidah said the skills needed to work in Rights include “being a people person. You need to build relationships with people all over the world and remember their interests. Being personable and communication are key, as are a willingness to travel and being able to summarise a book in three sentences.”

Phil Manning, Senior Marketing Manager, Bloomsbury Professional spoke about his journey – first at Reed Business Information and then at William Reed before landing at Bloomsbury Pro. Of his role now, he said: “Publishing is always evolving; the digital aspect in particular, whether that’s routes to market or format. You’re always chasing the next big thing. Fundamentally, publishing is a business and your job is to look for opportunities to make that business work.”

Anna Burtt graduated six years ago and spoke about her portfolio career which spans foreign rights, scouting, creative consultancy, editorial, marketing and teaching. She currently works for Myriad Editions and RedDoor Press in Sussex, hosts Radio Reverb’s Brighton Book Club show and podcast, and is the founder of the West Hill Writing group. She is a guest lecturer at Westdene College and New Writing South and speaks at various publishing events across the country. Busy woman!

She says: “Every time you publish a book, you need to know where your audience is and where your book sits in the market. How does your cover look against similar books? What do their campaigns look like? All of it is part of the marketing campaign.”

Anna’s top tips for working in publishing were:

  1. Go to literary festivals and events
  2. Send speculative applications to a select few publishers that you really love and feel like you understand
  3. Be prepared to do casual, project-based work to get your foot in the door

The panel opened up to some excellent questions from the floor, kicking off with whether it’s worthwhile to do a Publishing MA. Saidah, speaking from first-hand experience, said: “Publishing MAs give you a lot of broad knowledge about the industry that help you when you get your first job. However it’s not particularly necessary as you will learn all of those things on the job anyway.”

What kind of person makes a good marketer? In Phil’s view it’s:

  1. Be a great communicator
  2. Be Persuasive
  3. Be willing to try new things You can get marketing experience in other industries and then move into publishing to build up your skills.

Saidah was asked how she succeeded in securing a full-time role at the end of her internship. She said: “The people working with me liked my work, especially the person that became my manager. My manager knew that I liked rights and she championed me to the CEO and HR department so they made a position for me.”

“I went above and beyond so that I could answer all the questions that people asked me.  You know your value. Make sure other people do too.”

Jason was asked if a passion for books was enough to sustain you in the work place. In response, he said: “Book publishing is hard. It’s badly paid and it’s hard to have a bestseller. But it’s a creative industry and there’s something quite magical in the creative process when it all goes right.”

With huge thanks to our brilliant panel for their wise and inspiring words and to the University of Brighton for hosting us. Stay up to date on our website to hear about our events taking place later in the year in conjunction with the Publishers Association.