The 2016 SYP annual conference took place on 26th November and I was chuffed to be invited to speak about my role at Out of House Publishing. It was an extremely well-organised event with an enthusiastic crowd and speakers with diverse experiences.

Following a key note speech and a coffee break, the conference was helpfully divided into 4 streams which ran concurrently through the day. The streams were titled as below:

  • Stream One – Writing a Bestseller
  • Stream Two – The Role of Retail
  • Stream Three – How to Market and Publicise a Bestseller
  • Stream Four – The Perfect Package

Each event in the stream had a dedicated twitter hashtag and an SYP team member live tweeting it. For more details, do read this helpful blog post from SYP North Midlands.

I was speaking at one of the events in Stream Four and chose to stick with this stream for the day as it most interested me. Stream Four was kicked off by an insightful session on how to become the perfect package in publishing. A trio of HR professionals shared their insights on moving ahead in our careers and tips of securing that first job in publishing. Eleanor Helsby (HR Adviser at Hachette UK) urged the crowd to think about what we love and what about publishing a book we would like to be involved in and to focus on that when applying for jobs and work experience. All three agreed that doing research and sending out tailored CVs is the most important thing a job seeker should do.

There was also talk about the importance of transferable skills. Admin, customer service, etc. are crucial skills and one does not have to gain experience exclusively in publishing houses to be able to apply for publishing jobs.

I was pleased to hear Karine Nipcon (Senior Publishing Recruitment Consultant at Atwood Tate) mention wider jobs within publishing and the importance of considering all options, especially production!

The next session was ‘The Networking Game’ with industry superstars Sam Missingham (Head of Audience Development at HarperCollins), John Bond (CEA of Whitefox Publishing Services) and Justine Solomons (Speaker & Consultant, Byte the Book). The key takeaway from this session was to make use of all the platforms available, even if our interests are niche. It’s all about building a personal brand. It was nice to be reminded of how kind and gracious the publishing industry is in general and new comers shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.

Justine also advised aspiring publishers to ‘start broad and go deep’. I learned that the book industry is full of introverts and it’s perfectly acceptable to expose that. Here’s a picture of her top tips for networking.

After a lunch break, it was my turn to speak about production along with Hilary Fine (Senior Publisher for Rising Stars) and Emma Smith (Commissioning Editor for Trapeze). We had a great chat about what we love most about our jobs and the skills required to complete our day to day tasks. Hilary’s advice was ‘to work in educational publishing, research challenges faced by education to stand out as a candidate’. Initiative and showing engagement too is really important. Also optimism!

I had a chance to talk about working outside London. I was asked if I feel left out from the publishing crowd. With current social media platforms, it’s impossible to feel out of the loop and there is always email, phone and trains!

Emma Smith discussed her career in editorial and had some advice for aspiring commissioning editor. She mentioned that commissioning is partly instinct, but also data, which we need to use more to inform our choices. Being commercially aware is also an important skill to have as a commissioning editor as well as being able to push your own ideas.

The final session in the stream was ‘Outside the 9-5’ with Jasmin Kirkbridge (Journalist, Editor & Writer), Alastair Horne (Freelance Journalist), Step­h Broadribb (Author and Blogger). They discussed the importance of bringing perspectives from outside the industry to publishing (but with an awareness of what’s happening in publishing). And how working flexibly and freelance is about doing the best job that you can on every task.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for much longer as I had to catch a train to Cheltenham. I missed the closing speech and the panel debate but heard good things about it on Twitter. I was glad for the opportunity to meet interesting people and learn about different aspects of publishing in such an open environment. I would definitely recommend SYP annual conferences to anyone in publishing or looking to get into publishing.