My Job in 5: David Barker
- Describe your role.
I’m Senior Lecturer in Publishing at the University of Derby, and Programme Leader for our MA Publishing course. Having worked in publishing for 21 years (at Continuum, then at Bloomsbury in New York and London), it was quite a shift adjusting to the world of Higher Education! My role involves teaching (across all 3 years of our undergrad course and the Masters too), doing constant research into the industry, and ensuring that our students have the best possible experience during their time at Derby.
- What do you like best about your role?
On the teaching/research side, this role has expanded my knowledge of publishing tenfold! Yes, I teach ways of commissioning and editing books (which is what I used to do) – but I also teach whole modules on children’s publishing, non-fiction publishing, and contemporary issues in the industry. So I have to be completely on top of everything that’s going on, whether that’s Open Access or diversity in picture books. On the more pastoral side of things, it’s a real privilege to help our students – most of whom are from non-traditional publishing backgrounds but who would bring so many fresh perspetives to the industry.
- Which new projects or titles are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on a brand new module for the autumn semester, designed to ensure that our final year undergrads are as up-to-date with industry thinking and trends as they can be. I’m also reaching out to a range of industry guest speakers – from working authors to rights specialists, and from sales managers to metadata experts. And I’m continuing to build an interactive, comprehensive database of all the publsihing related companies in the UK that offer any work experience or internships, as a resource for our students.
- What skills do you need for your role?
Enthusiasm – during the autumn and spring semesters in particular, this role is incredibly intense; if you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t survive! Improvisation skills – teaching is like being on stage but with only a sketch of a script. You never know where any session might go and it’s brilliant fun when the students take discussions into unexpected and thought-provoking places. And finally, empathy – all of our students have different aspirations, different goals, different backgrounds; it’s imperative that lecturers can listen, understand, encourage and inspire.
- What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?
I advise all of our students to do their research into each and every publishing company they’re applying to. Unless you’re blessed with large amounts of luck, it’s hard work getting that first break in publishing – so you need to be methodical, determined, patient and smart about your approach. Don’t just focus on 3 or 4 favourite companies – cast your net wide and use every interview as a chance to make connections and learn even more about the industry. Oh, and read The Bookseller religiously!