In Conversation with Tanja Goossens
Posted in Neem Tree Blog on March 5, 2021
For our first instalment of Publishing Insiders, a new interview series on the blog, we spoke with Tanja Goossens, TV extraordinaire-turned-publishing professional. I connected with Tanja through Twitter and the Publishing Hopefuls Facebook Group (a wonderful community for those of you trying to break into the industry). We actually both made it to final round interviews for a role at Curtis Brown, where Tanja now works. She kindly connected me with Archna Sharma, founder of Neem Tree Press, and this led to my current position as Publishing Assistant. The value of networking in this industry cannot be understated, nor can the supportive, generous nature of publishing folks. I’m excited to share our interview below.
Hi Tanja! Thank you for doing this interview with Neem Tree Press. First of all, congratulations on your new job at Curtis Brown. Could you tell us a bit about your route into publishing and what inspired you to seek out a role in Rights?
My route into publishing was pretty long. I graduated from my Bachelor’s in Media in The Netherlands in 2012 and worked in television until I moved to London in June 2017. Soon after starting a job as Account Manager, I realised I didn’t want to return to television anymore and decided to change my career path. Being a voracious reader (something you’ll find in many job ads!), I applied for an MA in Publishing and started at Oxford Brookes University in 2018. I studied part-time, in order to work alongside it to pay the bills, so I didn’t apply for internships or work experience at first. Halfway through my second year, I started applying for internships and jobs. I got two interviews for an internship and an assistant role, but then… COVID-19 happened. There were no vacancies for about 4 months. It seemed hopeless. Luckily, from last summer onwards, vacancies appeared again, and I landed another interview in September. I didn’t get the job, was heartbroken, but continued. After dozens of rejections and four more unsuccessful interviews, I reached out to one of my former lecturers, who matched me with Clare and Ruth from Rights Consultancy Rights2. With a lot of transferable skills in my back pocket already, I gained some more applicable experience there. When I was invited for an interview with Curtis Brown shortly after, it turned out to be a great match. I accepted a job there as Translation Rights Executive in early December.
As someone who found the application process for publishing roles absolutely gruelling (and at times honestly a bit soul-destroying), it could be tough finding the drive to keep applying. How difficult was it for you to land a role in publishing? What kept you motivated during your application period?
I must give a lot of credit to my boyfriend here. His positive ‘don’t give up, you’ll get there’ attitude pulled me through. Another thing that helped me a lot was the Publishing Hopeful Facebook Group. I’ve connected with some lovely people, made friends, and most of them have jobs now. I don’t want to sugar-coat it; the publishing industry is highly popular and there aren’t enough jobs, but passion and perseverance do help! Also, don’t beat yourself up for feeling down after a rejection. The only way I could move forward is to allow myself to feel down for a day or two, and then pick up where I left off.
I’m curious now that you’re working in your dream role, what parts of your job have matched your expectations and what parts have perhaps been a bit different from what you expected?
The job absolutely matched my expectations and beyond! I’m very lucky to have a manager that not only lets me do admin tasks (which is a big part of the job), but I also get to sell rights in some territories already. We’re now preparing for the virtual meetings we’re doing at the end of the month as our own Spring Book Fair.
Working remotely has of course been tough for everyone. I would imagine as someone starting out in a role (and not being able to meet new colleagues face-to-face), it must present some unique challenges. How has your experience been so far?
It was very strange at first and getting job training over video calls could be quite draining. However, Curtis Brown started working from home a year ago, so everyone was already used to it and could integrate me easily. The company regularly checks in with everyone, making sure the working conditions at home are good, and there are people to reach out to when you’re not feeling well in the current climate, which I really appreciate. It’s a shame I haven’t met any of my colleagues in real life, but maybe we’ll be lucky enough to meet for a picnic in the park in the spring!
What are some positive changes you would like to see within the publishing world in the next few years?
The biggest silver lining for me is that companies (not just in publishing) are finally seeing that their employees work well from home. In an ideal world – and I think this is very likely to happen – we’ll work part-time in the office and part-time from home. This is not feasible for everyone and I’m confident that companies will make sure the office is always open, but most people will enjoy the time and money saved on their daily commute.
It has also opened up a broader world for people that aren’t able to come to an office, for example, anyone with a disability or impairment that can’t easily travel. Also, we’re not bound to publishing-heavy London anymore. Less commuting means you can live further out and therefore have a much more affordable living situation. I really hope this helps to make our industry much more diverse and inclusive.
Any final words of wisdom/advice for publishing hopefuls out there?
Don’t give up! I know it’s tough out there and I hated people telling me this, but perseverance is really key in getting into this industry. Learn from rejections, try to take any feedback onboard (if any is provided) and learn from each other. We are a very lovely bunch and very happy to help and to advise.
A quick Neem Tree Press-related question to round us off: Which one of our titles stands out to you most as one you’d like to read?
That would definitely be Distant Signs. I recently read two books about post-war Germany and during the iron curtain and am fascinated stories set during that time.
Excellent choice! Thank you so much for answering our questions. Best of luck with everything at Curtis Brown!
Tanja can be found on Twitter @tanjagoossens. We’d also love to connect with you @neemtreepress.
Keep an eye on the blog for future interviews with publishing professionals from various departments and with an eclectic mix of paths into the industry. We’ve got some excellent ones coming up. Stay tuned!