MVP’s TOP FIVE TIPS for aspiring publishing professionals

The publishing industry can seem terrifying, especially when you are looking in from the outside. Even more so when you are in the middle of filling out applications, taking interviews, receiving rejections and still trying to maintain the confidence to ‘sell yourself’ while battling impostor syndrome.

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We’ve all been there and know how challenging and disheartening the entire process can be. So, we at MVP, put our heads together and came up with our TOP FIVE TIPS for anyone trying to find their way into the world of publishing.


1. FOLLOW PUBLISHING PROFESSIONALS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Following those currently doing the role you wish you were doing can be motivating, but also truly insightful. For example, if you are following marketing professionals, you might get a peek at some of the campaigns they have been working on and pick up a few tips and tricks.

(p.s. another benefit of following them is that you may even come across news of a vacancy on their team via their account)

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2. BUILD SOME FORM OF ‘MARKET AWARENESS’

That phrase can sound terrifying, but don’t panic! This does not mean you have to do hours of extensive research. Even just keeping an eye on rising trends and bestselling titles (in children’s fiction, or adult non-fiction, or wherever else your interests lie) and acquisitions announcements that are being shared. Or, making note of an exceptional PR and marketing campaign that caught your eye and what you think it did well/could’ve done better. All this can be extremely helpful for when you finally get that interview. Interviewers love to see that you are genuinely interested in the world of publishing!


3. PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE, NETWORK AND ASK QUESTIONS

Networking can seem incredibly daunting, especially if you are an introvert, but it’s often not as bad as it seems. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and ask for advice and tips from people in the field you are interested in — publishing professionals are often more than happy to answer questions, if approached politely and respectfully. (Note: look out for any info they’ve put out on how to contact them: some have email addresses in their bio, others may have their DMs open with a previous tweet/post saying they are open to questions – be considerate and polite.)

Some publishing professionals have even recently taken to a new app called Clubhouse to host ‘get into publishing’ talks and discussions — look out for these as they can be incredibly insightful, and a great opportunity to ask questions in an informal and welcoming forum. And there are several resources in several different forms e.g. the newly launched Main Characters’ podcast and Eleanor Rose’s Youtube channel that has a bunch of gems.

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4. KNOW THE PERSON/COMPANY INTERVIEWING YOU

This doesn’t necessarily mean stalk your interviewers (this isn’t Netflix’s YOU), but it could help to take a look at the publisher’s social media and familiarise yourself with their lists. Pick one or two books or prominent authors to research into a bit further, and find a way to incorporate them into an answer for a potential interview question. Look up the person interviewing you on LinkedIn, or see if you can find any articles on their work/find out a bit more about their specific role (e.g. for editorial, this might involve trying to find any news on recent acquisitions they may have been involved in).


5. MAKE USE OF EXISTING GROUPS AND ORGANISATIONS

Now, more than ever, there are incredible resources and organisations available online helping to encourage and ride non-publishing professionals who are trying to get into the industry. Make sure to join and follow and make the most of as MANY of these as you can! Here are a few to get you started:

Creative Access

Book Careers

Get into Book Publishing

The Publishing Post

Most publishers have separate social media accounts where they post current vacancies, so make sure to check those out. Follow the employee network accounts, like Hachette’s THRIVE or and Harper Collins’s ELEVATE — these networks are often working overtime to try to make the industry more accessible and transparent. Follow the #WorkinPublishing hashtag. Look into schemes, traineeships and work experience opportunities. (Note: things might be a little quiet on this end as people and companies continue to social distance and work from home for the foreseeable.)


BONUS TIP: STAY POSITIVE!

We know it can be disheartening to receive rejection after rejection, especially when you are still trying to get your foot in the door (trust us, we’ve been there and it is not fun). But please try to stay positive!

Whenever you feel defeated, remind yourself why you want to join the industry and what you hope to achieve. Many of us who are joining the industry, or have recently joined, are trying to drive change and amplify underrepresented voices and stories — remind yourself of this too, and remind yourself that publishing needs you just as much as you want it. Once you’ve reminded yourself of that, take a break, mope for a bit if you need to (chocolate always helps) and then get back to work. You’ve got this.

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Mini Author Q&A ft. Hafsa Zayyan

Co-winner of the first ever #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize, Hafsa Zayyan’s highly anticipated debut novel We Are All Birds of Uganda is a tale of love, loss and what it means to find home, and should definitely be at the top of your 2021 TBR!

And to celebrate the publication of her debut, we had the chance to ask the wonderful Hafsa Zayyan some questions — you can find her incredibly insightful answers below!


