Watkins Insider – Audiobook Appreciation Month with Gigi St John

In case you hadn’t noticed yet, it’s Audiobook Appreciation Month! In honour of the celebration, I asked our Digital Production Assistant Gigi St John to chat with me about the future of audiobook production. 

“Audiobook production is a relatively new and exciting area of the publishing trade, and it’s an area which is currently experiencing massive growth,” says Gigi. Many people struggle with reading. This may be due to sight impairments or dyslexia, or simply struggling to find the time to read – Gigi reminds us that finding the time to sit down with a book can be something of a luxury. However, people do often have the time to listen to audio content as this can be done on the go. From busy parents on the school run, to commuters, students, and people who work with their hands, audiobooks open the door to a new way of receiving stories. But is it really all that new? 

Oral storytelling is a centuries-old tradition. Long before we had standardised written language, oral storytelling was a central part of almost every culture globally. This was often performative, with tone, expression, and voice control being key elements of creating engaging and immersive worlds. The technology we are using today may feel new, from immersive productions like the new audio edition of 1984 with its own original musical score, to the AI-generated software used to manipulate celebrity voices as in the case of Spare by Prince Harry. However, the act and art of storytelling has been honed and revered across centuries of human history.

Gigi advocates strongly for the actors and studios she works with and holds great respect for the art of audiobook narration. I wanted to know if she believes audiobooks can be used as a tool for learning empathy and improving social interactions in young people. “The audiobook medium is really quite intimate. Most people listen solo and you literally have the narrator’s voice in your ear. Listening and relating to that one person in the moment can have a big impact on how you receive the text. Actors add a level of interpretation to the text and can have a huge impact on how it is received. So, yes – I think that the audio format can not only be a useful tool for children developing empathy, but for all of us in our understanding of characters and, by extension, one another.” 

Gigi has limitless praise for the dimension and realness with which actors imbue their narrations. “You can read a character one way on the page, then hear an actor give them a voice and see them in a totally different light.” Here at Watkins, all narrators are approved by the author so Gigi can be confident the final audio rendition represents the book as the author intended. 

A number of our Watkins non-fiction titles have been narrated by the authors themselves, many of whom host or feature on podcasts. I asked Gigi if it was different working on non-fiction with the author narrating their own work. “Non-fiction can really benefit from being read by the author. For example, Talitha Fosh recently narrated the audio version of her book, Hooked. The book speaks to her own experiences, so it just wouldn’t be the same coming from anyone else. On the other hand, fiction really benefits from professional actors who can bring all the different characters to life in a vibrant way.”  

I wanted to know how Gigi thought AI technology could impact the future of audiobook production and, by extension, consumption. Initially an AI sceptic, Gigi has been surprisingly impressed by the samples she has heard thus far. I myself was amazed by the samples I listened to at the London Book Fair earlier this year. “Digital speaking software is not new,” Gigi explains, “and it may create opportunities for smaller publishers to create more audiobooks more affordably.” 

However, Gigi confided in me a worry that AI-generated audiobooks could one day change the nature of audio consumption. Their existence could develop an elitism in which audiences will be willing to pay more for real-voice recordings of celebrity-read audiobooks, or very little for AI-generated ones, but might be less inclined to pay a middling fee for voice actors with whom they are not familiar, but who are professionally trained to bring books to life. She worries about the possibility of non-famous actors being pushed out of the industry and the impact that may have on studios. However, she strongly believes that there will always be a need for professional voices in audio production. 

Audiobook production is still an emerging space. We are constantly seeing new and creative ways of using audio technology, so it is hard to predict exactly what will happen in the next 10 years. This interview has opened my eyes to the complexities of digital production and the exciting developments taking shape. I will certainly be immersing myself in a few audiobooks this month! You can celebrate Audiobook Appreciation Month by listening to one of our incredible audiobooks produced by Gigi St John. All of our audiobooks are available to listen to now on Audible.


I would like to thank Gigi St John for taking the time to speak with me about her role and successes. For more blogs, visit https://watkinspublishing.com/blog/ and subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates on new books, upcoming events and special deals.  

Watkins Insider – Recent Deals in Foreign Rights with Melody Travers

The world of foreign rights publishing is an open and exciting one. Having secured some intriguing deals recently, I asked Rights Team Manager Melody Travers to tell me more about her team and their latest success. 

One recent highlight was the sale of Italian rights to The Japanese Art of Living Seasonally’ authored by Natalie Leon. Melody has noticed a general trend of interest in Japanese culture across Europe in the last few years. Particularly in central Europe like France, Germany, Italy, Spain. Melody says the team was able to secure a significant advance for the book in Italy, which was a nice surprise. Given the fact that Italy is a smaller country, there would be higher production and translation costs in relation to the usually lower print runs compared to countries with a higher population and readership. Additionally, the dense nature of the writing will require a large amount of translation. Recently, the costs associated with translating books has risen due to the rise in the overall cost of living. In the case of ‘The Japanese Art of Living Seasonally’, it is a larger volume title which would therefore be more expensive to translate as translators are usually paid word for word. This can be off putting to publishers outside the UK. This makes the Watkins’ rights team’s achievements even more impressive as it attests to the quality of the material and credentials of the author. 

Books with a lower word count such as art and photography books can be a popular choice for foreign publishers, as long as the content is universally applicable. For example, Watkins produces many books focused on the UK market like ‘England on Fire’ by Ben Edge and his latest book ‘Folklore Rising’, which is currently available to pre-order. These titles address cultural practices unique to the UK which correlates to foreign readers interested in the topic expressing a preference for reading it in English instead of translated. However, at present, folklore and witchcraft books are in demand across Europe and the wider world. These trends open doors to new markets. 

Cookery books have a wide range of appeal. Who does not love learning new recipes and eating delicious food? Melody says, “cookbooks can be interesting as culinary trends vary from country to country; and recognised British chefs might not be as well known abroad.” On rare occasions, particular ingredients have to be changed to account for what is regionally available. In these cases, the author is consulted to see what the best substitute would be or whether it is worth patrons paying a higher price for imported ingredients essential to the dish. These are the unique and engaging challenges working in foreign rights publishing presents. 

Melody expressed her joy at seeing international designs of Watkins books. A recent French edition of Easkey Britton’s ‘Ebb & Flow features a new blue wash across the internal illustrations, tying in with the aqua cover. “Foreign publishers pretty much always design a new cover to match their regional market,” says Melody. If you are curious to see more covers in different languages, check out our Instagram page @watkinswisdom. 

Melody told me her favourite part about her job is building relationships across the world. Whether it’s seeing familiar faces and making deals at Frankfurt Book Fair, having meetings with people from all over at the London Book Fair or attending online meetings that cover several time zones. The personal element of publishing can never be overstated. From the passionate teams who make books to the curious minds that enjoy reading them.

I would like to thank Melody Travers for taking the time to speak with me about her role and successes. For more blogs, visit https://watkinspublishing.com/blog/ and subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates on new books, upcoming events and special deals.  

Behind The Cover – Make Good Trouble with Karen Smith

Last night (March 7th) was the The Academy of British Cover Design awards where Repeater designer Hollie Smith was nominated for the non-fiction category for the cover of Collapse Feminism. In honour of the awards, I spoke to Karen Smith, Head of Book Design at Watkins Media about the decisions behind the cover of Make Good Trouble, written by Briana Pegado.

