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WA N T T O G O SOMEWHERE IN PUBLISHING? My publishing traineeship at Carcanet

*** Are you passionate about books and reading? Ever considered a career in publishing but don’t know where to start? Carcanet Press, is offering a positive action publishing traineeship. The candidate will have: - a long standing enthusiasm for poetry and literature in general - excellent written and oral communication skills - meticulous attentiveness to detail

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Carcanet Podcast 5: My publishing traineeship at Carcanet Length: 11:51 mins File size: 16MB

Eileen Pun: Over the past nine months I had the opportunity to work as a publishing trainee for Carcanet Press. Carcanet is one of the UK’s outstanding independent literary publishers based in Manchester, North West England. In this podcast, I will talk about my publishing experience. Exactly one year ago, this advertisement landed in my inbox. Carcanet Press Ltd, Alliance House, 30 Cross Street, Manchester M2 7AQ, United Kingdom

The traineeship will be based within the Sales and Marketing department. It won’t be a contract of employment, but it will provide an excellent introduction to publishing, with a particular emphasis on the role of electronic media. *** Eleanor Crawforth is a sales and marketing manager at Carcanet, she helped design and manage the training programme. Eleanor Crawforth: Carcanet’s decision to establish a programme of positive action publishing traineeships was a direct response to research carried out by Decibel and the Bookseller magazine, which showed that people from black and ethnic minority groups were under represented in the publishing industry. The Carcanet programme of traineeships formed part of a phone: +44(0)161 832 0084


wider programme of such traineeships within the publishing industry, funded by Arts Council England. A number of successful traineeships had already taken place, primarily in London, but this was the first opportunity in the North West. Eileen Pun: I was definitely interested, but could I get it? My background is quite eclectic. I have a bachelor’s degree in politics and international relations, followed by a circuitous employment history, extensive travel and languages. Furthermore, I was enrolled in a masters programme in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. I asked myself a few questions: - Without an academic background in English literature, would I be knowledgeable enough to work for such a distinguished literary publisher? - Was I confident about my writing and grammar skills to take a role in publishing? - Would I find a conflict of interest between my goals in creative writing and a career in publishing? Although I wavered about my own aptitude and suitability, I must to admit, I was incredibly excited about the job prospect. I decided to submit an application focusing on four key areas: 1. Emphasize my marketing background 2. Highlight my volunteer work in the literature sector 3. Show my experience in digital audio archiving 4. Demonstrate boundless enthusiasm Eileen Pun: Carcanet being a small publisher with a close knit

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My Desk

Don’t be late for th e interview! Team Photo

team, choosing the right person is critical. Stephen Procter is a sales and marketing manager, he explains what makes the publishing experience at Carcanet distinctive. Stephen Procter: Carcanet is a relatively small publisher in terms of the size of its office, although not necessarily in terms of its output, number of titles, or national and international profile. One of the advantages of working in quite a small office is that we are constantly aware of what is going in all of the departments. So, in terms of a training experience, it is really excellent for getting an overview of the whole publishing process. Eileen Pun: The interview process was designed to identify candidates that would be able to work in this environment. Michael Schmidt is the managing director of Carcanet. The post attracted numerous candidates, and like many entry jobs in publishing, highly competitive. I asked Michael

Carcanet Press Ltd, Alliance House, 30 Cross Street, Manchester M2 7AQ, United Kingdom

what was he looking for when making his selection. Michael Schmidt: It is a tiny bit like when you get a pile of submissions in the morning and you look through them. What are you looking for? Well, you don’t know what you are looking for until you’ve found it. You have certain broad notions that you need somebody who has energy and imagination. We are never quite sure if we want somebody who is committed to literature or somebody who is committed to publishing. Those might be two very different people. You might have someone who is interested in technical publishing or academic publishing, for whom the experience here will not be a literary experience but a practical experience. Other people like yourself, who are interested in poetry, will find the experience literary as well as practical. And so, you have a number of candidates, all of whom have merits. phone: +44(0)161 832 0084



The Publishing Training Centre Booh House, Wandsworth, London

Publishing is becoming an increasingly important area for independent publishers.”

Carcanet. I attended courses at the Publishing Training Centre in London, the 2009 London Book Fair, and events hosted by the Society of Young Publishers (SYP). Eileen Pun: Matthew Frost is the Head of Editorial at Manchester University Press (MUP). Having worked at Carcanet at the start of his publishing career, Matthew was an excellent mentor, with a wealth of experience and professional advice. Matthew Frost: My career is rather atypical, actually. After I did my degree I was working three part-time jobs. I was doing quasi work experience at Carcanet Press, working at Waterstones, and teaching on the degree course that I had just been taught.

