Author Archives: Helen Speedy

About Helen Speedy

Helen joined Atwood Tate with over six years' experience of working in publishing, latterly as Rights Executive for Orion Children’s Books. Helen has an excellent understanding of publishing, an MA in Publishing, and is a natural and experienced communicator. Helen manages the team of consultants working on permanent vacancies across all publishing sectors and her main focus at Atwood Tate is on Senior Management opportunities in all roles and all locations across the UK.

The Spare Room Project: Helen’s Experience Hosting Publishing Interns

What is the Spare Room Project and how does it work?

Let’s be honest, opportunities in the publishing industry are mainly in London and this can be a real obstacle for anyone looking to enter the industry from outside of the capital. This is where the Spare Room Project comes in.  In 2016, James Spackman (publisher and consultant) with the support of the Publishers Association, set up this project, which provides aspiring publishers with the opportunity to stay in the city for free and take up work experience placements.

So how does it work?  It’s simple really: interns are matched with hosts who are willing to offer their spare room for a week.  If you sign up to the Spare Room Project, you’ll be added to a mailing list and alerted when there are new lodgers to host.  There’s no immediate obligation to host and you only need reply when you see dates that will work for you.  I would urge anyone with a spare room to sign up and see whether you can help now or in the future.

Helen’s experience hosting interns

I’m excited to be hosting my third Spare Room Project intern in June.  Not being a Londoner by upbringing, I am sympathetic to the challenges facing anyone looking to enter the industry from outside of the publishing hubs of London, Oxford and Cambridge, so it’s been great to be involved in this scheme.  It’s not only good to be doing something practical to enable those without existing contacts to gain an insight into publishing and hopefully get a foot in the door, but it’s also been an enjoyable and enriching experience from my point of view.  We’ve had two quite different guests so far, one who was a huge fan of musical theatre and managed to get cheap tickets for shows most evenings, so we hardly saw her and our second guest, who quickly became part of the family and was a huge hit with (and incredibly tolerant of) my children.  Quite different experiences, but both were perfect lodgers and no problem at all to host.

You can find out more here or on their Twitter, @SpareRoomProj, and don’t just take my word for it, read some of the testimonials on the PA’s website and check out their FAQs

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Building Inclusivity in Publishing


Our pledge to help publishing to build inclusivity

Last month The London Book Fair, in partnership with The Publishers Association, held a conference on Building Inclusivity. I attended the event for Atwood Tate, because in our role as a publishing recruitment agency we have a responsibility to ensure recruitment processes are inclusive and offer all suitable candidates an equal opportunity to be considered for a role.

As members of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, we adhere to its Code of Professional Practice.  A respect for diversity is one of the main guiding principles of this code. We adhere to all applicable legislation, encourage equal opportunities in recruitment and establish working practices to safeguard against prejudice.

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting on the thoughts and insights that were shared at the Building Inclusivity event.  To start with, in using the word “inclusivity” rather than “diversity” the organisers of the event were clearly trying to drive on the tired conversation which has been stalling for a long time in the publishing industry.  Semantics can have a strong effect and I did feel that there was renewed energy and determination shown by speakers and delegates at the conference.  There was a focus openness and accessibility rather than a defining of differences and analysis of the norm versus the “other” in the publishing industry as things stand.

In her keynote speech, Crystal Mahey-Morgan, founder of OWN IT!, reminded us that books lead to readers developing empathy, and empathy leads to humanity.  I only learned about this proven link between reading and the development of empathy and morals when reading Maryanne Wolf’s wonderful Proust and the Squid (which incidentally I would recommend to anyone interested in literacy, reading, neurology and sociology), so whilst a lot of people in the book industry may know about the importance of reading for society, Mahey-Morgan’s words were a powerful reminder.

Charities like Beanstalk do important work in getting into schools to promote reading to all, but I know from observing my own children learning to read, that in order for a person to want to read, the content needs to be engaging and interesting.  None of us expect our friends and family to necessarily share all of our interests or preferences, so we already accept a variety of genres and content, but the consensus at the Building Inclusivity conference was that the books published in the UK are not wholly representative of our society or meeting its needs.