What inspired you to start writing We Are All Birds of Uganda?

The New Writer’s Prize launched by MerkyBooks. The tagline for the competition was that they wanted to hear stories that weren’t being told.  The story of the South Asian expulsion from Uganda in the early 70s was a story I myself had only recently become familiar with, and was aware that many of my generation hadn’t heard much about – despite it being a major part of British history.


What’s one thing you would like readers to take away from We Are All Birds of Uganda?

Ultimately the book is about issues faced by immigrants, and the parallels between issues faced by immigrants today, compared with 50 years ago. Things have moved on, of course, but to what extent are we still affected by intergenerational trauma, and how has our understanding of racism changed? How much have we really changed? I’d encourage readers to critically analyse their own experiences and to talk as much as possible about the book’s themes.  


Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Loved it.


What is one book that you cannot wait to read in 2021?

So much good stuff coming out in 2021! White Ivy by Susie Yang sounds very interesting – it’s also a story about the immigrant experience (Chinese American).


What is one essential you need when writing? e.g. a snack, music/soothing sounds, a cosy setup…

A pen and paper. Sounds random or maybe even obvious, but I don’t use it for writing – I use it for doodling while I write! I’m a very visual person – I like to sketch out in a graphic form my character’s arcs, timelines, family trees, plot themes… the list goes on. 


How did you juggle a full-time job as a lawyer and writing your first novel?

With difficulty and sacrifice! As a lawyer, I work well to deadlines, and so having a deadline in place to submit the first draft of the manuscript helped – I dedicated every spare minute I had after work on weekdays, and full weekends to writing the novel. It meant a lot of cancelled social engagements and holidays that became writing holidays – but it was only for a short while, as I produced the first draft in the space of six months.


What was one of the most surprising or interesting things you learned in creating your books?

That I could write a book at all! It was such a delight seeing it go from an idea to a full manuscript and I will never forget the day I received the first bound, proof copies. I still have to pinch myself to make sure they are real! 

I learned a lot about the South Asian expulsion and the history of Uganda while writing – the historical narrative in particular required quite a lot of research.  The 20th century is one of the most fascinating periods of history – so much seems to have happened in the space of a century. One of the more surprising things I learned, for example, was about the world’s fluctuating approaches to immigration during this time – from the idea of total freedom of movement in the earlier part of the century, to the creation of the concept of a worldwide passport after WWI, to the restriction of immigration and the consequent concept of “statelessness” of the latter parts of the century. So many changes in the space of 100 years!


Can you share anything about your next project/anything you would like to work on in the future?

I’m very excited to announce I’m teaming up with a bunch of incredibly talented Nigerian writers including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Abi Daré, Inua Ellams and Yomi Adegoke among others to contribute to “Of this our country”, a non-fiction collection exploring Nigeria through its writers. The collection is available to pre-order now and is scheduled to publish in September this year.


Hafsa Zayyan is a writer and dispute resolution lawyer based in London. She won the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize in 2019. We Are All Birds of Uganda is her debut novel, inspired by the mixed background from which she hails. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and holds a masters’ degree from the University of Oxford.


UK cover of We Are All Birds of Uganda

Pre-order your copy of We Are All Birds of Uganda here at Bookshop.org (and help support local Indies!) or Waterstones.


Thank you for reading! Please do follow our blog to stay up to date with our posts and content.

Mini Author Q&A ft Sairish Hussain

Today, we have the wonderful Sairish Hussain joining us to discuss her debut novel The Family Tree, which published February 2020 and was shortlisted for the Costa First Book Award 2020.


How long did it take to write your debut novel?

Five years from start to finish as I wrote the book as part of my Creative Writing PhD at university.


What inspired you to sit down and write The Family Tree?

I think I was inspired and angry. The Family Tree is my response to all the dehumanising portrayals of Muslims I’ve encountered in literature. I decided to write a story that reflected my life and the people that I grew up around.


What’s one thing you’d love readers to take away from your book?

That brown, Muslim, working-class northerners can also encompass the breadth of human experience, and we should see this reflected more in our books.


Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time

Probably The Fire Next Time just so I could rediscover James Baldwin and become obsessed all over again!


A meme that lives in your head rent free?

Probably the ‘this is fine’ meme of the dog drinking coffee in a burning room. I don’t think I need to explain why considering the year we’ve just had.


What is one book that you cannot wait to read in 2021?

The Khan by Saima Mir and The Blood Divide by AA Dhand 


How did you feel when you heard TFT had been shortlisted for the Costa First Book Award? (Also, congratulations on this!) 

