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Where Will the Next Generation of Publishers Come From?

alison baverstock
This essay considers how publishing (the concept and the associated industry) is understood within society and how to spread understanding of both the processes involved and the job opportunities available. It examines traditional publishing recruitment practices and the skills and competencies sought. It considers the role of publishing within the academy, its arrival and reception, and how this is changing as more sector-specic research is published. It looks at course content on an international basis, how this matches the skills likely to be needed by future publishers, and the role of the work placement. Finally, it examines the process of widening and diversifying recruitment, as well as the practical measures being taken to assist in this process. The author makes a series of recommendations on how to spread understanding of the publishing industry and present it as an attractive option to the future workforce; promote a move to meet the needs of a wider cross-section of society through encouraging more people to read and gain the quantied benets thereof; prioritize excellence in information management and dissemination; and spread the habit of buying published resources beyond traditional markets. Keywords: publishing, recruitment, employability, wider participation, reading

At the turn of the decade, Gail Rebuck, chairman and CEO of Random House UK, commented, The industry is going through a tectonic shift (to digital) and the next ve years will be absolutely crucial for publishers . . . the investment will be in new skills for staff.1 At the same time, a 2009 survey of non-publishing university students established that few think of the industry as being cool (19%), exciting (17%) or cutting-edge (11%), whereas the majority think at least one of these descriptions apply to broadcasting, art/design/fashion and IT/ telecoms/web design.2 If publishing is to meet the needs of a wider cross-section of society, encourage more people to read and gain the quantied benets thereof,
Journal of Scholarly Publishing October 2010 doi: 10.3138/jsp.42.1.31


Journal of Scholarly Publishing

prioritize excellence in information management and dissemination, and spread the habit of book buying beyond the middle-aged women on whom the industry has traditionally over-relied,3 it arguably needs to attract a diverse and talented workforce. As Helen Fraser, former managing director of Penguin UK, has commented, A workforce that mirrors the population, especially urban populations where the majority of books are sold, will be able to tap into the whole market.4 So how do people learn enough about publishing to decide to seek employment in the industry, and how do they learn more about specialist publishing in particular? Tim Palmer, talent attraction manager at HarperCollins UK, has commented that publishing, like the music industry, is a career path people rst think of when they are at school, nd attractive, and then work toward; ambitions are planted young. But to the outsider, possible roles in the music industry are more apparent than those in publishing; basic experimentation with recording devices or karaoke shows that recording music takes time, and the dramatization of this process on screen (e.g., Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in the lm Music and Lyrics) has conrmed this understanding. Publishing is not an obvious career path to most schoolchildren. The processes involved are apparent only when done badly, and as writing is a static occupation, it is not frequently lmed. In Bridget Joness Diary, Bridget Jones gets fed up with publishing and goes off to nd excitement in television news. Angus Phillips, director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, talks of staff visiting schools to explain publishing as a career, and many of us have given talks to schools as part of World Book Day 5 or the United Kingdoms National Year of Reading in 2008. I have encountered a general response of amazement that so much effort goes into the production of something so simple (and for many, regrettably, so pointless). Publishing has perhaps traditionally been a heritable profession because it is often only those with personal insight who can shed light on the processes involved; few others know or care. As a UK ction author, speaking about her recent experiences, told me in 2001, I come from a lower middle class background. My father was a bank clerk and I went to a state school, although I did go to Oxford. I couldnt believe it when I had my rst book published. I entered a world where absolutely everyone had been privately educated and

Where Will the Next Generation of Publishers Come From?


