The Publishers Weekly salary survey is back, and the publishing industry has undergone much change since we last conducted it, in the spring of 2010. At that time, publishing companies, and the country, were just getting back on their feet after the Great Recession, and the impact of e-books was only beginning to be felt. The 2013 survey was conducted in late summer, and the results, which are based on about 1,000 responses from publishing company employees, reveal an industry slightly more confident in its future than was the case three years ago, when the poor economy, not digital disruption, was the chief concern among respondents.
We added a number of questions to the 2013 survey about the effect that the jump in digital sales has had on staffing practices at publishing houses and found interesting results, though some aspects of companies’ structures remain unchanged. The workforce is dominated by women (76%), but men earn more overall because of higher rates of employment in management, where average salaries are higher. The workforce is also well educated: 95% of those who responded to the survey are college graduates, and 40% have either a postgraduate degree or have done some work toward a higher degree. The average age of respondents was just over 37 years old, with a 10-year gap between the average age of male publishing employees (45) and that of female employees (35).
Another similarity between the new survey and the previous one is that pay increases remain low. The average raise in 2012 was 2.8%, slightly better than the 2.1% increase in 2009, but significantly below the average 4%–5% annual raises employees were receiving before the recession. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they received a less-than-3% annual raise in 2012, compared to the 76% who received a less-than-3% salary increase in 2009. That means a much larger portion of respondents received bigger raises in 2012, with 47% saying they received a 3%-or-greater bump, compared to only 24% in 2009. The average raise for male respondents was virtually the same as the average pay increase reported by female respondents.
The pay gap between men and women in publishing persisted in 2012, with the average male respondent earning $85,000 per year and the average female employee earning $56,000 annually. The major reason for the discrepancy has been touched upon already—there is a higher proportion of men working in management than in the lower-paid ranks, where women are more prevalent, and male respondents had much more experience, on average, than female respondents. According to the survey, the average male publishing employee has 19 years of experience in the industry, compared to nine years for women. And women working at publishing companies also tend to be far younger than their male colleagues. Thirty percent of women who responded to the survey were under 30, compared to 9% of men. And 39% of male respondents were 50 or over (in their prime earning years), compared to 18% of women. More and more women are joining the publishing workforce: 82% of respondents with three years or less of experience in the field were women, compared to 85% in 2010.
Perhaps because of their higher salaries and longer experience, more male respondents (44%) said they expect to be at their current positions in two years’ time compared to female respondents (25%). Among the women surveyed, 28% said they thought they’d be promoted, compared to 18% of men—whereas 38% of female respondents said they thought they would change careers or leave their current company, compared to 28% of men.
Lack of advancement was the second most frequently cited work-related frustration among respondents in 2013, after low pay. These grievances have long been the top two complaints among publishing professionals. The overall satisfaction level in the 2013 survey was 49% (meaning just under half of respondents were happy with their jobs), up one percentage point from the 2010 survey. One thing the industry has going for it is that despite the turmoil of recent years, 90% of respondents said they were somewhat confident or very confident in the future of publishing. A smaller percentage felt secure in their own jobs, with 75% somewhat or very secure; that compares to 73% of respondents to the 2010 survey feeling somewhat or very secure.
The fact that a large portion of employees have faith in the future of publishing doesn’t mean they are unaware of the changes occurring in the industry. Seventy-eight percent of respondents to the survey said that retailers have the greatest leverage in today’s market, while only 22% said that publishers have the most clout. The belief that retailers have the most influence in the industry was pretty widely held across all types of publishers and was most common among employees of specialty presses (91%) and least common among those of professional publishers (71%).
Among respondents who took on new responsibilities in the last two years, 42% said their new duties were tied to digital or online developments, although only 36% said they had received training in new media. The largest portion of respondents who received digital training were from management (48%), followed by production staff (44%). Seventy-two percent of respondents said their companies hired new personnel to work specifically on digital publishing, with most of the new staff working in marketing and production.
Self-publishing is also having an impact on the industry, according to the survey. Fifty-two percent of respondents said their companies acquired books from self-published authors in the past year; among trade publishers, that portion was higher, at 63%. And 66% of respondents at companies with annual revenues over $100 million each said their employers bought self-published books in the past year, while only 38% of respondents at houses generating less than $10 million in annual revenue said that their companies signed self-published authors.
Who has the greater leverage in today's marketplace?
Salary Increases, 2009
Salary Increases, 2012
A Sense of Security
How secure are you about your job? Employees were feeling more secure in their jobs in 2013 compared to 2009, with response rates almost back to prerecession levels.
52% of all respondents said their companies had acquired self-published books, a figure that rose to 63% among those working at general trade houses. Top Complaints Complaints about the work environment were generally down compared to 2010, but low pay stayed on top of the list.
|Lack of advancement||52%|
|Problems with management||37%|
|Lack of recognition||23%|
Service Time (% of total group)
|Under 3 years||12%||13%||5%|
|3 years to 6||22||24||12|
|7 years to 10||19||20||17|
|11 years to 20||25||26||28|
|Over 20 years||22||17||38|
Eighty-two percent of respondents said their company was keeping employment levels steady or were expanding.
A Bigger Bonus Pool
Median bonuses for management stayed the same in 2012 compared to 2009, but rose in all other areas.
Median Compensation Based on Years Experience
|Less than 3||3 to 6||7 to 10||Over 10|
Differences in Pay Between Men and Women
Men: Average compensation $85,000
Women: Average compensation $56,000