Mark Allin seminar
by Alisha Raggatt, studying on MA Publishing Media
After a morning lecture filled with publishing law (who doesn’t love rights at the start of the week?) and an afternoon consisting of approximately four moderately strong coffees and an abundance of critical reading, I dragged myself back to my desk to sit down for our course’s optional ‘Tuesday sessions’. This week the session was led by Mark Allin, a warm man with the energy of Bill Gates who happens to be the former CEO of the global publisher Wiley. Based on this second piece of information alone I knew I could only benefit from (virtually) attending and would feel better eating my pancakes (it was Shrove Tuesday) knowing I had taken steps to help develop my career. It’s always nice to do something more than the quarterly LinkedIn post.
Honestly, my expectations of the talk were mainly that it would be way too long, and I would hear a lot of the generic advice always imparted on one as a publishing hopeful. We always get told things like ‘think of yourself as a brand’ and ‘why, aside from a love of books, do you want to work in publishing?’. As it happens, Allin’s did actually cover these topics so, making sure my camera was off, I gave myself a smug and slightly frustrated smile. He also did something brave: he asked us questions and actually made us answer them, so we were forced to actively participate and actively begin caring about our steps following graduation. Granted, he did blanket this step with a compliment about how we, as Brookes students, have an advantage when it comes to career prospects in the publishing industry given the contacts made by our esteemed professors and steps taken by our predecessors.
We were asked questions along the lines of ‘what is your biggest concern about beginning your career in publishing?’ and ‘what step will you know take to pursue the excitement you have about the industry?’. Admittedly, these questions were quite daunting to me at first and I did hold back for a few minutes, lurking in the Zoom chat to see what the other people would say. Ultimately, I decided that as a financially dependent twenty-one-year-old that the living costs of London, where a lot of the goings-on in the industry take place combined with the low entry level salaries are my biggest concern. I’d be completely disheartened if I had to work in an industry I wasn’t passionate about for a few years whilst I scrape money together to be able to move closer to the Publishing houses and live off an editorial assistant salary.
Mark Allin fortunately assured me that although these concerns are valid I am very much not alone in the financial aspect being an issue and reminded me that publishing houses are now making the move to open up publishing houses outside of London. HarperCollins even opened up a branch in Manchester under the name Harper North. It was also sadly quite encouraging to see other people wanting to work in the same industry also had their own concerns.
Needless to say, Mark really inspired me to put my pancakes on hold for an hour to pour my thoughts into a Word document with the hopes it will one day form a section of a building block that may bring me closer to landing my dream job in publishing. Whilst on the subject of dream jobs, he made it clear to us that despite the cut-through competitiveness of the industry, there are multiple ways both on to and up the publishing career ladder.
Mark has inspired me to invite in the law of attraction and say out loud what my hopes are for my own career. I can’t be certain having never worked in the industry and coming immediately from a background of BA English Literature, but I think my dream role is commissioning editor. My favourite aspects of the course so far have been editorial, marketing and rights and this role seems to me, from my own research to encompass all three. It requires creativity, attention to trends and negotiation skills to name a few of the qualities I have/am working on adopting for myself.
Last edited: 23 03 2021