there was no one like me at all. The upper middle classes had corralled a nice working environment, doing something particularly pleasant, entirely to themselves.6 Like any isolated group of people, too, publishing professionals can sound rareed and alienating to outsiders. It is perhaps inevitable that those purveying literature pick up some of the associated vocabulary, and this can obscure access to both meaning and value. Nicholas Heiney complained that people who only study literature generally become pseudo-historians or pseudo-psychologists, imitators of the analytical mode they feel they can apply.7 More recently, Amanda Ross, managing director of Cactus Television and creator of the hugely inuential Richard & Judy Book Club at its height credited with one in eight titles sold in the United Kingdom has commented that on some existing television book programmes, the panellists are completely intimidating. They make me feel I am not qualied to read.8 There is equally a lack of cultural and ethnic diversity among publishing staff: In 14 years I have never had a Black editor, notes Malorie Blackman, a best-selling author of books for children and young adults.9 One solution is to educate more widely about publishing as a career and to raise awareness through mass media. Charities apparently lobby to have their specic concerns included in a soap opera, because this spreads understanding and empathy for those aficted by or dealing with the associated issues. Perhaps a medical publisher could be introduced into House, to persuade the disgruntled doctor to share his insights through publication, or a character in Neighbours start a community newsletter or Web site and talk up the associated satisfactions (e.g., seeing your name in print or holding the early copies of a product on which you have worked). What kinds of skills and competencies are employers looking for from a new generation of publishers? Research for a publication on careers in book and magazine publishing10 led to interviews with publishers worldwide. There was a consistent response from the industry that they were looking for those with enterprise; the ability to be excited by ideas and collaborate in their development; an international perspective; digital awareness; a genuine fascination with how content is used by a variety of different stakeholders; and exibility in considering the most appropriate format in which material can be presented. This is nothing


Journal of Scholarly Publishing

new. Publishing is supremely an entrepreneurial occupation, Alan Hill wrote in 1988; personal initiative is everything and motivation is the most precious quality.11 The pool in which publishers go looking for this blend of talents is broadening. In an industry where paring of costs was standard, recruitment advertising has often been an avoidable expense: friendnd-friend became a common method of sourcing staff. Now newly arrived talent managers, often from other areas of creative enterprise, are active in taking their brand to potential employees through spaces accessed by professionals in related elds (lm, television, corporate communications). One way of gaining a foothold in the industry is to take a placement or internship in a publishing company for work experience. An effective and sustained work experience on a CV can lift a subsequent job application to the top of the pile. Suzy Astbury, then manager of the Publishing Division of JFL Search and Selection,12 commented in early 2010 that recruiting and employing staff is a risky and expensive business, and employers are increasingly looking for evidence that potential employees will be able to function. A work placement in a relevant department is an excellent method of proving this.13 Placements or internships often act as what literary agent Carole Blake has called a three month interview, the chance to see whether the person ts into your culture and how he or she works as part of the team, and in the process cut out the costs of wider recruitment.14 Ros Kindersley, managing director of JFL, noted that everyone in their early twenties has an innate knowledge of social media and things digital and can bring fresh thinking to an established team. Social media and digital are part of their DNA and as they know what works, the industry can learn a great deal from them.15 But work experience is not an equal-opportunity undertaking; in 2009, as part of the process of research for a dissertation, a student on the MA Publishing program at Kingston University explored the idea that in practice, placements in the publishing industry exclude rather than include, as they depend on the candidates having sufcient private means to commute to a job, and subsist within reasonable travelling distance, without payment. Skillset, the UK Sector Skills Council for Creative Media, also concluded recently that Available roles often go to the few with the right connections, rather than those with the most

Where Will the Next Generation of Publishers Come From?


talent and potential and recommended that Provisions should therefore be put in place for fair and equitable access, thereby opening them up to candidates from more economically and ethnically diverse backgrounds.16 In the United Kingdom, the Publishers Association and Skillset are trying to insist that placements be meaningful and offer a real taste of the industry, rather than weeks or months of making tea and photocopies for those with full-time roles. Several rms manage internship schemes with (minimum-wage) paid placements for longerterm commitment (usually three months). Short-term placements (two to ve weeks) with the opportunity to job-shadow an individual can be less advantageous to the host, whose administrative efforts are not always repaid by real work, but most rms offering them provide expenses (train fares and lunch), and this should be standardized. Universities have become involved in educating future publishers. Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) established its post-graduate diploma in publishing in 1988, and other UK universities have followed suit, with courses at City, Napier, Stirling, Robert Gordon, Kingston, and, more recently, University College London and Anglia Ruskin. In the United States MAs in publishing are offered at NYU and Pace in New York and at Emerson College in Boston; several publishing programs are offered in Canada, including those at Ryerson University and Centennial College in Toronto and at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia; and in Australia many publishing courses exist as part of creative writing, literary studies, journalism, and linguistics programs at undergraduate, post-graduate, and research levels, some of which are taken exclusively by those already working in the industry. Other such courses exist throughout the world, and many programs offer online as well as classroom formats. In part, this trend bears witness to the widespread professionalization of the workforce that has inuenced every industrial sector, so that whereas one would once have tried out the wine trade or working in a museum, today there is likely to be a relevant university or professional course available. Universities are responding to demand, and students (and, increasingly, their parents) are keen on courses that offer to enhance employability. Within existing university departmental structures, there is no obvious disciplinary home for publishing programs; courses tend to be located in the departments that rst thought of them, rather than through any planned pedagogy. A recent survey at


