June 11, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books, Careers

Working in Publishing: An interview with Ben Willis

This week we’re taking a look at the world of publishing and, more specifically, careers in the industry.

Today’s publishing expert interview is with Ben Willis, Head of Digital Publicity at Transworld, Penguin Random House. Here’s Ben telling us more about life as a publicist…


Hi Ben, your job seems quite cool. But what do you actually do?

Hello MWSAB – thanks for asking. You look good, by the way – have you had a haircut?

I’m a book publicist, but I also get to do a lot of cool digital bits and pieces too (including working on blogger initiatives, and thinking about ways to make more efficient everyday processes of the job, etc).

That sounds like a lot of fun. But what’s the best part of your job as a publicist?

Does it?  Meeting lots of people from all areas of the industry – from authors to booksellers, librarians to readers, publishers, broadcasters, journalists. It’s the best of all worlds, really.

And the free biros.

And can you tell us about the long and winding road that has led you to your current role?

The A3412 from Swindon to London, all the way to junction 14 (via Winnersh). I did some work experiences with the good folk at Ebury Publishing – and then was lucky enough to get an interview shortly after. I was rather fortunate, but for many fortune plays at least a small factor.

You must have had several mentors along the way to hold your hand, guide you, offer words of wisdom. Who were they?

Sam ‘Smeados’ Eades, now of Orion fame, has been a (mostly) guiding light for much of my career. Plus, she knows where all the coolest karaoke places are.

You’ve had many successes, sure, but what would you say has been your finest career hour?

Belinda Bauer once bought me a t-shirt which had printed on it: ‘I was Belinda Bauer’s publicist for 3 years and all I got was this lousy t-shit’

The intentional misspelling at the end, I fear, was to add insult to injury.

If an aspiring publicist came to you looking for advice on getting into the industry, what tips would you give them?

‘You know, who’s to say, you keep your head down, you could be in the hot seat’ – DAVID BRENT, 2001


If you’re interested in a career in publishing, why not apply to attend the latest Hachette UK Insight Into Publishing event? It’s on the 1st July, and applications close on June 14th. Apply here!

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June 10, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Books, Careers

Working in Publishing: Our journeys

So you want to work in publishing? Cool. There are many ways of going about breaking into this industry, so here the Stare At Books team reveal their own journeys, so you can learn from our mistakes glorious triumphs.

Each one is different, showing that there’s no firm rules about how exactly you go about getting a job in books, but we hope it is at least slightly useful…

Rich (Editor)

Halfway through an English degree is a strange place to be. I distinctly remember sheltering under a copy of Middlemarch in my sodden Sheffield garret as the rain hammered against the roof. Outside, cheery Full Monty extras rowed down the gravy-swollen streets in massive Yorkshire puddings.

Work Experience

Whilst I hid from the elements, it dawned on me that in just a year’s time I would need a job. What’s more, there were only so many professions that required you to memorise large chunks of The Waste Land in return for cash. But publishing was at least vaguely along those lines, so that would have to do.

Home for summer, I optimistically googled ‘publishers Warwickshire’, to find that, astonishingly, there was a Sports Book publisher nestled but a twenty-minute drive (or lift from my mum) away. Two weeks’ work experience later, I was sold. Who wanted to read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner when you could be proofreading the autobiography of a former Ipswich Town chairman?

So that’s lesson one – an obvious one I’m afraid: if you want to get into publishing, try and get some work experience in as early as poss. Whether it’s a publisher or bookshop or magazine or newspaper, whatever, that early enthusiasm and experience of the office environment will stand you in good stead later down the line.

Lesson two: Be Enthusiastic! If you do manage to bag a placement you’ll most likely be doing mail outs or filling in spreadsheets or buying Berroca for someone with a hangover. In short, it will be boring. But if you huff and puff and look all moody as you carry out these tasks then that’s just how you’ll be remembered. But nail through your work as quickly and carefully as possible (whilst whacking the kettle on every so often), and you’ll stick in people’s minds for the right reasons when there’s a vacancy.


When it was time to head to the big city, I managed to get a gig as Editorial Assistant at Transworld. I’m not going to lie to you, a huge deal of luck is involved in getting into such a competitive industry as publishing, but there are ways you can help yourself:

Lesson three: Do your research and Know The List. If you’ve managed to get an interview then it’s pivotal that you know the the editors who’ll be quizzing you and the books they work on. Try and read something they’ve published recently, have a good old stalk on twitter, maybe rummage through their bins if they live on a quiet street… Don’t go piling in gushing about how you’ve just read To The Lighthouse if the job’s assisting someone who’s just published a 13-year-old footballer’s autobiography or Sparky: The one-legged Spaniel Who Swam the Channel. If you’re enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the list then that is a huge plus point. It’s also worth you reading through the last couple of episodes of The Bookseller. Emerging trends, hotly tipped new books, recent exciting acquisitions – it’s good to be in the know.

