SYP Event: How to Assert Yourself in Publishing


Our consultants Kristy Collingbourne and Chloe Daniell joined the SYP event on Tuesday night to hear all about making yourself assertive in publishing from industry professionals. SYP events member Ain-Deheb Bensenouci, Events Coordinator for the SYP introduced us to the wonderful panel: Roly Allen, Publisher at Ilex, Bryony Woods, Literary Agent at Diamond Khan and Woods, Ailah Ahmed, Commissioning Editor at Little, Brown and Pinelopi Pourpoutidou, Head of Foreign & Digital Sales at Michael O’Mara.

All of the panelists have experienced occasions of having to assert themselves at work; they talked on a range of topics giving their top tips on how best you can do this as well.

To kick-start the evening the panel gave some general tips on improving assertiveness in the workplace. Ailah said she was thrown in the deep end in her role but actually sometimes that is what you need because you then have to dig deep and find the confidence. You can pretend you are confident even if you are not, says Bryony. She reminded us that we can channel this from your peers or, in her mind, be Meryl Streep – if you believe in your confidence then everyone else will. Just don’t confuse assertiveness with aggression, in most cases it is all about knowing what you are talking about.

When asked about training, Pinelopi started the topic off by saying the best training she ever received was learning from observing colleagues, asking them for tips and seeing how they work or do things in the job. There was a bit of disagreement on the panel as most of them felt you can learn in other ways, but Ailah loves training and fought the corner for other training lovers. She really feels there is such an opportunity to gain more skills and confidence and that more people should ask to go on courses to work on self improvement.

Being involved in the industry and, as some managers themselves the panel all agreed, a good manager is what will help you to improve and gain skills to work on your assertiveness. Roly said a good manager helps you to develop and be assertive; you should be given new responsibilities to grow your place in the company.

The discussion touched on more sensitive topics in the industry such as gender and money, and Ain asked the question of why these topics can be difficult to approach. The panel agreed that decisions aren’t made based on gender, but that some women can find it difficult to assert themselves in the industry. On the question of how to approach talking about money, the panel collectively felt that when asking, ensure you have a case behind you to show how you are adding value and progressing in the role, rather than using it for your personal situation. It can’t hurt to ask if you have a valid reason.

On ways to improve, the panel talked about knowing your end goal, really preparing before a meeting or discussion, if you know what you are talking about then you will find the confidence in your point. Play to your strengths and shine that way. Roly also reminded us that you can find confidence from the team and work to each other’s strengths.

Finally the panelists were asking what advice they could offer on those wanting to stand out as candidates getting in to the industry and once they’re there what can they do to be assertive on a work experience placement? To stand out as a candidate they said to be commercially aware of the industry, make sure you know about the job and the company you are applying for – they look for this in applications. Companies look at interests on CVs - this can sometimes make you memorable. Make sure you include all wacky & wonderful interests! Be yourself, that is all their looking for and relax … if you can! At work experience, ask to shadow someone, attend meetings and show willing, make it worthwhile for you to be there. They rounded off by mentioning to be aware of the balance with assertiveness, as there is a delicate pendulum between too much and not enough. If you’re really not sure then ask about the boundaries there is nothing wrong with asking.

Thanks to the SYP for having us at such an exciting and informative event!