To celebrate the publication of Reggie Nelson’s Opening Doors, we worked in partnership with the author and OWN IT!, as they launched the Opening Doors initiative – a pioneering fully paid four-week work experience programme to help a candidate from an underrepresented background break into the publishing industry.
Designed to demystify the world of publishing and set the candidate on their first steps towards a career in books, the placement offered an insight into two sides of the industry, comprising two weeks with our adult editorial team, and two with OWN IT!.
We caught up with the inaugural candidate, Isabella Boyne, to ask about the experience…
What inspired you to apply for Opening Doors, and how was the application process?
I was inspired to apply for Opening Doors as I was looking for a way of entering the publishing world. I had just finished university and was struggling to enter the industry through entry-level roles when I saw the Opening Doors work experience listed on Creative Access. When I read more about Reggie Nelson and his book that inspired the programme, I was even more eager to be a part of it, as I was really inspired by his story.
The application process was fairly straightforward, including a cover letter, CV, and answering a question about the importance of storytelling. I really appreciated how accessible it was and how friendly both Madiya (from Bonnier Books UK) and Shae (from OWN IT!) were during the interview stage.
Can you tell us a little about the work you were involved in over the four weeks?
I was lucky to experience a wide range of work while working both at Bonnier Books UK and at OWN IT!. At Bonnier, I created mailing lists, did picture research, edited chapters of first draft texts, attended lots of different meetings, created an editorial schedule, and gave feedback on proposals. At OWN IT!, I read submissions for the publishing arm, helped organise a book launch event, met with authors, answered emails, and created TikToks. Every day was an opportunity to try something new and learn from it, which I really enjoyed.
What’s been the most memorable part of this experience?
The most memorable instance during the Opening Doors work experience was meeting Sean Godfrey, the author of a book that OWN IT! was publishing called Sasha Knight and going with him to bookstores to sign his book. This was such an impactful experience, not only because I got to see the process of launching the book but also because I was able to witness Sean’s reaction to seeing his debut novel in stores. It was so lovely to witness someone see all of their hard work and efforts in its final product and hear about their process. I really enjoyed seeing how happy and grateful Sean was and it served as a great reminder of how working in publishing can impact someone else’s life in such an extraordinary way.
One of the aims of Opening Doors is to demystify an industry that has often seemed hard to break into. What was your impression of publishing before going in, and has anything changed following your experience?
Before entering publishing, I thought that working in editorial would mainly consist of reading and not much else. Although I did do a fair amount of reading during the experience, I was surprised by how varied the role was. I was also surprised by how intertwined the different departments were. I initially thought that each department did its own thing separately from one another, but after attending meetings discussing covers, sales, and market research, I quickly realised that was not the case.
Most importantly, I was pleasantly surprised by how kind and welcoming everyone is in publishing. Every single person that I met went out of their way to ask me about the internship experience and make sure that I was enjoying myself and learning a lot. There were so many people that took time out of their busy schedules to speak with me so that I could learn more about their experiences, which I really appreciated.
And – having taken the first steps – will you be looking to pursue a career in publishing?
The Opening Doors experience definitely solidified my desire to pursue a career in publishing. Before the experience, I knew that I wanted to work in publishing, but I wasn’t really sure about which department I would like and I did have a small worry in the back of my mind that despite wanting to enter the industry for years, I might not actually like it. But, the experience taught me that I love working in publishing, especially in editorial.
Finally… Did you read anything good while you were with us?
I was lucky enough to read the first few chapters of a book that had been acquired by John Blake called The Game of Hearts, all about the glamorous world of Regency London’s Bon Ton. I definitely heard the voice of the Bridgerton narrator in my head while I was reading it!
More information about the Opening Doors initiative can be found here.