Bea Fitzgerald graduated with a first-class BA (Hons) in English Literature in 2017. She told us how she made the transition from university to a successful career in children's book publishing.
What did you do after university?
"I did a few internships in publishing between my second and third year which, combined with some volunteering and other work experience, enabled me to get my first job in publishing a few weeks after graduating. I was a marketing assistant at Scholastic working in the Schools team which included Education, Mary Glasgow Magazines and, most excitingly, Scholastic Book Fairs. I got to do so much in this role and almost all of it was really fun. My favourite parts of the job included: working with Michael Rosen (author of We're Going On A Bear Hunt - and former Reading student!) on a campaign I managed for We Are Writers, which is a project where children can publish their own books; Book Fair social media, as I got to see schools sharing pictures and stories of their Book Fairs; and working on the Lollies, which is a prize for funny books. I was at Scholastic for about a year and a half and got to work on so many different and exciting projects."
What are you doing now?
"My first job gave me a fantastic overview of the children's book market but I realised I wanted to work more closely with writers, so I've just started working in editorial at Hachette Children's Group. I'm still quite new to it but it's pretty much project managing a book from concept, which could be an agent sending a submission, or analysing current trends like unicorns and mermaids, through to the final publication. I'm really creative but also pretty organised, and I love the way these qualities combine in this role. I can pitch ideas for books whilst also ensuring everything is progressing smoothly with the book creation process. I'm an assistant so I won't be editing anything just yet but tasks that I can do at this stage include proofreading, suggesting book titles and writing back page copy (which are called blurbs everywhere except in a publishing house, for reasons I am yet to understand). I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that words I have written will be printed in a real book."
How did your English degree help prepare for your career?
"I loved my English degree. The best part was going to seminars and study groups and just talking about books. Most of my best essay ideas came from talking to my course friends about books and my favourite parts in them. This was really helpful in my marketing role. In a nutshell, marketing in publishing is getting paid to talk about books - just in various forms like social media, emails, posters, events and hundreds of other ways. It's important in editorial too, for writing book descriptions and pitching books in meetings to the other departments. My degree encouraged me to embrace my passion for books and let me ramble on excitedly about the topics that interested me which was the perfect lead into my job.
"There were other ways my degree helped. I've been asked in job interviews what academic background I have for a specific genre, so studying children's literature was a fantastic basis for my publishing career. My first internship was in editorial at Mills & Boon and I got that role because I spoke about working on the University of Reading Mills & Boon archives down at the London Road campus. The university as a whole was so helpful. I got a bursary to do my internship which made up for the fact it was unpaid. I did the RED award and School of Literature and Languages career support scheme which added courses like Presentation Skills and Report Writing to my CV and gave me skills I use regularly in my job. And I studied abroad, which enabled me to study other modules and books, work with people from all over the world and a great ice breaker at interviews."