Lessons from a career in Publishing: Kimberley’s Case Study

We’re excited to have Kimberley, a Publisher commissioning commercial women’s fiction for Hodder & Stoughton as our guest blogger. She has been in publishing for the last twelve years working with many bestselling authors including Jojo Moyes, Giovanna Fletcher and Stephen Fry. Where did Kimberley’s career journey start? What lessons has she learned from the industry?

books on an oak bookshelfI’m Kimberley and I work at Hodder & Stoughton – a major publisher within the larger publishing group, Hachette UK – as a Publisher of Women’s Fiction. This means I’m broadly responsible for managing the commercial women’s fiction list at Hodder: looking at the overall strategy for the list, acquiring new authors, working with them on their manuscripts and ultimately helping bring these books into the world. Although I knew when I was at university that I wanted to work in publishing, I’ve had a pretty circuitous route to where I’ve ultimately ended up.


University and early career steps

I studied English Literature at the University of Warwick (although this is by no means a pre-requisite to work in publishing – lots of my colleagues studied a wide variety of subjects, and many don’t have any kind of formal tertiary qualification). I also did some work experience at a number of small publishing houses, which helped me to understand more about the industry and confirmed it was the right career path for me.

My first job was as a Marketing Assistant at Palgrave Macmillan, an academic textbook publisher, based at the time in Basingstoke. I worked there for about a year before I moved to London, and joined HarperCollins, still in marketing but this time working on Secondary School resources. It was interesting and creative but I knew it was the trade side of the industry I was more interested in – particularly after I did some crossover work on the Children’s list, marketing fiction books into schools.


Joining the trade side of publishing

It was a hard move from educational publishing into trade, but I was able to join the marketing team at Michael Joseph (a division of Penguin Random House) in 2012, devising consumer campaigns for the list. It was there that I realised I was most interested in the tasks that crossed over with editorial – such as copywriting, pitching for new authors and working with existing authors – and having worked closely with the editorial team on a number of women’s fiction titles, knew this was what I was most passionate about. When a vacancy came up in that team I applied and was able to move sideways in the company to become an editor.

To begin with, I assisted the more senior team members on their projects but gradually began to acquire my own authors for the list. Since then I’ve moved up the ranks in editorial (including working for two years in Sydney, at Penguin Random House Australia) before joining Hodder & Stoughton in 2018.

Pile of books with an open book fanned out on the top
Image by Pixabay.

Reflections and advice: starting up in the industry

Publishing has always been an incredibly competitive industry, and while I wouldn’t change anything about my own career path, I do recognise that I began working in an area of the industry quite different to where I ultimately wanted to be. I’d certainly encourage anyone interested in publishing now to research some of the different roles and departments to establish what they are most interested in before applying – I certainly didn’t realise how many different opportunities and jobs there were when I first started out. This resource from Blueprint For All and Hachette UK is really helpful to demystify this.

Lots of the industry are on Twitter so I’d also recommend following people on there to get a sense of what they do on a day to day basis (we like to share!), and do some research on what’s happening in the book trade – trade publications like The Bookseller or Book Brunch are really brilliant for this (though some of the articles are behind a pay wall). There is also a weekly print edition of The Bookseller.

The Society of Young Publishers is another fantastic resource for those starting out in the industry and I’d recommend having a good look on their website. Do look on the publisher’s own websites too, as many will have career hubs including interviews with staff members, details on what different roles do and opportunities for internships or career open days.


My biggest career lesson from Publishing

I’ve been working in the publishing industry for twelve years now, and the best thing about my job is that no two days are the same! With experience my career has evolved, and it’s a real privilege to get to work with authors I love on books that I would choose to read for pleasure. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to keep an open mind and always say yes to new opportunities – as ultimately that has enabled me to try new things and realise where my passion lies.


Interested in a career in Publishing & Writing? Explore our wide array of advice, further reading and industry links on the Sector Guides on KEATS.