Category Archives: Industry Voices

Interviews with, and opinion pieces by, people across the Publishing industry.

How to Get Ahead in Academic Publishing

Today we have a guest post from Academic Professional: Suzanne Kavanagh.Suzanne Kavanagh Academic Book Week

 

Suzanne Kavanagh has worked in publishing for over 20 years, most recently as Director of Marketing and Membership Services at ALPSP. You can contact her via @sashers or suzanne.kavanagh@gmx.com.

 

How to Get Ahead in Academic Publishing

Armed with a fistful of crumpled CVs and an Art History degree, I trudged up and down Charing Cross Road looking for a bookselling job. I’d set my heart on working in publishing in my third year at uni, but trawling through The Guardian I realised it would be hard for me to stand out from hundreds of applicants who, no doubt, also felt just as passionately about books and read voraciously as I did. I figured bookselling would be a good starting point.

This was the first time I’d considered what I had to offer. It made me think about how selling jeans in a shop provided influencing, negotiation and questioning skills. I realised that bar work provided customer service and conflict resolution skills (as well as excess consumption of warm white wine…essential for low budget book launches). Fast forward a few weeks and I was happily ensconced at a specialist art bookseller.

Aside from a borderline obsession with alphabetising each section and secretly sniffing new stock, I learned a lot that would be relevant for my career.

It was pretty cutting edge for *coughs* 1993 *coughs*. We had a PC networked stock management system. We used this to mail out subject leaflets to customers around the world. I used my enthusiasm and retail experience to help customers find the book they were after and proved to be an occasional foil to the sometimes-grumpy owner.

My first job at a small trade publisher was in the sales and marketing team. I dealt with bibliographic information, wrote jacket blurbs, marketing copy and produced the new titles catalogue. I got to know everyone in the company and gained a real insight into the publishing process.

But the low salary made it hard to live in London. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile a friend kept telling me about the publisher she worked at. They published academic texts for students, researchers and professionals in the humanities and social sciences. She loved working there. And she was paid quite a bit more than me. Academic publishing had never occurred: I’d always assumed that publishing meant fiction, poetry and pictures. But the facts speak for themselves.

The UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport reports that the publishing sector employed 200,000 people in 2015 – an increase of 3.7% on the year before. (Source: DCMS 2016 Focus on Creative Industries report). These figures include book, journal, newspapers, magazines and database publishing. However, in 2011, Creative Skillset reported the breakdown by sub-sector: Journals and Periodicals employed 26% of the workforce and Book Publishing 17% and Academic is drawn from both these categories.

In May 2016 the UK Publishers Association reported that total sales of book and journal publishing were up to £4.4 billion in 2015. Academic journal publishing was up 5% to £1.1 billion and there were £1.42 billion export revenues with two thirds of this figure in education, academic and ELT (English Language Teaching). (Source: PA Statistics Yearbook 2015 news release)

Academic is a vibrant sector employing a lot of people and is a major economic driver in the creative industries.

My second publishing job was at that academic publisher promoting journals and reference works. When asked why I wanted the job, the answer was clear: I’d relish working with books that support education, research and the furthering of knowledge. I got the job and – to my surprise and delight – a decent pay rise.

The great thing about many academic publishers is that they tend to be large organisations with more opportunity for training and promotion. I took all options open to me. I applied for internal jobs to learn about different lists and improve my skills. I was curious, enthusiastic, worked and played hard. I got to know people, respected different departments and personalities it took to run the business. Roles included Marketing Coordinator, Executive, Manager, Senior Manager.

Since then I’ve had the privilege of working in a range of organisations including Taylor & Francis, Continuum and the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers. I saw first hand how diverse the sector is at ALPSP, an international trade body for not-for-profit organisations. Their members include the American Historical Association, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the OECD, SAGE, as well as all the larger commercial companies like Elsevier and Springer Nature. There are a lot of publishers covering pretty much all disciplines.

I know it seems obvious, but the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that job mobility and training go hand in hand with progressing your career.

You may start in one department/role. That doesn’t preclude you moving to others where your experience is applied in different ways. There are plenty of opportunities with more specialist jobs where, with the right training, you can become expert in a particular niche.

