EVENT REVIEW: Bloomsbury Books: Careers in Publishing

On this drizzly afternoon, I’m skimming over notes from a fabulous intro to publishing event, organised by @BloomsburyInst, that I attended on 6 May. I gained invaluable insight from Emma Herdman (Publishing Director (@emduddingstone)) and Lisa Goll (Events Manager (@LisasShare)), who offered a really candid and illuminating talk about pathways into publishing.

In total, I took around 3 pages of notes. This is just a succinct summary (all paraphrased with the exception of two direct quotes I’ve cited) of the contents and the crucial things I took from the session:

What I learned:

  • As a publishing group, Bloomsbury are actively trying to eliminate unconscious bias. Their application process has been majorly revised in recent years to dissuade employers from using personal details when making decisions about prospective employees. Excitingly (she says as a Northern lass), they’re also beginning to challenge the notion of publishing jobs being exclusively centred around London (amen, hallelujah!). I look forward to seeing more remote/flexible opportunities in the future (UP THE NORTH!).
  • There are many pathways into the publishing industry and that having a publishing degree is not a prerequisite. Emma gave a really interesting insight into how a Publishing Director began her career 11 years ago and the roles/experiences that helped equip with her with the skills she needed along the way.
  • You may feel unequipped for a role that is new to you if you don’t have loads of experience within a role similar. However, the most important thing to display within your application/interview is that you can draw from examples of occasions where you’ve utilised some of the skills required in an editorial role, for instance, an astute eye for detail, an ability to prioritise and strong communication skills. Basically, you can map transferable skills from lots of other experiences, academic studies and careers onto a prospective role in publishing. Don’t be disheartened by a variety in your
  • Mental health is important. As Emma said, “advocate for yourself, look after yourself.” Striking a balance between your career and social life is imperative, especially during an unprecedented global pandemic! The lines between work and play may blur, but the expectation shouldn’t be to overwork because you’re based at home as opposed to the office. For some people, success is synonymous with back-breaking exertion and burning both ends of the candle, but Lisa Goll summarised that, “being overwhelmed- it shouldn’t be a marker for success”. It was really refreshing to hear both hosts emphasise the importance of boundaries.


I would 100% recommend this event, or others like it in the future, to others considering a career in publishing.

Even though it was virtual (and we all know how temperamental tech can be), the event experience was stimulating. I’ve been in many seminars and workshops where I’ve struggled against the instinct to drift off, but I can definitely say that this wasn’t one of them.

The content was highly engaging, accessible and candid. Some of these events can feel rushed, disingenuous and forced but I really felt that a lot of the points were organically raised as natural tangents of the conversation. Also, the speakers managed to incorporate responses to some of the questions coming in from viewers in real-time. It was really reassuring and encouraging, or at least that’s how I felt as a newcomer and aspiring editor looking for all the guidance they can get.

The event was informative and insightful because the discussion was grounded so much in personal experience and observation. Especially as employers who have interviewed candidates before, their tips and advice on how to stand out through your cover letter and CV were highly pertinent.

Overall, the event was a great push in the right direction. As an unemployed hopeful, I can testify that it can be very hard without a personal mentor within the industry to guide you along every step of the way. After all, the generic advice from job-centres doesn’t quite cover “how to get into the publishing industry”. Events like this really help to build knowledge, inspire confidence and encourage candidates with specific industry-related advice on how to improve their skills/experiences in preparation for applications.

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