Talk about silver linings. For one small Midwestern publisher, the deepening recession, and the federal response to it, has breathed new life into the press's bread-and-butter titles on career advice. If a country is in need of a major stimulus package, it surely bodes well for the publisher with a book about jobs in that package—particularly a publisher whose acronym stands for Job Information, Seeking and Training. JIST Publishing, based in Indianapolis, is just that publisher. A division of educational publisher EMC/Paradigm since 2007—which itself has specialized in publishing job search and career exploration books for both the trade and educational markets since 1986—JIST, like nearly everyone else, had a rocky 2008. “Things got really tight for us around September,” Barry Newborn, JIST v-p of sales, noted, explaining how government cuts in funding for workforce development centers adversely impacted the Indianapolis publisher's bottom line. But this decline in educational sales was noticeably offset by a spike in trade sales, which has turned into a whopping leap. January '09 sales in the trade market, said Newborn, were up 70% over the year before.
Newborn attributed the jump in sales to the success of two books in particular: 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs (Nov.) and Great Jobs in the President's Stimulus Plan (Feb.), both by Laurence Shatkin. 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs is now in its third print run, with 14,000 copies in print. Great Jobs in the President's Stimulus Plan, an instant book released February 5, quickly sold out of its 3,000-copy initial print run and went back to press for another 3,000 copies. The book is “close” to going back to press for a third print run of at least 3,000, and perhaps 5,000, copies.
Quoting President Obama's statement, “Our first job is to get Americans back to work,” made when the president signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on February 17, Newborn explained that JIST executives realized weeks before the stimulus plan was signed that “certain key jobs” would receive special consideration under the president's proposal for jump-starting the stalled U.S. economy.
“The author put together a list of occupations and got to work,” Newborn said, explaining that Great Jobs focuses on jobs in infrastructure, energy, green technology, health care, education and manufacturing.
Newborn ascribes JIST's success in the careers niche to the fact that its publications address more than the topic of potential jobs and careers for job seekers: they also address how job seekers can keep a job once they land one.
“At one point, the focus was just on getting people jobs,” Newborn, who has been with JIST for 10 years, said of the company's mission. “But career professionals kept seeing the same people. So we started publishing resources that address success on the job.”
Newborn explained that assessments—tools to identify which jobs or careers would be the right fit for an individual—are currently 17% of JIST's total business. Company executives intend to capitalize on this growing trend in consumers wanting to strategically assess their potential for success in a volatile job market: the 17 new titles and reissues on JIST's spring list are dominated by assessment-style publications. For example, the 12 trade books on the spring list include The Career Coward's Guide to Career Advancement: Sensible Strategies for Overcoming Career Fears; 50 Best Jobs for Your Personality (2d. ed.); and Your Next Career: Do What You've Always Wanted to Do (2d. ed.).
While JIST must constantly fine-tune its product to remain relevant to rapidly changing career definitions and fluctuating employment patterns, Newborn notes the company's purpose really hasn't changed dramatically since it was founded in 1981—during another recession—as a career planning and job search program assisting clients from human service agencies.
“There's nothing all that new concerning job search, because the principles developed back in 1981 make you successful in looking for a good job: networking; good résumé and cover letter, and not relying on newspapers for leads,” Newborn said.