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9 September 2020

Getting a job Publishing: Everything Explained!


Centre of my office - and a sneaky shot of one of the editors, Harriet! 


Hello Readers & Friends,

I realised I never talk about work on here, and it's about time I did a big post sharing everything because I imagine with so many bookish followers, many of you would be interested in working in publishing!


Where I work / Where should you work?

I'm very lucky to have a job at Hodder & Stoughton, who are owned by Hachette Publishing and you may know as the official Stephen King publishing house! I love working for Hodder because the range of books they publish is so broad, I get to experience everything from romcoms and thrillers through to celebrity autobiographies and fascinating non-fiction. I'm not sure I'd enjoy working for a more niche publisher who only did one genre as much, this way I get to experience all of it! So I think the first thing is thinking about what type of publishing house you'd like to work at. The bigger the house (i.e Penguin), the more specific and specialised your job role will likely be, whereas at smaller ones (local independent presses) you probably get to be involved in much wider conversations more often.


What my job is / what job do you want? 

I work as Digital Marketing Manager. My day-to-day involves managing the social media, customer newsletters and digital advertising for all Hodder & Stoughton, but I also get allocated a good amount of books to take care of each year. At Hodder, each marketing person is allocated books to own, and then we get to create and manage the campaigns for each of them. Every book has a different budget and, of course, themes, which means you can be really creative and are always working on something different. Whether it's reaching out to collaborate with brands or organising an author talk, or buying random goodies to send out with proof copies, there's always something fun and creative going on. Due to my job title, most of my books are digitally led campaigns, which means getting to organise fun online campaigns and getting really interactive with readers. 

If marketing isn't something you're interested in, there are tons of other things to think about. Working with audiobooks only, being an editor which involves working on all the manuscripts and being the authors main go-to and ensuring they're always happy. PR work hard to get books mentioned in the press and organising evens and TV/Radio appearances - they're the most sociable of all of us! And of course there are tons of other departments such as Sales who work with the stores and less creative roles such as Finance, HR etc which follow more traditional workplace roles but surrounded by books.



What was my path? Do you need a degree in X?

No! I have a BA in Politics and Journalism and a Masters in Political Marketing - I didn't even do English for A Levels! Then I worked in the fashion industry for seven years in several different marketing roles. What's important is proving your passion for the publishing industry. I obviously have my blog, but I also have my book instagram, youtube and tik tok accounts and am an active member in the bookstagram community. All of these things illustrated my passion and interest, and showed that despite never working in publishing before, that with my transferable skills and personal interests,  I could easily shift from selling clothes to selling books! The hard bit is standing out in a CV, particularly when you're competing against people who are already in the industry and would take less time to train up on industry-specific platforms. This is where I advise being as creative as possible, and to be sure to mention any bookish things you do in your cover letter. 

For my CV, I actually created one to replicate a book cover. The title was REMEMBER THIS NAME, below was my name as the 'author', and I had designed little 'reader reviews' to read 'Hire her - she's great' - Ex Boss, which made my hirer laugh. Then it opened to look like a book with my actual professional CV and cover letter inside, printed on paper to look bookish. Things like this and going the extra mile to show your creativity and passion will help at least get you through to an interview, and then it's all down to you!


What was the interview process like? 

I imagine this will be different depending on the role you apply for and the company. I think my interview process was pretty standard. I applied via an online portal, answering various questions about myself and uploading my CV. 

HR would have sifted through these and chosen candidates worthy of a first stage interview, and I was luckily chosen. For this I think I met with my direct line manager, and a rep from HR. I dressed semi-formally, and wore a blazer and neutral colours. The HR manager asked all the HR-y questions (you know the type - what are your strengths, tell us about a time you worked well under pressure etc) and my direct line manager asked more general questions about my skillset and what I'd been doing in previous roles.