When I started out, it was relatively simple: assistant / coordinator / executive / manager roles in sales / marketing / production / editorial. And now? Well a quick glance through the Atwood Tate vacancy list tells a story. Roles like ‘Predictive Analytics and Insight Specialist’ and ‘Instructional Designer’ sit alongside Product Editor and Marketing Executive. It’s a taste of how the industry is changing. If you move roles, and learn new skills, you’re more likely to get on.

So what does the future hold for you and what skills do you need to be successful? There are three main areas you need to plot your profile against. Where do you map yourself on this chart? Where do you want to be? This is by no means exhaustive, but provides insight into where the industry will be.

Academic Flow chart

My final advice for working in academic publishing?

  1. Be curious: ask open questions, listen and learn
  2. Read industry publications, blogs and research
  3. Remember you’re dealing with people: be courteous, build your network
  4. Take every training opportunity – from free webinars to paid-for courses
  5. Enjoy it! You’re giving something back to advancing human knowledge.

 

We thank Suzanne for her wonderful guest post!

For more information about Academic Book Week, and more information about academic publishing, see the official website and the Twitter feed.

If you are a publishing professional and would be interested in writing a guest post for Atwood Tate just get in touch.

Please email: eleanorpilcher@atwoodtate.co.uk or get in touch via any of our social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Instagram.

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Building Inclusivity in Publishing

building-inclusivity-in-publishing

Our pledge to help publishing to build inclusivity

Last month The London Book Fair, in partnership with The Publishers Association, held a conference on Building Inclusivity. I attended the event for Atwood Tate, because in our role as a publishing recruitment agency we have a responsibility to ensure recruitment processes are inclusive and offer all suitable candidates an equal opportunity to be considered for a role.

As members of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, we adhere to its Code of Professional Practice.  A respect for diversity is one of the main guiding principles of this code. We adhere to all applicable legislation, encourage equal opportunities in recruitment and establish working practices to safeguard against prejudice.

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting on the thoughts and insights that were shared at the Building Inclusivity event.  To start with, in using the word “inclusivity” rather than “diversity” the organisers of the event were clearly trying to drive on the tired conversation which has been stalling for a long time in the publishing industry.  Semantics can have a strong effect and I did feel that there was renewed energy and determination shown by speakers and delegates at the conference.  There was a focus openness and accessibility rather than a defining of differences and analysis of the norm versus the “other” in the publishing industry as things stand.

In her keynote speech, Crystal Mahey-Morgan, founder of OWN IT!, reminded us that books lead to readers developing empathy, and empathy leads to humanity.  I only learned about this proven link between reading and the development of empathy and morals when reading Maryanne Wolf’s wonderful Proust and the Squid (which incidentally I would recommend to anyone interested in literacy, reading, neurology and sociology), so whilst a lot of people in the book industry may know about the importance of reading for society, Mahey-Morgan’s words were a powerful reminder.

Charities like Beanstalk do important work in getting into schools to promote reading to all, but I know from observing my own children learning to read, that in order for a person to want to read, the content needs to be engaging and interesting.  None of us expect our friends and family to necessarily share all of our interests or preferences, so we already accept a variety of genres and content, but the consensus at the Building Inclusivity conference was that the books published in the UK are not wholly representative of our society or meeting its needs.

Recruitment & Inclusivity

It was clearly felt that there is a correlation between what is published and who is working in publishing and that’s where the recruitment side of things comes into play.  The industry needs to be more than just “open” to recruiting from outside of the traditional profile of publishing people but needs to make an effort to demonstrate the desire to be inclusive and take measure to increase accessibility to a wider pool of prospective employees.

At the conference, employers were encouraged to make a pledge as what measures they would aim to take after the conference in order to play an active part in creating a publishing industry that is inclusive and representative of our society as a whole.

My pledge on the day to do more at the grass roots level with Beanstalk was inspired by looking at what we could do personally at Atwood Tate to help bring a love of reading to a wider range of children.  Crystal Mahey-Morgan’s words about humanity and the story of author Robyn Travis struck a chord with me, as a governor at a primary school in a deprived area, where a lot of children a brought up in homes without books.

However, we at Atwood Tate also want to make it our pledge to ensure that we are providing as much advice and support to our publisher clients, as possible to help them to promote equal opportunities in recruitment and share ideas as to how to establish working practices to safeguard against prejudice and promote inclusivity and equality.