The process of designing a book cover has several stages. First, the editorial team put together a brief for the designers so they have a better understanding of how they want the book to come across. The design team are also shown examples of competitor titles so they can visualise how the book might look on the shelf of a bookshop next to titles in the same genre.

Make Good Trouble had a somewhat challenging brief.

It was the desire of the team that the cover of Make Good Trouble ought to encapsulate that energy of disruption written about in the book. It had to be dynamic, energetic and have a sense of movement to it. Make Good Trouble was not a book written to be pretty but to be powerful. This was taken into consideration.

The theme of  ‘good trouble’ can be conceptualised in many ways. For example, through the imagery of disturbances like cracks, broken screens, mirrors, rubble and fire. These speak to one half of the brief – trouble – but finding imagery to encapsulate positive disruption fit more closely to the contents of the book. Briana was presented with various designs at each stage of the process and talked through their merits with editor Ella Chappell. I asked Briana to speak to her experience of the process, as she was highly involved throughout:

“The creation of a cover design is a process of exploration, tweaking and prototyping. I love collaborating with a designer to help them bring a vision to life. With the cover for MGT, my editor Ella Chappell initially sent me a few options for the cover. We discussed the merits of each of those options. The designer had clearly done a brilliant job of interpreting the idea of disruption in a visual way, from glitches and smoke emerging across the page, to fissures and cracks running through the typography. We discussed the merits of having a darker background versus a lighter one to allow the design effects to pop. Ultimately, I asked Ella what she thought the book’s target audience might respond to. She explained to me that the cover also goes through a development process internally, taking into consideration the feedback from sales, marketing, publicity and rights departments, who are able to share their expertise on the book’s target audience. In the end, the cover that was both mine and Ella’s favourite was also the favourite among the in-house team. We landed on the image of smoke gathering behind the title of the book. The colours are evocative, but soft, mirroring the message of the book – making good trouble.”

After much brainstorming, Karen and the team agreed upon the image of the conflicting clouds of smoke which you see on the cover today. This final version was presented to Briana and Ella for consideration and received author approval. It has movement, energy and a feeling of change – a sense of pushing against the grain without being aggressive or violent. These colourful puffs overwhelm the page without hanging heavy. They imply an immersion into Briana’s world of taking charge and changing for the better. The design is an appeal to action in a transgressive, non-violent yet urgent manner.

The colour scheme was intentionally chosen to reflect a sense of femininity, inspired by Briana’s writing on Goddess Energies. Many books about rebellion and trouble-making have a dark and heavy colour scheme that demands attention from the viewer. However, Briana Pegado’s message is not one of aggression but one of peaceful action and positive change. She connects to her readers on a deeply personal level, appealing to their sense of purpose, values and community.

There was an alternative colour option considered for what would become the final cover, consisting of teal and yellow. The final cover incorporates the Pantone Colour of the Year: Peach Fuzz. The muted pink, peach and blue tones allude to a gentle, uplifting tone whilst still conveying the contrast between pink and blue, representing the activist and the change.

Karen chose a strong, clear, bold typeface for the title MAKE GOOD TROUBLE. It is a darker tone of the pastel green background with transparency allowing the texture of the clouds behind to come through. It is a visual manifestation of how we can view the same world through a different lens, apply new thought to the same problems and create change without destruction. Black is nowhere to be seen on the cover of this inspiring book. There is only optimism and positivity exuding from the cover of Make Good Trouble.

Karen Smith and her designers have done a remarkable job of encapsulating the feeling of Briana Pegado’s text: embracing the energies of disruption in order to make good trouble.

The book Make Good Trouble by Briana Pegado is available to pre-order now. It publishes April 9th 2024.


A Peek into Publishing: Publishing Assistant

Welcome back to the latest Peek into Publishing! We love showing you around our departments and offering insight into a wide range of roles – take a look at our Peek into Publishing page for more posts if you want to work in publishing. This week we’re delving into the world of what it’s like being a Publishing Assistant with Desola Coker.

Desola Antonia Coker, Publishing Assistant

How did you get into the industry and into your current role?

I’d been trying to get into publishing for a while, starting early in my undergrad year when I applied for the Penguin Work Experience placements. I never got in, and it was incredibly difficult to pursue this as I spent a year of my university education abroad. I graduated during the very beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and had been seeking a job since then.

Also, I had a publishing mentor who is honestly the greatest gift I can give to anyone. My mentor, Ruth, coached me on so many things. She helped me with my CV, showed me how to curate my bookstagram to appeal to publishers and also taught me interview skills that helped me land work experience at a Literary and Film Agency in May 2021.

Working at the agency really opened my eyes to the agenting side of publishing, and introduced me to the chaos that is contracts, royalties and deals in general. I really enjoyed working there, and made connections with people that proved pivotal.

After scrolling through Twitter in mid July ’21, I spotted that Angry Robot were looking for a publishing assistant to take over from their previous one. As I’m an avid SFF reader, I decided to apply. It turns out my manager knew someone from my work experience at the agency and reached out to them to ask about me! I completed a task before my second interview, and shortly after this, received a formal invitation for the job.

What does your day to day look like as a Publishing Assistant?

As a publishing assistant, I aid the editorial, publicity and marketing people on our team. There are always a lot of emails! Most days, I spend the bulk of my mornings answering emails that may have appeared overnight. As a lot of our authors are in America, they operate on different time zones, so there are more emails to deal with daily than I first anticipated. Then, I carry out admin requests for the rest of the Angry Robot team, such as updating metadata, posting content on our Twitter account or drafting up contracts for deals.

When I’m in the office, I’m usually sending out proof copies of our books to bloggers and the press. I’ve started to take on more responsibilities such as organising events and doing publicity for certain books, as well as making videos for our TikTok account.

Sometimes, I take in copy edits and proofreads from our freelancers before sending them off to the authors to work on. I’ve been taught how to make digital ARCs as well. Soon, I’m anticipating learning more about typesetting manuscripts. 

What were you most surprised to learn when you started working in publishing?

How much jargon there is! The word ‘embargoed’ barged into my dictionary and it’s pretty much become part of the every day now. I told my friend a secret recently and said ‘it’s embargoed information’ or something like that, and she looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.

What is the best thing about your job? 

I love chatting to the authors! Sometimes I feel like I am nattering on about nothing when I initially email them a request, but each one of them has replied thoughtfully and kindly. They’re all so friendly, and I don’t know why I expected differently!

I also love looking at the covers: the design team at Watkins are brilliant. Sending them a cover brief always makes me happy as I can’t wait to see what they’ll make of it!

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Getting everything done in time! There’s always a lot of things to do, and sometimes I feel like I’m lagging behind. I’m always conscious of things I’m forgetting, and it makes me feel guilty when I don’t get things done in a certain time frame. I’m learning to be much easier on myself when I don’t get these things done as fast as I anticipated, as they will get done. They always do.

What would be your top tip for people applying to work in publishing?

Everyone says you need to figure out which exact department you want to work in, and while I think that’s true, I also think that it’s important to find someone in that department to talk to. A mentor is often key in aiding success if you want to work in publishing. My mentor was brilliant, and still is: she went above and beyond to help me out, and offered an ear to vent my struggles when an interview went wrong, or a job that I thought was perfect to me sent a big fat no back.

It’s important to have one in this industry because they know how hard it is to be in this industry. They have vast amounts of knowledge! Finding a good mentor is key.

What’s one Angry Robot book you’d encourage everyone to read?

