Interview With… An Inventory and eBooks Controller

Luke Dawson is a recent graduate who specialised in digital publishing at university and knows the trials and tribulations of the job market. If you’re feeling flustered with the interview process, Luke has some great tips to keep you on your toes.

How did you get your role at Taylor & Francis?
I obtained my role at Taylor & Francis (HSS books Routledge UK division) by applying through Linkedin. I attended 6 interviews for two different roles before being given the position of ‘Inventory and eBooks Controller’.Did you always want to work in academic publishing?
I made the conscious decision to work in publishing, whether it be: literary fiction, academic, journals or whatever publishing division I could get a job in. I made this decision at the end of my first year of university.

What skills did you feel you already had that helped you with this role?
I spent the majority of my third year of university learning as much as I could on digital publishing, namely: TEI xml and open access digital publishing. I was already skilled in writing HTML and my job at the time heavily involved the use of Microsoft Access and Excel. A combination of these skills and my utter persistence and confidence (if you can call those skills) helped me gain my role.

What advice would you give a student looking to work in this area?
My advice would take many strands, from a direct skill set, personal skill set and finally just understanding the job world we live in. In terms of direct skills, turn down no opportunity to learn something digital. Regardless of whether you are seeking a traditional academic publishing role with print, all employers (the ones I spoke to anyway) are very interested in digital skills. A more linear skill set that is essential is editorial ability, make sure you have experience or at least can show you have edited something to a high standard.

In terms of personal skill set, make sure not to ignore any skill you may have, when writing a CV or attending an interview, every single experience or skill you posses is very important. For instance, I spent twenty minutes of one interview discussing my personal experience of the transition between primary school and secondary school. With the job market so saturated with candidates, employers will literally ask you anything to help them understand what kind of person you are. This leads nicely onto my final point. Understand that no matter your skills or experience when applying for a job, you still have a very low chance of ever even hearing back from that employer. The most important thing is persistence, apply constantly to new jobs (even if they don’t necessarily suit you perfectly), chase those jobs up at least twice if you haven’t heard back.

Also, you need to grasp that getting to the interview is no achievement, getting to a final interview is the only time you can start to think you may have achieved something. Once you have made it to any interview stage, confidence in yourself, skills and abilities is essential. I attended over twenty interviews (not including Taylor & Francis) before I gained a role in publishing. What let me down to begin was arrogance. I was so pleased with myself for getting an interview ( at the beginning) that I forgot to sell myself. Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance, you need to sell yourself in such a way that employers believe in you. I know that all of the above is filled with hypocrisy but what I am trying to get across is make you sure learn the correct mixture of all of the above. I cannot stress enough that a job will not find you, you must be utterly belligerent with applying, contacting and pressuring employers to get in their doors!

What do you think about open access?
My experience of open access is mainly from when I was at university. I loved it when I was making my digital projects. I really felt I was bringing forgotten literature back to world for everyone to see for free! In saying this, my corporate experience of open access is very different. Not even the leading publishers in the world have discovered a fully working model for open access yet. As it stands it is very expensive to publish open access (well on the platforms that matter, financially speaking) to keep content free for the end user. I would like to see it become a more useful tool for literature and learning materials that aren’t viable for profit. I don’t like the idea of profitable material going open access. I think this would change the sphere of publishing to a system where the author or institution foots all of the cost for publishing and the publisher sits back with revenue streams that never really get back to an author or institution. My experience of OA is not extensive, this is just my opinion from what I know so far from the industry.

Has open access had any affect on your role at Taylor & Francis?
I would say that OA has had little or no effect on my role at T&F. I work in books, whereas mainly journals are published OA currently. We have a start up division within the business at T&F called Cogent OA who are starting to become very successful in the OA world. Aside from that and the fact that their desks are behind mine, I know very little about their model.


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