We are not HR consultants or expert advisors, but we can offer the following:

  • As trained members of the REC, we all have a solid understanding of all applicable legislation and Atwood Tate embraces diversity and seeks to promote the benefits of diversity in all of our business activities and to develop a business culture that reflects that belief.
  • Through our daily work and attending industry events and REC round table meetings we keep up to date with new trends and initiatives. We can share the knowledge and insight we have about what is being done in publishing and other industries to improve inclusivity in recruitment processes.
  • We are expert at writing engaging and non-discriminatory job advertisements and we are able to advertise widely and reach out to candidates outside of the publishers traditional networks.

What are your thoughts on inclusivity in publishing? Let us know in the comments below or contact us on our social media sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

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PPA Business Class: The Tech and Data One

ppa-business-class-tech-and-data

You may remember that on the 21st October we attended the PPA Marketing Conference; well on the 18th November we will be attending the Tech and Data One!

For more information about the event click here!

Here’s a brief summary of the sessions you can attend on the day:

Sessions:

The Panel: Systems, Big Data And Making the Money
As a senior tech executive, how do you drive strategy and help business grow? What are the partnerships you can seek to create, and are there particular skill sets you can hire to help meet your objectives?

  • Creative Advertiser partnerships
  • Strategies for data-focused technologies
  • Investing in specialised staff and skills

Other sessions at the event include topics on:

  • Data
  • Compliance and Legality
  • Transformational Publishing
  • Suppliers: The Inside Track

Speakers Include:

Chris Fosberry, CTO, Argus Media
Mark Brincat, CTO, The Economist Group
Mike Fraser, CTO, Wilmington plc
Jonny Kaldor, CO-Found, Kaldor Group
Sean Hayes, Group Head of Data, Incisive Media
Duncan Smith, Director, iCompli
Lee Atkinson, AWS Enterprise Solutions Architect

We’re happy to be an official sponsor for this event, as we were for the last which you can read about here!

Two of our consultants, David Martin and Kellie Miller,  will be attending the event! David handles all of our IT and Data roles whilst Kellie is the Temps team manager. Please feel free to contact them via their emails, which can be found here, or via LinkedIn to request a meeting or to get in touch on the day.

Let us know if you’re attending the event on Twitter, Facebook and don’t forget to share any photos on Instagram!

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Equal Opportunity and Diversity in Publishing

 

equal-opportunities-and-diversity-1

Building Inclusivity in Publishing Event

On the 15th November our consultant Helen will be attending the Building Inclusivity in Publishing event, run by the Publishers Association and the London Book Fair.

The day-long conference will look at each component of the publishing industry and the representation of people in each area, from authors to consumers.

The day will encourage the attendees to re-evaluate their ideas of diversity and to see who the real audience are, by drawing on positive examples and personal experiences! By the end of the conference the attendees will know how to build inclusivity within the publishing industry!

As an Equal Opportunities company Atwood Tate are very keen on spreading the word on inclusivity throughout Publishing! Within our company we never discriminate against the candidates, clients or employees we work with, we encourage diversity in publishing! For more information on our Equal Opportunities and Diversity policy click here.

The Inclusivity conference will include panels and speakers from all areas of publishing, including authors, agents and booksellers. Here’s the Conference Programme.

Speakers Include:

  • Crystal Mahey-Morgan, founder, OWN IT! Publishing
  • Robyn Travis, author, Mama Can’t Raise No Man
  • Tim Hely Hutchinson, Group CEO, Hachette UK
  • Louise Clarke, Latimer Group
  • Diana Broccardo, Profile Books
  • Emad Ahmed, Creative Access and ex-News Statesman
  • Sunny Singh, academic and author, co-founder Jhalak Prize
  • Siena Parker, Penguin Random House
  • Jessica Kingsley, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
  • Jazzmine Breary, Jacaranda

And many others! For a full list of speakers see here! Conference Speakers.

The panels and case studies look fascinating and we can’t wait to hear the thoughts of everyone who attends!

Be sure to watch out in the days after the conference for a summary blog about the event and the level of inclusivity in publishing, and please say hello to Helen if you see her!

In the meantime we will be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to cover the conference! Let us know if you’re attending.

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PPA Master Class: The Marketing One Summary

 

ppa-masterclass

The PPA recently launched a new series of half day conferences specifically for senior professionals, and last Friday was one for Marketing.

