Spare Room Project
An appreciation post of sorts. Since graduating from university in August 2016 I have been trying my best to get my foot in the door at publishing houses as I have decided that working in a marketing and publicity role at a publishing house, or as an agent’s assistant at a literary agency is what I ultimately want to do. For those of you that are unaware of the publishing industry in the U.K., the central hub of publishing houses is London, although there are some in areas like Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol, but the majority are based in London.
The Spare Room Project was founded to set up “aspirant publishers outside of London with publishing people in the capital, who can give them accommodation for a week. One of the starkest challenges to diversity in publishing is the difficulty faced by those who live outside of London and have no friends or family there to put them up, while they do an internship or work experience placement. This pilot scheme will start to address the issue by asking people working in publishing in London to pledge the use of a spare room in their house for a week. They will then be matched with an aspirant publisher, who will have arranged work experience in London for that week.”
It has been invaluable for someone like me, because despite living in the midlands (1hr30-2hr train away), a return train to London costs anywhere between £75-100 a day! That would be more than I would be earning on said internships. Purely because I can’t justify such an expense, I have been put off applying for last minute unpaid work experiences as I would be massively out of pocket. The Spare Room Project has placed me in 3 different spare rooms, and the people I have stayed with are the most wonderful people, and I am eternally grateful for them providing me with a place to stay while I have been interning. Not only that, they insist that I treat their home as if it were my own, offering me the use of their kitchen space, bathroom and also living and dining areas, but most importantly…WiFi!
I first stayed with Kate and her family at Mill Hill, and they were lovely enough to offer me a fantastic room with an en suite shower. I could not wish for a better first placement that the SRP organised as Kate and her husband were so accommodating.
Sarah from Blackheath was my second placement, and again, another wonderful person. She was also kind enough to invite me out for drinks with her and her colleagues at Penguin Random House. This was not only kind, but also very helpful, as Sarah and her colleagues gave me plenty of career advice over a drink…or three.
My most recent placement was with Becca and Neil in Sydenham. I stayed with them and their children for the 3 weeks that I was interning at DK Books. That is an amazing stat on its own, for allowing a stranger to stay in their spare room for 3 whole weeks. Not only did we have countless conversations about everyday things, publishing, life, but Neil and his son were also huge football fans, so I was lucky enough to sit down with them and watch plenty of matches on TV. While interning at DK, who are in the same Strand building as Penguin Random House, I bumped into Sarah and we had a lovely catch up.
I cannot recommend the Spare Room Project highly enough, these people are helping me begin a career in publishing that I otherwise couldn’t afford to do. The London-centric aspect of publishing has tested me many times and I have considered whether a career in publishing is worth it all, but now that I can stay in London without spending an arm and a leg, I am now intent on making sure I can pursue the career I want. Another added bonus of the SRP is the fact that the people who ‘put you up’ can become publishing contacts in an industry which is as much who you know, as what you know. A special thanks goes to James Spackman for organising all of my placements so far!
Those in the UK that have work experiences and internships lined up, check out the information here, for you to make arrangements for a place to stay in London.
The Humpo Show | Richard