Journal of Scholarly Publishing

Kingston University found that students were not inuenced by the nature of the qualication they would get (MSc or MA): what they sought was access to London, practical skills, and help nding a placement. How these new courses t within their host organizations can vary. Older universities have a tendency to regard professionally based courses as insufciently academic, a prejudice fuelled by those within the university who have not had good publishing experiences. According to Jenny Lee, who developed the post-graduate publishing program at the University of Melbourne, staff in the eld need to raise awareness that to establish a rigorous program in this area requires a lot of serious work; youre not just teaching what you were taught as an undergraduate, which is the way the older disciplines run. In our case, as the older disciplines steadily lost students and started losing money, they became increasingly dependent on earnings from programs like ours.17 In some cases, a publishing program can also raise a departments research output and public prole. Mark Davis at the University of Melbourne says of their publishing program, Weve been very successful with grants and purposefully targeted controversial areas in our research (the future of literary publishing, for example), which has gained us media coverage. When your colleagues nd themselves reading about your research in the Saturday papers, it makes it pretty hard for them to make disparaging remarks about vocational programs over the coffee urn the following Monday. But theres a serious side to this. For us there is no clear difference between research and vocational teaching. All our subjects are taught on a spectrum somewhere between the two; hard-edged industry practice and real world skills meets a strong sense of context and understanding of related social issues. Spotting trends and understanding where the world is at, and will be at in two years time, is what publishing is all about.18 There is, however, the associated issue of who does the teaching if key staff are preoccupied with research. The experience of current students is not necessarily enhanced. Those who enrol in publishing studies benet from the contacts of their tutors, many of whom are publishing professionals, often still

Where Will the Next Generation of Publishers Come From?


working freelance to keep up to date, and they build up long-term patronage from those who have done the course before them. According to Michael Webster, the RMIT University course (also in Melbourne) has alumni throughout the world, in contact with the program and students including helping them get jobs when they travel. For example the graduates working in London always meet and greet new graduates and help them settle into UK publishing.19 Placements managed by universities can be more effectively monitored and thus more meaningful. Jenny Lee notes, We take pretty rigorous steps to make sure that the interns arent just used as cheap labour for a couple of weeks. The real breakthrough with this was realising much to our own surprise that having someone on a placement doing a mutually agreed research project was a real carrot for a lot of publishers, who often have good ideas but dont have time to follow them up.20 Despite (or perhaps because of ) difcult employment conditions, demand for these courses remains high. Those running them manage the moral burden of students expectations in a difcult employment climate, writing references, and maintaining a balance between the host universitys perception of demand and the designated industrys likely ability to absorb their output. In the main, this situation is rationalized through an appreciation of the long-term benets of the skills acquired in the process. In Ros Kindersleys words, Most internal communications departments of major organisations require publishing skills, as do information providers and membership organisations; so publishing skills can open doors to a huge range of lateral careers.21 Gian Lombardo, publisher in residence at the MA Program in Writing and Publishing at Emerson College, Boston, notes that publishing may be going through a difcult time, with jobs being cut and salaries static, but the value of the set of skills acquired in the process is high; the ability to consider what information or entertainment a particular market sector needs, and how and when best to deliver, are ongoingly useful. The university also offers guidance in how to present these skills to the wider employment market. Some students take these skills into journalism or the production of house magazines, others may take them into website management or blog writing.22