A range of professionals from across the industry came together to share their experiences in a morning ably chaired by Ruth Mortimer, Content Director, Centaur Media. The first panel focused on the key skills the panel of Caroline Hird  (BMJ), Kendal Mott (Procurement Leaders), and Ian McGowan, (Merit Group) felt marketing professionals needed. Marketing automation, data analytics, and strategic thinkers were all things the panel felt were crucial. Indeed, these three things were mentioned repeatedly throughout the morning.

Nick Varney and Amanda Munoz of Dow Jones, then led a panel discussing subscriptions, using their experience with the Wall Street Journal as an example to illustrate how membership can revitalise revenue streams. The importance of personalisation, exclusivity of content, and engendering a sense of customer loyalty were the key take-aways from this panel.

Caroline Hird, Marketing Director of the BMJ spoke on the importance of community and driving customer engagement to increase revenues, build customer loyalty, and drive innovation. Caroline’s three key points about communities:

1)    Be clear why you are doing this – and be able to report on your successes (and failures)

2)    Have a unique value proposition – know your niche and offer them something they cannot get elsewhere

3)    Be focused – just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should

Nik Dinning, Marketing Director of Retail Week/New Civil Engineer explored how using targeted content strategies – both exploiting back catalogue content and developing new partner content – to drive revenue and substantial return on investment. Again, Nik talked about the importance of knowing your niche and doing your research to find out what the market wants.

Lastly, Ruth Mortimer looked at the difference between customer engagement and customer numbers, driving home the message that a targeted group of engaged consumers can be vastly more valuable than a high CPM. She also talked a little about the importance of measuring the right things to help make fully informed marketing choices.

All-in-all it was a fascinating morning, and if you get the opportunity to go to the Tech & Data one in November, do so!

Make sure to let us know if you attended the conference on twitter @AtwoodTate 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to read Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends  because Ruth Mortimer told me to!

 

 

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OPuS Event: Careers in 21st Century Publishing

opus-careers-in-21st-century-publishing

The other week our Oxford-based consultants, Claire Louise Kemp and Lisa Smars, attended the Atwood Tate sponsored Oxford Publishing Society (OPuS) event Careers in 21st Century Publishing. OPuS invited four industry professionals to share their career stories and their top tips for getting into the publishing industry. What we learned was that there is no one career path you can take in publishing – and often what you thought you’d be doing is not where you actually end up!

The speakers:

David Spencer, Publisher Social Sciences at Elsevier

When starting university, David hadn’t really considered a career in publishing. He taught in Australia for a year, and completed a master’s of sociology in sport, before starting to apply for jobs. He landed his first job in publishing in the editorial department at Taylor & Francis. From there he advanced and got his own list responsibilities, and he recently joined Elsevier as Publisher.

Emily Brand, Managing Editor at Bodleian Library Publishing

After studying history at university Emily started working at Osprey Publishing as an Editor, stayed there for a couple of years before joining OUP as a Production Editor. Recently she started working at Bodleian Publishing as Managing Editor. Emily has been working as a freelance writer and historian alongside her full-time roles, and have published several books.

 Robbie Cooke, Marketing and PR Manager at Rebellion

After finishing a Master’s in Publishing from Oxford Brookes, Robbie started his first job in publishing as Marketing Assistant at Taylor & Francis.  Following on from that he worked at Boardworks, and Pearson Education before getting a job at Rebellion as a Marketing and PR Coordinator. Rebellion is primarily a games company, so not a traditional publisher as such, and when Robbie joined them, he was their first ever marketing person.

Emily Pigeon-Martin, Online Consultant at Lidl

Like Robbie, Emily also has a MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes, but so far her career has been very different. She started her publishing journey at Haymarket as Direct Marketing Executive, before working in marketing at News International and Sunday Times. After that she left more traditional publishing and joined the supermarket chain Lidl as Digital Marketing Manager.

Thing we learnt, important advice, and interesting facts:

  • When you start applying for you first job in publishing, don’t be disheartened by job rejections – we all get them!
  • When companies are recruiting new staff, it’s important to remember that they often look for candidates that can progress within the organisation.
  • Show enthusiasm in job interviews.
  • When you start your first job in publishing, remember to show initiative, manage your time properly, try your best to understand the day-to-day challenges of the people around you, get out of your comfort zone, and never stop learning.
  • Don’t be afraid of maternity cover contracts – they can be a great way to gain valuable experience and to get a foot in the door of a company.
  • A lot of the skills you’ll pick up are transferable.
  • Networking is a key part of every job – so get good at it! (read our blog on the topic!)
  • Believe in yourself.

