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What is a trade association?

Getting Started: What is a trade association?

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By Julia Kathro, interned at the Publishers Association

My first experience in publishing was interning for the Publisher Association (PA), and it was an eye-opening experience.

I first met Eliza, Campaigns Executive, at UCL’s Get Into Book Publishing course, and although I had a limited understanding of the PA’s role in the publishing industry, Eliza had only great things to say about her job, and I jumped at the chance to intern with her.

I started the internship with the vague notion that the PA was not a publisher but in some way supported them, although, to be honest, I was pretty sketchy on the details.

Now, I know that the PA is a trade organisation, meaning that they work to provide support, resources and services to their members, who are publishers. This support comes in many forms, from organising campaigns and literary awards to collecting and publishing statistics for the industry.

I was lucky enough to be there as the PA launched a new 10-point Inclusivity Action Plan, laying out guidelines for an inclusive publishing industry and encouraging their members to pledge their support. I sat in on meetings with the heads of all areas of publishing, that the PA coordinates and hosts. I helped to schedule upcoming events, everything from Work in Publishing week, to workshops for small- and medium-sized publishers. I learned that the PA offer a one-stop service for publishers exhibiting at the London Book Fair and that they have not one but three separate newsletters, for members and non-members, about exciting things happening in the publishing industry. 

I spent a whirlwind four weeks in the PA, and it was a busy and exciting experience. I barely scratched the surface of their campaigns and initiatives, but I feel I have a much better understanding of the importance and influence of trade organisations in the publishing industry. 

I am now working with London Book Fair (LBF), another vital piece of the publishing puzzle. I had the pleasure of recently attending the Building Inclusivity in Publishing conference—a collaborative event between the PA and LBF. The audience was a vibrant mix of publishers, trade organisations, charities, booksellers, students and even authors. It's been a slow realisation, but I have come to realise that working in publishing does not necessarily mean working for a publisher. In fact, I think some of the most influential and vital work in the publishing industry comes from the supporting organisations, striving to shape and guide the publishers so they can focus on what they do best—telling stories.

This post was published in November 2017 as part of #workinpublishing week.