On May 20, the organization People of Color in Publishing, a grassroots organization created by book publishing professionals dedicated to “supporting, empowering, and uplifting racially and ethnically marginalized members throughout the industry,” hosted a panel about burnout among publishing professionals.The panel, which took place over Zoom, was moderated by Leila Siddiqui, senior manager of digital strategy at DQ, and featured speakers Faye Bi, director of publicity at Bloomsbury Children's Books; Shelly Romero, lead editor at the book packager Cake Creative; and Ely Mellet, designer at Lee and Low.
Bi, Mellet, and Romero all spoke about their personal experiences with burnout, their coping strategies and gave practical advice for employees, especially those at entry level, who are feeling burnout. The panelists noted that there has recently been a lot of turnover in the publishing industry due to burnout—a phenomenon that has always existed, especially for marginalized people in publishing, but which was exacerbated by the pandemic. Indeed, there has been a steady drumbeat of departures from the big houses by a number of young publishing professionals, including one Friday earlier this year that saw Molly McGhee of Tor Books, Erin Siu of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, and Angeline Rodriguez and Hillary Sales of Orbit Books all announce their departures.
Employee burnout has come to the fore in media coverage during the course of the pandemic, including in publishing, which has long paid entry-level and other lower-level employees salaries that are out of step with rising costs of living. This is especially the case in New York City, the center of the U.S. book business, and, as others have argued in the pages of Publishers Weekly and elsewhere, disproportionately affects people of color working in the business.
A Q&A with all panelists can be found here.
Editor's note: The panel featured in this story was covered under the assumption that it was for public consumption, but was, rather, intended for internal People of Color in Publishing organizational use only. As a result, and at the request of People of Color in Publishing, the bulk of the story has been edited to remove the panel discussion.