Journal of Scholarly Publishing

Members of todays emerging workforce are also fully aware of the advantages of a professional role that can be managed part-time, as life time circumstances and preferences dictate, and more condent in their pursuit of quality of life than their parents were; this is cited as one reason why today more young women seek to pursue a career in dentistry than choose a career in medicine. It is more possible, in the long term, to be a part-time publisher than to be a part-time banker, and the same goes for working from home. The skill set developed by publishers is highly transferable. What and how students are taught varies. Most courses offer explanation and appreciation of standard practices editing, marketing, sales, rights, and distribution. But the extent to which these are taught as discrete modules and not as cross-departmental competencies varies. Given that employers want a series of mindsets entrepreneurialism, curiosity, empathy, imagination, and the ability to think laterally and work collaboratively, all supported by an awareness of digital possibilities perhaps learning is best managed by enabling students to appreciate how the simultaneous and sequential publishing functions are coordinated to get the product to market on time and on budget, rather than allowing individuals to be siloed early within one particular aptitude in the same way that work experience with a small rm often provides a better appreciation of a publishing operation than the view from the corner of one department in a larger organization. This can be done by engaging students in projects and assignments that require them to work in groups, or to understand markets that are unfamiliar, and at the same time encouraging staff to teach across the different modules to ensure that no area of the curriculum is held hostage to the knowledge and idiosyncrasies of just one person. Students can also be encouraged to look forward. The imminent death of the book has been over-announced largely based on an assumption that if newspapers as we know them are in terminal decline, the book must be similarly doomed. But book publishers have never been dependent on advertising to subsidize production, unlike newspapers, for which the decline of advertising now threatens the whole business model. The move away from newspapers also represents a signicant social change individuals seek coverage of news as it happens, rather than the next day with comment and the emergence of new life patterns to match: arriving at work to eat a bowl of

Where Will the Next Generation of Publishers Come From?


pre-packaged cereal in front of your computer screen, or going out for lunch with your Blackberry. Books, in whatever format they currently present themselves (Kindle, Sony Reader, or Nook, as well as more traditional formats), continue to require the sustained attention they always did. The long-term professional and personal benets of reading are well established, and arguably all involved with books need to support schemes that reach out into the wider community of those who see regular reading as unachievable or irrelevant. A good example of this in practice is the phenomenon of major rms encouraging staff to partner with a local primary school to offer regular reading support to students. Whether students in publishing programs can be tempted into specialist publishing is a further challenge. Graham Taylor, director of Educational, Academic and Professional Publishing at the UK Publishers Association, comments that journals publishing is on the digital front line.23 In 2009, Skillsets data revealed that publishing had a youthful workforce: 50 per cent were aged twenty-one through thirty-nine, compared with 44 per cent across all sectors, and 44 per cent were aged forty and over, compared with 51 per cent across all UK industry.24 Recruitment specialists also report that those who work in professional publishing, producing resources for specic needs and competences, and who can prove their effectiveness often earn more than their colleagues in general publishing, where it is difcult to relate outcomes to who did what. Yet book publishing students seem keenest on working in the adult ction sector (63%) and childrens books (56%) followed by adult non-ction (44%) and academic (38%). School/ELT (25%) and professional publishing (21%) have a much lower appeal.25 University courses require a sustained commitment. In the United Kingdom, the most common pattern is for the course to take place over one post-graduate year, although it can be taken over two according to personal circumstances. At Emerson in Boston, the program consists of ten modules, which the college recommends be taken at the rate of two or three per semester, and thus study usually lasts at least two academic years. Most students nance their studies by either part-time or full-time work; classes are tted around evenings and weekends. Accommodating employers can help fund, and those less comfortable with the departure of their staff for training nd that staff members are not long absent.