Recruitment & Inclusivity

It was clearly felt that there is a correlation between what is published and who is working in publishing and that’s where the recruitment side of things comes into play.  The industry needs to be more than just “open” to recruiting from outside of the traditional profile of publishing people but needs to make an effort to demonstrate the desire to be inclusive and take measure to increase accessibility to a wider pool of prospective employees.

At the conference, employers were encouraged to make a pledge as what measures they would aim to take after the conference in order to play an active part in creating a publishing industry that is inclusive and representative of our society as a whole.

My pledge on the day to do more at the grass roots level with Beanstalk was inspired by looking at what we could do personally at Atwood Tate to help bring a love of reading to a wider range of children.  Crystal Mahey-Morgan’s words about humanity and the story of author Robyn Travis struck a chord with me, as a governor at a primary school in a deprived area, where a lot of children a brought up in homes without books.

However, we at Atwood Tate also want to make it our pledge to ensure that we are providing as much advice and support to our publisher clients, as possible to help them to promote equal opportunities in recruitment and share ideas as to how to establish working practices to safeguard against prejudice and promote inclusivity and equality.

We are not HR consultants or expert advisors, but we can offer the following:

  • As trained members of the REC, we all have a solid understanding of all applicable legislation and Atwood Tate embraces diversity and seeks to promote the benefits of diversity in all of our business activities and to develop a business culture that reflects that belief.
  • Through our daily work and attending industry events and REC round table meetings we keep up to date with new trends and initiatives. We can share the knowledge and insight we have about what is being done in publishing and other industries to improve inclusivity in recruitment processes.
  • We are expert at writing engaging and non-discriminatory job advertisements and we are able to advertise widely and reach out to candidates outside of the publishers traditional networks.

What are your thoughts on inclusivity in publishing? Let us know in the comments below or contact us on our social media sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

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Dress Codes for Interviews


It is universally acknowledged that within the first 30 seconds of meeting a potential new employee the interviewer will judge them. First impressions, unfortunately, mostly come down to what we look like.

That is why dressing appropriately for an interview is so important.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this means you should go out and buy a suit as a simple go-to interview outfit. Publishing is a creative industry; whilst looking smart is paramount at an interview, dressing like you is also key.

As a general tip, don’t dress up for an interview. Dress like you would if you got the job and were going into work at the office every day. Smart, but not overly so.

  • Stick to the guidelines given. If they say “smart casual” do not go above ‘smart’ by wearing a two-piece power suit, but definitely don’t go below the guidelines by wearing denim jeans and trainers.
  • If you’re unsure as to what to wear just ask us when you come to a pre-interview meeting. You can even use the meeting as a practice-dress, if you like.

For example, a generic high street suit will not express your personality or originality and in a creative industry, could be judged as unimaginative or overly conservative.  Just small tweaks like adding accessories or having a well-fitting but less conventional jacket can make all the difference in helping you to stand out and express yourself and your character.  You also need to feel comfortable and confident and none of us feel at our best when wearing an ill-fitting outfit that we would never otherwise consider putting on for the office or a meeting.

  • For an interview most women could wear a dress/blouse with a jacket that looks good, but isn’t necessarily a matching suit.  You can accessorise with a scarf or jewellery or statement shoes.
  • Men don’t need to be left out and can still look sharply dressed and add touches of coordinating colour through a tie, cuff links, glasses, watch etc. Pick a shirt that fits you well, is comfortable and is ironed.  You don’t want to appear to be wearing a baggy school uniform shirt or a collar that’s so tight you can barely breathe.

It’s important to be memorable but you probably don’t want to be remembered for a terrible comedy tie or a too loud shirt.  Try your outfit on well in advance if possible and get your housemates or partner to give you honest feedback if you’re feeling worried.

Dressing for an interview is always a tricky balance, but I think it’s important to feel comfortable and confident, whilst looking your best and feeling your best. Erring on the side of smart usually is safer, but there are always ways of being smart without being an uncomfortable dark suited clone.