I was then called and invited to a second stage interview, which I had to prepare a project for to present. I was given a book title, summary, release date and budget and had to create a marketing campaign for it. My presentation was about 30 slides long (!) because I wanted to show my range of skills and how many different platforms I could work across. I also did my best to estimate on things that I had no experience of, such as Amazon advertising, to show that I was open to learning and proactive but also made clear in the actual interview that I had no experience of it (I didn't want them to think I can do something I can't!). My second interview was with my direct line manager again, and the deputy CEO. I presented my project, they asked some questions about it and then the second half was largely getting to know me and asking me about what I liked to read etc. I think this is to get a sense of whether I was nice and a good fit for the team. 

I was called the next week and offered the job, so it was a super quick turnaround compared to other jobs I've applied for. 

Reception of our office building


What's the best parts of the job?

So many things! I love how creative I get to be - in the fashion industry everything was very traditional and they didn't like changing things up too much, whereas working on so many different books/campaigns means you're never doing the same thing and in my experience, my boss is really open to trying and testing exciting new avenues. Obviously getting to chat to incredible and talented authors is super inspiring, and I love brainstorming marketing things with them. I love the accomplished feeling when a book climbs the bestseller charts! And, of course, getting to read manuscripts early! Is there anything better than getting something in from your favourite author and being one of the first eyes on it?!

Oh, and the free books. Naturally. 


What about the worst parts?

It can feel overwhelming sometimes when you're getting pressure from editors and authors but are short on time/budget etc. Or when things go wrong! But I don't think it's any different from any other job, there are always times when things get stressful or mistakes happen. 


What's the cultural vibe like? 

I can't speak for publishing as a whole, and I'm sure all publishing houses are different, but I can speak on my experience at Hodder in comparison to the fashion industry in particular! I actually feel very safe and happy with the office culture. I have really bad anxiety and new jobs is something which I struggle with after a really terrible work experience that left me with mild PTSD for a year, so I was super scared to delve into a whole new industry. The office is very big and beautiful, and it's pretty casual as far as dress goes. I've noticed that while there's no dress code, people like to dress smarter than my previous jobs where tracksuits and streetwear was the norm! But jeans and trainers aren't frowned upon, which is great for someone like me because I do think style is important for personal identity. 

The people are so, so, welcoming and friendly. Everyone is always offering to help out and teamwork is something that's really important. It's a very liberal place to be with everybody's opinions being respected, and everyone stands up for what they believe in. There are lots of wonderful committees to join such as LGBTQ ones and the BAME one which I myself have joined. Compared to Fashion, it feels like everyone matters and they really care about the staff, and as though everyone can voice a concern and be legitimately listened to by the powers above. There seems to be very little turnover compared to fashion, which is a testament to how happy the staff are. 


Do I have to be in London?

Generally, the same with Fashion, yes. Nearly all the big publishers are based in London unfortunately, and while there are smaller indie publishers in other cities, they are extremely competitive. HOWEVER, thanks to Corona I think many companies are being much more open to remote working and/or opening regional offices, so perhaps in a year or so the landscape will look totally different and more people will have the opportunity to work in publishing without being in the expensive capital. 


I hope this helps and some of you find it useful!

Love,

C x

7 September 2020

Book Review: Paper Princess trilogy by Erin Watt



Hello Readers & Friends,


A weird sort of review today. I had seen the Paper Princess book recommended as people's 'guilty pleasure' on a ton of Booktube videos, so I ordered it for when I needed something easy. I was expecting something similar to The Selection, but it was actually very different. I assumed from the title it was fantasy, but it's actually a contemporary. The basic jist of the first book is that an orphan called Ella who is working in a strip club underage to support herself is one day picked up by a man who explains he was her paternal father's best friend, and has been searching for her since his death. He is her new legal guardian, and also a bajillionaire who owns private jets and the likes. Also he has five hot sons. So you can see what kind of story this is going to be.


The first book was very problematic for me, but similar to After by Anna Todd, I found it very difficult to put down. We have a classic enemy-to-lovers situation where Ella is falling for one of the sons, who is (of course) an asshole to her. Whilst not as problematic as After, there were several things which made me uncomfortable enough to give it a 2-star rating. There are several instances of sexual harassment and sexual assault, particularly with one son called Easton who goes on to become Ella's only friend in the house somehow. There is a bunch of slut-shaming as Ella is bullied at her new posh boarding school, and in general the way that women are depicted in the book seems to be purely either as bitchy or for sexual tension. The saving grace which makes it much better than After is that Ella is a stronger character who defends herself and stands up for her lifestyle and choices. However, in general, the depiction of women and sex in this book was just really a big red flag for me.