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PPA Business Class: Marketing Conference

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The PPA has launched a new series of half day conferences specifically for senior professionals – this one on Friday 21st October is for Marketing and one in November for Tech.

See: www.ppa.co.uk/events/businessmedia2016 for more details.

Here’s a taste of what will be covered:

Shiny Happy People

Faced with an increasing array of new marketing tools and the requirement for smarter, savvier marketing to cut through the noise surrounding customers, getting the right skills has never been more important. Our panel of experts tackle the key issues:

  • Business strategist…customer insight expert…innovation leader…what is the role of a marketing director in 2016?
  • What marketing skills are needed right now?
  • How do you address the digital skills gap?

Other sessions on:

  • Subscriptions
  • ‘Community’
  • Putting The Commercial Into Content Marketing

Speakers include:

We’re pleased to be an official sponsor for both events and Olivia Constantinides from our London office and Claire Louise Kemp from our Oxford office will be attending the Marketing one, so do request a meeting or get in touch on the day.

Let us know how if you’re attending by using the PPA twitter hashtag #PPABusinessClass. Don’t forget to add @PPABusiness and us too @AtwoodTate!

 

 

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BAME in Publishing

Sarah Shaffi, online editor and producer at The Bookseller, and Wei Ming Kam, sales and marketing assistant at Oberon Books, have recently set up the BAME in Publishing network “in response to the endless diversity debates and panels that have come and gone in the last few years”. The following blog is from Sarah, giving a bit more of the background behind the network and some next steps we can all take to improve things for everyone in the industry.

BAME in Publishing - correct
sarah shaffi
Let me tell you a story.

I was at a book launch and was introduced to a man working for the publishing company which had released the book in question. We’d not met before but within seconds this man, let’s call him Colin (not his name), said that we had. I told him we hadn’t.

He then named a very specific occasion on which we’d met. Impossible, I said, I wasn’t at that event.

Ah, of course, Colin countered, he’d met me at this other event, he said, naming a place and rough date. Nope, not me either, I said, with frustration probably suffusing my voice.

Luckily he stopped, because I was this close *holds thumb and forefinger apart just enough to slide a piece of paper in between* to snapping at him that he was clearly mixing me up with some other brown girl he’d met at a publishing event.

My story isn’t unusual. Ask any person from a Black, Asian or majority ethnic background in publishing if they’ve ever been mistaken for someone else because of their skin colour, and I guarantee most of them have similar stories to mine.

Which is one of the many reasons it’s time to make sure publishing diversifies its workforce. It’s a selfish reason, but I’d like there to be more brown girls in publishing so the six of us here already (OK, maybe a few more than six) don’t keep getting mistaken for each other.

But on a more serious note, publishing should recruit more people from ethnically diverse backgrounds (and economically and geographically diverse backgrounds) because it will be a good thing for the industry. Why? It kind of boils down to one thing…

The wider the backgrounds of the people working in publishing, the more likely publishers are to come up with new ideas and new books and see new voices. And this means that publishers can reach wider audiences, sell more books, and make more money.

Helping to increase the number of people from BAME backgrounds in publishing, and then hopefully the number of books by BAME people published in the UK, is behind why me and Wei Ming Kam set up BAME in Publishing.

The group, which is for people already in the industry and those aspiring to work in publishing, is a positive, fun space for BAME people, but also a safe one, where people can share experiences, get advice, and make connections and find mentors. It’s time to turn the discussion around diversity in publishing from one where we moan about how terrible it all is to one where we celebrate the BAME talent already in the industry, support them, and make sure they’re visible, to the industry itself and to those wanting to join.

For people from ethnic minority backgrounds wanting to come into publishing, I have the following tips:

  • Don’t be afraid. I know it can seem daunting to be one of the only non-white faces around, but you’re paving the way for future generations, and you should always remember that.
  • Speak up. One of the valuable things about you is that you might look at the world from a slightly different perspective, so if you have an idea or an opinion, share it. (Politely and in an appropriate setting, of course.)
  • Go for paid positions. There are a number of paid internships out there, so make sure you apply for them. Work experience is fine, but working for free should only be done for a week or two absolute maximum.
  • Make connections. Find people who have done the jobs you want to do, and drop them a line to say hello and ask if they would mind you asking their advice. It’s especially easy to do this with Twitter.
  • Join BAME in Publishing!

