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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Casbourne

How I Got my Start in Publishing

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

If an eccentric millionaire offers you your dream job, say yes!

Very often people in publishing have come from an English Literature background, sometimes with an MA in Publishing, but that’s changing over time. The industry needs people with various skills and knowledge beyond having read all of the classics and as I’ve learned from experience there’s no one right way into the industry.

In college I studied Liberal Arts then completed a BA with a Major in Political Science and a Minor in Philosophy, followed by an MA in Public Policy all from Concordia University in Montreal. I worked for the Canadian federal government for eight months and then moved to London to work as a PA and Policy Officer for the Greater London Authority. The job wasn’t totally satisfactory (read: it was a waking nightmare) and after five months I left to find something else that interested me more.

I had always loved books so when I saw Inspired Selection advertising a role for editors I applied. They got back to me to say they usually prefer their editors to have more experience in editing (fair point) but they liked my CV and brought me in for an interview. After a couple of weeks they had a temporary PA role available at a small publisher in East London and since I wasn’t working anywhere else at the time I took the job.

When I arrived the owner had a row with the Sales and Marketing Manager who a couple of days later quit and suddenly there was an opening. By then the owner had taken a liking to me and offered me the role and I… turned it down! Not quite. I wanted to be honest with him and told him I didn’t have any experience in Sales or Marketing or Publishing and so I wasn't sure I should be his first pick. But he felt confident that I would rise to the occasion. So I proposed he take me on for a one month period to see if I liked the job, if I was any good at it and then if we both agreed it was a match then we’d sign me up as permanent staff.

Six years later I’ve gone from an executive role, to a manager role and now a director role at Duckworth so it certainly worked out for everyone in the long-run. That being said, if an eccentric millionaire offers you a job in your dream industry, don’t be a fool and play coy - say ‘yes’ and figure the rest out from there. You need to be your greatest career advocate and take every opportunity that comes your way or someone else will snap it up in a heartbeat.

Today I look back on my initial editorial interest and realise there's so much more to the industry and a book's success than who shapes the book with the author. In a future post I'll discuss some of the different roles in publishing and what skillsets and personality types are best suited to them - starting with sales!

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