It’s difficult to choose just one, but I would say The Cabinet by Un-su Kim. Initially published in 2006, it was translated from Korean and released by us in October 2021 and is a delight! It won the Munhakdongne Award, which is South Korea’s most prestigious literary award. If you’re a fan of his previous novel, The Plotters, or are just interested in researching the South Korean wave (Parasite, Squid Game, BTS and BIGBANG! Start there!), you may want to pick this book up too.

Tell us about a project you’re currently working on

Oh, where do I begin? I’m really excited for the reissue of one of our backlist books, An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows! I also am very excited for the release of Tik-Tokker Stacey McEwan’s book Ledge, which is just… you guys will see when it comes out in September!

That’s all for this week! We hope you gained a little more insight into what it’s like to be a Publishing Assistant. We wish those of you wanting to work in publishing the best of luck! If you want to learn more about upcoming “A Peek Into Publishing” projects, follow Watkins on Twitter.

You can also follow Desola on Instagram and Twitter!

Top Ten Terms: Editorial in Publishing

Happy new year! We’re excited to continue our Peek into Publishing posts in 2022 with more exciting content to help you at the start of your publishing journey. As our first post this year, we’re looking to demystify the jargon used in publishing meetings and around the office. We’ve asked our editorial team to name and define the Top Ten Terms they wished they’d known when they first started in the industry. As they thought of so many important editorial terms, we’re making this a two-part special, with a second list of terms coming soon. 

These terms are useful for anyone looking to work in publishing, or for someone who has recently started out in their first publishing role, whichever department it’s in. They are mentioned in meetings with all departments, so we hope you’ll benefit from learning them! 

If you want to look at terms used in other departments, take a look at our previous Top Ten Terms posts by our rightssales and marketing & publicity departments.

1. Prelims

This includes all the content that appears in the book prior to the introduction or the first chapter. In Watkins’ books this can include:

  • List of endorsements 
  • Title page
  • Imprint page
  • Contents page 
  • Dedication
  • List of author’s previously published titles
  • Foreword
  • Preface

2. Endmatter

This refers to all the content that appears in the book after the final chapter ends. In Watkins’ books this can include:

  • Notes
  • Appendices
  • Glossary
  • Further reading list
  • Bibliography
  • About the author
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index

3. Extent 

Extent is a publishing term for the page count. Printers will require the extent to be a certain number. The printers we use need the extent to be a multiple of 8, (the paper is bound in multiples of 8). So, if our book comes to 198 pages, we will add two pages at the end to make our extent 200 (a multiple of 8). This means we could add content to the end or have these as blank pages (if you’ve ever wondered why some books have blank pages at the end – this is why!)

4. Folios

Folios is another publishing term that has a simpler word – page number. If someone asks you to check the folios are correct, they are asking you to check each page has the page number at the bottom and the numbers are correct. By this, I mean that we don’t skip a number. 

5. Running heads

Running heads normally appear at the top of the page. At Watkins, we put the part name on the left page and the chapter title on the right page. If the book isn’t split into parts, the book title will appear on the left instead. 

6. Title page

You’ll notice I included the title page in my list of content that appears in the prelims. The title page will be one of the first pages you see when you open the book – it has the book title, subtitle, author name and company logo in the exact position as the cover. In fact, it is almost a replica of the cover, sometimes with the design details removed. In black and white books (known as mono books), this will be the cover in black and white. See below for an example of a recently published Watkins book and its title page. 

7. Overmatter

Overmatter refers to content that won’t fit on the page. If you’re working to a strict extent, and the book cannot be over a certain number of pages due to costs, then the designer will set text as overmatter rather than running it on extra pages. So, if a chapter has 3 lines running on a new page, the designer might instead mark this as overmatter at the bottom of the page. The editor would then have to cut the previous page by 3 lines to make sure this text fit. 

8. Heading levels

You may often hear editors and designs talking about A heads and B heads and C heads and … you get my drift. Each heading level will have a certain design to indicate that the A heads are the larger, more important heads and the B heads come under the A heading. For example, an A head in a fitness book could be The Gym and a B head that falls under this could be Treadmills. The headings in the manuscript are labelled clearly so the designer knows the level of each heading and can design them correctly. This will look like the following:

<A head> The Gym <A Head>
<B head> Treadmills <B head>

9. Serial comma

This is a contentious piece of grammar in publishing – everyone has an opinion as to whether you should use one. Also referred to as the Oxford Comma, it’s the comma that appears before and in a list: I want a dog, a cat, and a rabbit. In Watkins, our style dictates we don’t use the serial comma, but this will differ across publishers. 

10. Pre-press check

You might be asked to perform a pre-press check as an Editorial Assistant. This is the final check that the editorial team performs on the book before it goes to press. You are generally checking the contents page is correct, the folios and running headers are all correct, a spell check has been performed to pick up any remaining pesky typos, there are no double spaces or pages with missing text and scanning each page for a final time to make sure no weird design elements catch your eye – for example, an A head isn’t in bold. 

That’s all for this week! We hope you gained a little more knowledge of the editorial terms that get used a lot. We wish those of you seeking a job in editorial (and in publishing in general) the best of luck!

If you want to learn more about upcoming Peek Into Publishing projects, follow Watkins on Twitter. You can see all our previous Peek into Publishing posts on this page. 

A Peek into Publishing: Audio with Sneha Alexander

Welcome back to the latest Peek into Publishing! We love showing you around our departments and offering insight into a wide range of roles – take a look at our Peek into Publishing page for more posts. This week we’re delving into the world of audiobooks with the wonderful Sneha!

Sneha Alexander, Audiobook Assistant

How did you get into the industry and into your current role?

My route into publishing was unusual! After studying English Literature at university, I freelanced for almost five years (in addition to some more studying, including a stint of time learning Mandarin in China). Over the years, I developed a varied portfolio of work that included copywriting, project management and graphic design, as well as general administrative skills.

I’d always wanted to work in publishing (and had applied for a few editorial internships when I first left university), so when the job as Audio Assistant came up I was eager to try it out! I love physical books but am also constantly listening to audiobooks and podcasts – while I’m commuting or pottering around my flat – and I realised that I was much more interested in audiobooks than I had originally thought.

Despite feeling like I wasn’t adequately qualified for the publishing industry, the skills I’d developed on various freelance jobs were in fact the things that got me hired. These skills have also opened up lots of opportunities for me now that I’m in the company – alongside my audio work I also create animations as well as illustrations and design assets for the physical books.

What does your day to day look like as an Audio Assistant?

Like with most jobs, my day starts with my inbox. I’m always excited to see if we have been delivered any sets of audiobook narrator samples from our production studio. I can then listen to these samples and decide which narrators would work best for the audiobook. The next step is to send a shortlist onto the author, who makes the final call.

Once I’ve cleared my inbox, I check the audiobook schedule and make sure we’re on track to deliver our titles in line with their physical publication date. I might have been delivered a full audiobook which requires me to spot-check the files before uploading them to our distribution platforms (ACX and PRH). I also have to make sure that all our authors are happy with the progress we’re making, and that the audio production studios are working within budget. 

In the afternoons (when I’m not in meetings), I work on creating marketing materials, or creating illustrations if there is a physical book that requires them.

What were you most surprised to learn when you started in audio in publishing?

