It was an early 5:00 a.m. start (and probably the only time I was excited for my alarm to go off so early) as I eagerly boarded my train for my trip to Penguin Random House’s JobHack event in Blackpool (thankfully avoiding any strikes or delays!). I had been excitedly awaiting this day since I received an email saying I had been selected to join the event back in October.
On arrival everyone from the PRH team was so friendly and, after a quick registration, the day began. We started with an ice breaker called Human Bingo to diffuse any awkwardness and to get to know each other before diving into our first activity. Here, we had to organise the chain of events involved from the acquisition of book to its publication and the steps in between and, wow, there were even more than I had realised from classes.
Our first main workshop on a specific role was in Editorial given by Sharan an Editor in the Children’s team. In her talk she really broke down her role into three key tasks: acquire, edit, and publish. She then set us an activity wherein we had to create a book for a gap in the market, and then pitch it as if we were an editor in a meeting. It was so interesting hearing other groups’ ideas and their perceptions of the market – with people coming up with a cookbook, a book on mansplaining, men’s mental health, and a LGBTQ + history in the UK.
Following on from editorial we had a workshop from Amy on her role in Sales. It was so interesting hearing her insights on the market and the growth of English language books in China especially for Peppa Pig, and how a book is viewed as a mini start-up in terms of investment. The task set by Amy was to give a three-minute sales pitch to a representative from Waterstones on why they should stock Feminists Don’t Wear Pink. It was a great challenge to combine our ideas into such a brief presentation while still hitting the key points.
Our last workshops of the day were a CV and Rights workshop given by Elie and Mairead. It was so interesting in the CV workshop to hear just how many applications are received for roles like editorial (nearly 800 at times!) and the importance of mirroring the tone of the advert in one’s cover letter. To practice this, we had to generate our own CV and cover letter based on the cut-out examples provided, and it was so interesting to see what content and structure is important to include. For Mairead’s workshop we found out the importance of selling serial rights, especially for cookbooks, and the importance of knowing if an author has an audience outside of the UK. As a means of attempting this we were given the task of trying to decide if a particular book would sell to another market and if there would be any challenges or changes needed to achieve this. It was so interesting to think about how puns might not translate or the fact that recipes would also need to be changed.
After a final Q&A session we were presented with our prizes for each activity (my group won the Feminists Don’t Wear Pink activity!) and then the PRH members generously allowed us to take three books from the selection provided, as well as giving us the chance to stay around and ask any further questions. A book lover and publishing postgrad’s dream!
It was such an amazing day and I am so grateful the train strike didn’t stop me from attending and meeting so many great people and books!