Grace Robinson, a finalist in MML from Clare College, offers a glimpse into her experience in the Parisian publishing world, during her year abroad
From the lively buzz of the rentrée litteraire to more sophisticated champagne soirées than I could ever have imagined, last August, commencing my Year Abroad, I found myself well and truly thrust into the humming centre of the exciting and often glamorous Parisian publishing world. What was it actually like, though? Behind the Instagram stories…?
When I arrived in Paris, I’m happy to admit that I was completely overwhelmed. Not only was I living in both a foreign country and a big city for the first time in my life (by myself!), I also hadn’t practiced French regularly for the best part a year and a half, and so generally struggled to get out a full sentence. As such, the buzzword of my first week at work was undoubtedly ‘pardon?’ – one of my finest moments being when I said ‘Bonjour’ to a colleague on meeting her for the first time and she replied with a French word that I’d never heard before… after four (yes, four) ‘pardon?’s and her having to repeat the word four times, she finally rolled her eyes and in heavily accented English informed me ‘it iz my NAME.’ Excellent start.
After that first quite stressful and overwhelming week, however, I started to get into the swing of things. I had arrived during the immense lull which sees Paris go from bustling Metropolis to sleepy city during the hot month of August, explaining the pretty dead atmosphere of the office which hadn’t helped my initial impression. As my second week commenced, however, so did the famous ‘rentrée’ (the return to work and school in September in France): bronzed, glowing people flooded back into the office fresh from their vacances, free croissants were dished out in abundance throughout the corridors with cries of ‘c’est la rentrée!’, proper introductions and lunch dates were made, and I finally began to feel a bit more at home.
over the four months I learnt more about the publishing industry – both in France and all over the world – than I ever could have imagined
Editions Stock is a small maison d’édition within French publishing giant Hachette Livre, made up of 21 people. I worked in the Foreign Rights department in a team of just four, meaning I was lucky enough to get to know the people I worked with and most of the rest of the office quite well. A rights department deals primarily with – you guessed it – rights: foreign rights when selling our books for publication abroad; audio-visual rights when books are sold to be adapted into films, series, or for the stage; contracts for adapting books into audiobooks and e-books; and finally contracts for transforming French books into ‘poche’ (pocket) form, since the UK system of hardback/paperback doesn’t exist in France.
The work was interesting and challenging, and over the four months I learnt more about the publishing industry – both in France and all over the world – than I ever could have imagined. My French also came on in leaps and bounds, thanks to a supervisor who forbade anyone to speak English with me, and two lovely French girls that I shared a flat with in the 15ieme arrondissement who took me under their wing and treated me like a read française.
By the time December came around, I boarded my plane from Charles de Gaulle to Manchester with a heavy heart, a strong desire to pursue a career in publishing, and some wonderful memories. My time in Paris really was made by my colleagues at Stock, thanks to their kindness and inclusive nature. I was invited to soirées and awards evenings at least once a week, hosted in beautiful bars around Paris where champagne and laughter flow aplenty. I was able to tag along to a trip to the theatre to see a play which had been adapted from one of Stock’s books (I didn’t understand a lot of it, but it was fun). I met authors almost every day and went out for lovely lunches with my fellow interns, ever-patient as I stuttered along in slowly-improving French over a pizza or pad thai in Montparnasse. And the best part: I got to spend every day with books!
Learn more about careers in publishing via our website
Where to begin with getting into publishing…? Amanda Norman, careers adviser specialising in this area, shares her top tips:
Get some work experience! A little bit of on the job experience is very valuable. It will give you an insight into the industry, get you some skills and help you decide if it is really for you. Publishing is not one of those industries where you will have to intern unpaid for long periods. Many will pay the minimum wage. But experience at Cambridge is valuable too – editing your college magazine, making a website for a May Ball, or juggling deadlines for a student newspaper. See the reports of Cambridge students who worked in publishing over the summer vacation.
Tailor your applications. No two jobs in publishing are the same. So, make sure you dig out the selection criteria and give evidence that you have those skills. Publishing is a business so make sure you give numbers, facts, links to articles you have written and web pages you have created or amounts of money you have raised to back up your claims. And remember that publishers spend all day long looking at fonts and layouts – so spend some time making your CV look good. Download our guide to CVs and Applications here.