By Jennie Collinson, Head of Sales at Liverpool University Press
I chose to work in publishing outside of London and Oxford, let me tell you why.
Following the completion of my MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes in 2009, I set myself quite the challenge – pursue a career in publishing and move back to my beloved home city of Leeds. The majority of my classmates had a plethora of exciting opportunities before them at powerhouse publishers including OUP, Wiley and Penguin. The value of hands-on work experience in the industry was made abundantly clear during the one-year course and I had secured a work placement at Leeds based journals publisher Maney Publishing. Following this, I was lucky enough to be offered a role as a PA which then led to a much loved and invaluable six years in the marketing team until the company’s sale to Taylor & Francis in 2015 by which point I was Senior Sales & Marketing Executive. I stress the ‘invaluable’ as although many may think that to work for a relatively small and *whispers* Northern publisher had its disadvantages, I argue quite the contrary.
In my experience the smaller the company, the greater the opportunity for learning. There is less a sense of a hierarchy and more of a cooperative. You become involved in decisions and processes that would be unimaginable at a behemoth publisher. For example, in my current role as Head of Sales at Liverpool University Press I oversee the processes and relationships that you would expect from my job title but I also get to liaise with colleagues in all other departments every day and offer opinions on aspects of the business as far ranging as online platforms, customer service, development of digital products and everything in between. Yes, we are a small academic press, but I can only tell you every day is varied and my job satisfaction is through the roof. It’s worth noting that I continue to live in Leeds, work from home and travel to Liverpool two days per week. Yes, the journeys can get long and tiring, especially around this time of year when you both leave and arrive home under the cover of darkness but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The pros far outweigh the cons if you’re willing to give the unconventional a go.
The divide between companies like us and the giants is getting bigger thanks to the latter hoovering up the former at an alarming rate – and it’s true that those of us in the North are more exposed and therefore vulnerable to this type of “consolidation”. When the time and effort you have put into making a company financially and commercially successful is rewarded with its sale to the highest bidder it is easy to feel defeated, and in my personal experience, like the industry had been eradicated from your city overnight with little concern for the consequences. However, I refused to let the contribution I had already made go to waste and sought out opportunities further afield. But don’t be fooled by the acquisition and merger announcements coming out every other week – the UK university press network is a great example of how publishing can not only survive, but thrive, north of Watford Gap. This was highlighted in the recent University Press focused issue of The Bookseller, in which Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool University Presses are all prominently featured. We are here, we are successful, and we are hiring.
So my advice to anyone considering a career in publishing and has resigned themselves to moving south – don’t automatically think there is one path to follow. There’s an easier one for sure, but there are rewarding opportunities to be found if you are willing to be patient, work hard and are not afraid of a long commute!
This blog was published in November 2017.