I was surprised by just how many acronyms there are in publishing and how different they sound when spoken instead of written! For example, everyone in the office would talk about “arks” which confused me for a long time as I didn’t connect the word with how I phonetically pronounced ARC’s (Advance Reader Copies). In audio, the most common acronym we use is ACX, short for Audiobook Creation Exchange. This refers to the platform we use to publish audiobooks on Amazon, iTunes and Audible.

My biggest disappointment was when I realised that “pub day” (an event that appears regularly on my Google calendar) means publication day, rather than a day at the pub …

What is the best thing about your job? 

The opportunities! The benefit of working for a small (and incredibly supportive) publishing house is that I have been able to work on a variety of projects that are outside of my job description. My favourite of these has been creating illustrations for some of the books that we publish.

For example, last week I created some illustrations of yoga poses for an upcoming book on periods. The author wanted the book to be inclusive, so we talked through ways to represent that in the illustrations of this mono title (printed in black-and-white). My final yoga pose illustrations therefore included three figures, each with a different hair type and skin tone. It was really exciting to be able to work with an author in this way!

What is the most challenging part of your role?

It can be quite a challenge to remain on top of production schedules. We currently have 30 audiobooks in production so it requires a lot of juggling to make sure that everything is ready in time to go live alongside the physical books. 

What would be your top tip for people applying to work in publishing?

I would advise you to carry on developing your skill sets, and exploring things that you enjoy! Even if a skill doesn’t seem to correspond directly with the job descriptions you’re looking at, it can still become a key part of your working life in the future.

What’s one Watkins book you’d encourage everyone to read?

I’m obsessed with The Art of Preserving by Emma Macdonald! It’s a beautiful recipe book and I can wholeheartedly recommend the chilli jam.

Tell us about a project you’re currently working on

I’m currently working on the audiobook for Spidertouch by Alex Thomson. It’s a fantasy novel in which the world features a touch language “fingerspeak” that is used by the mute enslavers of the protagonist’s city. On the page, this language is conveyed using italics. As the language, and the protagonist’s ability to navigate it, is a central part of the plot, we really wanted to find a way to convey this in the audiobook. Our solution was to work with a sound design team to devise the sounds of the touch language, and then loop these under the narrator’s voice. 

I think the sensory nature of touch comes across even stronger when using sound than it does on the printed page, which is really cool! It’s always wonderful when you get to produce something that really makes full use of its medium.

That’s all for this week! We hope you gained a little more insight into our audio department. We wish those of you seeking a job within audio in publishing the best of luck!

If you want to learn more about Sneha and her work you can take a look at her website, and if you want to find out about upcoming A Peek Into Publishing projects, you can follow Watkins on Twitter

Top 10 Tips:
First Week in Publishing

So it’s your first week in your new publishing job. Maybe it’s your first ever publishing job, or maybe you’ve just moved companies. Either way, congratulations! You’ve passed the first hurdle, and now it’s time to look forward.

We asked all our recent starters what ten things they would recommend you do in your first week, and even what they wished they’d done. This list is in no particular order, but follow these tips and set yourself up for success!

1. Find a good note-taking system

Whether it’s a nice notebook, or your favourite list-making app, make sure you have a place to write everything down. As you go you’ll start to remember more things off the top of your head, but the amount of information at the start can be a lot, so get it written down.

Whether it’s names of people in departments, any questions you think of, new terms, processes or details about upcoming books, make sure you’ve got it to hand. You never know what you’ll need to look back on next week!

2. Familiarise yourself with their list

While it’s impossible to memorise an imprint’s whole list, it’s helpful to get a good idea of their recent releases and upcoming titles as a starting point.

If you’re working from home it might be easiest to look through the production schedule, or if you’re in the office take a look around at the books on the shelves.

It’s also worth looking into getting your own copies of a few! Most companies offer a staff discount, if not gratis copies, so ask around and see what’s available.

3. Get comfortable with your computer setup

There can be a lot of platforms to get set up on when you first start, from emails to server access, working out how to book time off, using Zoom or Teams etc. – make sure you have time to look through all of them and get to grips with them. And keep a note of all of your passwords!

4. Take a deep dive into the company systems

Similarly to the new platforms, make sure you make the most of any free time by looking around the server – the various spreadsheets and drives that are frequently used.

5. Keep a list of questions

You’re guaranteed to have them! Don’t lie to yourself and think you’ll remember them. Note them down so you have a list for your first meeting with your manager, and remember that no question is silly or off limits.

For example, when we started, here are just a few things we asked: terms we heard in meetings we didn’t know about, what a certain figure meant in the P&L (profit and loss) document, how long we have to do a certain task, etc.

6. Say yes!

It’s likely at the start you’ll have a bit more free time, so take advantage of this and all the training opportunities you get offered – and say yes whenever you can. 

7. Introduce yourself

To your department and the wider team! You never know who you’ll end up working with later down the line, so reach out to a few people seeing if they’re interested in having a ‘get to know eachother’ chat over video call or a coffee.

8. Start organising early

Chances are, your first week is likely to be the week you get the fewest emails you ever will in your role. So get organised while you can!

We recommend setting up an organised filing system in your inbox, as well as on your desktop, so that as things come in they have a place to go.

9. Attend all the meetings

Go to whatever you’re invited to and ask if you can sit in on the ones you might not be. You may not need to go back to them in future but it’ll give you great insight into how different departments interact.

10. Take a breather

As much as it’s important to absorb as much information as you can, make sure you don’t put too much pressure on yourself in the first week. There’ll be a lot of new things thrown at you, so make sure you are taking your full lunch breaks and finishing on time to get that work-life balance.

That’s all for this week! We wish you the best of luck on your publishing journey. If you want to learn more about upcoming Peek Into Publishing projects, follow Watkins on Twitter, and take a look at some of our previous blog posts here.

A Peek into Publishing: Interview Tips from Hiring Managers

Earlier this year we asked our senior management team about good and bad job applications and how they narrowed down the pool of candidates when hiring for entry level roles – if you missed it you can find it here. This week is #WorkinPublishingWeek, so what better time to answer your questions about publishing interviews – what stands out, what not to do and what our senior managers were specifically looking for when hiring recent positions. 

Fiona Robertson is Publisher here at Watkins and she hired a new Editorial and Audio Assistant in October 2020. 

Laura Whitaker-Jones is our Marketing and Publicity Manager and she recruited a new Publicity Assistant last January. 

After 1,500 job applications across the two roles, Watkins interviewed approximately 30 people across the two roles, so we asked the hiring managers how they narrowed down the interviewed candidates. We hope you find some insight below that helps you with your own publishing interviews. Remember, each hiring manager is different, as shown by Fiona and Laura’s answers, but some tips are universal.

Can you tell us a bit about the interview process you created?

Fiona: The applications closed 1 September 2020. After creating a longlist of the best candidates, we narrowed this down to a shortlist of ten. The decision-makers were me, the Sales and Marketing Director (now the Deputy Managing Director) and the Editorial and Audio Manager.

I sent the top ten candidates an editorial test to complete and, on the basis of this, progressed seven candidates onto stage two: the Zoom interviews. These took place in the last two weeks of September. Each interview was with the Editorial and Audio Manager and me, and lasted one hour with the same ten questions in the same order.

We then selected the top two candidates from the Zoom interviews and asked them if they would feel comfortable coming into the office to meet a few members of the team and try out some of the tasks they would be expected to do in the role. By the start of October, lockdown rules had eased, allowing six people in the office at once. We paid for the candidates’ travel and lunch expenses.

