Continuing on with my Cracking Into Creativity; My Road To Publishing series, here’s Part 2; The Tremulous Trek To The Top. To see the first post, which was Part 1 - The Disreputable History Of One Sahina Bibi just click the link or click here to take you straight there.
So. I left off, on my saga, on the part where I had come to the end of my first year of university, deciding I want to pursue a career in publishing - where my heart truly lay. The next step, was to do my research.
I’m a pretty check-tick-list kinda person - I live by organisation. So I compiled a list of things I wanted to know about the industry as just blogging my through wouldn’t be enough to get me anywhere. I looked at available publishing vacancies, the different departments, different roles offered and then created a list of what they wanted from a future employee.
After finishing there, I hit wikipedia to source a list of the biggest (and smallest) publishers in the UK. I added both fiction and non-fiction publishers to my research and checked out all their websites to have a look at what they published, and any possible internships or vacancies they had going. At this stage, as a student still in full time education, the most sensible thing to do, was gain experience in this field, as I’m swapping over from a completely different discipline. With no work history to my name at allllll, it was vital that I had something to add to my CV to show that aside from blogging work, I had skills that they wanted. It’s good to remind yourself, that despite having passion for books, and loving anything to do with books, it isn’t simply going to be enough. There’s a lot of competition in the publishing industry for the most sought after jobs - you need to show them that you have something they want, aside from the passion and love for books. Like any employer in any sector, they want to see that you’re a hard worker, a team player, can take initiative - that you have a great can do attitude and don’t expect your job to be all roses where you sit about drinking tea and reading books. Knowledge of the industry, the different roles, and what’s required of each, is vital. (Insert that famous quote here - knowledge is power).
This would also be a good time to introduce you to the world of the “dreaded” CV’s and Cover Letters. Essentially, these two would be the documents where you sell yourself and your best assets to persuade an employer to take you. For anyone who wants more in depth talk on CV’s and Cover Letter’s - feel free to leave a comment below on what you’d like me to talk about - otherwise I shall move on here and assume everyone is familiar with the two.
As someone who’s never worked - and by never, I actually mean never - I’m one of those people who concentrated wholeheartedly and fully on her education - and in her spare time, chilled out and enjoyed my freedom. I never wanted to get my priorities tangled as I’ve seen many of my friends take on jobs during education - and while it worked for them - I knew I didn’t want to have to compromise my educational work to fill in the hours to earn cash.
So, bringing things back on to track after my tendencies to digress, during the final months of first year uni, I started applying left, right, and centre for any publicity/editorial/design internships or summer jobs for I thought they were the areas I’d excel in and enjoy. That’s not to say I didn’t apply for every other publishing department - from trade rights, down to sales and everything in between. I have to stress, that while it’s great to apply for the areas you want to work in - remember that having experience in other departments too can only boost your skill set and look good on your CV. Also, you never know, you may end up loving the department you thought you had least interest in. I must have sent out, what I can only guess, to be 100+ applications, and in the end, an online magazine/free paper company called me in to intern for them for a month as a graphic designer. I should highlight here, that when starting out, you will get rejections. Endless rejections. Some won’t even reply back to you to tell you they don’t wish to take you on - others will - but either way, I faced a lot of disappointment at the beginning when applying for jobs. Of course I accepted that given I’ve never worked before, it’ll be hard for people to take me on, but nonetheless, seeing rejections did hurt.
I can only say - that don’t be disheartened. This is a true test of your persistence, to get back up after being knocked down. Do not take rejections personally or to heart, if you really wanted it, sure, you can mourn over a missed opportunity - but then move on to the next challenge and keep applying. All you need is 1 yes, to get a foothold into some experience - that’s what I told myself and keep telling myself even now. That 1 yes from the online magazine company was a great opportunity to get some experience and hone my skills - and get some relevant work experience on my CV. It was an added bonus that I hugely enjoyed working there - and if nothing - I’m glad I took the chance to have fun with some great, creative people.
During my second summer of uni, I went away on holiday with my family, so we can skip the whole saga there and come right down to end of university - post graduation, with months upon months of free time stretching ahead of me. This is where it got real serious. The plan after my first internship was, to find 2 more short stints at publishing firms, so that by end of university, I’ll have a CV prepped with experience, rearing to go and get a job. However, as far as plans go, that didn’t happen. I had a spot of work with Hot Key Books Publishing for 2 weeks during Christmas, which would have been my second internship to fill in my 3, however due to technicality issues, they had to let me go.
So, there I was (to again, sum up) - I had finished university, trying to find a few more internships to do before applying for real paid jobs. I worked tirelessly on my CV, trying to make it look good, appealing to employers. As for the cover letter - I searched templates upon templates of what a catchy, attractive and “good” cover letter was for someone going into the publishing industry. I even wrote out a few templates, following the good ‘ole guide on the Guardian. But I never really felt like they represented me. So. I took the plunge. Discarding all templates for cover letters I had amassed, I decided to start afresh, and literally, I kid you not, I started writing from the heart.
Here’s a little sneak peak of how my Cover Letter actually starts off:
“As Sahina Bibi stalks her way through the halls of the recruitment agency, heads turn from the people who recognise her. Questions are being whispered from ear to ear. Myths, legends, speculations are being traded. Our cameraman was able to capture some of these questions and pitched them to Miss Bibi. Here’s what she had to say on the matter.”
The rest of the cover letter, is laid out in a sort of question and answer session - almost like I’m being interviewed. I created 5/6 questions that interviewers would “ask” me during this session - so that my answers would highlight what I thought my best assets were - all in a fun, and creative manner.
It’s risky as hell. It’s a truly unconventional cover letter, and some publishers even said so when they viewed my application. Yet I was 110% overjoyed with my work, and felt it was a true representation of my personality and skill and so I stuck with it. A lot of publishers who responded to my application, were sorry to say that I was unsuccessful in my application, however they found my approach “refreshing” and “fun” and very “creative and eye catching”. I got a lot of positive feedback on my cover letter from employers, despite being turned down for the job - and I couldn’t be happier (as happy as one can be, despite still getting rejected).
My point here is - that employers will look through hundreds of cover letters - you want yours to stand out - and this is your one chance. Not to say that a normal, conventional and greatly written cover letter won’t get you a chance - but you have nothing to lose in taking a risk and being creative. This industry is all about being creative - about writing, about reading. Use that perk to get you noticed. Be happy with what you send out. I know I was. After graduating, I continued to send out gazillions of applications, with hundreds of rejections pouring in, with a handful of acceptances thrown in (which I had to turn down for various reasons) - until that is, 1 sly acceptance had made its way into my inbox - from Hodder & Stoughton at Hachette Publishing.
And this, is where I will wrap up part 2 - The Tremulous Trek To The Top, and will regale you with the rest of my adventure - in Part 3 - Short Stint at Something Spectacular @ Hodder & Stoughton, which will be up in the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled ;)
Again, to see the first post, which was Part 1 - The Disreputable History Of One Sahina Bibi just click the link or click here to take you straight there. I hope you’re all still alive after reading this very long winded post, but nonetheless, if you’re still with me - I wana thank you so much for taking an interest and please, feel free to leave comments or send questions my way if you have any at all :)