Want to Work in Children’s Book Publishing?

Cow Notebook Cover Last week, we did A Day in the Life… video series featuring all our fantastic assistants and what they do. We’ve had an amazing response – mostly people wanting to know how they can break into the industry. If you missed it, see yesterday’s round up check it out here (or below).

I’ve already blogged about my top tips in this post.

Eight years ago, I was hunting for a job in children’s publishing, after a couple of years in New York. This is what I did:

First, I bought a notebook with a cow on it, as you do. Then, I stuck in a calendar.

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 14.39.45Then, I harassed as many people whose names in children’s publishing I could for “informational interviews” to fill up slots in that calendar.

For any number of reasons, internships aren’t always possible, but a carefully-worded, well-researched letter/email asking for half an hour of their time was generally positively received. (And if you do get a meeting, MAKE SURE you stick with just half an hour!)

At each meeting, I had a set of questions that I asked, and I was always listening out for other names and companies mentioned.

Sara O'Connor's list of questions to ask on children's publishing informational interview.

Sara O’Connor’s list of questions to ask on children’s publishing informational interview.

At two of my meetings, I heard about the fantastic editorial team at Working Partners, and so chased that lead up. I ended up with a two week internship there, and at the end of that… a job!

So my big tip for this blog is to look at non-traditional ways in. Find the smaller, more flexible companies: book packagers like Working Partners or HotHouse, new independant houses, think about interning with agencies (I know Eve White runs a scheme) or with literary scouts. You’ll get an excellent overview of the market.

Also consider digital start ups – having digital experience will be so valuable in the very near future.

Send an impassioned letter to people/companies of your choice, volunteering your time in exchange for experience.

But most of all, don’t give up! Keep trying…

We’d love to hear any other success stories… how did you get your job in publishing?

(In all my rush to post the blog (yes, yes, I know, I was late posting!) I forgot to add in my favourite thing from those weeks back in 2004… I’ve got all the notes from those meetings, including the notes from when Emma Matthewson – the newset Hot Key-er – agreed to talk to me. Click on the link below for the PDF. The frowny face is because I was naughty and talked to her for an hour, instead of half an hour. But that was because she was just SO NICE and lovely and helpful. )



2 responses to “Want to Work in Children’s Book Publishing?

  1. I love your original notes! My story is a little different as I was lucky enough to live near London. Here’s what I did:

    In my last year of Uni I wrote my dissertation on the subject of Children’s Books – and loved it. I started thinking I wanted to be in publishing so I researched everyone, looking into everything to do with children’s books. In a random conversation with a friend of a friend, I found they knew a librarian who worked for a school library service in Westminster and therefore knew stuff about kids books. I blagged her email address and wrote to her asking for information, and she was kind enough to invite me to meet her at a Children’s Book Circle event, which she told me would be filled with children’s publishers. I ran home from Uni, bought some new clothes and went along determined to get some good contacts. I left the evening with the offer of a work experience placement at Macmillan Children’s Books starting the next week!

    At MCB, I got the best advice from someone who eventually became my boss – she said: “We have SO many people in for work placements, don’t just fade into the background and be another intern. If you apply for a job here I want to look at your CV and say ‘I remember her, she was awesome!’, so talk to as many people as you can and make the most of your time here”. I did just that.

    Six months later after interning, and temping around publishing, I got a call from that very person who gave me that advice. They had a job opening for a marketing assistant and did I want to apply. I’d been clever enough to keep in contact with her and occasionally drop in for a coffee every now and then. I got the job and the rest is history.

    I was lucky, but I also worked very hard to talk to the right people, as Sara did. The most important thing is to do your research, make contacts and make the most of those contacts! Don’t be pushy, but do take advantage of every opportunity to meet new people that comes up. You never know where it might lead.

  2. I love this post and Sarah’s comment – so much useful advice 🙂

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