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Busting Myths and Misconceptions

Hachette: Busting Myths and Misconceptions

Hachette is partnering with Springpod, an early careers network, to educate young people on the Business of Publishing – the programme will run in February but in the lead up to it we’ve got loads of great content for you to enjoy. This article is the first in a new series, Hachette X Springpod, that aims to show readers what the publishing industry is really like.

 

This week we sat down with editorial and marketing assistants Lipfon Tang, Nicole Thomas, Serena Arthur and Tierney Witty – all started at Hachette through its traineeship programme, which sought applicants from diverse backgrounds to help improve representation in Hachette UK’s editorial staff base. They are helping us bust some of the biggest misconceptions in the publishing industry today.

 

Misconception one: People who work in publishing just read books all day.

This is a question all four of our interviewees have been asked. Tierney said one of the biggest pain points in publishing is that not a lot of people know about it! Not only are people unaware about the scale of the publishing industry (around 200 million books are sold each year), they don’t know what jobs are available in it and what those actually look like. Tierney said that ’as an editorial assistant all of my friends and family assume I read books all day’; Serena says that in her friend group it goes one step further: her friends assume she has read every new book and knows what to recommend. Both Serena and Tierney said their day is too full for reading but they are avid readers in their own time – so what does life as an editorial assistant for one of the world’s biggest publishers really involve?

 

Tierney starts off with a chuckle, ‘well, the best thing about my role is that no two days are the same, it’s one of the things that attracted me to the industry.’ Tierney was planning to be a teacher and was actually filling out the PGCE application when he realised that it wasn’t what he wanted to do; instead, he attended talks and workshops to see what career would suit him better. One talk he attended was by —, who spoke about the benefits of careers within publishing. The two things that sold it to him were that no two days are the same and the second was that you get to see your work out there in the real world, whether that’s in a bookshop, supermarket or being read by a commuter on the train.

 

Nicole, Serena and Tierney’s roles are all about supporting the wider editorial team and ensuring the book makes it from manuscript to print to reader’s bookshelves. Nicole said one of the best parts of working at Hachette is the atmosphere of collaboration across all teams and how everyone is willing to lend a hand. A large part of her role is briefing freelancers like illustrators, researching new talent and keeping databases up to date.

 

Serena is hoping to build her own sci-fi fantasy list and a big part of her day is looking over submissions sent in by literary agents. Once she finds a book she likes she’ll do some projections and present it to the wider team in a monthly meeting. She’ll work with many people in this process including the literary agent, the author, commissioning editors and lawyers to draft contracts and establish book rights. Tierney points out everyone has read a book at one point in their lives, so it’s great to work in an industry where everyone feels like they have some ownership and can add to the discussion. He has been involved with writing the blurb copy on the back of books, he has said it is a real pinch-me-moment when he sees it out there in the world.

 

Misconception two: You have to have studied english literature

This is a big one and not true at all; in fact, publishing recruiters are actually looking for the opposite. University degrees in other specialist subjects are highly sought after, graduates with degrees in STEM, history and law are all in demand to bring a different perspective and help diversify Hachette’s offering as well as their collective thought process.

 

Lipfon thinks that the publishing industry is getting more and more open and doesn’t want people without university degrees to feel discouraged from entering. ‘Everyone reads books, not just university graduates, and loads of people read books to learn – so we want to open our doors to those people too’. There are many routes into publishing and the best assets any candidate can offer is passion, enthusiasm and a desire to achieve.

 

Misconception three: The publishing industry isn’t very diverse

For a long time the publishing industry has struggled with diversity. A big reason is that most publishers are based in London, meaning there is little visibility elsewhere and, let’s be honest, how many of us know who published our favourite reads? It’s something we don’t really think about!

 

Tierney grew up in Liverpool where there is only one publisher: The Liverpool University Press; he didn’t know anyone who worked there and therefore didn’t appreciate the scale and depth of the opportunities in this hidden industry.

 

Hachette is working to remedy this with their five new regional offices based in Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. They are hoping that having stronger national representation will improve diversity among team members and authors and will encourage more people to be part of the publishing industry.

 

Another initiative Hachette is involved in to ensure diversity is encouraging participation in and through their staff networks. Thrive is Hachette UK’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employee network – it’s biggest staff network. Thrive wants everyone to take part in the conversations that count at Hachette: that’s why all Thrive events are recorded and employees are encouraged to attend virtually.

 

Lipfon finished her traineeship two years ago and now works in marketing; she will also take over co chairing the Thrive Network at the start of 2022. Lipfon said it’s all very well and good to say we have staff networks for diversity, but what does that actually mean at an individual level? She says the benefits of the network are many but the main ones are that the network allows employees to meet more people in different areas of the business, meaning she feels supported when she raises her ideas. Secondly, she knows more about what’s going on around the business, making her feel that her ideas don’t take place in a vacuum and the network has literally allowed her to network!

 

Nicole said the publishing industry isn’t as diverse as it should be, but Hachette’s increased focus on diversity and inclusivity, through the use of positive action schemes, is something she feels really hopeful about. Hachette is meeting the moment when it comes to diversity and all the work they are doing now will ensure that future diverse voices are heard – it’s an exciting time.

 

Serena said that the best employers in the publishing industry are doing a lot to get more diverse talent through the door but aren’t necessarily good at retaining it. That’s why Hachette’s Thrive network is key in ensuring the new talents’ voices are heard, and they feel supported to progress throughout the business to guaranteeing greater representation throughout the company.

 

Misconception four: As an editor, you live at your desk

There’s a huge misconception out there that editors sit at their desks all day, finding new places to put a comma, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actual fact an editor’s job is really collaborative as they are involved in all parts of the publishing process, from a potential new best seller landing on their desk to getting it onto the best seller lists in time for Christmas.

 

It can take anywhere from a year to two years to publish a book, although the timings for non-fiction tend to be slightly shorter as these books are usually trend based. One misconception that Serena noted is that a lot of people don’t think that editorial work is business driven, when in reality it is. “Books are literally the business, so the people that work on them play a part in determining how well they sell and what the forecasts look like”.

 

Hachette publishes roughly x cookery or food-based books a year. Here is a list of just some of the people that go into the making and publishing of a cookbook:

 

  • Creative chefs
  •  Food editors
  •  Deputy food editor
  •  Photographers
  •  Graphic designers
  •  Food stylists
  •  Prop designers
  •  Designers
  •  Editors
  •  Proofreaders
  •  Publishing lawyer
  •  Rights managers

As an editorial assistant, these are the people that will pull you into meetings and away from your desk. As our interviewees said, no two days are the same!

How can you step foot into the publishing industry?

Why not sign up to the Hachette Business of Publishing virtual work experience, powered by Springpod. The programme will take place over a week in February and introduce candidates to the world of publishing, from marketing and publicity to rights and ebooks. The programme is free to complete and can be completed anywhere, assisting Hachette with it’s mission to improve accessibility and participation in the publishing industry.