Tips on Applying for a Job in Publishing

Below are some tips that may (or may not) be useful in applying for a job in publishing.

1.Research the company fully, be familiar with their titles, be familiar with their history, ethos, and recent campaigns. Know the name and job role of the person your addressing in any cover letter; if you've been given a person's name to address your application to, don't address them 'Dear Hiring Manager'. Also make sure you've double-checked the title of the job you're applying for. Don't let your cover letter read like an off-the-peg template you've merely tweaked for this application. Show you're serious by committing time to it.

2. Your cover letter is usually the place where your employer will make the decision over shortlisting, before they even get to the CV. It's all important. It shouldn't be too long nor too short (ideally between 1 and 1.5 pages), it shouldn't be overly familiar, but it needs to convey who you are; it should have all the pertinent info that translates your experience (in the CV) into an argument that your skills are transferable and relevant.

3. If you're passionate about working in publishing, show it. Demonstrate it. Prove it. The truth may be that you haven't always known what career you want, but don't spend your time justifying previous career decisions (e.g. studying a subject that has nothing to do with publishing, or beginning a career far from publishing); that only highlights what the employer doesn't want to hear. Focus on the transferable skills, and the areas in which your previous work or studies allign with skillsets that publishing values.

4. Remember that publishing isn't just editorial, it isn't just proof-reading. Most entry jobs into publishing won't be anything to do with editorial; access to editorial work comes later, once you've got your feet under the table. What publishing is, primarily, is: sales, marketing, publicity, events, production, dealing with clients (bookshops, warehouses, distributors, libraries, festivals, venues), and updating metadata on multiple sales systems, and so forth. Being well organised, proficient, economic time-wise, as well as paying great attention to detail... these are the primary qualities an employer is looking for, rather than proof-reading skills (proof-reading is part of production and is often out-sourced; you will be expected to have flawless attention to detail, when it comes to text, but it won't stand you apart as a candidate).

5. If you've done work experience at a publishing house, great. If you've done it at several publishing houses, even better. But this isn't the only way to impress an employer: DIY projects, especially ones related to publishing, literature or the arts generally are sure-fire ways of showing an employer that you're passionate about the creative sector. The better DIY projects are ones that involve many people, liaising with outside parties in the delivery processes (i.e. a self-written blog about literature would not be as impressive as organising a spoken word night, or a mini-festival or a start-up magazine).

6. University-set projects like live briefs are all well and good, and teach valuable skills, but the difference between a candidate who is shortlisted and one who isn't, is often the ability to demonstrate that they are passionate and capable enough to organise projects on their own, after university, when a BA or Masters degree no longer requires them to participate in such a project. The motivation to set up DIY projects outside of university is far more impressive than just doing what a course module requires you to do.

7. Unless it's a job in design don't try to make you cover letter or CV a 'design object'. Keep it simple. Design is left to designers.

8. Remember: the winning application will have a combination of the above strengths (plus more), not just one or two of them.