By Connor Brown, Spare Room Alumni
Publishing in the North is alive and well. Thriving, even. But it’s fair to say that London, as it is in many industries, is the place to be for job opportunities; and given that it is now the norm for successful entry-level applicants to have undertaken a number of publishing placements beforehand, those from outside of London are at an even greater disadvantage. These often unpaid internships are simply unattainable to those who don’t have a relative or family friend within a commutable distance from one of the most expensive cities in the world. And what a shame that is.
I’m from the North. Born in Sheffield before studying in Liverpool, I’m now on the Publishing MA at the University of Derby. A few weeks ago, I, from the outskirts of nowhere (I’m told that sarcasm is lost on the internet), was able to spend a week at Corvus, the commercial imprint of Atlantic Books. Sara O’Keeffe, Corvus’ editorial director, the star that she is, had pledged a room through the Spare Room Project. This initiative sees budding publishers like me paired with those in the industry that have a spare room to offer for a week over the summer.
At Corvus I read manuscripts, wrote copy, and fell on my feet by being there for the annual team drinks. I was assured that publishing isn’t all free events, and in that I was disappointed, but in everything else I found confirmation that this was what I wanted to do; which was good, really, considering I was to start my master’s in the subject the following week.
Staying with Sara was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed building Lego with her children. Sara had a small body of water called the Irish Sea between her and London when she first entered the industry, and became involved in the Spare Room Project not only through her kind-hearted nature, but through her empathy for the difficulties non-Londoners face.
Whilst at Corvus I spoke to staff originally from the provinces about their first jobs in publishing. It seemed usual for people to have moved to London with a few grand in the bank, expecting that to easily last them until they found a job, which it didn’t. As an undergraduate, a friend of mine put herself up in a hotel for a week whilst on placement at a big publisher. The internship cost her about £600.
That scenario cannot persist. For the most diverse, representative, and effective work-force, publishing needs to make itself accessible to all those capable of doing the job, not just those that live near enough to afford it.
Sara couldn’t have been a better host, and to her, her family, and the Spare Room Project I am truly grateful. I do hope that others in this notoriously friendly industry open their doors to those really wanting to enter the profession that we all love. I had a blast.
Find out more: Spare Room Project