If you would like to receive more tips about Interviews and CV’s make sure you follow us on Twitter @AtwoodTate and on Facebook, or follow us on LinkedIn!

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Put the power back in the hands of the juniors! Emma Barnes at The Galley Club – Seven years: what happens when the coding kids graduate?

Coding Kid

After leaving corporate life, Emma Barnes set up publisher Snow Books and quickly realised that the software she needed to process royalties and administer systems was either too expensive for a start-up or just didn’t do the job she required.  Her solution was not one that most of us would consider, but Emma’s decision to teach herself to code and build her own system, Biblio Cloud, is indicative of her infectious drive, energy and pragmatic approach.

At The Galley Club on Tuesday, the theme of Emma’s talk was Seven years: what happens when the coding kids graduate? The class of 2023 will have been programming since they were 5, she warned, and basic coding principles are being taught at primary school level now.

Emma is confident that by 2023, all entering the workforce will have (or require) technical skills.  I don’t think anyone could deny that it will certainly be advantageous to have a more technical skillset, but where does that leave us now and how do we plan for the short term and longer term future of publishing?

Barnes’ talk was a call to arms: train yourself or train your staff now and you will reap the rewards. Technology disrupts and new developments occur faster than the economy is able to adapt. As an industry, publishing needs to strive to anticipate and adapt to change.

Writing code or programming software might not be for everyone, but Emma Barnes certainly left her audience inspired to have a go.  She taught herself to code through books and there are also forums and online groups, such as Codebar and Rails Girls for those who learn better through human contact.

I came away with the feeling that, as an industry, publishing should be taking responsibility for training or “upskilling” its workforce.  What an advantage it could be to have technically capable employees in-house.  By growing its own, perhaps to an extent, publishing can avoid the problems of culture clash and pay discrepancy that can come with hiring developers from other industries.  Time and money could be saved.

If you are worried about getting employees on board to develop their skills in this area, Barnes has convincing arguments to inspire those who haven’t grown up through the computer science route. Code is language and she believes writing code script triggers editorial satisfaction as well as giving you a job for life.  Barnes described code writing as the modern equivalent of being a craftsman, an activity which allows you to become the maker as well as the ideas person. Code is “written in narrative arcs”, so it does make sense to those whose strengths lie in language and literature.  To back up her case, I can add my own anecdote.  Married to a software developer, who studied English literature and whose love of poetry inspired him to read me the entirety of The Wasteland in one sitting, I can testify that software development is not solely the domain of maths and science graduates.

Barnes is sceptical of publishing describing itself as a creative industry when she feels creation is not always encouraged and there is reluctance to break the traditional cycle. She urges us to put the power back into the hands of the juniors and provide them with the opportunity to give coding or other technically focussed roles a chance.

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‘Publishing for Kids: how to reach book buyers online’ at BookMachine


For those of you that missed last night’s BookMachine event, here are a few notes on what we picked up from the four excellent speakers on the subject of ‘Publishing for Kids: how to reach book buyers online’

Steve Bohme, UK Research Director at Nielsen Book Research presented some interesting statistics on children’s online habits.

You Tube and video sharing featured consistently as the most popular online habit for 0-17 years-olds.  Use of WhatsApp and Netflix is also on the rise.

However, whilst children’s book buyers are more engaged in the online world than other book buyers and spend a lot of their online time on You Tube, only 33% of children’s books are purchased online and browsing video sites is very low on the list of places that kids discover books online.  Is there an untapped opportunity here for children’s publishers?

Next up was Claire Morrison, Senior Marketing Manager for DK Books, who confirmed that for this well-established brand, physical books were still their biggest seller with sales still on the rise.  DK is one of a few trade book publishers to have a search and analytics team and Claire described the work that this team carries out on identifying the personae of their buyers. Ensuring their content is in line with the consumer’s expectations is vital to maintaining DK’s strong and trusted brand. Claire stressed the importance of the brand’s online presence as a means of interacting with customers and DK prides itself on have a 100% rating on giving feedback via its social media channels.  Claire also introduced DK’s online encyclopaedia project DKFindOut!.