Journal of Scholarly Publishing

But the necessity of being able to work part time or to receive funding from parents does perpetuate the involvement of a less than full crosssection of society and if publishers are to anticipate the needs of a wider market, more effort will be needed. The industry is becoming more outward looking, however. In 2007, the UK Publishers Association (PA) appointed Simon Juden as chief executive, and he has led diversication from the heart of the PA, promoting strategies and forming alliances. The Diversity in Publishing Network (DIPNET),26 which began in 2004 as an informal pressure group and mentoring service for BME (black, minority, ethnic) employees (traditionally poorly represented in the industry), has now been formalized with support from the UK Arts Council. The Arts Council experimented with paid traineeships for BME candidates and found them to be successful; DIPNETs brief has now been formally extended to include socio-economic diversity as well as all other forms of difference. Signicantly, DIPNET has produced the data, previously lacking, on which to base discussion, through their market research on the representation of different groups within publishing. The overall percentage of BME employees in publishing (92.3% white/7.7% BME) is in line with the average for the UK population as a whole (92.1% white/ 7.9% BME) but does not reect the ethnic make-up of London (71.2% white/28.8% BME), where most of the respondents to the survey were in fact based.27 DIPNET now has a funded coordinator and is leading an industry alliance to work toward greater diversity. Their Equalities Charter was launched at the London Book Fair in April 2010. Claire Anker, international services ofcer of the UK Publishers Association, explains, We dont want to oblige anyone to enter publishing, but for those with a genuine interest in the industry, we do think its important to provide an awareness that a wider range of talents is needed than those traditionally appreciated. We need digital content managers, micro-bloggers and tweeters as well as editors.28 The Publishing Training Centre,29 lead body for the UK publishing industry and itself a charitable institution, has supported the work of the Arts Council and DIPNET with free training days for participants in the Arts Council program described above and bursaries for BME candidates to take MAs in publishing.

Where Will the Next Generation of Publishers Come From?


Emerson College is fully committed to widening participation in the publishing program and is seeking bursaries and scholarships to enable the less well off to continue their studies. They also look for sponsorship from publishing houses, although most of the investment tends to be on behalf of employees seeking to enrol (i.e., prospective students already working in publishing). Other colleges and universities are doing the same, but there is ongoing tension between industry professionals running courses, who seek to widen participation, and university nance managers, who want to receive an undiluted revenue stream. Jenny Lee comments, If people in the publishing industry are all recruited from the same backgrounds, theyre going to produce publications that appeal to the same sort of people, and before you even realise it you have an industry talking to itself. In Australia, fortunately, you dont have the option of being predominantly middle-class and Anglo (though you can still get away with it in some parts of trade publishing). This is a seriously multicultural society, and becoming more so, and the old middle class are besieged from many different directions, most recently by the Global Financial Crisis (or is it a Western Financial Crisis?). Some of our most successful graduates have been bi- or multilingual people from other places, and I think theyre gradually changing the face of the industry in Australia.30 Similarly, Mark Davis explains, Our applicants [at the University of Melbourne] come from all backgrounds, limited only by the entry requirement and their willingness to pay fees (most take up interest-free government loans), so we see the course itself as a circuit breaker to traditional (nepotistic) hiring practices. With the latter in mind we also build an awareness of these issues into the curriculum. For example, we teach a unit on race and class representation in the industry, and on how this replicates itself in list-building etc., looking at the publishing history of authors such as Zadie Smith. We also have a couple of fee-free equity places to offer each year. We try to maintain a close relationship with the specialist Aboriginal houses, and a couple of our students now work in them (having done internships). At the same time, from the start the course has had a very Asia-Pacic focus, simply because thats the


Journal of Scholarly Publishing

part of the world were in. We see ourselves very much as change agents in this area and also feel we have to look over the horizon to train students for the world they will be working in when they graduate and beyond.31 Rather than striving for social diversity, those running university courses may content themselves with achieving international diversity. These programs attract interest from a worldwide market, and with the US dollar strong against the pound and travel cheap, international applications are up, in particular from the United States and China to the United Kingdom. Looking to the future, how can we persuade a wider sector of society that publishing is both a viable and an interesting career choice, and that within it specialist publishing is an intellectually satisfying and remunerative option?
 Education: more talks on publishing in schools and colleges, more 


coverage in the media. Image: promoting a widening awareness that information provision, publishing, and reading have a future, so that a career in the industry is seen as a relevant option for todays very-quick-todismiss youth; professional information management and the rapid and international dissemination of ideas are at the heart of this endeavour. Remuneration: updating widespread preconceptions (among publishers as well as potential employees); in professional and information publishing, those offering digital competence allied with a facility for lateral thinking can do particularly well. Flexibility: promoting a greater awareness of publishing as a exible long-term career option. University involvement: universities teaching publishing could seek greater recognition and nancial support from the industry they serve; practically, this could be expressed through the sponsorship of placements or of linked, short-term paid internships at a range of publishing companies at the end of MA programs, which in turn could widen participation. Paid entry: long-term placements and internships within publishing companies should be paid.