Laura: I spent six weeks interviewing candidates for my Publicity Assistant position, progressing them through four stages. After receiving over 500 applications, I interviewed the top 20–25 applicants in 30-minute “get to know you” phone calls. From these conversations, I asked ten applicants to participate in a second zoom interview with the other members of my team. Six candidates were then provided with an AI (advanced information) sales sheet for an upcoming release and asked to pull together a comprehensive publicity plan for the title. Finally, after reviewing the plans, I asked my three top choices to complete a final interview with myself and our Deputy Managing Director.

What were you looking for at each stage?

Fiona: In the first stage – the editorial test – we gave each of the shortlisted candidates a cover and a double-page spread from inside a book to see if they could spot the typos and layout errors we’d introduced. Candidates were asked to spend about an hour proofreading, using Adobe PDF to make comments.

In the second stage – the Zoom interviews – I was looking primarily at how the candidates would work as a part of our editorial team. Would they show initiative and the ability to manage a large workload while also being able to take direction and learn on the job?

In the final stage – the in-person interview that involved completing various tasks in the office – I was looking primarily at how the candidate would work with others.

Laura: In the initial 30-minute interviews, I asked candidates about their favourite books, the difference between publicity and marketing and what they knew about our Watkins/Nourish list. I wanted to get an initial impression of what they were like as people outside of their CV.

Having my existing team join me in conducting the second stage of interviews was very important to me. In this stage, I paid particular attention to the questions the candidate asked my team. I’m a strong believer that publishing interviews should not be just about the hiring manager interviewing a potential employee; they should be a two-way street. If the candidates didn’t take the opportunity to ask questions, it signalled to me that they weren’t interested in doing the research necessary to know whether the job and team were right for them. The successful candidates were the ones who asked my team a multitude of questions about the role, the company, how I was as a manager, the pros and cons of working for an independent publisher, etc. I also looked for potential candidates to ask follow-up questions in response to my team and my answers – I was looking for the interview to turn into a dialogue. 

In the third stage – the publicity plan – I looked for candidates to demonstrate a willingness to look at the bigger picture of a campaign, and to think outside of the box. I paid close attention to which podcasts, TV programmes, and newspapers/magazines they suggested for the publicity plan, as well as the different ways we could incorporate virtual events. In short, I was looking for innovation, ingenuity and creativity within their suggested plan. 

The fourth stage with our deputy Managing Director was important as a publicist needs to be comfortable speaking to people in high level positions. The candidate who was successful immediately demonstrated an ease and level of confidence in establishing a connection with someone at a very high level. That’s invaluable, and can often take time to teach.

Can you give an example of one question you asked and what you were looking for in the answer?

Fiona: One of the questions was “What is an editorial assistant’s most important skill?” This was a key question for me: I wanted people to acknowledge the importance of attention to detail in their answer. In fact, the successful candidate cited two important assets: attention to detail and the ability to combine working on your own with calling in help when needed. This answer stood out as it showed initiative yet also reassured me that they wouldn’t go off and make a mess of something instead of asking for guidance. Very important for a new starter in this era of working from home!

Another question was about the candidate’s main strength and weakness. It’s not a particularly helpful question but it’s one hiring managers can rarely resist. I’d recommend you prepare a genuine but not too embarrassing weakness. Don’t suggest a weakness that is actually a strength – that’s just irritating and doesn’t give any insight into how you work. On the other hand, don’t be too frank with your weaknesses. A good answer might be an admission of some lack of practical know-how (for example, that you don’t know how to use InDesign) combined with an assertion that you’re a quick learner and eager to learn. (Although if you’re going for a job as a designer, admitting you don’t know InDesign won’t do you any favours – as I said, pick your weakness carefully.)

Laura: in the first interviews, I asked, “How did you offer value in your previous role?” I was looking for insight into how the candidate assigned value to a job, as well as a list of what the candidate felt were their biggest accomplishments and strengths. 

In the second round, my team asked, “What would you do in the first week, month and year in this role?” I was looking for insight into how closely the candidate had read the job description, and then insight into how the candidate would spin the position into something beyond what I had listed – in brief, how the candidate would make the job their own. I was also looking for an indication of how closely the candidate has listened to my list of my own goals for the team and the company over the next few years.

What interview answers did you hear that you didn’t like?

Fiona: When I asked about the best asset of an editorial assistant, one candidate cited the need to know the market and what the current trends are. From her answer, I had a feeling that she didn’t really want an entry-level role and probably wouldn’t stay for long if we gave her the job.

Laura: If I asked how a candidate offered value in their previous role and it was clear that they hadn’t been listening to my goals for the team and the company, or that their goals weren’t aligned with the company culture or mission, or that the candidate wasn’t capable of sharing their own aspirations/goals, then they did not progress.

What are some of the best questions you’ve been asked at the end of an interview by a candidate?

Fiona: The successful candidate asked what her priorities would be in the first month of the job. It showed she was engaging and thinking about what this specific job would be like – she didn’t want just any publishing job, she wanted this one.

One person asked how I got into the industry and my experiences at Watkins. This is a great one to have up your sleeve, because the answer is unlikely to come up during the interview and people do love to talk about themselves. You definitely need a question to ask at the end, so have this in reserve in case the ones you prepared are answered during the interview.

Laura: My favourite question was “What do you wish you had asked in your interview for the role you presently hold that you wish you had asked?” Very clever!

In terms of following up after the interview – do you expect a thank you email? And does following up regarding timeline affect your view of them?

Fiona: Following up is a great idea. If the hiring manager gets a nice email saying “I really enjoyed talking to you. Sounds like a great job to me and would love to work for you”, it creates a brilliant impression. I would strongly recommend!

Laura: I really recommend writing a thank you note after your interview via email. This is quickly becoming a lost art, and it shouldn’t be. Even a simple sentence or two will suffice. I guarantee that, in addition to providing a place for you to quickly and easily reiterate why you are a top candidate for the position, it will make you memorable in the best way possible.

How did remote interviewing over zoom and phone influence your process and experience?

Fiona: It’s a bit more difficult working with people’s unreliable internet connection or background noise, but we made an effort to set people at ease at the start of the interview, saying not to worry if the connection cuts off. We acknowledged that a Zoom interview might feel strange at first. Ultimately, however, I don’t think the experience was that different from an in-person interview.

Laura: It enabled us to interview candidates in the comfort of their own homes, which I think helped them to relax a bit more!

Do you have any additional advice for applicants?

Fiona: Even if you’re interviewing on Zoom, make sure you look like you’ve made an effort, at least from the top up! It’s still an interview and you want to give a good impression.

An interview shouldn’t be just about the employer asking you questions. You are also interviewing the hiring manager to see if this company is a good fit for you, so show interest back and ask them questions.

My final piece of advice is to be authentic. Really you should only apply and interview for the jobs you genuinely want. If you don’t want the job, it will be evident in the interview and you’ll struggle to come across as authentic. 

Laura: I 100 per cent agree with Fiona. The interview should be a conversation where you are also interviewing the potential Manager and team to see if they are a fit for you. Hiring managers don’t want you to take a position for the sake of it. The job you are taking, the team you are joining, and the atmosphere you work within should also be the right ones for you, or else you’ll be unhappy in your new position and company.

I also always think it’s a good idea to thank the interviewer for their time at the conclusion of the interview and ask for a timeline for the next stage of the publishing interview process.