After a break and a mingle, Charlotte Hoare the Digital Marketing Manager at Hachette Children’s Books warned about the perils of static websites, which may seem a cheaper option than a proper CMS, but will prove more costly in the long run.  She also noted the tendency for marketers to set up websites for one short marketing campaign only for this website to be forgotten and not updated until a reminder arrives that the domain name is about to expire.  Her advice was to be braver and be wiser when devising digital marketing campaigns.

The final speaker of the evening was Sven Huber, founder and CEO of Boolino.  Boolino was launched in the Spanish market in 2011 and its vision is “to become globally the leading online platform about children’s books and reading, for both parents and all the people involved in the education of children aged between 0 and 12 years”.  The founders of Boolino realised that very few readers were discovering books online and most publishers find it challenging to connect with consumers online (and in particular parents).  In addition, they felt that the majority of children’s publishers were lacking in good segmented email marketing lists. By bringing together on their website content relating to children’s books and parents, Boolino aims to provide that age segmented data.  Boolino has created an ecosystem of more than 1000 bloggers and is attempting to simulate the discovery process you get in bookstores.

The next BookMachine event is BookMachine at The London Book Fair 2016 on April 13 @ 4.30 pm – 5.30 pm.  See you there!

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Brands, Licensing, Partnerships and don’t forget Consumer Insight: The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2015

On the 29th September I attended the annual Bookseller Children’s Conference. Having started my publishing career in the children’s sector, I’m always pleased when it’s my turn to go and it was a great opportunity to catch up with old colleagues and find out the latest trends and concerns within the lively world of children’s book publishing.

The recurrent themes of the day were brands, licensing and partnerships and the conference got off to a great start with a presentation from Cally Poplak, Managing Director of Egmont Publishing UK, on the subject of Building Children’s Brands. Poplak distilled Egmont’s strategy for success into one sentence: We publish what children love to read. She explained that the publisher’s aim is to make children proud readers and to produce books that are engaging and appealing to the child. Consumer insight and analysis is key to achieving this and by identifying what motivates different readers and book buyers, marketing and publicity campaigns can also be tailored to fit the various motivations. Regarding skills and the future of publishing, Poplak confirmed that old fashioned publishing skills are as important as ever but it is increasingly important that traditional publishing methods are underpinned by consumer insight and a focus on what kids are talking about and what parents want.

Other highlights of the conference were presentations from Jill Kidson, Head of Consumer Marketing at Walker Books and Laura Bijelic, Senior Consumer Insight Manager for Penguin Platform, both of whom stressed the importance of using audience/consumer insight to underpin new product development and marketing and publicity campaigns. Jill Kidson demonstrated how Walker Books had made the most of marketing a heritage brand, Guess How Much I Love You?, by focussing on sales spikes and specific calendar moments to maximise the impact of their 20th anniversary campaign. Laura Bijelic advised publishers to “get out there and meet your audience” and described how Penguin Platform was developed after much desk research and testing to define a clear target audience and vision.

Consumer Insight aside, the hot topics in children’s publishing at the moment seem to be licensing and brand management with a keyword being partnership. John Styring, Co-founder and CEO of Igloo Books, talked about both the opportunities and pitfalls of brand licensing and the National Trust and Nosy Crow announced their partnership and exciting plans for joint branded publishing. Kate Wilson, Managing Director of Nosy Crow, and Katie Bond, Publisher at the National Trust, stressed the importance of researching and understanding your publishing partner when undertaking a joint venture. For such partnerships to be successful there needs to be a mutual understanding of each party’s brand values and these need to fit.

The panel discussion on Knowing and Growing Your IP, continued on a similar theme of brand licensing but expanding on the topic of exploiting content and IP beyond traditional print publishing. The recent appointment of panel member, Katie Price, as Licensing Director at Hachette Children’s Group is perhaps demonstrative of the developing concerns of children’s publishers and their ambitions to expand on traditional publishing in order to be capable of fully exploiting important IP. Barry Cunningham (Managing Director, Chickenhouse) told publishers that if they want authors or IP owners to sign over all rights, they need to be able to demonstrate that they deserve to hold these rights and Dylan Collins (CEO, Superawesome) suggested this could be done by building capabilities internally.