Where Will the Next Generation of Publishers Come From?


As the publishing industry strives to anticipate and match the leisure and professional needs of a wider sector of society, it will be best placed if it has a more open countenance to recruitment and considers more closely the public face it presents. A collective acknowledgement of this situation and a determination to widen participation would benet all parties.
alison baverstock runs the Publishing MA program at Kingston University and is the author of How to Market Books (4th ed., Kogan Page 2008). notes 1. Quoted in Things Can Only Get Better Says Trade, The Bookseller (8 January 2010), 3 2. Book Marketing Ltd. [BML], Human Resources in Publishing: A Research Study for the Publishing Training Centre Conducted by BML on Behalf of the Publishing Industry (January 2010) available at http://www.train4publishing.co.uk/oncourse/HR_Survey_2010.php 3. Repeated surveys by Book Marketing Ltd. have conrmed this: see http://www.bookmarketing.co.uk 4. Quoted in Danuta Kean, Time for Change, in In Full Colour: Cultural Diversity in Book Publishing Today (special report), The Bookseller (12 March 2004): 11 5. World Book Day, http://www.worldbookday.com 6. Alison Baverstock, Marketing Your Book: An Authors Guide (London: A&C Black 2001), 5. Subsequent to our conversation this author requested that her statements be quoted anonymously. 7. Nicholas Heiney, The Silence at the Songs End, ed. by Libby Purves and Duncan Wu (Westleton, UK: Songs End Books 2007), 105 8. Vanessa Thorpe, Publishing Guru Prepares to Turn Indian Doctor into a Literary Star, The Observer (3 January 2010), available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2010/jan/03/books-club-richard-judymillionaires 9. Quoted in Kean, Time for Change, 13 10. Alison Baverstock, Steve Carey, and Susannah Bowen, How to Get a Job in Publishing: A Really Practical Guide to Careers in Books and Magazines (London: A&C Black 2007) 11. Alan Hill, In Pursuit of Publishing (London: John Murray 1988), 374 12. JFL Search and Selection, http://www.jrecruit.com 13. Suzy Astbury, telephone conversation with the author, February 2010 14. Carole Blake, conversation with the author


Journal of Scholarly Publishing 15. Ros Kindersley, conversation with the author, 20 January 2010 16. Skillset, Consultation Document: Code of Practice for Graduate Internships in the Creative Industries (n.d.), available at http://www.skillset.org/uploads/pdf/asset_14315.pdf ?1 17. Jenny Lee, e-mail to the author, 13 January 2010. Lee is the former director of the Publishing and Communications Program, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. 18. Mark Davis, e-mail to the author, 16 January 2010. Davis is an associate professor in Melbournes publishing program. 19. Michael Webster, e-mail to the author, 16 January 2010. Webster is senior lecturer and programs director, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne. 20. Jenny Lee, e-mail to the author, 13 January 2010 21. Ros Kindersley, conversation with the author, 20 January 2010 22. Gian Lombardo, e-mail to the author, 15 January 2010 23. Quoted in Things Can Only Get Better, 3 24. Skillset, Skills Needs Analysis for the Publishing Industry (2009), available at http://www.skillset.org/uploads/pdf/asset_12226.pdf?5 25. BML, Human Resources in Publishing 26. Diversity in Publishing Network (DIPNET), http://www.dipnet.org.uk 27. Ethnic Diversity in Publishing: A Research Report (London: Book Marketing Ltd. 2006). The survey and report were commissioned by DIPNET. 28. Claire Anker, telephone conversation with the author, 15 January 2010 29. Publishing Training Centre, http://www.train4publishing.co.uk 30. Jenny Lee, e-mail to the author, 13 January 2010 31. Mark Davis, e-mail to the author, 16 January 2010

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