Book two we start to see things develop more. By this point **SPOILER!*** Ella is in a relationship with Reid and so most of the troublesome sexual references are now gone. This book I gave 3 stars to as it begins to explore the relationships deeper and starts to really round out the boys characters. Whilst the twins to me seem like a spare part who don't need to be in the books at all other than to continually reference their shared girlfriend (gross), the other brothers begin to develop and we see some interesting sides to them. It was an okay book with a big BOOM of an ending. It passed time nicely, but I can't remember much of anything really happening other than boring school dramas.


The third book was unbelievable in comparison. I gave it a four star rating as we suddenly see the trilogy turned on it's head and we are in the midst of a whodunnit murder, with Reid accused and some damning evidence supporting the idea that he is the killer. We see Ella struggle to come to terms with this and to find out who the real culprit is - with even more shocking results. It was a really pacy, decent storyline with lots of hooks and twists and we really get to enjoy the characters we've spent the last two books getting to know. 


So for me, despite a poor and problematic start, this trilogy gets better as it goes and builds to a fantastic end. That said, I won't be reading the Easton spin-off, due to how he behaved in book 1 putting me off wanting to get to know him and his sleazy nature in much more depth.


Have you read this series? It was a decent time-passing trashy read. 


Love,

C x 

4 September 2020

Book Review: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Hello Readers & Friends,


Today I'm reviewing the much-hyped Cinderella is Dead. Usually when I share reviews, it's because I feel very strongly - whether positive or negative. This is a bit of a grey review, but because this book is currently being so hyped and talked-about, I felt I had a duty to share my experience which, to be honest, has been a huge disappointment and let-down.


The idea behind this book is amazing. It could not be more up my street. A wonderful feminist retelling of Cinderella with a black lesbian heroine who is fighting to take down the patriarchy? What could be better! That, packaged with a stunning piece of cover art and every booktoker and their neighbour ranting about this book means I was so excited to tuck into it. Sadly, I can only give it 2.5 stars.


Whilst the idea for the book is amazing, and we were given threads of interesting world-building and thoughtful themes relating to the male gaze and patriarchal society, everything else was a let down in my opinion.


The characters were painfully 2-dimensional, with very little backstory, unclear goals and no real personal hardships to overcome. They were all very beige and there was no humour or strength in their personalities. This leaked into the romance, which was lukewarm at best and had absolutely no spice, passion, or build-up at all. They could have been best friends for all I knew. Not the LGBTQ relationship representation I had hoped for.


The plot was boring and slow-paced, with barely any action and the characters sort of coasting their way through the plot-line with minimal struggles until the very last pages. Everything seemed conveniently easy and irritatingly simple. 


For me, the final nail in the coffin was the writing style. It was all tell and no show, meaning I felt absolutely no emotional connection to anything happening and it made a dull plot even more bland. One example: we have a scene where one character is sharing a personal story. Her dialogue is broken up by the following line from the main character: "Thinking of someone hurting her made me so mad I could hardly contain it."


This, to me, is poor, amateur writing style. Being YA isn't an excuse - it's us being told what the character feels without us seeing any evidence of this. And the whole book is written like this. We're constantly told where they're going without descriptions of the journey, being told how they feel without being shown body language or without the characters actually performing any actions to illustrate their feelings, being told what the plan is instead of being shown how they make the plan... it's such a huge failure from the editor.


Honestly, I know that I'm making this sound so negative but it's only because I had such high expectations and was so looking forward to this. The hype has made it an even bigger letdown than it would have been otherwise. The concept was brilliant and there was so much scope and potential for this to be an incredible book, a la Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyumi) meets Heartless (Marissa Meyer), but it just was a big miss for me. 


Did you read it? What did you think? 


