Earlier this week we held our second ever Introduction to Children’s Publishing event – it was a great, interactive evening, filled with insider tips from publishing professionals across various departments.
The event was a free, and designed to offer a comprehensive overview of working in children’s publishing – no prior knowledge or experience necessary. Unlike last year, holding the event at the office wasn’t an option this year, but we used this as an opportunity to open the event to even more attendees, holding it via a Zoom webinar.
We began with a fantastic introduction from Nosy Crow’s Managing Director, Kate Wilson, who spoke about her own experience in publishing, as well as her passion for children’s publishing, and how the industry has adapted to current times.
We then took a brief look at different departments, with representatives from Editorial, Design, Production, Rights, Publicity, Marketing, and Sales giving an overview of their departments and taking questions.
We asked each of our departmental representatives to highlight a key question from their section of the evening. Here are their questions (and the all-important answers)!
Fiona Scoble, Senior Editor
Question: How different is it to edit a younger book for e.g. readers aged 5-8 to editing an older book for readers aged 9+?
Answer: I love working on books for a variety of ages because the experience of editing them is so different. A very young text, for instance a two-colour book like the “Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam” series, is not many steps away from a picture book. You’re working very closely with a designer and really thinking about the interplay between text and image to tell the story, using the page turn to create suspense, and being creative with text layout to emphasise certain words and help children navigate beginning to read independently.
In books for older children, there’s obviously a much more mature story being told. The characters are more complex and the narrative arc has many more components to consider. You can have really interesting conversations with the author about their characters’ motivations and voices and become totally immersed in their world. Its a skill that I’ll never grow tired of practising and improving!
Manda Scott, Senior Designer
Question: How would you recommend an illustrator who wants to move into design get their foot in the door?
Answer: As I mentioned in my talk, I started out with an illustration degree and then got myself in front of art directors by applying to work experience in different areas of the business that offered placements. I think it is probably a lot harder these days as work experience is a lot rarer. Whereas, when I was starting out, marketing departments especially did constant rotations to help with mail outs and events. ( I did a lot of envelope stuffing and washing up wine glasses)
It is a good thing that working for free is not happening anymore! But to be honest, it makes it harder to get in front of people to express your passion. This doesn’t mean it is impossible though!
Most recruitment for entry level jobs is done very anonymously in that names are redacted as well as other information that can potentially cause bias this means portfolio and CV count for everything in the first stage.
With that in mind, don’t ever send in a CV written up on Word. It should definitely be designed in InDesign and exported as a PDF along with a sample of your work. Be aware that you are being assessed on your typesetting skills and font choices from that initial stage. If you are not confident using the software, I suggest you do some online tutorials. I was pretty much self-taught through YouTube. If your portfolio feels illustration heavy or actually just a bit light then do some personal work to pad that out. Recreate ideas for covers of your favourite children’s book. Apply your illustrations to book jackets and add type.
And finally, showing enthusiasm is probably the most important part as skills can be learned but passion and drive not so much. Make sure your cover letter is researched and directed toward the company you are applying to. Mention books you like and why.
Sophie Banks, Senior Production Executive
Question: What would you look for on a person’s application, if they were applying for an entry level job in production?
Answer: One of the most important things for me, is seeing examples of key skills outlined in the job advert, regardless of whether these were obtained in publishing or not. There are many different routes into publishing, but ultimately what I really want to know is that you have the right skills to do the job.
I also look at whether you’ve tailored your CV and covering letter both to the company and the job. We completely understand that you might be applying to several jobs in different publishers and departments at once, but it’s very noticeable to us when you haven’t tailored your CV and covering letter. It’s sounds obvious, but if you’re applying for an entry level production job there should be a reference to production in your covering letter, other than just the job title. I’ve seen literally hundreds of covering letters for production roles, which don’t even mention production! Similarly, it’s useful for you to show some understanding of our company ethos and what types of books we publish. This kind of information is easily found just by looking at company websites, and it does make your application stand out.
Michela Pea, Senior Rights Manager
Question: How do you find travelling for your job? Are you on the road for most of it? Does that ever bother you?
Answer: Travelling is what I love most about this job. It allows you to connect with your customers, their culture and learn so much about their book market. I’m abroad for book fairs or rights trips most months, and while it can be exhausting at times I still find it exciting, challenging and worth the sleepless nights and the running around with 23kg of books.
Rebecca Mason, Publicity Manager
Question: ‘How has your job changed from being an PR assistant to being a Publicity Manager?’
Answer: As an assistant in most departments – and especially in publicity – a large part of your job is admin, from checking copy to filing awards submissions to tracking coverage and planning for events, not to mention the HUGE amounts of books we send out. One of the great things about Nosy Crow is that we’re still small enough that everyone’s ideas can be heard and valued when we’re planning or brainstorming, but as you progress from an assistant role, you get more and more tastes of this. You might get more independence – perhaps a smaller campaign to look after, for instance – until as a manager you have the freedom to make wider decisions about strategy and planning, and to look at not only the campaigns but the team itself as a whole.
Hester Seddon, Marketing Manager
Question: What skills are useful in a marketing role?
Answer: As a marketer it’s really helpful to be both a strategic and creative thinker, because you’ll be tasked with coming up with new and interesting ways to reach your audience. You’ll need to have a strong attention to detail, for example when proofreading copy and checking artwork. Being organised is useful in any job, and for a marketing role it’s vital as you’ll often be managing multiple campaigns at once and working towards very tight deadlines.
Frances Sleigh, Senior Sales Manager and Stock Control Co-ordinator
Question: What specific skills are you looking for and what skills could I be working on if I want to get into a publishing sales job?
Answer: Being able to flag any experience you have in sales is really helpful. It might be that you’ve worked in customer service shops but there are so many transferrable skills – you’re used to talking to people about product, you know the value of being knowledgeable about what you’re selling, you can upsell (a bit of a tricky term – I always go with ‘helped them find other related products that they’d also be interested in’…), plus you know that all sales is about customer service, and that’s making the other person’s life/job as easy as possible. For us that’s making sure our buyers have the most up to date information about our books at all times. In terms of hard skills I’d make sure to flag that you’re comfortable in excel and use this time to make sure that’s true! Mentioning you can use pivot tables and VLOOKUP are simple skills to learn, but we all use them every day. There’s such an online element to UK sales at the moment that being able to say you know how to write good copy, and are comfortable with basic HTML for metadata is a plus too.
You can watch the full session below:
Thank you to all who attended!