And for publishers, a few things you could be doing:

  • Look beyond Creative Access. Creative Access is brilliant, but one intern a year in your company probably isn’t going to change anything fast.
  • Reach out to schools. London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and so many UK publishing firms are based in the capital. It’s not difficult to find schools where the make-up of pupils is diverse, so go out there and talk to them, make sure they know the many different roles and opportunities available to them at a publishing house.
  • Pay. I can’t say this enough – publishers should be paying interns and, if possible, should at least be shouting travel expenses for work experience students.
  • Widen the advertising net. Sure, The Guardian and your own website are great, but are you making an effort to reach new audiences with your job adverts? Are you advertising on Twitter and Tumblr, in publications targeting people of different ethnic backgrounds?

My hope is that, if we all work together, BAME in Publishing will no longer need to exist, and I’ll never be mistaken for that other brown girl in publishing again.

Want to find out more? Go to BAMEinpublishing.tumblr.com/faqs, email bameinpublishing@gmail.com, or leave a comment below.

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Emma Barnes: embrace the code

Emma-Barnes

This is a guest from Emma Barnes.
Emma is m.d. of Snowbooks, the independent publishing house she co-founded in 2003, and c.e.o. of the FutureBook-award-winning Bibliocloud system for publishing. As both a publisher and a coder, Emma has a unique vantage point on the intersection between digital technologies and innovative content.

When I graduated with an archaeology degree in 1996, and got a job as a management trainee for a global retail group, I had no idea that 8 years later I’d co-found an independent publishing company. And when I co-founded that independent publishing company, I had no idea that,13 years further on, I’d find myself a professional Ruby on Rails developer.

Life is weird. And you can’t plan it out. All you can do is try to be happy, and learn as much as you can on the off-chance that it’ll come in handy. I’ve got lucky: not only do I run Snowbooks — a lovely little publisher of amazing books — but nowadays I’m the lead programmer of Bibliocloud, our title management software which we’re formally launching out of beta at the London Book Fair this year.

A decade of steadily automating away the administrative drudge of publishing has left me a proficient programmer: first in XML and XSLT and now in the tools of the web development trade: Ruby on Rails, jQuery, SQL, HTML5 and CSS3 and database management on PostgreSQL. Using these tools, with my team, I’ve built Bibliocloud to be an enterprise management application which takes care of almost every aspect of our business. Snowbooks has relied on Bibliocloud throughout the app’s development: at the end of 2012 we started to license its use to other publishers and organisations.

Starting to code was not a frightening step into the dark, because I took baby steps. In 2003, I opened up an ONIX file. ONIX is XML, written more or less with English words. Figuring I could use it to populate AI templates, I tinkered with manipulating the XML until that was second nature. Coding is very moreish — start down the road, take small, incremental steps. Let the years pass and before you know it, you’ve got your 10,000 hours under your belt.

You shouldn’t think that you could never learn to code. My mental arithmetic skills are worse than my 6 year old’s. I would have been laughed out of a computer science degree interview. But I love patterns, and stories, and brevity and elegance: all the things that publishers are good at. You don’t know whether you can do it unless you try.

I learned to program because I needed something like Bibliocloud to exist so I could run Snowbooks properly. No-one else was going to write it, so I tooled up and did it myself. I had to go from a standing start, skills-wise, so it did end up taking quite a few years to progressively learn the right skills. But now I’m at the other end of the journey, it’s interesting to be able to compare life without coding skills, and life with.

And life without coding skills is awful! It’s chock-a-block full of admin. No-one goes into publishing to spend their days filling in repetitive, endless spreadsheets, surely? But unless you can manipulate data throughout your working day with little programs, you’re tied to the manual way of doing things.
If you can’t code, you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know what’s possible. You can’t be a digital creator because you’ve got no tools at your disposal, and no understanding for collaborating with others on such projects.

Only a select few publishers employ programmers at the moment. This will change, and the change will be overnight — but it takes time to learn how to code, so start now, or the new jobs will go to outsiders. Nowadays there are some amazing, cheap ways to learn programming — because people who can code are passionate about sharing their skills with everyone else. Look at Codeschool. Come to our own course, Try Programming for Publishers. Read The Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl — by the end of it, you’ll have written your very own version of Twitter. Imagine!