Love,

C x

3 September 2020

August Favourites: A Monthly Roundup





 Hello Readers & Friends,

This month really seemed to fly by. I literally blinked and it was gone! But I'm not complaining because with the end of August comes spooky season. I like to live the year with September-October dedicated to Halloween/Samhain and November-December obviously all Christmassy. I know it's way too early for some people but I can't get enough of celebrating all things Autumnal, so bring on next month! And thank goodness the heatwave is over.

August Book Roundup:

Eleven books this month. I'm definitely getting quicker at reading - I'm almost at my Goodreads target already! Reading so much quicker than last year. A very varied month, some amazing reads and some big disappointments. ACOFAS, Mostly Dead Things and BOSAS were the biggest disappointments for me, whilst I was really pleasantly surprised by Serpent & Dove and Wasp Factory. Unfortunately I didn't get my monthly non-fiction in, so I'll try to do two next month.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Mass ***
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin *****
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett **
Paper Princess by Erin Watt **
Broken Prince by Erin Watt ***
Twisted Palace ****
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins **
Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar ***/*
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Mass ****/*
Wasp Factory by Iain Banks ****
The Downstairs Neighbour by Helen Cooper (ARC) - *****

TV



Selling Sunset - Netflix

I started this show this month, it's absolute trash. It's basically a bunch of glamorous women selling ridiculously expensive homes, but I do enjoy seeing the incredible homes in LA. Basically it's crappy reality TV with stupid arguments and staged drama, and I need something better to watch than this so send me recs! 


Anne with an A - Netflix

I'll be brief as this was my favourite last month, but I finished Anne with an E this month and it was phenomenal. It was so good! So wholesome and amazing. I really hope they continue the show after the petition to continue as I feel there were lots of storylines that need to be completed, such as Diana and Jerry and the Indians. I bought Anne of Green Gables to stem the pain of the series ending. 

Books




I read a few great books this month, and have reviews coming up for the Paper Princess trilogy, Serpent & Dove,  and Wasp Factory, so I won't drone on too long about one or the other. Queen of Shadows continues to just strengthen the Throne of Glass series, but I've spoken about that before so I'll use this month to highlight Grace is Gone, which I was kindly sent to read for free by Little Brown Books. I loved this, the only reason I gave it a slightly lower rating was because I knew the true-crime story it was based on, so I knew from the start who the killer was. It's always disappointing when the Who in a Whodunnit isn't a surprise, and I wonder if it would have been better off marketed without saying it's based on a true story as the case was so high-profile and has had so many adaptions done on it that many people will work it out very quickly. But that said, it was gripping and pacy and did keep me on my toes with the help of two really strong main characters who were both strong and broken in their own ways. The story in a nutshell follows the mystery when a neighbourhood sweetheart mother is found brutally murdered and her severely disabled child is stolen from the crime scene. I recommend for any thriller readers who don't already know who the killer is! 

I do also want to quickly mention The Downstairs Neighbour - this is a book which my work is publishing next February. I'm the marketer for it and finally had a chance to read the manuscript and I was up ALL NIGHT reading. I could not put it down. It was amazing, I haven't been so confused by a thriller in so long. I got lost in all the twists and turns, my head was spinning and it was a very poignant story of love, loss and family. And a big splash of drama and betrayal, of course. One to note in your diaries for pre-order! 

Misc.


Isle of Wight

We finally left London! My first venture out in six months! We visited Steven's cousin in the Isle of Wight, which I'd never been to before. A very picturesque and sleepy place, we spent two nights in a log cabin which was dreamy. A weekend of woodland dog walks, red squirrel spotting, and reading in a hammock with my dog and a glass of red wine. The evenings were spent in front of the log fire with bbq food, so it was really amazing to unwind so thoroughly. The rest of the week was filled with sightseeing and activities, including a boat ride and many evenings spent playing David's amazing VR games. I felt like I was in the Hunger Games, dodging bullets and diving around throwing bottles at heads which looked and felt so real but were obviously not. It was so much fun, and Wasp Factory was David's recommendation to read which I loved. A really lovely week, I'll share a couple of photos. 



 How was your month?
Love, C x 

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