The last time I wrote anything like this was way back in high school when I had to write an essay on my work experience with an insurance firm in Ipswich. I couldn’t find the essay now but, from what I remember, there was a lot of filing involved. I think I got to stamp bits of paper too.
Fast forwarding just over twenty years since that time …
I’ve been out of work for a while now (apart from a three-month contract that ended in July) and I thought it was way past time that I tried my hand at a little work experience in publishing. If you love reading books then you can’t help but wonder if publishing is where you’re meant to be and I’ve wondered this for a while. There’s only one way to find out and there’s no better time to do it when you’re out of work with free time on your hands. A flurry of emails later and I was lucky enough to find myself all set for a week with the editorial team at Tor UK. Thanks to Bella and Julie for arranging it and thanks also to Louise for taking time out of her (very busy) schedule to talk me through what needed to be done.
I'm not sure what my expectations were to be honest. I've been lucky enough to get to know a few people, who work in publishing, and they've always been refreshingly candid about what the job is really like. Having said that though, it's publishing we're talking about here. Everyone has a bad day at the office but I've never heard an editor say that they've had enough of publishing and want to work in government instead (where I've worked). I was sure that there was some magic to be found. I wasn't sure what to expect then but it's incredibly easy to sum up how I felt after the week was through. I’m going to get straight to the point; I really enjoyed the last week and I’m already planning how to get more work experience with other publishers. If you’re a publisher then it’s likely that you’ll be hearing from me soon!
There’s only so much that you can fit into one week but the tasks I carried out gave me a pretty good idea of the kind of things that happen on a daily basis. I had a go at rewriting the blurb for Peter F. Hamilton’s A Second Chance at Eden. This was harder than it looked, as the original blurb was pretty succinct, but I made a few changes though. I wrote cover copy for the first draft of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s War Master’s Gate which was a lot of fun as it meant I had to read through the book first. War Master’s Gate still needs to be edited but I can confidently say that fans have got a lot to look forward to here; it has spurred me on to get caught up on the rest of the series (I’m four books behind).
I was also the man reporting on unagented submissions which are basically book reviews; I love writing book reviews if you hadn’t already noticed :o) I even spent an enjoyable half hour comparing the Great North Road audio-book script with its manuscript counterpart; something that has (again) inspired me to finally kick on and read more Peter F. Hamilton. I even found out just how much work goes into putting cover art onto a book. One large table with literally dozens of iterations of the same cover spread out across it and a room full of people hell-bent on finding that perfect cover. The amount of discussion over whether that cover needed flowers in the corner, or not, is testament to how much everyone is behind the book and how they want it in as many hands as possible. You can't please all of the people all of the time but I suspect I won't be so quick to judge a cover (in the future) having seen how much work goes into the process.
I’m not going to lie… There was filing, an abortive attempt to bend Wikipedia to my will, and a lot of tracking down of authors’ agents on Google. If you’re working with something that you’re passionate about though, it doesn’t seem quite so soul destroying as it would do otherwise. I want a job like that, at the very least I want more work experience like that. We’ll see how it goes.
P.S. The best coffee machine in London can be found in the depths of the Pan Macmillan building. I’m missing that coffee machine already.