It’s always hard to anticipate what a work placement will be like. As hard as you study or as much as you read or talk about the industry, it can sometimes be something else entirely to work in it even for a short amount of time. Perhaps it was the ominous fact I was starting my placement on April Fools’ Day (no, seriously), but even walking up the idyllic Belford Road toward Alban Books’ office didn’t do much for my nerves! Thankfully, my introduction to the world of marketing and metadata was anything but nerve wracking.
Alban Books, established in 1995, provides sales, marketing, customer service, and distribution across the United Kingdom and Europe for 6 US publishers, and distribute for several others. Their product range covers a broad selection of faith-based texts, varying from fiction to scholarly, children’s books to biographies. The office in Bristol is the heart of the company’s sales team, dealing with customers, libraries, and booksellers alike, while Edinburgh is where Alban heads up its marketing and publicity efforts, along with stock management, and bibliographic data.
Upon arriving, I was shown to my desk and given all my login information before being set to work. I had managed to arrive just before the influx of new titles for Fall 2016 started flooding in, so there was a lot to get done! My main reason for selecting Alban for my placement had been to develop my marketing knowledge and skills, and after a quick chat, we determined some of the tasks I would be working on. These ranged from putting together promotional flyers, editing AI sheets to be sent to booksellers, and composing newsletters alerting consumers to forthcoming titles and new promotions. I was also tasked with a variety of other duties, including preparing deliveries for Alban’s main warehouse, Marston, and updating the company website.
My placement also coincided with London Book Fair this year, and I jumped at the chance when Jonny offered to bring me along to a few of his meetings with the likes of data management and analysis providers, BooksoniX and Nielsen. It was a great opportunity to listen in and gain a bit more insight into how the publishing industry operates.
Over the course of my placement, I gained a lot of confidence and even more valuable advice from all the friendly staff on the team: from Elaine Reid, Alban’s Marketing Manager who has been my first port of call when my fledgling marketing skills failed to help me; to Managing Director Jonny Gallant who always has an anecdote or a useful tidbit of information; to Margaret Reid heading up Accounts and who was usually the one buzzing me in with a cheery “good morning!” first thing; to former MSc Publishing alumni Nadia Suchev, who provides her own insight into the hazy world of sales and marketing, and sympathised over the demands of coursework!
Alban Books has been a great company to intern for. I was given a chance right from the beginning to think about what I wanted to do with my placement, and try to work with them to find something that would help me get the most out of the experience. I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue interning for a little while longer until the end of May, and I look forward to what I’ll continue to learn while I’m there.