Thursday, 27 October 2011

My Career so Far - helping graduates in Publishing to cope.

Today I'd like to write a little about my job and my career in publishing so far. Boooring. No, I promise, I think it would be useful to explain a little bit where I come from and shed some light on a field of publishing which is often overlooked or totally ignored. Also, I want to give some hope to the young graduates out there, who are sending millions of CV everyday - and getting no answer back.

Being part of the Society of Young Publishers I know what graduates and people who'd like to start their career in publishing are looking for, which is exactly what I was also looking for before ending up where I am today.
When asked about possible fields of interest for an internship/first job you'll receive these, in the following order: editorial, marketing/publicity, rights, graphics, production. Ahem, forgotten anything? Yes. SALES.
I know that when you think about sales you're just imagining an open-plan office, full of men (men and sales seem to get along well, as women do with mid-term shopping sales), shouting on their phones in order to get a deal.
WRONG. It can be much more glamorous
This is the story of how I ended up in export sales.
After my MA in publishing (in Ireland, so entirely in English) I decided I wanted to be a proof-reader. I loved the exercises we had to do for the course and the power of a red marker! I even ended up been one of the best in my class (gotta brag about it!).
It's obviously kind of weird for an Italian person to proof-read English texts, but I think that my study of the English grammar and that of other languages (French, Latin, German, Italian and Spanish) helped me a great deal and gave me quite an eye for mistakes (now please stop scanning my blog, I hate proof-reading on a screen!).
When I finally realised that nobody would eventually give me a job in that field, mainly because of my nationality, I turned to translations. I ended up doing yet another Editorial Translation course in Bologna (Italy) which was useful of course, but just showed me how difficult translating actually is, and what a long, exhausting and perilous job! A bad translation could cost the author and the publisher everything! Hmmm...too much pressure there.
Since I couldn't find a job in Italy - I'm not afraid to say that it's hard to find a job in publishing in Italy unless you have very good connections, you've shagged Berlusconi and/or one of his friends, or you have a degree in Economics (love the money!) - I decided to go abroad once again. I ended up in Switzerland, since my fiancĂ© was working near Zurich, and spent the last of my money doing a course in order to refresh my German and eventually find a bilingual/trilingual job there.
Waste of time and money. Did an interview with a pharmaceutical company in Basel for their internal magazine, but didn't get the job because I have no science major/degree - people, you should specify this on the vacancy section, you know!!!
I decided to give it a go and come to the UK, and after I cheekily lied about my residence on the CV - YES, OF COURSE I LIVE IN LONDON! - I finally landed a 3-month internship with a small, independent publishing house in Hertfordshire.
Being their first intern I got do dip my foot into everything, from loyalties to social media marketing, publicity and editorial stuff.
My biggest achievement during this time was to contact the famous Italian horror director Dario Argento for an interview with one of our authors. During the phone call I even acted as interpreter/translator, and had the time of my life. You can see the author's article on HIS BLOG. There's also a recording somewhere, but anyway, this made me really proud and made me think about a possible path in marketing and publicity. I basically went out there, somehow managed to get in touch with a festival organizer, who put me in contact with the director's PA, who then helped me organising the interview. I mean, I rock! ;)
Anyway, those months during the unpaid internship were great and I really had a lot of fun. The people were lovely, and it was a very relaxed work place that really gave me the chance to see how small publishing houses work!
So there you go, I now had 3 possibilities: rights (because of the various languages I've studied and kind-of speak fluently), marketing and publicity, and finally graphics (I love computers and InDesign, although I don't have a certificate or anything to prove it...working on it!).
I then decided to apply for as many internships I could, in order to get work experience in every possible publishing field and eventually see which one would suit me best. Eventually found myself near Brighton, working for yet another small publishing house, this time more focused on design/artistic/visual books. I ended up doing some marketing research and picture research for an entire month.
Picture research is hard work, I promise you! You need to stay in budget, and carefully choose pictures for a book. You need to contact agencies, museums, privates and keep the boss in the loop. This is quite terrifying when you're the first intern ever, working for a fierce, amazing, independent woman! Loved the office and the co-workers (all women!), and was really sad to be there for a month only, but hey, finally I had an internship in Penguin rights dept lined up that I couldn't possibly miss. But I did.
You see, I had to work nights in order to pay the rent and food - lost almost 10 kilos in 4 months! I hate waitressing, I really, really do. And I really wanted a job that would allow me to do what I like and would pay the bills as well. After working my way through college and the MA - having often to skip parties, hangovers and happy times because I had to open the cafe early in the morning - I really had enough of working for free 8 hrs a day and then spend another 4-5 doing what I hated the most.
So I eventually decided to give up my month at Penguin and another internship in order to find a proper, (kind-of) paid job.
Subsequently, after my time down South, I decided to take a job as a marketing and office admin. This is basically what I'm doing now, in London.
I know it doesn't sound exciting, but you really need to work hard in order to do what you like and love. Working for this publishing agency for the past year and half taught me so much and made me grow as a -working- person.
I must say that at the end of the day I'm doing much more than what it's written on the contract.
I'm a PA, office admin, marketing enthusiast and publicity freak. A sales minion, customer pleaser (only with words, goes without saying!), fairs-organiser, table booker, all-doer, book-launches-attendant-magnifique.
I think that covers it. It's not my dream job, but this can open a million doors - possible future bosses out there, take a number (errrr...)!

The important thing at the end of the day is that we're young and as long as we're willing to work hard, however stressful and boring a job could seem - and be -, in time, we can achieve anything. We have to show that we can do whatever is asked of us, and really, nothing is impossible. 
Case in point: I hate phone calls. I don't even like receiving phone calls, in Italian, from friends and family. Now I have to contact people all the time, in Asia, Africa, India, people sometimes I can barely understand. There you go, excellent training you might need in your next job, be grateful.
I've also discovered a side of publishing which is also never quite spoken of. I'm loving international sales - even if I'm working in it indirectly - and I really hope one day to be one of the export rep who travels around the world selling books! A dream!!!
So far I'm liking what I'm doing and I'm open to new adventures in the fantastic world of publishing (somebody ought to write that book!), and I'm so glad I got to experience so many different things in the past 2 years in the UK.
I really hope graduates won't lose hope when yet another of their CV has been rejected. Keep trying, keep your chin and hopes up, work hard and keep up-to-date, and you'll definitely find something. It might not be what you've always dreamed of, but in the end you'll discover you can do things you've never thought you'd be capable of
Oh yes, you also need some luck, but since I'm one of the most unlucky people on earth, there's really hope for everybody else!!! ;)