I was lucky enough to do a two week work experience placement at Penguin books in London and I had such a wonderful time. I was in the editorial department of one of their publishing sections called Viking and although I naturally had to do some menial admin tasks, I also got to see the workings of book editing and read lots of manuscripts and book proposals. IT WAS GREAT.
Here’s what I learned:
- I love London. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the whole commuting and working in busy London part but I really love the whole experience (bar late train and packed tubes, obvs). I’m lucky to live so close to London so the commute really isn’t too bad once the trains decide to turn up and time, and I got to walk through the lovely surroundings of Covent Garden everyday.TOP TIP: try not to get run over, it’s really quite hard.
- People in London are actually quite nice. Who knew? I saw people give up their seats for pregnant women and elderly people on the tube, shared jokes with a girl at a cupcake cafe and became besties with the men at the print company. I feel like a Londoner already.
- Penguin may be the coolest place to work. Forget Google, I’ve decided that it doesn’t get much cooler than Penguin. I walked in on the first day in my carefully-planned business outfit to find every one else in their casual jumpers, jeans and converse outfits. Of course, I naturally descended into casual-ness, and by the end of the week it was all dresses, cardigans and boots. Everyone was so young and relaxed and they all get free books, like all the time. I’ve got some which aren’t even published yet. What’s not to like?
- You have to like reading. Now this is a bit of a given, and considering that I do English Lit I thought I would be prepared, but it really is A LOT. I read such an amazing variety of book proposals and obviously I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but some of the things I’ve read have been so amazing, I’m sure that they will be out on the shelves in the near distant future and I can’t wait to be all snooty hipster and say “Well, I liked it before it was even published. In fact, it was my recommendation that got it published so yeah.” The last bit might be a little over-exaggeration but I did write some glowing reports of proposals I hope will be chosen. You’re only supposed to read the first 50 pages of a manuscript to tell if it’s any good, but I read a couple so good that I just read the whole thing instead, so cheeky.
- It’s difficult to get published 😦 Obviously I knew this one, but again, my time at Penguin just reinforced the idea that it’s really hard to get your stuff out there and taken seriously. It’s best to get a literary agent before finding a publisher and they’re just as picky themselves. Then again, I did read some absolutely terrible stuff which had a literary agent, so maybe there’s hope for us all after all.
- I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT TO BE AN EDITOR. It’s always a bit scary when you do something like this, because there’s the thought that you won’t actually enjoy it after all. Becoming an editor has been a dream of mine for a while now, but I was a little worried that the dream wouldn’t live up to the reality. Luckily, my work experience just affirmed what I want to do and now I’m more motivated than ever to try and achieve it.
So Penguin, if you’re reading this, I would love a job after I graduate next year.
Any other publishing house: I’ve had work experience at Penguin, will you take me?
This is going to be my tune for the next few years.
I desperately want to do this!
I am a first year studying Creative Writing down in Falmouth (quite FAR from London!). I was wondering if you could answer a couple questions of mine?
1) I’ve been looking into going to this two week placement (if they would have me!) and all the info I can get is “we have a two week placement – apply!” but it doesn’t say which two weeks?! Did you get to negotiate the dates or did they just give you dates and you obviously said yes and went?
2) Well – I am a first year! Would you recommend a first year doing something like this so soon, seeing as you have experienced first year already and are wiser and smarter than me?
Hi Emily! I actually got this through Penguin coming to my uni so I didn’t have to go through the online process. But yes, they asked me when I would like to do it and then checked to see if they fit me in. Obviously they’re super popular so if you want to do it at a certain time you would have to book ages in advance. But because you’re at uni and have long holidays I’m sure they’ll find a time for you 🙂
Yes, definitely do this as soon as you can! I wished I hadn’t have waited until second year to do it. I’m now in my last year and this has helped me so much with career choices and inspiration! Good luck and I hope you get it. You’ll have a great time when you do 🙂 Beth
Hello! Just read this article and thank you for sharing this experience!
I am in my final year and really want to do it. If you don’t mind, I would like to ask a few questions…..
1. How long did they contact you after your application and was there an interview? How long did you wait until the first day to work?
2. What do they value the most on your CV? Could you share some tips about how did you get this opportunity?
Hi! Glad you liked the blog post. I got the work experience through a direct contact and I was fortunate not to go through the application process, so I won’t be very much help I’m afraid! I do know that they have lots of work experience interns in all the time, however, and that they seemed to just be looking for enthusiastic people who were interested in publishing. Sorry I couldn’t help you anymore, good luck! 🙂