Martin Eden, Senior Editor at Titan Publishing shares his story and gives us his top tips.
How did you get your job?
That’s a very long story!
I graduated in the early 1990s with a degree in English & Latin, and then I travelled around a bit on the ‘Work America’ scheme, which I’d recommend to anyone (if it’s still going). When I got back, I was determined to get a job in publishing (my ultimate ambitions were to be Editor of Empire Magazine or The X-Files Magazine!), but it was really hard as I was based in Birmingham and there are very few publishing jobs there.
I spent a year in Birmingham living with my parents, applying for dozens of jobs (mostly in London) and temping as an admin assistant on a very low salary. After about a year, I was about to do a teacher training degree and then I was offered 2 jobs in London on the same day. I turned down the PGCE and I took an Editorial Assistant job at a very small publishing company in London (they had no computers!). After a year, an Editorial Assistant job came up at Titan Publishing, who I really wanted to work for, and so I went for it and I got it! I became Editor of the official X-Files Magazine within about 3 years.
Why did you want to do this type of work?
I’ve always enjoyed reading magazines and comics, and I thought this kind of job was really suitable to my capabilities. It’s creative, requires a good level of proof-reading and accuracy, and it also has perks that I enjoy (free movie showings, free comics, free magazines, etc). I’ve always worked on magazines related to TV shows/movies that I enjoy – I’ve worked on mags/comics for Buffy, X-Files, Heroes, Star Wars, DreamWorks, Simpsons and loads more.
How relevant is your degree to your job?
More than you’d think! Things have changed now. Back when I was 18, most people my age were going to university, and the fact that you got a degree showed commitment and set you up for joining the employment world. Now, I think a vocational degree is a lot more important, and there are student fees involved, so you need to be really focused on what you actually want to do in life.
I think the English part of my degree helped a lot, and English on your CV does definitely get your foot in the door for publishing jobs. Obviously the Latin part would seem trickier – but the latter actually caught the attention of my first boss – he was a huge fan of Latin and people who learned Latin – and it pretty much sealed the job for me. After a year of job-hunting, it was the Latin that began my career. Really, when it comes to job-hunting, there are no rules. Anything could work in your favour!
Describe a typical day at work.
It’s such a cliché, but there is no typical day at work. Most days are spent dealing with loads of emails from everyone and anyone – you really have to learn how to prioritise and learn how to say no (or ‘not just yet’). The rest of the time is spent proof-reading, sub-editing, planning, checking things for print, going to meetings, etc, etc. I work with a lot of people in America, so I often need to wait until about 5pm before I can ask them urgent questions (LA is 8 hours behind us).
On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, we have Production meetings (one for our licensed magazines/comics, and one for our graphic novels and originated comics), so they often produce a lot of things to sort out. Tuesday at 3 is our print deadline for our UK mags/comics (Wednesday morning is the deadline for US magazines), so they are usually very busy – especially if you spot a bunch of last minute mistakes (which does happen).
What are the best/worst bits about your job?
Worst bits – mistakes getting printed are always rough. Minor mistakes will bug you, and big mistakes might cost your company money – but there is a team involved, so these should be avoidable (I did say ‘should’…). But if a mistake happens, you just have to move on – there is nothing you can do (unless it’s the printer’s mistake – it’s printed, that’s that). You can either beat yourself up about it, or you can move on.
The best parts are – giving paid work to artists or writers, or being able to successfully recommend them for work. And of course, it’s always exciting to see your magazine back from the printers. Even now – and I’ve been responsible for hundreds of publications – I always still get a thrill when a new issue arrives in the office.
Have you any advice for students and graduates wanting to get into this type of work?
For a start, don’t be nervous at the interview. Just relax and be yourself. The interview lets the company see if you’re the right person for them – but it’s also an opportunity for you to see if the company is right for you. As an interviewer, I know pretty quickly if the person is right for the role or not. Don’t be upset if you don’t get the job – things happen for a reason, and it wasn’t meant to be. Another company will benefit from having you!
Do try and get some publishing experience if you can – a lot of companies run internships these days. Experience will get your foot in the door, definitely, but proof-reading skills are more important to me (we’ll often give candidates a short test).
In general – listen to criticism and be open to it – it’s a very good way to learn. Always learn from mistakes. Mistakes will happen – it’s the nature of the publishing game – and you just have to try your best not to let it happen again.
I think also in publishing, it’s good to speak up. Anyone can spot a mistake. I think the old me, who started working at Titan 20 years ago, would probably have been too meek to speak up sometimes, but anyone can spot a costly mistake – never assume that someone else has spotted it.
Finally, enjoy it. You work many hours out of your week in a job, and you should be able to enjoy it.