Failing all that, why not try being a street performer in Covent Garden – everyone loves them!!!


Tom (Marketer)

As I came towards the end of my time at the University of Nottingham, I suffered the rising tide of panic about what exactly to do next. I knew I had to get out of a city famous for Brian Clough, Robin Hood and being home to the only UK branch of bawdy chicken wing outlet Hooters. I knew I didn’t want to do become a teacher, weatherman or any other stereotype career associated with my degree (geography – don’t laugh). And I knew I wanted to do something related to books, but I wasn’t yet sure exactly what.

Unfortunately, returning to my hometown of Huddersfield meant that options were limited. I don’t know if you’ve been to this (genuinely) fine town, but for some reason Hachette, PRH, HarperCollins et al have yet to set up offices there. There is, however, a mighty fine branch of Waterstones, nestled between Office and JD Sports in the gleaming Kingsgate Shopping Centre. Thanks to a lot of luck, a cheeky smile, and their need to hire some Christmas temps who actually knew something about the books they’d be selling, I managed to land myself a job there. Luckily this then turned into a permanent role as a bookseller, meaning I could spend all day living, breathing and recommending books (and also selling stacks of Fifty Shades of Grey and Minecraft)

The nine or so months I spent as a bookseller were then crucial in me blagging a job at Headline Publishing Group. I couldn’t afford to be heading down to London for weeks at a time to do work experience placement or to do masters in publishing. But by dealing with real readers everyday, acquiring a breadth of knowledge that covered all aspects of publishing, and learning about what was popular and why it was popular, meant that I was one step ahead of other candidates when applying for a marketing role with Headline. I’d been able to do some cool things as a bookseller too, such as setting up company social media accounts, organizing and promoting author events, curating my own sections and recommendations. This all helped with my application, and made me certain that working in publishing was the career path for me.

So if I were to recommend one way to go about getting your dream job in publishing, it would be simple – try and become a bookseller first. Don’t get me wrong, work experience is great, but you’ll probably learn a lot more about the industry, authors and actual readers from this then by doing a fortnight stuffing envelopes, and it’s also bloody good fun.

Also, if you don’t believe me about working as a bookseller, this blog piece from Hodder & Stoughton Marketing Director Jessica Killingley backs me up. And she’s a director, so…


Beau (Multimedia Designer)

Since I was a young whipper-snapper, I’ve always been interested in designing and creating things.

All through school I couldn’t give a s**t about Maths or Science. English, art and design were my strongest subjects.

At the end of school I took up a summer job as runner for a creative agency in Soho. My job consisted of running BETA tapes, artwork and discs to various clients and advertising agencies all over the West End, getting lunches and burning projects to disc or tape. I was constantly looking over the designer’s shoulders like an annoying Hobbit, observing what they were doing and desperate to get involved. I was given a few little jobs to do in Photoshop, and gradually got to work on some animatics and video edits.

I was eventually offered a full-time role being paid actual money so said ‘YES!’ straight away. I had a brilliant time there, and the famous agency liquid lunches and extravagant meals entertaining clients were a real eye-opener for an 18-year-old straight out of school.

I learnt a lot of software packages like After Effects, Final Cut, InDesign etc. and moved on to another design studio where I did a lot more work with retail clients such as Chanel, Calvin Klein and Nike.

After 10 years working in advertising I saw the job posted for a multi-media designer role at Headline and it seemed like the perfect fit. The idea of actively and creatively marketing a product you’ve grown to love and support was much more fulfilling then doing an ad for a pair of CK pants.

I’ve loved my time in publishing. It’s completely different from where I was before (a lot more cake) but as each book is different, the work I get given is always very different too.



If you’re interested in a career in publishing, why not apply to attend the latest Hachette UK Insight Into Publishing event? It’s on the 1st July, and applications close on June 14th. Apply here!

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June 9, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Books, Careers

Working in Publishing: An interview with Ant Simnica

All this week we’re taking a look at the world of publishing and, more specifically, careers in the industry.

Today we’re talking to Ant Simnica, digital operations manager at Hachette UK. Over to Ant to tell us more about life in the mysterious world of digital ops…


Hello there Ant. To those who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about your role in digital ops?

I work in the team that oversee post-production digital activity for the group. This ranges from managing the supply chain of digital content, being the primary digital contact for publishers, retail partners and suppliers, as well as coordinating integration and improvement of business processes for digital publishing.

And how did you end up working in this position?

I started out in the production department and was lucky enough to join right at the beginning of the digital boom in book publishing. I was tasked with looking after the ebook production schedule alongside my print work, before moving into a digital-only role and then onto Group Digital where I am now.

Publishing has changed a lot in the last few years, and continues to evolve. What impact has this had on your career, and the nature of your job?

