“Bringing a book to life is a phenomenally collaborative process…”
Meet Rosanna. Previously an English teacher, she joined The Scheme 2016 intake.
Read on to hear what she said about her experiences when she was coming to the end of her first placement. Rosanna is now employed as an Editorial Assistant for Penguin General
Hello, Rosanna, tell us a bit about where you’re from, your background and what your role is here at Penguin Random House?
Hello, I’m 23 from South Wales, and I worked as an editorial assistant at Cornerstone as part of The Scheme. I studied Modern Languages at Oxford before deciding, when I graduated in 2015 with no real idea of what I wanted to do, to do the standard languages grad thing of going abroad and having no real idea of what to do in a warm climate with good food. I moved to northern Italy and did a hotchpotch of things there: I taught English in a secondary school, established myself as a freelance translator (and regretted it almost immediately), wrote articles for a culture magazine and interned with a casting director. I was planning to go back to university for a Master’s when I got my place on The Scheme.
You made it through The Scheme 2016 to become one of our final four. What made you apply in the first place?
I was trawling through the internet in search of funding opportunities for my Master’s when I saw the advertisement for The Scheme on Facebook. I had always thought publishing would be an interesting industry but had been put off by stories from university friends about how impossible it was to get any kind of work experience. I remember reading the description of the person they were looking for and thinking, I actually think I could do this job, maybe I should just go for it. Though I saw the advertisement a couple of weeks before the deadline I still somehow managed to leave it to the last minute to actually apply. The night of the deadline was an extremely stressful one, spent waiting for a delayed train at Swindon and running round frantically in search of a socket to charge my dying laptop. At one point I almost gave up – I’m extremely glad I didn’t now!
What was the best thing about The Scheme 2016?
The last round, the two-day assessment in London, was enormous fun. The final twenty applicants were all so nice, in fact many of us are still in touch. It’s a great way of making contacts; especially given that so many of them have gone on to get jobs in the industry. A situation like that could easily have morphed into some Apprentice-style nightmare of competitiveness but it wasn’t like that at all. I think the best thing though was how transparent the entire process was. I always understood what was being asked of me, and knowing exactly when I would hear back after each round allowed me to put it out of my mind for most of the time. The four months just flew by in the end.
What was most challenging about The Scheme?
Whilst I loved the assessment day, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so exhausted as I did after that. I was probably particularly tired because I thought (wrongly as it turned out) that the first task had been disastrous and had spent most of the day replaying it over and over in my head. Not even remotely productive and very draining. But when you’re so immersed in the experience, maintaining perspective can be a little tricky.
What did you learn from taking part in The Scheme?
That your own creative vision isn’t really worth anything if you can’t communicate it with others and get them excited about it too.
On to your role now…share with us a something you’ve worked on that you’re proud of – pictures too please!
When I first started at Cornerstone the publishing director at Hutchinson gave me A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I absolutely love it (in fact whenever my friends ask me what I’m working on they now hastily add “other than that Russian one” for fear I’ll wax lyrical about it yet again) and so I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to work on the later stages of it. I put together a reading guide for this, which involved rereading the novel carefully and thinking up discussion-provoking questions. The Hutchinson assistant and I also transformed (yes transformed, it was unrecognisable …) the Penguin Random House canteen into a Moscow Hotel for a day and we had a special Russian-themed menu, complete with vodka jelly shots.
What’s been your biggest surprise about working in publishing?
It sounds ridiculous, but probably just how many books are out there. I always thought I read widely and then I started working in publishing and realised I had read comparatively nothing. But that’s also been what I’ve enjoyed most. You get up to speed with what’s what and who’s who in the industry remarkably quickly. That being said, I did sit opposite Jojo Moyes at an event recently and had no idea it was her until the editor I was with told me. I think I still have some way to go …
What one piece of advice you wish you’d been given when you started looking for a career in publishing?
Don’t be too narrow in what you’re looking for. I didn’t realise how much sideways movement there is in the industry. Lots of editors that I work with now didn’t start off in editorial and they say that the experience they gained in marketing or publicity etc has proved very useful in their current position. Bringing a book to life is a phenomenally collaborative process, and, from what I’ve learned watching the people I work with, the better your understanding of the wider picture the better you’ll be at your specific role within it.
And finally, what advice would you give to someone deciding whether or not to apply for The Scheme?
Absolutely do it. You have nothing to lose by applying, and the application process itself gives you such a good idea of what working in the industry involves that you will soon know if it’s not for you. If you do decide to apply, my advice would be not to dive straight in with your answers. You won’t be judged on when you submit your application (I got mine in with two minutes to spare and it turned out fine) and the questions are designed to be taxing, so you’ll find you produce answers which are much more focused and well thought-through if you take the time to mull them over.