Starting this academic year, Hachette UK partners with New Writing North and Northumbria University to provide a new Publishing MA. As part of this they provide the Publishing MA students with an opportunity to visit their headquarters and see the day-to-day realities of the publishing world.
On the Victoria Embankment, situated between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges, stands Carmelite House. Currently the headquarters of Hachette UK, the building has a long history of publishing. For several decades it was the headquarters of Associated Newspapers Ltd, who published such things as the Evening News and the Daily Mail. Though renovated in 2015, it still has the old cage-style lift hidden away at the back of the building.
We arrived shortly after 10am on 20 April. It was a gloriously sunny day. We’d spent the previous day at the London Book Fair, sweltering in the greenhouse that is the Olympia London, so we were looking forward to some air-conditioning. We were greeted at reception by Ronnie who works in the Production team for Hachette Children’s Group.
The Hachette UK headquarters are divided between the Hachette divisions, each occupying space across the various floors (except for two floors occupied by an unrelated law firm). Each division has its own little entrance space: a small area announcing their name, their books and their personality. When you reach their floor, and pass through the glass doors of their office, you’re greeted by these small little reception areas. Surrounded by bookcases displaying books that each division has nurtured and brought to market, you can really feel each division’s individual character. Even the choice of seating is reflective of their personality.
For the next two hours or so, Ronnie led us on a journey through the Hachette publishing landscape, introducing us to a myriad of faces from various backgrounds. Everyone we met explained to us how they had come to be working in publishing, and if there is one thing to take away, it’s that there isn’t a set path. I don’t think a single person had the same journey. Some started in bookshops. Some started as assistants (to some rather interesting characters). Some had zig-zagged across the company, moving departments and divisions as opportunities presented themselves. As such, every different person at Hachette had a different collection of skills, each varied in their own way.
The tour wasn’t just about meeting people though. As we toured the offices of Hodder Education, Orion and Little, Brown, to name a few, we got to see parts of the publishing machine such as unbound copies (literally sheafs of paper loosely stacked and wrapped in a mocked-up cover) and rolling shelves filled with proof copies of the division’s books (with an advisory note taped to the shelves warning people to check that the space is clear before moving the shelves).
The culmination of the tour was the Hachette rooftop terrace, an island of green in the centre of London. It was a lovely day for it with the sun beating down in a cloudless sky, and a wonderful finish to the tour.
For lunch, we retreated to one of the conference rooms where, alongside lunch, we were given the opportunity to talk with more of the Hachette staff in a more casual environment, allowing us to engage in a bit of networking.
After lunch, some of Hachette’s senior team led us in a talk about publishing and the publishing industry. It was a fascinating discussion with some of the leading figures in the industry. The intent behind Hachette partnering with New Writing North and Northumbria University on the Publishing MA is to diversify the workforce and to move it away from its London centricity. To that end, Hachette has already established several regional offices. This discussion was very much about highlighting the different avenues into publishing and the ways that we as publishing students in the North of England could take advantage of the opportunities available to us.
After that our time at Hachette UK offices was over. We had seen much; we had learned a lot; and, it is safe to say, we will be back.