In seven years, the kids who are currently learning to code in school, as part of the national curriculum, will be graduating. People with all sorts of degrees will have coding literacy, a skill as basic to them as English and maths. You’ve got a seven-year head start on them. Start to learn code now and you won’t be skilled out of the market before you’re 40.

Emma is on Twitter as @bibliocloud

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Building a relevant book publishing industry for the future: Roles

Last week I posted some of my notes from a panel discussion on the subject of Building a relevant book industry for the future: Diversity, Content and Data at the BIC New Trends in Publishing seminar. Below is the second installment in this series of three blogs. If you missed the first post on diversity of skills, you can read it here.

New roles and new skills

Q: Despite how the industry might be portrayed in the media, and perhaps be perceived by the general public, not all roles in publishing are for “creatives” although they may require creative thinking. What are the challenges when going outside the industry to recruit for a different skillset?

A: A little while ago, I spoke to a manager who had hired technical experts from outside of publishing to work on developing new products. These developers were not happy working in an open plan office next to people from finance and struggled with the concept of 9am to 5pm. They wanted to be able to work flexi-time and at whatever time of day or night suited them. It was not a happy cultural fit and the expectations of experts from other sectors can be very different.

In consumer trade publishing there is still hostility towards the concept of publishing being a commercial business. As we heard earlier, from one of the other speakers at this seminar, we are afraid of referring to books as a commodity. I once experienced a backlash from editors when I voiced the opinion that having access to more consumer data could be a great thing for publishing and this negative view of the commercial side of the business could also be off-putting to professionals from other industries. Quality of content must not be compromised and not every book needs to be a bestseller, but there has never been a better time to target niche audiences (through social media etc.), and it’s important to understand that a commercial approach to maximising sales of niche publications is not a negative thing.

Q: What (if any) differences are we seeing when it comes to awareness and skills required in different types of publishing? E.g. professional publishing v. trade publishing? Software services, content development, data usage etc.

A: Ebook sales have risen dramatically (though perhaps these sales have reached a peak) and some trade publishers are taking a more data driven and commercial approach. The trend in professional book publishing appears to be to move towards a service/subscription model, but some legal publishers have been doing this for some time now, so it’s not an entirely new concept.

Q: Helen, in your opinion, what might be improved when it comes to Careers advice, both in schools and also higher education? Why does the industry often insist on applicants having degrees? Is this a barrier in your opinion?

A: More needs to be done in schools. There are some good careers services out there (like Cambridge Occupational Analysts COA) but it’s an expensive service and mostly only used by fee paying schools, where the parents have the means to finance it. Children get pressured by their parents and by society and some have little idea as to which subjects they need to take at A level in order to study their subject of choice at university. In terms of a degree being required, I think the issue lies with the education system rather than being the industry’s problem. Publishing could look at apprenticeships for certain roles, but there are so many good graduates looking for a role in publishing that there is little incentive for employers to look elsewhere.

Q: What about technical Degrees? How might the industry attract recruits from these types of degrees, as opposed to always recruiting arts graduates? Diverse skillsets from other degrees…different types of people/minds/new ways of thinking etc…

A: A degree should provide discipline, the ability to think critically and carry out research, so does subject really matter? It does for editorial roles in scientific publishing and for subject specific roles within educational publishing and academic publishing, where subject specific expertise and knowledge are required, but in many cases, it shouldn’t matter. The difficulty that the industry has in attracting graduates with technical degrees is generally a question of salary level and the other options open to these graduates and the kind of opportunities their peers are being offered.

University careers services have a difficult job, but in my experience can tend to be a bit conservative in their advice. However, I think some improvement is happening there – I was recently invited to an event being held for computer science and tech graduates who wanted to work in the creative sector or media, which I thought was a great idea. We should also think about arts grads, who could have good business brains, but don’t necessarily know where to start or what the options are, so think that the only way to go is editorial. I know an English Literature graduate who is a senior software developer, so perhaps the solution is to encourage the interested graduates to develop the skills that the industry requires, regardless of their degree discipline.

Q: How might we get around the challenge of publishing simply not paying as much as other industries?

A: Transparency in terms of pay would be a good start, so that employees or potential employees have a pay structure to refer to. Other industries have more formal pay scales in place but this is not something that the media industries have always been keen to implement.

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