The conference certainly left me with food for thought and whilst diversification and building multi-media capabilities were touted as the way of the future, many of the presentations and statistics quoted firmly reminded us that with £206.1 million spent on children’s books so far in the UK in 2015 (3.19% increase on 2014), print is still going strong in the children’s market.

If you’re interested in finding out some more facts and figures, check out the slides from the conference here.

Bookseller Childrens

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The Kim Scott Walwyn Prize

On Wednesday 20th May this years’ winner of the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize was announced to a room buzzing with publishing talent at the Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell.  The prize is in its 10th year and was set up  in the memory of the inspirational Publishing Director Kim Scott Walwyn. It is managed by the Prize Committee and Book Trust and is run in partnership with the Society of Young Publishers and the Publishing Training Centre. The award was originally founded to recognise women who had made an exceptional contribution to the industry and attracted nominations from high level professionals, with past winners including Lynette Owen and Claire Alexander. However, in more recent years the focus has shifted to the rising talent within publishing and to qualify for entry you must have no more than 7 years’ publishing experience.  The Kim Scott Walwyn prize is an important opportunity to recognise and encourage women who are demonstrating outstanding potential early in their careers and although there is always controversy surrounding awards that are aimed at a specific gender, race or demographic, until equality of the sexes is achieved in employment, this prize remains relevant.

Keynote speaker, Kate Mosse, firmly validated the importance of the prize, particularly as it is open to self-nominations.  She encouraged the audience to do things to make things happen and asserted that it is not unladylike or vulgar to promote yourself and women need to become more comfortable with being self-confident.  She urged us to understand that in celebrating your own achievements you can help other people.

Kate Mosse

Mosse, who was one of the founders of the Orange Prize for women’s fiction (now the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction ) is clearly passionate about women and minority groups gaining a stronger voice in the higher echelons of publishing and literature and believes  “we are better with a plurality of voices”.  Whilst clear that she doesn’t feel the publishing industry is diverse enough and needs to learn and be better, Mosse did credit the industry as being one, by nature of what it does, in which we feel that our voice counts. Mosse’s speech was both a rallying cry and a valedictory statement for minority prizes. She left us with the comparison that without literary prizes world changing books of quality might not continue to be published and without prizes for women and other minorities, the equality and diversity of the workforce, which is key to growing a stronger industry, might not be achieved.

The 2015 shortlist was certainly diverse with entrants from different disciplines and sectors: from production in scientific publishing through to children’s books commissioning and a literary agent who came to publishing as a second career.

Congratulations to the five shortlisted entrants (listed below) who were all worthy of the award and a big well done to this year’s winner Rebecca Lewis-Oakes.

Shortlist for the 2015 Kim Scott Walwyn Prize

  • Brianna Corbett – Production Archivist, Taylor & Francis Group
  • Rebecca Lewis-Oakes – Editor, Puffin Books
  • Anna James – Books News and Media Editor, The Bookseller
  • Nisha Doshi – Senior Commissioning Editor, Cambridge University Press
  • Jo Unwin – Literary Agent, Jo Unwin Literary Agency

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Publishing needs to embrace change: preparing for heated debate at the FutureBook Conference

It’s clear from the #FutureBook14 activity on Twitter that members of the publishing industry are eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s FutureBook conference. Karine from Atwood Tate will be attending and tweeting on the day, but we’ve been doing some preparative reading and wanted to share a few thoughts in advance of tomorrows’ hot debates!

As recruiters for the publishing industry, we are particularly interested in how the changing landscape of publishing might affect skills required and the development of existing and new roles within the industry.

In a Q&A for FutureBook, George Berkowski, a keynote speaker at the conference, argues that publishing needs to embrace change through radical measures and accept that a business may need to “fundamentally reinvent” itself every few years in order to “flourish on the customer and business side”. One of the current obstacles that he sees publishers facing is not having existing staff or a track record of hiring people who are prepared to take risks and “cannabalise” their own business in order to progress. If the industry is going to adapt to the digital age, where content (the dreaded word…) is being published and accessed via so many different channels, the people working within publishing need to adopt a new attitude and approach.

