A panel of industry experts gathered to discuss the state of publishing’s ever-changing jobs market at a Publishers Weekly Discussion Series on September 25, at Random House’s offices in midtown Manhattan. The evolution of publishing teams and the creation of new, innovative positions at traditional houses, as well as the integration of other media fields into the book publishing landscape, were themes of the morning’s talk. The panelists included David Bronstein, chief talent officer at Perseus Books Group; Lorraine Shanley, president of Market Partners International; Susan Gordon, president of Lynne Palmer Executive Recruitment; and Anne Converse Willkomm, director of graduate publishing at Rosemont College School of Graduate Studies. The panel was moderated by Jim Milliot, co-editorial director of Publishers Weekly.
To illustrate the transformation of organizational structures at publishers, as well as the creation of new roles to keep up with the expansion of digital publishing, Gordon pointed to changes taking place within key departments at some houses. For example, whereas marketing staff once executed campaigns and distributed print versions of marketing material, a publisher might now employ a social media manager, a product manager, an SEO manager, and an e-commerce specialist, all of whom still fall under the general marketing umbrella.
Gordon also showed how other divisions, like editorial and sales, have splintered and developed in recent years. In the past, an editorial director would establish editorial guidelines and unify the group, while acquisitions editors bought content. Now, she said, an editorial team might also include a media editor who oversees the management of multimedia assets to support print operations, as well as a content editor, who edits manuscripts digitally. Meanwhile the sales side has become more specialized; whereas previously, sales positions were fairly similar within a given house, some publishers are now hiring accounts managers, educational specialists, and e-book specialists.
There are several sectors of the industry with noticeable growth in the past few years, according to Gordon, who remarked that while recruiting, she has noticed an expansion in children’s and young adult, religious, and genre publishing in the domestic market. She called the international market “huge,” noting that a number of U.S. publishers are entering the global arena; and more and more U.K. publishers have begun to set up shop stateside. “I used to be able to come into the office at eight o’clock in the morning to have quiet time, and now I’m in the office much earlier to talk to my U.K. clients,” said Gordon.
No aspect of the industry has been more radically changed in the past five years than the digital sphere, and Gordon pointed to the breadth of new roles spawned by the e-book revolution—roles she often fills with professionals from outside of the book publishing industry. “Information technology is one of the key areas where it’s very easy to pull someone from another media company, and he or she doesn’t need to have traditional book publishing background,” said Gordon, adding that she often recruits engineers and computer scientists from other areas of media for jobs at traditional houses.
Shanley also highlighted this “cross-pollination” of different divisions across the media industry that continue to inform one another in greater measure. “Until about five years ago, you could be in publishing, your friends could be in publishing, your touch points could be in publishing, and you’d never know about the other industries,” said Shanley. “That has all changed dramatically.” The influx of social media experts from other fields, such as the television and music industries, has given publishing professionals broader exposure to increasingly important digital skills, she noted.
As digital and print continue to cohabitate, specific roles in editorial, marketing, and publicity are becoming less defined and more cross-functional, said Bronstein, who stressed the need for collaboration among employees in different groups. “Don’t just think of functional silos,” he said, adding, “Digital is breaking the silos down.”
Despite emphasizing publishing’s transformation in recent years, the panelists did touch on certain continuities in the industry. Bronstein rattled off positions Perseus is currently seeking to fill—and while there were certainly roles that did not exist five years ago, he listed several job titles that have persisted for decades, well before the digital overhaul, like senior publicist and acquisitions editor.
“There’s a lot of continuity, and a lot of change as well,” Bronstein said. “It’s not black and white, it’s not digital versus physical, it’s not this or that.” Publishing is, above all, a trendsetting industry, and always has been, he added. To make way for new jobs, positions have been cut “across the board,” Bronstein noted, pointing to such areas as production and sales.
Given her experience with students in graduate-level publishing programs, Willkomm’s presentation shifted the conversation from the change in the industry to helping the next generation of publishing professionals land jobs in a notoriously difficult market. She boiled down her advice into three words: “Internships, internships, internships.” Willkomm added, “It isn’t just about who you know anymore; you need to showcase your skills.”
The panelists agreed that while publishers are searching for employees with specialized skills, there is still a hunt for those with adaptability and a hunger to learn.