When I was on the publishing side of the business, we were always looking at what we could do that was different or better than what was already out there and this was most interesting on the digital side. I think that was good for me, because I am now partly responsible for making sure these things we want to publish are done so with maximum efficiency. We are now publishing more content, in more ways and faster than ever, and it is interesting to be at the end of the business that delivers that content rather than at the originating end.

What would you say are the best parts of your job? And, dare we ask, the worst?

The best part is seeing things work the way you intended. A lot of time is spent trouble-shooting and so to keep a limit on this we are always looking at how best we can change what we do to improve what already happens. The worst part is professing the importance of the less glamorous aspects of publishing (spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets) to the publishers – there’s a limit on the number of horrified faces I can take each day.

If an aspiring ops manager came to you looking for advice on getting into the industry, what tips would you give them?

Be interested in everything. One of my biggest regrets is that I wasn’t confident enough to ask anyone about anything when I first came into the industry. I think one of the most important things is to understand who does what and why, as it all helps to piece together how what you do affects them and vice versa. And one of the best things about publishing is that most people are always more than happy to answer any questions.

Finally, if you could describe the life of an ops manager in just 3 words, what would they be?

Always. Double. Check.


If you’re interested in a career in publishing, why not apply to attend the latest Hachette UK Insight Into Publishing event? It’s on the 1st July, and applications close on June 14th. Apply here!

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June 8, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Careers

Working in Publishing: An interview with Ed Wood

This week we’re taking a look at the world of publishing and, more specifically, careers in the industry. We’ll have interviews with experts, tips for getting a foot in the door and insights into the many different roles involved in the life of a book.

We’re kicking off with an interview with Ed Wood, a Senior Editor at Sphere (an imprint of Little, Brown UK), who’s here to tell us more about life working in editorial…


Hello there Ed. Can you tell us a little bit about the publisher you work for, and the authors you look after?

I am senior editor at Sphere, which is the commercial imprint at Little, Brown, and I especially look after men’s commercial fiction – in other words, books for a mass-market male readership. To mention a few authors, I edit leading crime writers such as Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, and Richard Montanari; thriller bestseller Tom Wood; highly acclaimed new spy novelist Adam Brookes; and medieval adventure expert Angus Donald. And I have plenty more new authors coming through – look out for a phenomenal thriller called The Father by Anton Svensson in August, which is inspired by real events.

And how did you end up working at Sphere? Have you always worked in publishing?

No, not at all. I spent quite some time doing other things, from TV – including working on Big Brother series 2, which WAS an education – to journalism and, most of all, being a magazine editor. But everything I’ve done has in one way or another revolved around books, film or videogames: not only things I love, but things men love in general too, so it was ideal preparation for my role. Most recently, I edited a book magazine for Waterstones for nearly six years, then worked at The Bookseller launching their consumer brand, and three years ago was invited to apply for the Sphere job.

When a manuscript lands on your desk, what is it that you’re looking for? And what makes you think ‘this is the one’?

Voice and concept: it has to have a killer hook, an idea that’s so clever or original it makes you wonder why no one has thought of it before; and then the writing or narrative voice must speak to me personally. It should drag you by the gut from page to page so that before you know it, you’ve finished the book and you’re raving about it to other people.

Jeremy from Peep Show once famously said that ‘Publishers are just spellcheckers who take you out for lunch’. How accurate is that assessment?

Jez also said, “£20,000! I’ll be a millionaire!” so perhaps we need to take his wisdom with a pinch of salt. The main thing we do is to help an author turn their book into the very best version of it that it can possibly be, working with them on story, character, pace and plotting. Then we work with other departments on transforming that into a product readers will want to pick up and take home. But in fairness, we are quite adept at Word and we do like a lunch now and again.

What would you say are the best parts of your job? And, dare we ask, the worst?

An editor is the author’s support through the publishing process, so we have to be honest, transparent and constructive, and each book is very personal to us, so the worst is reporting when sales haven’t gone as well as we’d hoped. The best is working with a really creative author on the editing process and coming up with a result that is better through that collaborative process. Or sharing a book that only you, the author and agent have probably read so far and finding that the rest of the world loves it as much as you do.

If an aspiring editor came to you looking for advice on getting into the industry, what tips would you give them?

Find your area of interest and target the publishers that do that really well. If you love crime novels, heavyweight history books or children’s picture books, look at who publishes the authors you are most passionate about, learn about those publishers lists and research all you can about that area in general. Just saying you love reading isn’t enough; you must be clear about the kinds of books you want to publish and what you would bring to a publisher who does those kind of books. What’s special about you and your experience? Hundreds if not thousands of people apply to each editing job, so make yourself stand out in terms of what you have to offer and your knowledge level. 

And finally, if you could describe the life of an editor in just 3 words, what would they be?

Varied, all-consuming, fun!

Thank you Ed!


If you’re interested in a career in publishing, why not apply to attend the latest Hachette UK Insight Into Publishing event? It’s on the 1st July, and applications close on June 14th. Apply here!

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