Berkowski also addresses the issue of salaries and culture, something we’ve covered in previous blogs. He feels “publishing is not a culture that has incentives for innovation” and whilst I wouldn’t wholeheartedly agree with this, if publishers do want to attract technically minded people, who aren’t interested in going into publishing for the love of it and may have a lot of more lucrative options open to them, this would need to be addressed.

Perhaps publishing does need to be quicker to adapt and less risk averse, but there are people within the industry who do embrace innovation and change (maybe just not enough of them yet). In terms of marketing and publicity, which are areas Berkowski attacks, publishers are starting to use social media innovatively, for example successful virtual or multi-media festivals run by HarperCollins and Gollancz, and we are seeing some great new service providers like NetGalley, who provide digital proofs to reviewers and could hopefully help promote Berkowski’s next book!

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Building a relevant book industry for the future: Diversity

Slightly belated, as Frankfurt got in the way (in a good way of course), here is the third and final instalment in the blog series on the subject of Building a relevant book industry for the future: Diversity, Content and Data following the BIC New Trends in Publishing seminar.

Diversity in content and diversity in the workforce are inextricably linked. It is a positive step that we have seen public outcry from authors and publishers recently regarding the lack of diversity in content and we need to keep the momentum and pressure on in order to challenge what is unfortunately the norm in many publishing and media environments. Publishers are taking steps to try to develop a diverse workforce, for example Cat Crossley, Operations Manager at HarperCollins has recently set up a diversity focus group and Inclusive Minds, in partnership with publishers, the PA, IPG and EQUIP, will be holding an event in early 2015 with the aim “to turn discussions about diversity and inclusion into real action”.

Q: What are the current challenges facing the publishing industry with regards diversity in general, in terms of people recruited?

A: The main challenge is that you can’t get a job in publishing without doing internships and you can’t do internships if you don’t have parental financial support and a base in a publishing hub such as Oxford, London or Cambridge.

Creative Access, Equip and a new Book Trade Charity grant of £1000 for graduates who can’t get a foot into publishing are all working to combat this problem.

There is probably more diversity in STM and professional publishing and this is because people often come to these roles as a second career and their academic or professional background and qualifications are of particular value, so internships are not always a necessity.

Q: Is the publishing industry producing enough diverse content? What do we mean by diverse content?

A: No, is the short answer. Malorie Blackman’s recent interview on SKY and the uproar following this is evidence that we are not producing diverse enough content in children’s literature and beyond. There is also a group in the USA called We Need Diverse Books, so this is not just a problem in the UK. Diversity of content is perhaps a lesser problem in the academic sphere, as articles are subject to peer review and published on merit. However, the contributions will only be as diverse as the discipline, I guess. OA publishing has opened things up for developing countries and other internationally focussed society publishers also take submissions from global researchers.

Over the past few years we have seen a rise in translated fiction, so change can happen and is hopefully on the way.

Q: How does the recruitment of a diverse workforce impact the content produced?

A: Personal interests will influence and so a more diverse workforce will necessarily impact the content produced.

Career Development and pay
Q: Is there an issue in publishing with regards career progression, in terms of pay scales, diversity, awareness and opportunity?

We are still battling with gender inequality in publishing, which is a shame given that so many women are employed in the industry. Mentors are key and can help to encourage and prevent drop off rates. If there is someone championing you, it is easier to progress but if you find yourself without support from above, it can be a long wait for a promotion and sadly the industry does lose good people this way. Again, addressing pay equality and transparency could go some way to combatting this and encouraging equality.

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Frankfurt Book Fair

Claire and I (Helen) had a great time at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week. We had a small stand in Hall 4.2 next to the lovely ladies from ALPSP. Here’s a picture of us at our stand with a group of students from the Oxford Brookes Publishing MA, who stopped by for a chat. FBF14_Brookes

We had meetings but also took time to walk the halls and attend some seminars, which we will blog about soon. Watch this space.

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