Tuesday, 25 July 2017

PRH JobHack

Trying to get into the publishing industry is like knocking on the same door for months, hoping someone will let you in. JobHack is Penguin Random House opening that door and showing you around. Through the course of the day, the PRH team talk to you about their paths into publishing and answer any questions you have, and you get the chance to put yourself in their shoes as you take part in interactive workshops.

I arrived at the venue and I was greeted by the PRH team, given my own lanyard and told to take a seat at one of the tables. Each table was decorated with Penguin cake pops, temporary tattoos, and a very nice mug, and each seat had a different Penguin tote bag on it. I was in heaven.
We kicked off with an human bingo ice-breaker. On the card were boxes ranging from ‘scared of spiders’ and ‘runs a blog’ and you had to fill each box with a name of someone different, and one of the names had to be someone from the PRH team. It was all very fun, although I was horrified to find out that someone from the PRH Audio team hadn’t read Harry Potter.

Next up was the editorial workshop, which was introduced by a children’s editorial assistant. She explained her path into publishing and her role, which includes reading manuscripts, pitching them at acquisitions meetings where she has to persuade people from Publicity, Marketing, Sales, and Rights to take the book on, and general day-to-day admin of the office. She then set us up with our own editorial task.

Each table had been given a book and photograph of that book’s target audience. It was our job to re-write the blurb of the book for said audience. I paled at this task - as I do when anyone asks me to do anything creative - especially because our book was Conn Iggulden’s Stormbird which is way out of my comfort zone. But me and my team cracked on with the new blurb aimed towards the ‘young person who liked it when celebrities tweeted about what they’d been reading’. It turned out to be loads of fun, and helped me realise that actually I can be creative - a very useful lesson from the day.

Next up was a talk from the senior campaigns manager for Penguin Life. She explained that her job required a lot of people skills, organisation, negotiating, trend-spotting, and some very nice lunches with authors and journalists. She explained the difference between marketing and publicity and ran us through the publicity campaign timeline for Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey, and then set us to work with creating our own marketing and publicity campaign in teams. We were given The Power by Naomi Alderman, which I was thrilled by!

“Marketing is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for”

Then came lunch, which was especially good because not only did it give me a chance to chat to fellow JobHackers, but the PRH team members sat down at the table with us. This enabled us to have some really interesting conversations with them and to ask them any questions we had.

After lunch, we swapped around tables and had a CV workshop with someone from HR. This was an incredibly helpful talk where it was explained that PRH use HireVue for the first stage of interviews, which is a system that allows you to record answers to interview questions in your own time. You then progress to face-to-face interviews if you pass this stage.

We were given 3 CVs and covering letters as well as the advert for an editorial assistant, and it was our job to discuss the pros and cons of each CV and covering letter, and eventually choose someone to put through to interview.

CV + Covering Letter Tips

  • Clear and consistent formatting
  • Include contact details!
  • Use your covering letter as a chance to expand on your CV, not just to reiterate it
  • Research the company + tailor each CV to each job application

Next up was the audio workshop, introduced by the senior commissioning editor on the Audio team. His role was to manage a team who read manuscripts to put forward for audio recordings and then make a decision as to whether to make the audiobook or not.

Our task was to record (part of) our own audiobook. We had been given the information sheet of a recently released book and part of the manuscript, and it was up to us to decide whether we would have 1 narrator or more, whether they would be male or female, whether they would have an accent, and how things in the excerpt should be recorded. Again, I had balked at this challenge for it’s creativity, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself!

Last but not least, there was the speed networking. We got 5-6 minutes to chat to each member of the PRH team present that day and grill them with any questions we had. It was incredibly useful and valuable, and also just nice to chat to some people who were passionate about their jobs!

To finish the day, prizes were announced! I was thrilled to be part of 2 different winning teams, and won Grit: Why Passion and Resilience Are The Secrets to Success by Angela Duckworth for the work on the editorial task and also a choice of audiobook for winning the audio task too! I chose Eddie Izzard’s Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens which I am so excited to read.
Nobody went home empty-handed though, and we then got to choose a book from a table featuring titles from the Vintage Minis series, the Penguin Classics series, and a variety of other books published by PRH and its imprints. I came away with Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Overall, the day was a massive success and I wholeheartedly recommend applying if it comes your way. I learnt so much about the publishing industry, and I feel much better prepared for a future career in it. Before, I had been undecided as to whether editorial or publicity was more for me, and as it stands - because of the chats and experience from JobHack, publicity is sounding like more my thing. I also got the chance to meet some brilliant people my own age who were more than happy to talk books with me - what more could I ask for?