People on social media also asked …

When is it reasonable to ask about salary if not listed?

Fiona: The job ad we created gave a salary band so all our candidates should have had an idea of what they would be paid and whether this was liveable for them. We didn’t discuss where they fit within this band until I called them to offer them the job.

If a salary band isn’t given (which it definitely should be!), I would recommend candidates ask after the first interview, when they’re offered a second interview. There is no harm in saying that you can’t continue the process without knowing if the salary would work for you.

Laura: If a salary band isn’t listed, I’d recommend you use Glassdoor to get an idea of the company’s salary range for your position. I don’t think there’s any harm in asking for clarification to the band at the end of the first interview.

We hope you found this useful – a huge thanks to Fiona and Laura for taking the time to talk us through their hiring processes and offering their publishing interview tips!

As you can see from some of the varied responses, hiring is a situation very individual to each publishing house and each member of staff, so there is often no right or wrong answer. Nonetheless, we hope you gained some insight into the individual perspectives and found some top tips to use in the future!

If you’re an aspiring publisher, check out our regular Peek Into Publishing posts – where you can find insights into a number of departments, what the staff do and some useful key terms.

Feel free to reach us on Twitter if you have any questions, and we wish you the best of luck on your publishing journey!

A Peek into Publishing: Editorial and Audio with Daniel Culver

Welcome back to the latest Peek into Publishing! We love showing you around our departments and offering insight into a wide range of roles. Take a look at our Peek into Publishing page for more posts. This week we’re delving into the worlds of editorial and audio in publishing and how those overlap in Daniel’s role.

Daniel Culver, Editorial and Audiobook Manager

How did you get into the industry and into your current role?

I began my career in Education and Youth Work before I took a break in my mid-twenties to raise my daughter. Being a single parent, I was able to get a grant that allowed me to study Publishing with Creative Writing at Middlesex University.

During my final year, I found a temporary role as an Editorial Assistant at Pearson Education (whose offices happened to be very close to where I lived at the time). I worked for two weeks in Pearson’s schools department (which was also my first foray into audiobooks) and I was then offered another two week placement in the Vocational department, where I did some market research.

My role was due to come to an end when I saw an advert for a Senior Editor in the trade professional department, whose imprints included the FT, Prentice Hall and Longman. Being both extremely naïve and hugely inexperienced at the time, I applied for the job. To my surprise, the Editorial Manager asked to meet with me, and while she told me that I was clearly not qualified for that particular role, she was about to lose another Editor to maternity leave so wondered if I might like to cover that vacancy instead. Of course, I said yes and that was how I got my start in the industry. Part perseverance and part dumb luck.

I ended up working at Pearson for several years, first as a Desk Editor, then I moved departments and worked as a Senior Editor on the International Schools list which was very much cut and shut publishing (making books from bits and pieces from other books). I hated it so much I decided to leave publishing altogether (at least for a while), working instead as a designer.

I returned to books a couple of years later when I got an Editor role at Hodder Education and then moved to RIBA where I worked a Project Editor on architectural books.

I joined Watkins in 2019 as a Managing Editor and have since become the Editorial and Audiobook Manager.

What does your day to day look like as Editorial and Audiobook Manager?

I begin by clearing my inbox, dealing first with the smaller tasks just to get them out of the way. Usually there are questions from freelancers about any number of books I might have sent them to edit, or an author requesting something. Perhaps the studio might have questions about an audiobook we’ve commissioned.

Once the smaller tasks are out of the way, I will work through the list of books that are currently in production, checking our schedule to make sure nothing is going to slip. I might have page proofs or audio files to check; maybe I’ll have to book something in with a freelancer as well.

Then there are invoices to process, or advance copies to sign off on. More emails and small fires to put out. Then meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

This month I’m juggling an Asian cookery book, a book about martial arts, two self-help titles and a number of audiobooks, also.

What were you most surprised to learn when you started in editorial and audio in publishing?

How little time I actually have to sit and read. My first role in publishing was all reading. Reading and checking proofs. Whereas now, much of my job involves overseeing other editors and freelances, while ensuring everything comes together on time and within budget.

What is the best thing about your job? 

Being able to use everything I’ve learned over the last decade in one role – incorporating editing, design, typesetting, audio and project management.

Working on audio I get to work across several of the Watkins Media imprints as well.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Publishing new books and audiobooks every month. We produce a constant cycle of new titles, somewhere in the region of 30-40 printed books and maybe 30 audiobooks a year, so my job is a juggling act of sorts. I couldn’t do it without such an amazing team of colleagues.

What would be your top tip for people applying to work in publishing?

Every route into publishing is different, so work on getting your foot in the door – any door (and either foot) – and then work on anything and everything that you can.

I worked in several departments, first as an Editorial Assistant and then in market research. I also worked in design and copywriting before I found my way into the industry. The experience I gained across those roles has all come into play in my current role.

What’s one Watkins book you’d encourage everyone to read?

The New Heretics by Andy Thomas and The Cabinet by Un-su Kim, they’re both fantastic in their own ways.

Tell us about a project you’re currently working on

I’m currently working on a new imprint – something completely new which is very exciting but I’m not sure I can say any more than that, keep your eyes peeled!

That’s all for this week! We hope you gained a little more insight into our editorial and audio departments. We wish those of you seeking a job within editorial and audio in publishing the best of luck! If you want to learn more about upcoming “A Peek Into Publishing” projects, you can follow Watkins on Twitter

A Peek into Publishing: The Difference Between Publicity and Marketing

In many publishing companies, particularly smaller ones, marketing and publicity overlap a lot and usually work within the same department. While they work closely, you might’ve heard people say “that’s more publicity” or “we don’t do that in marketing” – so what’s the difference?

Long story short: marketing tends to deal with paid media (such as advertising) while publicity focuses more on free media (reaching out to newspapers/magazines etc.). By no means is this the whole story, and the lines get a little blurred when it comes to social media, but in essence that is the biggest difference between the two.

When you see a review in a publication or an author featuring on a podcast, that will have been organized by the publicity team, whereas if you’re wondering who created the cool merchandise being distributed alongside a new book, that will have likely been arranged by the marketing team.

The difference between the two departments and exactly what they’re in charge of is a question often asked in job interviews. When advertising for the role of Publicity Assistant last year, one of our first interview questions was “what’s the difference between publicity and marketing?” So, it’s good to become familiar with who does what. 

A day in publicity might look like … 

  • writing targeted pitches to different members of the press
  • responding to emails from publications who were interested in the pitch you sent out yesterday
  • arranging mailing ARCs (Advance Reader Copies)
  • contacting an author about a speaking event at a bookshop
  • coaching an author though writing a piece for a publication
  • organizing author tours
  • writing a press release for a forthcoming title.

A day in marketing might look like … 

  • creating graphics for social media and scheduling them
  • securing a paid advertisement for a book in a relevant magazine (and often designing them)
  • producing digital ads using keywords and targeted demographics
  • constructing an Eventbrite page for an author’s ticketed event
  • creating and updating title’s Amazon plus pages
  • increasing a website’s visibility using SEO
  • designing bookmarks to be sent out alongside ARCs. 

A lot of these roles can overlap, particularly in smaller companies, Sometimes, a job may even cover both marketing and publicity. But people tend to lean slightly more toward one side as both can be very time consuming.

At the end of the day, both sides have the same goal: get the book out there as widely as possible!

