Publishing 101: Hayley Steed on Getting a Job in Publicity

We’re coming to the end of our Publishing 101 series now, but not before we’ve heard from another publishing superstar! Hayley works in publicity and is moving on to pastures new. Here’s how she managed it!

tell me your secrets

I graduated in July 2014 with a First Class Degree in English from Loughborough University. From there I worked for a local interiors magazine up until October when I then decided to quit to pursue publishing which had always been my dream. I had my first bout of work experience at Random House Children’s publishing the same month, then I interned at various literary agencies and publishing houses including Ed Victor, Hardman and Swainson, Mulcahy Associates, DK, Darley Anderson and finally Biteback – those were all expenses only. I got my first paid internship with Curtis Brown in March where I was for nearly three months before being offered my role in publicity at EDPR which was a paid internship with a possible job at the end of it. I was made permanent in August, a full year after graduating. Now, after an amazing year with EDPR I’ve just moved jobs to work at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency.

you go glen coco

I’m quite lucky in the sense that my auntie let me stay rent-free in her house in Zone 6 when I was interning. I worked in a restaurant at home in between internships and also freelanced whilst interning, proofreading in the evenings for Endeavour Press to pay for my food and other expenses. But I was lucky enough not to have to pay rent. Before she joined, my colleague at EDPR worked at a restaurant in the evenings to pay for rent and bills whilst interning unpaid. She was working over 100 hours a week at times just to get a chance in publishing. It’s a huge issue that these internships are only really available to affluent candidates, London based candidates, or those prepared to work insane second jobs, and it’s something that needs to be addressed. There are many publishing houses which are getting better at offering paid experience but the problem is that nowadays you seem to need experience to get experience. It’s not fair that talented people are missing out. I’m a big supporter of the new Spare Room project which gives others what I had – a free place to stay whilst interning!

My tips:

  • Contacts are invaluable. So is knowledge. Everyone in publishing knows each other and will speak highly of you if they liked you. Similarly, I know of a girl who interned before her third year of University and was offered a job for when she graduated the next year. Keep in touch with companies and keep an eye on vacancies there. Get involved in the industry so people know your name. Go to book launches and festivals (if you can), join in with Twitter chats, read as much as you can, keep up to date with deals, the charts, who works where etc. Consume knowledge!

i can't stop reading

  • Don’t give up and don’t get bitter. I probably had about 100 rejections in that year I interned, jobs that other employees expected me to get too, and it can be a real knockback in confidence and determination. Even if you have all the experience in the world and you think you deserve it, there’s plenty of other people with similar or more experience also applying, including people moving companies who are already in the role. Don’t waste time being angry because it’ll show, just keep applying. Half of it is luck and timing, the rest is you.
  • Update your social media. I’ve had so many interviewers say to me that the first thing they look at is your Twitter page. All I did was make sure I didn’t say anything I wouldn’t be happy for my potential boss to read. I know of people who’ve lost out by having Twitter bios including ‘borderline alcoholic’ and ‘chronically unemployable.’ Don’t compromise yourself, but make sure it looks professional because anyone can see it and they’ll want to hire someone who will represent their company well online and offline.

phone scrolling

  • Take advantage of what’s available to you. If you can, intern in various departments so you can see what’s for you. If you can’t afford to intern in London, work in your local bookshop, start a book blog or look out for freelance work like the proofreading I did. If you’re eligible, make the most of Critical Access and talk to anyone you know in the industry to see if anything is available. I would email agencies/publishing houses every few months and a lot of internships I got were from speculative applications. Similarly, if you can’t get straight into publishing, take a job in another industry and move into publishing when you have the relevant skills to match your love of books.
  • Be creative and stand out. I got my most recent job because I went over the top. With the task, I added graphics I’d designed and other ideas for selling the book as well as the written report. I know of people who go to publicity/marketing interviews with full portfolio plans for books and it does impress. Offer something more in your answers, come up with suggestions and show what you bring to the table. Chat with them about books and the industry, as well as just answering their questions.

breakfast club

  • Improve your interview technique. Similarly get friends to read over your CV and covering letter or get a recruiter to take a look which they will for free. With interviews, I always thought it was obvious I felt passionate or excited about a job. Then I saw a video of myself on a book trailer and I looked flat, even though I know at the time I was buzzing. I often found I got a lot of interviews but got no further so knew that was where I was falling down. Film yourself, run fake interviews, practise, improve and ask for advice. It’ll help deter nerves too. Interviews are your one chance to prove yourself so don’t waste it.

I’m on Twitter @hayleyemmasteed and am more than happy to talk to anyone trying to get into the industry.

Previous Posts

Publishing 101: What do publishers do? Part 1
Publishing 101: What do publishers do? Part 2
Publishing 101: Meet the Publishers
Publishing 101: Pip Watkins on Being a Book Designer
Publishing 101: Faye Rogers on Launching Her Dream PR Company
Publishing 101: What if I don’t live in London?
Publishing 101: Do I need a degree?

Coming up!

Publishing 101: Getting into the Industry

What do you want to know? Let us know at @maximumpopbooks!

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Written by Sophie Waters

Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.

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