Girls can do Anything

The panel:  Abiola Bello (Author and co-founder of Hashtag Press), Hannah Sheppard (Literary Agent, DHH Literary Agency), Charlie Morris (Senior Publicity and Marketing Executive, Stripes Books), Gillian McAllister (Sunday Times Bestselling Author)

On Wednesday, our administrators Kathryn and Anna went to the evening event Girls can do Anything, Write? The first panel discussion in a new series hosted at The Library in Covent Garden as part of the London’s Big Read 2019, inspiring an eagerly listening audience with suggestions for success in a publishing career.

Are women’s voices heard enough in the publishing industry?

The industry is predominantly populated by women so why are women rarely the ones in charge of those important decisions? After acknowledging that there are exceptions to this within the big six trade publishers, the big takeaways were:

  1. Male voices are often given more weight – women are making the hiring and firing decisions but men are rising through the ranks at faster speed.
  2. Men and women brand themselves differently – men are often more confident and actively seek a response, whilst women couch themselves with a much more passive approach. This confidence, particularly in authors trickles all the way down to the retail selling of a book.
  3. The glass ceiling has not yet been smashed – more conversations need to be had in the sharing of maternity leave for example.

On a positive note, women reign supreme in crime fiction at the moment and their voices are being heard in publicity roles across publishing.

Lesson: Be confident and share support, whatever stage you have reached in your career

(Don’t be afraid to ask AND offer!)

How can more BAME women be heard in publishing?

Publishing houses are making more of a conscious effort in their recruitment processes however, diversity reports show that there is more work to be done.

  1. There are not many BAME submissions and more books need to be published with BAME characters
  2. There is a twitter “mob mentality” around individual voices, however the existing writing community is under pressure to avoid writing diverse characters. So how do we get diverse books to young readers, with characters reflecting themselves, to encourage them become authors?
  3. It is possible that we need to start from the bottom, and address potential unconscious bias within schools and promote books outside of the educational canon.

Some Advice…

Are you an aspiring writer? Here are some useful tips:

  • FINISH THE BOOK! You can edit later, it is much easier to work on a finished manuscript.
  • Find something that triggers inspiration for you. A particular genre of films?
  • When reading, read analytically. (This is relevant to a career in publishing on the other side of the desk too!)
  • When writing, your characters should drive the plot – what do they really want? It is their goal that should lead the story.
  • It is important to network; attend events, blog, join in conversations, subscribe to industry news outlets like The Bookseller and BookBrunch. (This is relevant to a career in publishing on the other side of the desk too!)
  • TIP: Try to write 20 minutes a day and take a day off.

Do you want to get into publishing? Here are some useful tips:

  • Read a lot, especially what is being promoted, bestsellers and what is being reviewed. It is important to have knowledge of what works and the industry itself.
  • HAVE OPINIONS! When applying for a job, look for a connection between yourself and the role you are applying for.
  • Read the job advert closely, understand exactly what they are looking for and demonstrate that you have those skills.
  • Look at the companies’ social media and website and see what they value.
  • TIP: Recognise the business person within yourself and be a boss in your field!

With contributions from Anna Slevin.

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