So, as I’m typing, I’ve been home for a few hours now and I’m currently chowing down my Penguin-branded M&Ms and rearranging my haul of freebies (I love you, Penguin <3) to take some ‘instagrammable’ photos. It’s as much a word as ‘discoverability’.
Penguin Random House held a workshop ‘Job Hack’ day for people to learn about the publishing process, bust a few myths and show us how they stay relevant to current consumers through new, innovative ideas towards storytelling. I got the promotional email through my school – the first of many that get sent out to my year group that I was actually interested in! I am very grateful to be one of the 30 people chosen to take part.
It was an 18+ event (but not explicit or anything, not to worry…) and I think I might have been one of the youngest people there, having just finished my A-Level exams whilst others were in university or already graduated. A number of people were also students or former students of English Language/Literature but the fact that I was hoping to study Psychology didn’t seem too much out of place.
There’s something about being an adult that makes human bingo less intimidating. Human bingo was our icebreaker of the day, and it’s when you have a grid of facts which you have to fill with the names of the people you meet as you quickly socialise. I’d done this before two years ago at a college induction day and that was super awkward because no one seemed to want to talk to complete strangers, but here it was more comfortable.
From a host of awesome people currently working at Penguin, we then heard all about the publishing process and how a book goes from manuscript to retail bookshelf – which was just what I’d been hoping to find out about! We also had to think of creative blurbs for unusual audiences and fresh campaigns to promote cool books. Unfortunately, I didn’t win any of the prizes up for grabs but it was a lot of fun and challenging to do.
(That’s me in the denim blue top!)
By ‘fresh campaigns’ in the tweet they mean marketing Pride and Prejudice to a male reader who likes discovering ‘new’ authors, or marketing Assassins’ Creed to a middle aged woman. This was hard but it provoked us into thinking about these stories from different angles to suit different kinds of readers.
In between activities, we chatted about each other, how we all got really confused trying to find the building and, of course, Pokemon Go! The cool HR guy, Neil, saw us and made an interesting face… then tweeted about it.
(In my defence: the wifi was free, there’s a Pokestop across the road and I caught a Krabby.)
I really liked the presentation on how the publishing industry is staying relevant today. Everything is going digital, so Penguin is now competing not just with other publishers, but companies like the BBC, and Apple in curating digital content. They create apps and websites for new releases or special days, or just to raise awareness of a story, such as games based on Roald Dahl’s ‘The Twits’. They also have a special budget for experimenting and innovating on new storytelling projects (such as Strata, linked here) that aren’t just another e-book.
You might be a person that is tired of seeing ‘YouTubers’ everywhere these days (or can’t imagine how Zoella broke records with what seems like a sappy teen romance) but vlogging is new – and so is putting it in a story. It’s also not unheard of to publish a book by a person with an already huge established audience, and is actually tactically sound, right? Such people also tend to be active online to promote their new releases – Dan and Phil, for example, popped up in presentations today (and I might have been the only Phangirl on my table, and I would love to read their book. Which I haven’t. Yet). They do live shows streamed online, they did a tour to promote the book worldwide, and they filmed a book release trailer for their YouTube channels and ‘behind the scenes’ videos. There’s a lot of possibilities there, and publishers need to make use of social media channels and technology to get ahead of the game.
At the end of the session, we were told to help ourselves to the freebies. I got a bag, a notebook, a pen, and five great titles to bless my reading list. They offered us a pile of books and told us to help ourselves; I may have stood holding my haul for a moment, a little overwhelmed with emotion and internally squealing. I’ve not had spending money for books in a while so I hadn’t read any of the titles before, and I may well just lock myself in my room for a few days to read them.
Today’s Job Hack was the first of its kind, and it was amazing. I would really recommend this experience if this gets rolled out in a city closer to you. Penguin RH Careers did a great job on putting this together and their passion for publishing and its many divisions shone through.
This experience has certainly inspired me and sparked lots of new excitement. I attended the session not as someone who was considering it as an career path (although it does sound very appealing now!) but as a writer who would hopefully be sending in the manuscripts one day that would go through that publishing process. It’s given me more motivation to work on and develop the very many projects I have, to build up my social media ‘brand’ and bring back the writing side blog that I foolishly abandoned last year right after starting it. It has been newly renamed Swan Sentences and is undergoing a bit of a reboot – stay tuned!
Here’s to more of the super-cool projects from Penguin that I will now definitely be keeping an eye out for!
Until next time, when I may have stopped gushing about the free books,
P.S. Afterwards, a group of us went for a Poke-walk around the city centre. When someone calls out ‘Stop! There’s a Squirtle!’ You stop. You must stop. It was the first time I’d been in the city centre since PokeGo came out and wow, it’s a lot busier!
P.S.S. I wrote a short tale for SONG’s Citadel and you should totally check out what we wrote.