Recently I was contacted by someone possibly undertaking the MSc Publishing course later this year, looking for some answers and reassurance about what the course entails. I was immediately reminded of my own nerves prior to postgrad life, having had many of the same questions myself (but not taking the smart step of finding the answers, as this person has done). Whilst I’m one who’d only call themselves wise ironically, and definitely don’t have all the answers, perhaps this post will help relieve some stress, even if only for one person! Now, all aboard the train to Tip Town.
Don’t panic (as any good hitchhiker will know).
Generally good advice for life, but especially on an MSc. Whether you’ve gone straight into an MSc from undergrad, or are returning to education after however many years, it can be a shock to the system with how it differs from what you’re used to – whether that be assessments, the level of independent study, etc. Don’t panic! The tutors on this course are happy to answer your questions, no matter how stupid the questions may seem to you. We’re all here to learn, and they’re here to teach us.
Help others, and let others help you.
The peer support throughout this course has been spectacular. At the beginning of the year someone set up a Facebook group for all of us to join, and it’s a great way to check if your small queries can be answered before emailing one of the tutors who are undoubtedly very busy. In class it’s also super handy – everyone has different experiences which lend varying skills, for example I used to be an English tutor and therefore have a keen eye for grammar and can glance over pieces of writing. Others have more technical experience, and can help in an InDesign or Photoshop crisis. Helping your pals as you go is also a great way to cement what you’re learning in your brain, and ensure that you’re remembering the new skills being taught.
Get online (or rather, get MORE online).
As mentioned in the previous point, Facebook is good for keeping in sync with your classmates. In terms of having a professional benefit, Twitter is the way to go. The publishing world is super active on Twitter, and it’s a great way to get a feel for the general temperament of the industry (spoiler alert: everyone’s lovely). You can also begin to establish your own online presence by engaging in discussions. Also be sure to check out the course’s hashtag, #PublishingPostgrads, to see what we’re up to (and give us all a follow). Additionally, LinkedIn is fab for keeping track of who you know and what they do.
Go to London Book Fair – it’s free for students!
Along with Twitter, LBF is a way to keep in touch with the publishing industry, by attending talks and seeing what’s being discussed – for example, this year it was great to see that more and more people are encouraging the industry to be less London-centric. It’s also good to get a feel of how LBF works, before possibly having to go there as a professional yourself.
Join the SYP (Society of Young Publishers).
Throughout the year SYP run events for publishing newbies, both to entertain and educate. One such event that I found incredibly helpful was their 6×6 in October – six people from the publishing sphere, each talking for six(ish) minutes about their roles. This was a great way to find out about the different areas of publishing which, plot twist, is more than just editorial (not sass by the way, editorial is one of my interests).
You don’t need experience before the course.
One thing that the prospective student was concerned about was lacking any experience in publishing. You don’t need existing knowledge prior to the MSc – our tutors put us at ease on the first day by saying they’ll assume that we know nothing. Phew! However, if you are concerned about not having any, a great way to ease in is by getting a job as a reader. This is where you’re sent manuscripts by a publisher, and give a report on whether you think it’s worthy of publishing. For you it’s a way to gain knowledge of the ins and outs of a publishing house, and for them it’s free opinions and advice. Win-win.
Proofread your work! Trust me.
Do it. Multiple times. Take it from someone who had put Chapter Four in her book file twice, instead of Chapter Three and Chapter Four. That would’ve been just a little bit of a mistake. Yikes.
Read The Bookseller.
Speaking of work – researching can be daunting. The Bookseller is a magazine that, as is evident from the title, focuses on the book trade. With both articles and bestseller lists, it can serve as both inspiration if you need a topic to focus on, and provide the data when you have decided on one. They do a great subscription deal for students, but the course also has copies available to peruse on campus.
Don’t panic! (Again.)
Yes, I know I said it already but really, don’t panic.
Last, but by no means least – don’t forget to relax.
As with any course, you need to have a work-life balance to prevent burning out. You can always make your procrastination productive(ish), by watching films with loose representations of the book trade. For example The Holiday, in which Jude Law is an editor, or You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan depict the struggle between chain and indie booksellers. It counts as education, guys. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
Good luck to all prospective students! It’s a great course. Hopefully I’ve eased some worries, but feel free to message me on Twitter, @elisabethgreeno, if you have any specific questions – as a fellow worrier I’m always happy to help.