As always, if you have any questions or want to keep up-to-date with our blog posts, you can find us over on Twitter. You can see all of our previous posts exploring different departments here.

A Peek into Publishing: Application Tips from Hiring Managers

We’re very aware that publishing hopefuls often write hundreds of cover letters and CVs, and can never hear back about the publishing applications they submit.

Our senior team have hired two entry-level positions within the last year and we thought we’d ask them to sit down and offer application tips, feeding back on the good and the bad throughout the process – what stood out, what not to do and what they were specifically looking for. 

Fiona Robertson is Publisher here at Watkins and she hired a new Editorial and Audio Assistant last October. 

Laura Whitaker-Jones is our Marketing and Publicity Manager and she recruited a new Publicity Assistant in January. 

Collectively, they looked through more than 1,500 applications across the two roles, so we asked them how they narrowed down the pool from application to interview. We hope you find some insight below that helps you with your own publishing applications. Remember, each hiring manager is different, as shown by Fiona and Laura’s answers, but some tips are universal.

Can you tell us a bit about the application process you created.

Fiona: I was looking for an Editorial and Audio Assistant to fill the gap created when the previous employee moved on in their career. We advertised for the position last August on LinkedIn, the IPG website and in The Bookseller, leaving the advert open for one month.

A huge number of applications came in – almost a thousand! Our Sales and Marketing Director (now our Deputy Managing Director) did a pre-filter of the LinkedIn applications, and the Editorial & Audio Manager and I did a pre-filter of the rest. This involved scanning for a number of things which I mention below.

Laura: In October 2020, I advertised for the position of Publicity Assistant on social media, the Watkins website and LinkedIn. I found the most impactful way we reached candidates was through the post being shared in the Publishing Hopefuls Facebook group. Unlike when I hired my Marketing Executive the year prior, I didn’t use an agency because I didn’t have a specific candidate in mind. Instead, I was just looking for a new, innovative voice who was willing to think outside of the box of a traditional book campaign.

I received over 500 applications for the entry-level role and screened and read the CVs and cover letters for each one myself. I immediately rejected the applicants I knew I wouldn’t progress and saved those I wanted to take a second look at once the closing date had passed.

How did you narrow down the applications?

Fiona: We created a longlist, then narrowed this down further to the interview shortlist. Initially I scanned each application looking for any obvious ticks, as well as – and this was much quicker and easier so beware – anything that stood out as negative for the role. For example:

  • Typos: a huge no-no in publishing applications for an editorial job. If the would-be Editorial Assistant can’t spot a typo in their own CV, how can they spot it in a proof?
  • Unprofessional layout: our list includes lots of beautifully presented illustrated books, so a good visual sense is key.
  • Relevant experience: We don’t require previous publishing experience for entry-level roles, but any relevant experience, such as working as a bookseller or in an office, is great.
  • Evidence of interest in books: It’s a cliché but you need to be into books to make a good book editor.
  • Evidence of interest in our field: applicants who showed some personal interest in wellbeing and mind-body-spirit (MBS) immediately stood out. Some people seemed to be applying to every job they saw (for some reason this role had a lot of applicants who, reading between the lines, actually wanted to become fashion journalists!).  

If there were any immediate red flags, I moved onto the next CV. With so many applications, it was important to get on quickly with identifying the top candidates.

Laura: I created a longlist, then narrowed this down further to a shortlist. Any person with a cover letter who didn’t even mention the job opening (which clearly indicated that they were applying for any generic job, rather than the specific one on my team) was immediately rejected. Also, if an application had a misspelling, I immediately rejected it — you can’t imagine the number of applications I received that had misspelled words in them.

Always check and double check your applications for grammatical errors!

What do you expect to see from a good CV?

Fiona: A short CV is a wondrous thing. When you have to look through nearly a thousand CVs, one page is ideal, two is just about OK, but three is definitely too much. Be clear and brief. It’s such a long process and everyone is busy – try to make it easy on the hiring manager reading your application.

Sometimes people over-design their CVs in an attempt to stand out. Don’t do this unless you’re applying for a job as a designer. Hiring managers don’t want to have to waste time trying to extract information or figure out what the graphics mean. We just want to grasp the key info as quickly as possible. Make sure the layout is clean and tidy – no misaligned paragraphs, uneven tabbing or inconsistent mix of hyphens, en-dashes and em-dashes, for example. And, I’ll say it again, definitely no typos!

To help the hiring manager, I’d recommend highlighting your relevant skills and experience. It doesn’t matter how you do that, just make sure it’s clear and easy to understand.

Laura: I also looked for CVs that presented qualifications in a very easy-to-digest manner. While a highly designed CV is always attention-grabbing, if I can’t easily find the qualifications that I’m looking for, then I’m going to disregard the CV quickly. 

I also looked for candidates to share a bit about themselves in their CV – for example, listing “hiking the Grand Canyon” as a personal interest – as it always makes them stand out. Remember, hiring managers are looking for specific elements in your CV, but when you take the time to add a bit of personality, you become more memorable. I cannot tell you the number of times I saw two CVs that expressed similar levels of experience, but I chose to progress the person with a CV that listed something interesting personally about themselves over the candidate who did not. 

What makes a cover letter stand out?

Fiona: I believe there’s such a thing as a natural editor, and it’s rare to find. When I was reading the cover letters of the applicants who’d passed the CV scan, I was looking for someone with instinctive self-editing skills, who could write fluently, concisely and intelligently – if you can write well, you’ll be able to assess other people’s writing.

I was also looking for people who were interested in working in wellbeing publishing and specifically in working at Watkins, rather than just wanting to get into any old sort of publishing.

Laura: While I look through CVs to see what kind of experience a candidate has, I’m much more interested in their cover letter. I feel that one’s cover letter is an opportunity to stand out from other publishing applications, and I strongly urge anyone reading this to really put the time and effort into making a cover letter personal to the job you are applying for. For example, cover letters that cited recent books from the Watkins/Nourish list made it to my “interesting potential candidate” pile, whereas cover letters that were clearly formulaic were put in my “pass” pile. 

The successful candidate had a great cover letter, which was personally addressed to me and not to “the hiring manager”. This is such a small piece of information you can find out online that makes the cover letter more personable (most publishers will respond on social media if you ask who to direct the cover letter to). Our newest Publicity Assistant discussed her interest in women’s health and how she was particularly excited that we had recently published The Happy Menopause. She engaged with our list and spoke to how different MBS non-fiction titles had made a big difference in her life, and why she was eager to work at Watkins and Nourish specifically.

What made you reject an application on the first round of looking at it?

Fiona: As I said before, the big ones were typos and design laziness. Attention to detail is key in everything an Editorial Assistant does, so I expected the CV and cover letter to be perfect. I’d definitely recommend asking multiple people to proofread your application before sending it off.

A lot of applications also weren’t specific to mind-body-spirit books, or even non-fiction. It was very clear who had cut and pasted content from other publishing applications.

Laura: Similar to Fiona, I immediately rejected any application that didn’t mention Watkins or Nourish. Several applicants didn’t tailor their CV or cover letter to our company, which made me think they’d used the same application for multiple different companies. There were also a few CVs that came in without any cover letter at all, which I immediately rejected.

When you’re applying to so many publishing jobs, it’s hard to read a book for every imprint. If applicants haven’t read a Watkins book yet when writing their cover letter, what do you recommend they do to show company research and knowledge?

