Advice to Publishing Hopefuls from a Duckworth Publishing Assistant

21/07/2022

Hello to the publishing world and people who aspire to enter. I’m Hodan and I’m writing about my experience of working in an indie publishing house!

I was inspired to write this blog entry because there are many stories of people giving up on their dreams because breaking into the industry is challenging and competitive. We are all book lovers fighting for the right to be here.

Knowing where to look for a role and getting advice on starting your search can be daunting! It’s understandable because my first questions and Googles out of university were ‘is publishing a hard industry to break into?’ and ‘what skills do I need to get into publishing?’ This led to an endless cycle of searches that did not give me clear answers.

Luckily, I found a role as a Sales and Publicity Assistant at Duckworth by applying on my council job board. My role is part of the government work scheme, Kickstarter, that gives young people ages 18-25 six months of work experience.

My time at Duckworth taught me much about what is needed for a person to work in publishing beyond a love of books. (Although loving books makes work more fun!)

I hope the following advice will help you to make the most of your experience and give publishing hopefuls an insight into what you should look for.

Explore working for a small publishing house

Go Small! Its More Fun Than The Big Guys! We PromiseDon’t only set your sites on the Big Four publishing houses and their imprints. See if your local area has a publishing house; you will be surprised with whom you find.

When I started looking for a role in publishing, I knew about the Big Four, the powerhouses of the industry. When it came to looking for a position within publishing, I was only looking on their job boards. I didn’t realise I was limiting myself as there are so many other places to work, including indie publishing houses or magazines and a thousand other creative forms of publishing.

Duckworth Books wasn’t on my radar, but it should have been – it’s a legacy publishing house. With its 125-year anniversary next year, it has stood firm as an independent for so long!

Working in a small team is fantastic. I was able to contribute many ideas that influenced decisions, which I doubt would have been the case if I was working in a big publishing house. It was so helpful in building my professional confidence.

It can be hard to deal with the enormous amount of media and blogger mail-outs that I had to send (I am best friends with the postman at this point), but it was always within a relaxed, supportive atmosphere which has been amazing whilst learning the ins and outs.

In a small publishing house, I felt that my growth and development were considered and seen as significant. My manager, Matt (Head of Sales, Publicity and Marketing), has been great, especially in answering my many questions. I asked so many questions… Matt should be knighted!

 

Prepare goals of what you want to learn

 

Goals with a Bullseye that has an arrow in the centre

 

When starting the role, I wrote out three goals I wanted to achieve. They were small, but they helped me to focus on what I wanted to do each week. I also did this because I wanted a documented trail of my achievements.

MY PERSONAL GOALS

  • Share an idea or speak my opinion in a meeting

I struggle to voice my opinion in professional situations. Or I accidentally blurt out an idea without explaining it because I panic and word vomit. Having this goal has allowed me to think and plan my thoughts. As the weeks went on, thoughtfully sharing my ideas became second nature.

  • Learn something new each week

It could be a word, a process, an idea, or a discussion that I found interesting. I set this goal because I usually forget the nugget of information I hear while working and then get frustrated because I didn’t investigate that interest. An example is the fun I had looking into how books are turned into braille. I asked the owner, Pete, and he was terrific, giving me a detailed explanation. Afterwards, I watched videos and read more about the subject.

  • Ask for help when I need it and tell others if I’m lost/confused

As a person with learning difficulties (ADHD and dyslexia), I am very good at making mistakes and then taking them personally. But in this role, I informed my team about my limitations because I have learned that people can’t help or see you struggle if you don’t tell them. This means I can go to work and be honest with the team when I get lost or overwhelmed by a task, allowing them to help me and continue developing.

 

Write down what you are learning as you go!

Writing it All Down

 

Documenting your journey is beneficial to growing your confidence and learning what skills you have developed and need to work on.

During a previous internship, I was lucky to have a manager who told me to keep a working spreadsheet of what I do each week because it would be helpful to me in the future. I laughed and said ‘that’s too much work’ but I did it anyway because he implemented it into our weekly one-to-ones, which meant I had to do it…

This was the best advice I ever got as a young person starting my career. (Thank you, Manager!)  When you are working, it can be tough to see your growth and development, and you can sometimes forget cool things that you did, making you feel like you’re not learning.

But with a work journal, it’s right there in front of you.

Here’s an example:

 

An Example of My Work Growth Tracker

 

I use a spreadsheet on Notion, project management and notetaking software, to track my learning and the skills I have developed. I write weekly or daily depending on what I’ve accomplished.

By doing this, I have seen my growth and found places where I need to improve. It also helps when you want to talk to your manager about where they can help you and demonstrate how you have been a critical team member. Also, it’s a place to pull information from when you are looking for your next adventure because it can be challenging to remember what you have done.

To publishing hopefuls who have found this blog post, I hope my advice is helpful and makes your search a little easier.

Thanks for reading,

 

Hodan Ibrahim

@IbrahimHodan