My Placement at EUP

‘I can confirm we would be happy to take you on for a two-week work experience placement’. I couldn’t believe it when I received Rebecca’s email: they had a free spot in June and they wanted me. I was finally going to do a placement at Edinburgh University Press. Scaring as it might seem, on the 4th of June I put on my brightest smile, took a deep breath, and started my first day. Little did I know that day that this would have been one of the most intense and formative experiences of my year here in Edinburgh as a publishing postgrad student. Should I tell all the things that I’ve done during my placement, two more weeks wouldn’t probably be enough. So, I’ve decided to list the highlights of my experience at EUP, a sort of a personal ‘best of’ of my internship.

 

Most rewarding achievement

I designed two promotional showcards that were meant to be shown at conferences. Given the time constraint – I had just a couple of hours to complete each one of them – I wasn’t really sure that the results would meet the marketing team’s expectations. To my surprise, not only did they like it, but also they decided to actually use them at the conferences.

 

Most surprising finding

Did you know you can work in Editorial and not have to edit, proofread, or copyedit? I did not know this…I’ve always thought that working in Editorial was all about commissioning, copy-editing, proof-reading, which was the reason why I’d never considered a career in this area in the UK – as a non-native speaker I thought I wouldn’t have any chance. As it turns out, some editorial positions do not require you having native speaker ability in English. As an Editorial Assistant, for example, you might find yourself mostly dealing with contracts, royalties and liaising with authors rather than copy-editing a manuscript. A brand new world was opening up to me, thanks to these wonderful people who explained to me how an Editorial department actually works.

 

Most challenging task

It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I had to push myself to the limits and accept challenging tasks, testing myself with things I did not feel comfortable doing – the famous ‘stepping out of the comfort zone’ which basically brought me here from Italy in the first place. But I knew it would be worth it.

All of the tasks I was asked to fulfil were stimulating and somehow challenging for me, but there was one in particular that made me think ‘Okay, that’s it! Call yourself out and reveal to everyone you’re not able to cope with it.’ That was when I was asked to create a copy for a postal subscription campaign. Despite being provided with several examples and access to the immense, resourceful internet, I couldn’t help but think I couldn’t make it. Turned out I can write copy, too! Okay, might not have been the most convincing and nicely written letter anyone’s ever done, don’t even know if they actually ended up using it, but I was happy enough to have at least completed the task! And yes, I’d do it again.

 

Most inspiring person

During these two weeks I’ve met people from different departments, had the opportunity to hear from them about their jobs and get advice for my career. They were all super professional, but also extremely friendly to me. I started making a list of the people to whom I’m mostly grateful and from whom I’ve learned more.

I have to mention Rebecca, first and foremost, Journal Publishing Assistant and my guide throughout the entire experience. But also: Kirsty and all the editorial team; Ian, Ann and the wonderful production people; Carla, Naomi and the funny guys at marketing; Sarah and everyone at the journal department.

To answer the question ‘Who’s the most inspiring person you met?” I would say that each one of them has been inspiring to me: they gave me different perspectives on the company and on the industry and shared their experience and knowledge. I believe the thing that made this experience valuable is what I would call “the human touch”: this opportunity I had to link on a professional and personal level with all these wonderful people, their openness, the passion they communicated for their jobs, their making sure I felt like part of the team, even if only for a short time.

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The Beginner’s Guide to the Publishing Galaxy

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If you’d known me one year ago, you would have found me comfortably sat behind my desk in an elegant office in the centre of Bologna, surrounded by piles of freshly-made colourful children’s books produced by the printer I was working for. Later in the evening, seeing me hanging out with a bunch of friends while sipping prosecco, you would have probably thought: “That’s a fulfilling life! That 34-year-old guy must feel accomplished and happy.” I thought that too, until —

One day my little planet made of certainties and habits fell apart: I realised that my comfortable life was constraining me and that I was giving up my dreams of working in Publishing – with a capital P­. Don’t get me wrong, working in printing had taught me a lot about publishing, and it gave me the chance to be a privileged observer. The point is that I didn’t want to watch people doing what I was supposed to be doing. Not anymore.

So, I decided to take a one-way ticket to my future, hoping to find my way through the publishing world.

A few months later I found myself thrown in a new galaxy, far from everything I knew, with many fears and expectations. It was at the same time a jump back in time – as I had to start over a new degree after almost ten years out of school – and a step forward into an unknown and attractive future, speaking a language I was not really confident with.

I won’t lie: it hasn’t been easy to adapt to this new world. There’s no ready-to-use manual for those who are entering this industry. Nevertheless, in the past few months I have learnt a few tips I decided to put down into a little vademecum for those who might want to undertake this path, be it in Scotland or elsewhere, freshly graduated twenty-something students as well as worldly-wise, intrepid dreamers in their thirties like me.

  1. The publishing industry is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind bogglingly big it is.

Being an editor is undoubtedly cool, but becoming an InDesign wizard and having the power to shape a book must be quite rewarding too. Everyone enjoys reading fiction, but there’s much more: educational books, cookery books, guides, dictionaries… Be open to all opportunities that may appear. You will come across possibilities you didn’t even know existed.

  1. A twitter account is about the most massively useful thing you can have.

Be social: create your account, comment, retweet, share your ideas, make yourself known to the industry. You’ll be surprised to find out that your opinion counts and that there are people out there who are willing to listen to what you have to say. Spread your voice around!

  1. Networking is NOT learning how to throw yourself in the middle of a bunch of aliens and avoid being devoured.

That’s a tough part, I admit. At the beginning, you might want to be unnoticed and disappear into the walls. You are not in danger though. Publishers are a warm and friendly community of people and you are one of them now. Put on your widest smile (a glass of wine might be a precious ally), and have fun talking to them. Show them how much you care. Their advice is the most valuable help you might receive. (The SYP parties are a good place to start familiarising yourself with that. And they occasionally offer damn good pizza, too!)

  1. Don’t Panic.

At times you might feel awkward, lost, not smart/original/creative enough. As in one of the best British books series I might have accidentally quoted here and there, the key is simple: “don’t panic”. It’s a brand new world for you, and you are just a baby making your first steps. If you’ve come so far, it means that you got it in you to succeed. In case you still feel insecure, you may have found the answer to the question: “Why are motivational self-help books so popular these days?” Good job! (Consider getting one.)

Thus said, it could seem like I have overcome all my fears and I am perfectly confident with myself, right? No. Not at all. After all, my journey has just begun, the destination is still unknown but—

I’m making the best of this journey, and it’s worth every second!