After a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, PW’s annual salary and jobs survey is back, albeit later in the year than usual. This year’s survey gathers data on 2021 and includes many standard questions, while also looking at how the pandemic has impacted certain publishing practices.

Perhaps because publishing employees haven’t received the questionnaire since 2019, we received 577 total responses, 60% from trade publishers—a relatively low number for the survey. Given that level of participation, we can’t dig down into the data as much as in the past, but the top-level responses remain consistent with previous years, including perhaps the most telling result of all: white employees made up 83% of all respondents, down one percentage point from 2019.

The minimal change came despite efforts by various publishers to try to bring more diversity into the industry. Indeed, 59% of respondents said their companies had tried different approaches to diversify their staffs within the past 12 months. Those efforts included hiring more BIPOC employees and adding diversity officers. Sixty-one percent of white respondents said their companies had been making strides in diversifying the staff, compared to 51% of nonwhite respondents.

In terms of diversifying title output, 70% of white respondents reported that their companies had made improvements, while 55% of nonwhite respondents said title diversity has improved. Nonwhite respondents were also much more skeptical than their white colleagues that publishers will remain committed to diversifying their staffs and title output, with only 40% believing those efforts will continue compared to 65% of white respondents.

The gender makeup of respondents remained overwhelming female, at 77%, with men comprising 20% of the workforce, and nonbinary employees 3%. The pay gap between men and women also persisted, with the median compensation for men at $90,000, while women earned $70,000 (both medians were $10,000 higher than those from our 2019 survey). The reasons for the gap remained the same: men tend to be concentrated in management, the best-paying segment of the business, and tend to have more years on the job—possibly because more women take time off to raise children, or leave the field because they have a harder time getting high-paying management jobs. While women accounted for 78% of respondents in editorial, sales/marketing, and operations/production departments, they represented only 54% of management respondents (women first assumed the greater percentage of management positions in the 2017 survey). And in terms of experience, the median male respondent had 20 years, while the median female respondent had 10.

The “Median Compensation by Experience” chart below shows, for example, that the median salary for someone with less than five years experience in an editorial position is $46,000, whereas it rises to $87,000 for someone with 11 years of experience or more.

Some other highlights from the survey:

• Overall, the median compensation for all respondents was $72,500 in 2021, up from $67,300 in 2020.

• Annual raises last year were largely in line with those reported in previous surveys, with an average increase of 3.1% in 2021 over 2020. Twenty-four percent of employees said they received no raises last year, while 24% received raises between 0.1% and 2.9%. Twenty-six percent had raises of between 3% and 5.9%, and 26% had raises of more than 6%.

• Respondents are currently working an average of 42 hours per week, including time outside the office. Hours worked remained consistent from a year ago. Overall, 68% are working the same amount of hours this year compared to 2021, while 18% are working more hours and 14% are working fewer hours per week than they were last year.

• Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they are satisfied with their current positions to varying degrees, with 52% reporting they are extremely/very satisfied and 36% saying they are somewhat satisfied.

• Low salary (58%), increased workloads (53%), and lack of advancement opportunities (47%) were the primary reasons for low job satisfaction, followed by problems with management (40%) and lack of recognition (37%).

• Given the current state of the economy, 56% of respondents said they feel somewhat secure in their current positions, 23% feel very secure, and 21% are somewhat/very insecure/worried.

• Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they expect to be at their current companies in two years, with 36% reporting they expect to be in their current positions and 29% expecting to be in higher positions at the same companies.

Pandemic policies

In response to questions about the pandemic, 90% of respondents said their companies have implemented remote work policies. More than half reported that their policies do not require them to be in their offices a set number of days. Those employees who do have set requirements are expected to be in the office an average of two days per week.

In written responses, employees cited remote work as the most important benefit companies offered during the pandemic. Several said they believed the policy, if carried forward, would bring more diversity to publishing, but many said companies were beginning to push back and insist that employees return to their offices at least some of the time. More than one employee said they would quit if forced to go back to the office, explaining that working from home provided a better work-life balance. There was also a sense of frustration that the improvements publishers made in workplace conditions could be rolled back due to slowing sales and a return to more “normal” business routines.

The future

The publishing industry has been through three turbulent years, and respondents see plenty of challenges ahead. Among the issues most often cited by respondents were continuing supply chain problems and rising manufacturing and production costs. Burnout and difficulty in attracting and retaining talent was seen as another group of challenges, especially since many publishers are located in cities with a high costs of living. Low pay was seen as an impediment to diversifying the industry’s workforce. Ongoing book banning efforts were another top concern, as was the need for publishers to upgrade their environmental policies.

And respondents seemed to accept that, after solid sales increases in 2020 and 2021, the industry will settle back to the more familiar low-to-no-growth pattern. Forty-four percent predicted that publishing sales will remain flat over the next two years, 29% feel sales will grow, 14% said sales will decline, and 14% are unsure what the sales future holds.