Earls Court Exhibition Centre London Book Fair 2009

The person whose merits are most complexly interesting and challenging, and have certain basic skills that are necessary for the job: literacy, numeracy and evidence of an ability to organise work... you give everyone a test and set them a little objective. Those who come up trumps on that are the ones that really do best. Eileen Pun: Actually, the interview questions gave a good indication about how the job would involve competencies on many levels. -Would I be content to handle administrative and meticulous day-to-day aspects of the job such as preparing mail-outs, processing orders, or answering queries? -Would I be willing to work outside of office hours to attend poetry readings and book launches? -Would I work independently to research, develop and lead an

Ricardo the Recorder

aspect of electronic publishing in order to help Carcanet keep pace with exciting developments of digital formats? Michael Schmidt: It is such a small company that you experience all aspects of it. A bit of the editorial, the day-to-day running of the company, finance, and obviously sales and marketing. So, you get a very wide experience. You meet authors, printers and other editors and so on [...] you are like a spider in a web. Eileen Pun: Publishing is known as an apprentice industry. Most of the training is on-the-job training. The activity of keeping a stream of books in circulation requires excellent organisation and coordination between departments, as well as regular publicity and marketing campaigns. To supplement my day-to-day training, I also had opportunities to engage with publishing outside of

Carcanet Press Ltd, Alliance House, 30 Cross Street, Manchester M2 7AQ, United Kingdom

Someone phoned me up from Manchester University Press, and said, ‘Come in for an interview’. I went in for the interview and was given the job as commissioning editor. Eileen Pun: And so, when you took on this role, what kind of support did you get from other people in the industry? Matthew Frost: Everyone in publishing, I find, is very helpful. There is competitiveness, ‘my book sells more than your book,’ but I do find that it is a terribly civilised industry. Basically, talk to as many people as you can. Eleanor Crawforth: The Carcanet training programme also included an independent research project on the subject of digital publishing. We chose this topic because digital publishing is becoming an increasingly important area for independent publishers as technology for electronic delivery improves and allows less commercial works of literature to be made or kept available. We wanted our trainees to help phone: +44(0)161 832 0084


us to create and develop interactive content for our two websites Carcanet and PN Review, and to generally facilitate the delivery of poetry to an online readership. So, as well as helping Carcanet to keep pace with exciting developments in digital publishing, the research project would also provide the trainee with valuable experience and training this radically evolving area in publishing. Eileen Pun: I was able to develop technical skills in web content management, liaise with the web designer Webguild and develop Carcanet’s interactive audio library Listen Here! The open and flexible workplace meant we were able to make immediate use of valuable archived material, as well as create exciting new content through interviews and podcasts! Eleanor Crawforth: Our purpose was to equip somebody with the skills and experience necessary for them to get a job in the publishing industry upon completion of the traineeship. Eileen Pun: So, what can I say about my overall experience... - I enjoy it! From the free books to long hours to book launches and painstaking double-checking! - I have gained confidence to pursue a career in publishing. - I am able to clearly identify areas of publishing that suit my skills and talents. - I have gained inside knowledge and training about how the industry works. - I can demonstrate evidence of projects that I have undertaken. - I’ve had an opportunity to network and meet people within the industry. In terms of a working experience,

I can truly say that working for Carcanet has been distinctive. Stephen Procter: One of the other distinctive things about working for Carcanet is that it is based in Manchester, the majority of publishing in the UK is based in London or Oxford. Eileen Pun: Through the traineeship I have been able to take part in the vibrant Manchester literature community, where I have met many enthusiastic, like-minded people, who are all committed to literature and widening access to the arts. Michael Schmidt: Well, we learn a great deal from the trainee, apart from the fact that we hope the trainee learns a lot from us. As you know from your own experience, you were able to develop areas of our website and other activities which we simply haven’t the time, and in one or two cases, the experience and the knowledge to do. So we are possibly the trainees almost as much as you in some respects. That is a benefit. We enjoy and learn from the activity of creating a job as well as managing an internship of this kind. We try to make it as fruitful for the candidate as possible. And of course, develop new friendships, something you might not do otherwise.

A few final key points... 1. Many of the skills required to work in publishing can be learned. In fact, there are many reputable training sources available from short term courses right to masters level. 2. The world of publishing is quickly evolving, therefore new job roles will require skills in web and digital formats. 3. The people who make a career in publishing have a real sense of pride about their work and are not in publishing to make a fortune. Michael Schmidt was an excellent

Carcanet Press Ltd, Alliance House, 30 Cross Street, Manchester M2 7AQ, United Kingdom

role model and inspiring example of how to successfully bring together one’s creative and professional passions. Michael Schmidt: If you’re a poetry publisher, you don’t make a living at it. Publishing has always been what I do for pleasure, vocation. It is not something that I’ve done in order to survive, but something that I’ve survived in order to do. I love publishing, especially the combination of book publishing and magazine publishing. I wouldn’t be without it. It is part of my creative existence... but I got into it by chance and I’ve stayed in it by luck. Eileen Pun: Every person’s publishing story is different... And my experience in helping Carcanet produce delightful books of poetry, has been a most rewarding opportunity to be a little spider in a big web. Please note: The transcript has been summarised. The individual views expressed in this podcast are not official statements made by Carcanet Press. The Decibel initiative, supported by the Arts Council was a short term initiative, please note the Positive Action Publishing Traineeship is not an ongoing programme. If you are interested in work experience at Carcanet, e-mail December 2009 Produced by: Eileen Pun Music by: Guitarist:

Related websites Listen Here!

PN Review Arts Council England The Bookseller DIPNET The Publishing Training Centre Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Manchester University Press phone: +44(0)161 832 0084


Carcanet podcast: Want to go somewhere in publishing?  

Want to go somewhere in publishing? Eileen Pun and Carcanet staff discuss her Carcanet traineeship and offer advice for those interested in...