Last month I got my first real insight into the world of publishing, a complex and fast-paced environment that by no means gets the recognition it deserves. I’ve always loved books, but then again – most people do. What I have now is a different outlook on them, an appreciation, an acknowledgment of the work thats gone into them and a new love.
I was lucky enough to get to spend four weeks in the Little, Brown Book Group offices of Hachette UK, working alongside the people who put the books you read on the shelves and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. Not only because it’s an exciting place to be, but it’s confirmed to me – this is what I want to do.
This has got me thinking, what can I be doing now? Right now. While I’m at home, in the countryside, with 5 months looming in front of me until university starts again. So I decided this summer’s going to be productive and I’m going to write about every single exciting thing that happens. Starting with my internships, so here we go – my time at Little, Brown.
Walking into the Hachette offices is like walking into a romcom, and passing the barriers with your access card makes you feel like your in it. Six floors of multicoloured chairs, coffee machines and shelves and shelves of books loom above you, each a little bit different from the other.
I first headed to the publicity department. An area of publishing I don’t think I ever knew existed before then. I was given my own desk, my own responsibilities and my own access card to the building. It was intimidating at first, the publicity department consisted of all girls, all young, well-dressed, well-spoken, and all incredibly friendly and welcoming. They’re the kind of girls you see and want to be. The together-kind that you can only hope you’ll be somewhere close to in 5 years time.
The first task of the morning was always to sift through the days newspapers for any book coverage – particularly of their books – it was always quite exciting when one came up.
Next I would be given tasks by my supervisor, or anyone else that needed me. It was nice knowing I was being helpful, I think often with these things you can feel like you’re being more of a hindrance than any help, I liked that I was actually helping the publicists with jobs they needed done – rather than just things to keep me busy.
I also felt like they always tried to give me exciting things to do – or at least things that would be useful to know if I ever did get a job in publishing.
I never considered publicity as an area of publishing I’d like to go into, but I think this was more because I didn’t know enough about it. I don’t think I really ever thought about how a book does get publicised, but I do know that I’m exactly the type of person to pay attention to bestsellers or Richard and Judy’s bookclub or whatever else – I think I just assumed that if a book was good it would get the recognition it deserved, I definitely didn’t think there was a team of people monitoring book coverage or contacting bloggers that do book reviews or designing twitter competitions or contacting journalists. I think that all in all, I just had no idea how much actually went into the production of a book.
It took me a week to discover the buildings rooftop. If the office wasn’t impressive enough, this was something else. FUN FACT, if you read the first few pages or so of Carole Matthews’ The Chocolate Lovers’ Wedding, she describes the main character’s office – it is basically an identical description of the Hachette offices (I see what you did there, Carole…)
As I was saying, the roof. The view is pretty damn sweet so obviously I made a special trip up there to get a cheeky panorama..
And a few other pictures (because it was a lovely day)
Oh, yeah and this bit…
I haven’t specified how I got this internship and the truth is I didn’t necessarily earn it myself, but it’s a dog eat dog world and frankly I needed some experience – and some good experience at that. Fortunately for me, I had family who knew friends who had connections in publishing and with that I got my window (Susan, I’m extremely grateful!) But the truth is, I wanted to work in editorial – I’ve always known this was the area of publishing I was most interested in but I felt slightly reluctant to let that slip, I didn’t want the people who’d got me the experience to think that I wasn’t grateful, or enjoying my time in publicity – because I definitely was! However I soon realised that it was silly to not express how much I’d like to spend time in the editorial department, because it was right on the other side of the room – and this could be my one opportunity to grab it. I ended up speaking to a commissioning editor and an editorial assistant while I was doing my publicity internship and so I tried my best to make use of their time; asking them for advice and how I could get some experience in editorial at Little, Brown.
At first it seemed like the only way I could get in there would be to go about it the old fashion way and apply via the Hachette UK website. This obviously was not the answer I wanted, I felt like in doing that I’d just be put in a pile and would probably never get the time of day – I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t say in these types of applications?!
