Studying together paved the way for twins in the publishing world

Having both studied the same course at university together, twins Paula and Karen Baker’s careers have led them on a similar journey, and today they work in very different kinds of publishing.

Paula worked as a freelance picture editor for magazines including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Harper’s Bazaar, and now works for the Financial Times on their luxury magazine, How to Spend It.

Karen is Deputy Head of Publicity at a book publisher, Octopus Publishing.

They graduated from English and Religious Studies/Philosophy from the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education in 1996. The college became the University of Gloucestershire in 2001.

They both share an interest in journalism, and Paula spends her time looking for beautiful images. “I also like the photo-journalism side of picture research and have recently published a collection of images from photographer Don McCullin. I often have to deal with artists’ estates such as David Hockney and Donald Judd which I love.”

Karen devises and manages creative publicity campaigns for her authors. “I set up and accompany my authors to TV and radio interviews, as well as book tours around the country, doing readings, book signings, and literature festivals. I also secure book reviews, extracts and interviews with my authors in national newspapers and magazines. I’ve been lucky enough to work on big book campaigns, including working with Oliver Stone, Terry O’Neill, John Lydon, Ed Sheeran, Huey Morgan, Kevin Cummins and Jo Wood.”

Paula chose the university as she liked the modular course. “It opened more study options for me and increased my knowledge of both subjects which is exactly what I wanted. Other courses I had considered at different universities were more limited. This gave me more freedom in my study.”

“Because the course was so varied it gave me the confidence to try a few options in magazine publishing before I settled on being a Picture Editor. Before that I worked in magazine production for a few years. The varied course taught me that no subject is ever one dimensional – just as no career ever is. Always be willing to explore a bit further.”

Karen liked the variety of courses on offer. “Being able to study two different subjects really appealed to me, and the individual modules were all really interesting. I had a hard time picking which ones I wanted to do as they were all fascinating! Another reason I chose it was that London was my hometown, and I wanted study in a different city/town to experience living away from home.”

“Before university I thought I wanted to become a journalist, but whilst doing my degree and as its varied modules I discovered that my love of books was so strong that I wanted to be part of the publishing world, to work on a book and make it a success.”

And they both loved the student experience.

“I loved the independence it gave me,” said Paula. “It allowed me to study the subjects I liked in more detail and the modular degree gave me more choices in the classes I chose to do in different semesters. I could choose the classes that liked best and tailor them to my degree. I also loved the freedom it gave me as a person and all the great people I met. Some of whom I am still friends with now. I worked hard and I played hard. I met people from different courses and from different backgrounds and loved getting to know them all. As well as getting a degree I had a lot of fun!”

Karen added: “I really enjoyed my degree course because the modules were so varied, it really gave me the opportunity to study what I wanted. I wasn’t stuck doing set modules I disliked – and that was fantastic! I met some really brilliant friends, and my social life was as busy as my study life, I had so much fun!! Cheltenham is a beautiful place to study too.”

And looking back they both believe it’s important to be open to trying new things, and enjoy every minute of university life.

“Study what you love, not just what you think will get you a job”, said Paula. Try and get as much enjoyment out of student life as you can. It’s tough on the purse strings being a student, especially now, but those memories you make with friends there can make you smile for years!”

And Karen added: “Enjoy every single minute of it – your course, the friends you make and the partying, because it goes by so FAST!! Make sure you do a course that you enjoy, not one that you think will earn you the most money in the future. As if you do a course you dislike and then get a job that you dislike, you are likely not to do very well in either!”