Lancaster alumni: Where are they now?

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Photography by Yasmin Jaunbocus

Yasmin, you’re currently working at Random House Publishing House in London- could you take me through a typical day in your working life?

I’m currently on a scheme which allows me a lot of freedom.  Initially, I completed four months in editorial, and now I’ve moved towards marketing.  Next, I’ll go to publicity, but I can decide where in particular I want to gain experience.

At the moment I have my own book campaigns that I’m in charge of as part of marketing.  I’m working a lot on their cookery titles and some parenting titles, too.  I have to implement marketing strategies to maximize the book’s saleability through various channels based on a certain budget.  It can be challenging but it’s a lot of fun- especially when you’re really excited about the title!

What do you love most about the publishing industry?

Seeing a book go from being pitched at an acquisition meeting, through to becoming the finished product is certainly the best bit. I know it’s a cop out to basically say ‘the whole process’, but it is genuinely what I love! Also, all the free books are a big plus- sometimes you get so many you can’t carry them home! And getting to read the new books months before everyone else is pretty cool, too. Not to mention noticing the book in the shops and knowing you had some part in getting it on the shelf.

What would you say are the disadvantages of working in publishing?

At the moment, the world of publishing is undergoing some really big changes. Be it eBooks, self-publishing, or the giant that is Amazon; they all influence the way the publishing industry works. Publishing is being described as a dying business.  If there is no longer a need for a physical book, the need for a job that produces that book dissipates with it.  That can be quite a scary concept to grasp.

Also, the pay isn’t something that can afford you a glamorous lifestyle…

If you could give one piece of advice to students looking to go into the publishing industry, what would it be?

Know who to contact! Many publishers have an option to apply for work experience.  For example, Ebury Publishing have a Facebook page for work experience. Make sure on your CV you make clear when you’re available to work.  HR departments won’t bother to contact you if they don’t know for sure that you’ll be able to come; it’s a waste of their time. It goes without saying, but ensure there are no typos and errors on your CV. If a prospective employer asks for a cover letter, know who they are and what they publish.  If they publish commercial fiction and you’ve wittered on about literary highbrow stuff, it’s not going to impress.

How would you describe your experience of living and working in London?

For me, after Lancaster, the appeal of the big city and bright lights were comparable to a moth and a flame. Though Lancaster is charming and storybook like, I’m a city girl at heart. Here, there are a million stories going on at any one time. A cacophony of languages bombard your ears whilst standing squashed on a tube, there’s a million and one things to do every day, the history is amongst the richest in the world, every street evokes some historical or literary event.  The galleries and museums could while away hours, the colours and smells and buzz is palpable, but London also has that surprising quirk where all of a sudden it’s quiet and calming and peaceful in places. You can never get bored here, as Samuel Johnson once said: ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’.

Saying that, not everyone is suited to the fast-forward franticness of life here.  Everyone is in a hurry and God forbid you stand on the wrong side of the escalator in the underground.

 Before landing your dream job, you did a journalism internship in India. Please could you briefly describe this?

I worked for The New Indian Express for their lifestyle section.  I got to attend premieres, chat to influential people including politicians, diplomats and consuls, interview vintage car collectors, write food and restaurant reviews, and see exhibitions.  In addition to reporting , I got to bring my own ideas to the table and pitch in at the meetings for the next issues.  It was exciting to know my work had gone into the second most read Indian daily! Aside from the job, the partying, travelling and social aspect of India was amazing, too.  I cannot wait to go back there someday.

 Would you recommend gaining experience abroad to boost a student’s CV?

I certainly would, nowadays, everyone has a degree.  It’s great to have something that can set you apart.  It shows your versatility, ability to adapt, and awareness of globalization in today’s world. It’s also a lot of fun.

What did you do whilst at Lancaster University to get started on this career path?

I always knew I wanted to work in the creative media industry. I did a lot of work experience and internships at newspapers and magazines every holiday. I wrote creatively all the time, including pieces in this very newspaper.  I had a blog, entered writing competitions, and tried to engage with current affairs as actively as possible.  It’s what influences and drives the creative entertainment industry so it’s important to keep on top of what’s going on.

It’s hard to get work experience in this field but persistence pays off.  Don’t be afraid to use connections and be cheeky, but impress whilst you’re there or else it’s pointless. Once you have one work experience, utilize that position to network and secure more work.