My fortnight in publicity sped by and on my last day I realised how much I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to be part of it. On the other hand, I was really looking forward to going back up North to see my family, finishing off all of my uni essays and working back at my holiday job and earning some MUCH needed money. However, 15 minutes before I was supposed to leave on the Friday afternoon, I was called over by one of the editorial team that I’d spoken to earlier in the week. Someone had dropped out and he offered me two more weeks of work experience – this time in editorial. The only problem was, it was for the next two weeks.
I had two essays to write and I was on the rota to work back at home, but this wasn’t something I could say no to. So I sent the dreaded text to my boss back at home and cancelled my train ticket – I was spending two more weeks at Little, Brown and I was ecstatic.
I guess when you think of editorial, you think of proofreading, correcting grammar, spotting mistakes and editing out unnecessary crap. This was more or less what my time in editorial consisted of, though in the most junior way… However, it did really surprise me that I was doing real work for them, things that needed to be done and were going to be useful. Throughout the fortnight I had a timetable where I was assigned to different people in different imprints, with one afternoon a week in the contracts department. This was interesting as I got to see the difference in genres and it definitely confirmed to me that my interests do definitely lie in fiction – Sphere was by far my favourite.
Little, Brown are soon to be launching a new imprint called Fleet, it was exciting to see a little bit of the behind-the-scenes of this. I also managed to get myself a tote bag (thanks David!)
How cute is that logo though?!
I didn’t realise that ebooks were such a large part of editorial, I think that largely I just thought that once a hard copy had been made, ebooks were easy – you just put it into a pdf instead of print it. And I guess to some extent that is the case, however there’s also a lot of stuff that can get through the cracks – each one therefore needs to be checked and checked. Another thing I learnt in editorial is that books have different publishers overseas, I knew this to an extent but I think I always just assumed that it would be the say US or UK version of the same publisher, rather than a totally different one. I also didn’t realise that there were in effect bidding wars on new books, I guess I thought that all authors were struggling authors dying to get published and would take whatever they could get. Which I’m sure is the case with many, but others are traded between publishers and others just have offers thrown at them. I also didn’t realise that at Little, Brown at least, all new submissions had to come from an agency to be considered – I don’t know if this is the case for all major publishers, but I thought it was interesting that authors need an independent third party interest in their book in order for it even to have a chance at publication.
I’d like to take this opportunity now to apologise to all of those I had to send rejection letters to for this very reason – I hope you all get globally published and a sweet advance. ✌🏼
Having said that, I think my favourite thing by far in editorial was getting to sending letters to authors (usually accompanied by their newest reprint) and getting to sign them with my own name. I don’t know why this was so exciting to me, but I guess I just got a kick out of knowing that Mervyn King was gonna read the letter I sent him and think there actually was a ‘Billie’ working at Little, Brown. I wish Mervyn, I wish.
Overall, I found the best thing about editorial to be how relevant it actually is to my degree. I study linguistics, which is a subject most people don’t really tend to know much about. I think when you’re at school or uni or wherever, you often can’t help but think ‘this is great and all, but when am I ever going to need this in real life’ – it’s kinda nice and reassuring to know that there is a place for linguistics in domains other than teaching and research.
I feel like my time at Little, Brown has helped me determine my path and confirmed for me what I’m now going to strive for in the future. I can’t thank everyone there enough, who helped me, who gave me advice and genuinely made my time there so enjoyable.
So, if anyone at Little, Brown does read this, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to Susan and Lucy, Helen, Vendula, Poppy, Grace, Jo, Stephie, Clara, Zoe, Gemma, Florence and Kirsteen in publicity and to David, Rhiannon, Jennie, Thal, Emily, Clare, Tara and Olivia in editorial, Steph and Anneliese in contracts and Amy in marketing (that certainly tested me – hope I didn’t leave anyone out!) – Hope to see you all again soon!
And I will finish now with two more pictures taken inside the Hachette building in the secret staircase which I believe shows the last living remnants of the old Royal Mail building (because I thought it was pretty cool):
I did actually plan on writing and posting this a couple of weeks ago, however essays, sun and grovelling to my work at home (resulting in many pay-back shifts) has meant this has come a little later than planned. But nevertheless, here we are. Thank you if you took the time to read this, I have a few exciting summer posts planned for this blog so please stay tuned!
Hope you all have a great summer!
Lots of love,