Disbelief. Overjoyed. Humbled. 


Sairish Hussain was born and brought up in Bradford, West Yorkshire. She studied English Language and Literature at the University of Huddersfield and progressed onto an MA in Creative Writing. Sairish completed her PhD in 2019 after being awarded the university’s Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship. The Family Tree is her debut novel and she is now writing her second book.


Toggle the scroll button to switch between the stunning hardback (Feb 2020) and paperback (Nov 2020) covers of The Family Tree. Both are currently available in-store and online.

Grab a copy of The Family Tree here at Bookshop.org (and help support local Indies!) or Waterstones.

You can find Sairish Hussain on Twitter or Instagram.


Thank you for reading! Please do follow our blog to stay up to date with our posts and content.

2020’s Must Read (MG&YA) Books by Muslim Authors

Stories have always been a necessary means of escape, bringing much needed moments of peace. And it’s safe to say that 2020 has been pretty rough…

“It’s a great blessing if one can lose all sense of time, all worries, if only for a short time, in a book.”

Nella Last

As we approach the end of the year, we thought we would look back at just some of the amazing titles by Muslim authors and illustrators that so-happened to publish this year.


(The Daevabad Trilogy, #3) 
by S.A. Chakraborty

The much-anticipated finale to the stunning Daevabad trilogy published this year. Prepare to be taken on an adventure like no other, and maybe have your hearts broken…




(An Ember in the Ashes #4)
by Sabaa Tahir

Another undeniable favourite fantasy series is coming to a conclusion. Sob. We’ve been waiting for this finale with bated breath!





by Zanib Mian and illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik

This middle-grade series is full of humour, love and funky doodles. We’re so glad that this series exists – and the Muslim representation it provides through the lens of a young Muslim boy – and highly recommend it as a heart-warming and hilarious read for adults and kids alike.




by Aisha Saeed and Becky Albertalli

Yes? No? Maybe so? Aisha Saeed and Becky Albertalli (author of Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda) team up to bring us the ultimate romance, exploring cross-cultural relationships, politics and activism. And all the cutesy romance you could ask for.




by Seema Yasmin and Fahmida Azim

A full-colour illustrated collection of stories about amazing Muslim women throughout history. Inspiring and stereotype-shattering.




by Nadiya Hussain and illustrated by Ella Bailey

The talented Nadiya Hussain addresses dealing with anxiety in the form of a ‘worry monster’ in this wonderfully illustrated picture book.




by Sufiya Ahmed

A thrilling historical tale exploring the story of British Indian WWII secret spy and heroine, Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan.



(Illustrators: Nabi H Ali, Reya Ahmed, Saffa Khan, Aaliya Jaleel, Deema Alawa, Aghnia Mardiyah)

by Burhana Islam

A collection of stories about amazing Muslims throughout across the globe and throughout history. Featuring full-colour illustrations throughout, by six talented Muslim illustrators.


These are just a few of the fantastic titles published this year by Muslim authors. Let’s hope that 2021 brings a bit more good news and lots more brilliant books with Muslim representation, written and illustrated by Muslim creatives.

In the meantime, we hope this list has offered you a new title or two to add to your TBR!

Mini Author Q&A ft Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

To celebrate the recent UK cover release of Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s highly anticipated debut, Ace of Spades, we have a mini author Q&A. Below you’ll find her answers to some quick-fire questions (including the super important stuff, like her favourite meme…) and you’ll find the US and UK covers as well as links you can follow to pre-order!


Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time…

Cheating by saying The Mortal Instruments series – I think reading that series as a teenager was truly the last time I experienced happiness 


What is your favourite writing snack?

Reese’s cups


A meme that lives in your head rent free?

That meme of Brandy dancing to Afrodisiac…


What’s one thing you’d love readers to take away from your book?

That Black girls can kick ass in designer heels (oh, and also to interrogate everything you’ve been taught up until now by systems like education)


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

I love writing Chiamaka because she is so blunt and says whatever’s on her mind and somehow gets away with it


What is one book that you cannot wait to read?

Whatever Angie Thomas writes next…


Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a writer from South London who has dreamt of writing books about black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. She is an avid tea drinker, and a collector of strange mugs. She currently studies English Literature in the Scottish Highlands.


Toggle the scroll button to switch between the UK and US covers of Ace of Spades. Both will be available in-store and online in June 2021.

Pre-order Ace of Spades here at Bookshop.org (and help support local Indies!) or Waterstones.

Visit Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé‘s website to learn more about Ace of Spades or follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @faridahlikestea.


Thank you for reading! Please do follow our blog to stay up to date with our posts and content.