I mentioned a while ago that I still had some things I wanted to write about the Society of Young Publishers’ Careers Conference waaaay back in November; finally I have a spare hour to do so.  I want to write about the talk I heard from Clare Morrison, a Senior Marketing Executive at Random House, because I found what she had to say very interesting, very inspirational, and very thorough.  It’s not my intention to repeat word for word what she said about working in Marketing, but rather to try and give an overall impression of what it was all about, and why I found it so eye-opening.

Marketing is essentially about informing the target audience about your product and influencing them to buy it: essentially, advertising books.  Publicity is closely related to it, but the crucial difference is money: Marketing has a budget to spend, whereas publicists try and generate news stories and reviews of a book without spending money to do so.

There are two aspects to Marketing: the ‘sell-in’ and the ‘sell-out’.  The ‘sell-in’ is focused within the trade, ie on bookshops.  Marketing will liase with the sales teams to ensure they have a full knowledge of the product to promote it to bookshops and encourage them to stock, promote and sell the book.  The ‘sell-out’ targets the consumer – the readers – directly, trying to encourage and persuade them to walk into the bookshop, or click through to the online retailer, to actually buy the book.

There are obviously a huge number of different ways to do this, and one of the things that appealed to me was how creative it seemed.  Marketing in Publishing is essentially advertising and promotion, so you constantly have to be developing new and more creative ways of making your book stand out above the competition.  Of course, different types of books will be marketed in very different ways; academic publishers still need to pursuade libraries and universities to buy their textbook over a competitors,.  It’s in the name: Marketing is about identifying your intended market of readers, raising their awareness of your product, and influencing them to buy it.

This can be done through: catalogues, posters, promotional items (notebooks, mugs, pencils, bookmarks), advertising space in trade and consumer magazines, bill-boards, Underground posters, bus posters, press articles, author and publisher websites, social networking websites, Youtube, reading groups, TV and film tie-ins… and that’s just for starters.  Nowadays, the internet and other interactive media are becoming increasingly important for marketing; thus, a Marketing department might launch an online competition inviting readers to design the cover of a forthcoming book; or they might combine traditional and new techniques by advertising on posters a number to be texted if you want to download the first chapter of a book from a website.  They might also go even more wacky and ‘arty’ by setting up a bed strewn with books in the middle of a London square or having ‘live’ installations in bookshop windows: anything unusual to grab peoples’ attention and get them interested.

Marketing appeals to me because the whole reason I want to work in Publishing is because I love books.  Marketing is the side of Publishing that allows you to share that passion for books with your readers: you are promoting something you love.  The creative element is obviously appealing too; in Editorial you help an author shape and develop their words; in Marketing you work with the design team to create engaging and innovative, often visual, campaigns to draw the reader in.  It also seems to be a sector of publishing which would be very varied.  You would have to work with a huge number of different contacts both inside and outside publishing, and no two projects would ever be the same.  There is obviously a lot more to it than just swanning around designing posters, and I would think you would have to be very business orientated as well:  you have to be focused on your aims, know your product and your market inside out, and tailor your creativity accordingly.

Nevertheless, it is definitely something I can see myself doing, enjoying, and being good at, for the same reasons that Editorial also appeals: the mixture of skills and ideas you would have to have; the blend of innovative managerial, business, and financial decisions which would have to be made with confidence and creativity.

Yesterday was my first time at the London Book Fair, which must be a rite of passage for anyone wanting to work with books. Of course I was only there as an observer, but it was great fun wandering the aisles, watching all the meetings going on at the different publishers’ stands, reading the name badges of everyone who walked past and going ‘ooh, she works for Penguin…. ooh there’s the head of Oxford University Press’ and of course oogling all the gorgeous books. Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is absolutely massive, and it was awe-inspiring to see it filled to the rafters with books!

I was there for two reasons: firstly, I had booked myself a 15 minute free careers consultation with the Bookseller’s (in association with Random House) Careers Centre, and I wanted to go to the seminar the Society of Young Publishers were hosting entitled ‘Getting ahead in UK publishing.

The careers consultation was with a lovely lady from the Human Resources and Recruitment department of Random House, and she gave me some useful tips about my C.V. She also gave me some advice about the advantages and disadvantages of doing a Publishing MA versus trying to get an entry level job through doing back-to-back work experience placements and temp work with agencies like careermoves.com. Personally I’m keen on the idea of doing an MA, because I think it gives you a good overview of the industry and an understanding of the business side of Publishing.

Which is exactly what the message of some of the speakers at the Seminar was, albeit they also admitted doing a further year of study after university isn’t for everybody. The panel included Alison Baverstock, Senior Lecturer at Kingson University, Ros Kindersly, the Managing Director of JFL Search and Selection, a Publishing Recruitment Consultancy, Iain Stevenson, Professor of Publishing at University College London, and Jeremy Trevathan, Publishing director at Pan Macmillan. Their overall message focused on the importance of developing a sense of professionalism and remembering that Publishing is a business that has to make money, it is not just about loving books. They also emphasised the importance of doing as much work experience as possible and of building up a network of contacts as Publishing is a very sociable industry. They also highlighted the variety of roles within Publishing other than Editorial that also provide interesting opportunities – for example, Production, Rights or Marketing – as well as the variety of tasks within any one role. Each project will be different and so you need to be flexible and creative with a wide range of skills and ideas in order to keep up. And if looking for a job, work experience, or applying for a course, make sure your C.V. is immaculate!

It was a useful and informative event, showing the SYP at their best. Alison Baverstock also launched her latest book at the event: How to get a job in Publishing, published by A&C Black, which looks like an excellent source of good information and advice.