Fiona: Of course you don’t need to have read a book by the publisher in question every time you apply for a job. If you’re trying to break into the industry with multiple applications, you’ll end up with no time for reading the books you genuinely want to read. Look at the website, social media accounts and Amazon listings to see what we’re publishing and what’s selling and reviewing well. Then you’ll be able to talk about, say, the jackets, content or authors that appeal to you.

I also loved it when candidates said they practised yoga or mindfulness, which showed they’re engaged in the areas we’re publishing, even if they haven’t yet read our yoga books.

Laura: I agree with Fiona. Another great way to see the books a company is publishing is by looking at their recent catalogue on their website – most publishing companies will have one. It’s very important and very easy to download and read. Folks can easily show company research and knowledge just by spending some time looking around a publisher’s website. 

I also recommend visiting your local bookstore and looking for what books from an imprint or company are carried in store versus online. Anything carried in store is usually a lead or very important title to a publisher, and always worth mentioning in an interview. 

A publisher’s social media feed is also a great resource for quick and easy research for a job interview, especially for a marketing or publicity role. Recent releases are highlighted alongside bestselling titles, and it’s a great way to get a feel for a company’s internal vibe. 

Do you have any additional advice for applicants?

Fiona: It’s great to come across as collaborative, helpful and easy to work with. If you send a very long email, or can’t edit your cover letter down to one page, I might worry you’re going to be long-winded at work!

The successful candidate took the trouble to get in touch with the person who was leaving to ask them about the role. It showed they were genuinely keen to work at Watkins and made a great impression. It also showed they valued themselves enough to find out about what doing that job would really be like.

Laura: I recommend finding out who the hiring manager is and connecting with them on social media and/or LinkedIn. In smaller companies, they won’t have a dedicated HR team going through your application – it will be the manager of the department you’re applying for. A few applicants connected with me on LinkedIn and messaged me to emphasise their interest in the role. I immediately called them for an interview.  

People on social media also asked …

A lot of companies say you don’t need publishing specific experience. What other types of jobs have looked good on a CV for a publishing job?

Fiona: I like it when applicants say they have bookselling experience. It usually means they love books and also have some sense of how competitive the market is. If you’ve previously worked in an office, you can talk about paying attention to detail, or prioritising competing requests, or managing a busy workload.

Laura: Promotion or marketing within any specific field. We look for ingenuity and delivery of KPIs. If you show me that you grew a brand or a person over expected numbers, I’m immediately interested. Similarly, if you demonstrate that you are an outside-of-the-box thinker, you are interesting within any field.

Does it make a difference whether the content of the cover letter is included in the body of the email / as an attachment?

Laura: Please, please put it in an attachment. It’s okay to take a few core elements of your cover letter and put it into your introductory email, but I personally prefer applicants to attach their cover letter and CV as separate documents.

Fiona: I disagree with Laura, I’d rather have it in the body of the email so there’s just one attachment to open! But I wouldn’t mark anyone down for sending the cover letter as an attachment, of course not.

I was wondering how often you get publishing applications from non-native English speakers (but with a degree in a similar field) and what are the odds for a foreigner getting in?

Laura: I have interviewed several non-native English speakers for positions throughout my career and it’s never a disadvantage. As long as you can demonstrate that you are proficient in English and a creative thinker, I’m very happy to interview you. 

I am a foreigner to the United Kingdom – a 16-year American publishing veteran living and working in the UK – and I believe (and I know Fiona would agree!) I bring a tremendous amount of expertise and innovation to my leadership role and to publishing within the UK because I provide a fresh perspective. 

And does years of experience in completely different field put one at a disadvantage for entry level roles?

Laura: That depends on how you tell your story in your cover letter and CV. If you can clearly demonstrate how your skills and experience within one field will translate into publishing, then a disadvantage does not exist. 

Does it make a difference if you apply straight away or 2 weeks after the advertisement has been put up?

Fiona: I’d say it’s helpful to get it in straightaway. We waited until the window for applying was closed before starting to assess the applications, but not all hiring managers do this. Some only keep the window open until they find enough great candidates to interview.

We hope you found this useful – a huge thanks to Fiona and Laura for taking the time to talk us through their hiring processes and offering their publishing application tips!

As you can see from some of the varied responses, hiring is a situation very individual to each publishing house and each member of staff, so there is often no right or wrong answer. Nonetheless, we hope you gained some insight into the individual perspectives and found some top tips to use in the future!

If you’re an aspiring publisher, check out our regular Peek Into Publishing posts – where you can find insights into a number of departments, what the staff do and some useful key terms. Coming up, Fiona and Laura have also answered some of your interview questions, which we’ll share on our blog in a few weeks.

Feel free to reach us on Twitter if you have any questions, and we wish you the best of luck on your publishing journey!

Top Ten Terms: Rights in Publishing

Hi everyone and welcome back to a Peek Into Publishing! In an effort to demystify the jargon used in publishing meetings and around the office, we’ve asked each of our departments to name and define ten terms they wished they’d known when they first started in the industry. We’ve already published the Top Ten Terms chosen by our sales and marketing & publicity departments. This week, we’ll be taking a look at the Top Ten Terms our rights team have chosen.

These terms are useful for anyone looking to work in publishing, or for someone who has recently started out in their first publishing role, whichever department it’s in. They are mentioned in meetings with all departments, so we hope you’ll benefit from learning them! 

1. Licensing

This is when we (the licensor) grant the rights of one of our titles to another publisher (the licensee). In most cases we are granting the right for the publisher to publish a translated edition of one of our titles. A licence will come with certain terms which we’ll negotiate – for example, the advance, royalty rates, the term of the licence (how long it will last) and when they will publish their edition.

2. Co-edition

This is the second kind of deal we do with publishers. In this instance, the foreign publisher will translate the book into their language, but we will then arrange the printing and have the books shipped to them. This is more common for full-colour titles, and we will often print our own English language edition at the same time as the foreign language edition.

3. Royalties

Royalties are the percentage that a licensee pays the licensor on sales of their edition. This will usually be a percentage of the publisher’s recommended retail price, or the net receipts.

4. Net receipts

This is the amount of money the licensee actually receives from sales of their edition, after discounts have been applied.

5. Territory

A contract will state the territory or territories in which a publisher can sell their edition. This can range from a specific country to worldwide.

6. Agent

We have many agents around the world, working in specific territories. They act as our representatives, doing deals on our behalf, and they take commission from the deals they organise. They can be very useful as they have detailed knowledge of the territory. If there is a language barrier, it can be handy to have somebody who speaks the same language as the foreign publisher too!

7. Auction

An auction occurs when more than one publisher makes an offer for one of our titles. It depends on the situation, but an auction can go for a few rounds of offers until we decide which publisher to agree a deal with.

8. Exclusivity

Most of our licences specify that the foreign publisher has the exclusive right to publish the title in their language – this means nobody else can publish their own edition of the work while the contract is active.

9. Reversion

When rights ‘revert’, it means they return to the licensor, and the licensee ceases to have those rights.

10. Subsidiary rights

These are rights granted in a contract which are additional to the main rights agreed upon – for example, producing a large print edition.

That’s all for this week! We hope you gained a little more knowledge of the rights terms that get used a lot. We wish those of you seeking a job in rights (and in publishing in general) the best of luck!

If you want to learn more about upcoming Peek Into Publishing projects, follow Watkins on Twitter. To catch up on previous blog posts, see below:

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