Entry-level roles won’t demand an in-depth understanding of publishing, but a good grasp of how the industry works is useful. Learn the basic functions of departments like editorial, sales, marketing, publicity and production.
Trade publishing might get the most high profile deals, but rights embraces many different sectors, like academic, professional, educational and specialist publishing. Learn what goes on in each, and see what interests you the most. Don’t assume that trade publishing is the most exciting sector to work in: there are very stimulating roles to be had in many other parts of the industry, and they may well have a broader range of content to work on.
Book fairs are great places to get a feel for how publishing works. Visiting isn’t possible for everyone, and they can be daunting places for first-timers, but walking round halls and talking to publishers helps you appreciate the variety of the industry. Many fairs have useful rights-related events, and some arrange discounted tickets or delegations for aspiring professionals. Conversations can sometimes provide valuable careers advice or leads for jobs or internships.
While some rights professionals at major publishers have progressed through the ranks there, many others have gained valuable experience at other companies first. Small publishers can provide a range and level of experience in rights that can’t be achieved at bigger companies, as team members will often juggle a variety of rights-related tasks.
Publishing is a friendly industry and many rights professionals are very generous in their support of new and junior professionals. Trade associations like the Society of Young Publishers, the Independent Publishers Guild and the Publishers Association all have useful resources, and the IPG has a mentoring scheme that partners experienced members with people who are in the early stages of their careers. Most people in the industry will be pleased to offer advice if asked.
If you're interested in a career in publishing, why should you consider working in rights?
What skills does it take to start a career working in publishing rights?
A list of common (and not-so-common) job titles and skills for working in publishing rights roles.