The final countdown is on to our inaugural conference 2020: A Publishing Odyssey. So, we wanted to know what people thought different areas of the publishing world will (or should) be like come 2020. Laura Jones looks to where the future of freelancing lies.
Forgive me for opening up with a statistic but a study in late 2015 found that in the last three years in Scotland there has been a 25 per cent increase in the number of self-employed and freelancing graduates. Hard to say if this is due to an increasing difficulty in finding jobs or a new entrepreneurial spirit or a mixture of both. What I do feel confident in saying is that by 2020 this percentage will have increased and freelancing publishers will be flooding the market.
Today, the path towards employment in publishing is taking erratic turns. PRH are removing degrees as a job application requirement, unpaid internships are on the decrease due to diversity debates and freelancers are arguably in their golden age. In 2020 the paths will be further muddied by the unsure steps of young publishers but what will be clearer is the yellow brick road towards freelancing vitality.
Publishing degrees offered by the likes of Edinburgh Napier, Stirling and UCL provide the invaluable background context and knowledge essential for publishing success. I owe a lot to my Publishing MLitt and it was my best academic decision. However, many entry-level publishing jobs following said degrees are secretarial and menial with little room for skill development which is essential for professional growth. Emma Barnes of Bibliocloud and Snow Books covers this issue in her fantastic manifesto for skills.
I’ve become aware that I probably have a better chance in my chosen area of publishing if I take training courses and build my own skills in my own time. This is something that publishing courses just can’t offer in their current structures. Whether editorial, design, marketing, or production, tangible skills are essential and it’s those who hold the skills outside of publishing houses that area most benefitting from the work. By 2020 I hope there will be complimentary skills-focused courses with publishing degrees and there will most certainly be a healthy network of outsourced freelancers continuing to hold up certain areas of publishing.
The Hunger Games: Hunting for Publishing Jobs strand of the upcoming SYP Scotland conference has done well to include speakers and talks that also cover the skill building area opposed to the one-track approach of publishing degree -> internship -> job. The Coding Workshop strikes me as the most progressive session, acknowledging a skill that will have increasing importance in and beyond 2020. The significant lack of in-house coding knowledge across the publishing industry means great business for freelancers and it’s one area students should seriously consider if their interests are particularly techy. The CV workshop will help students showcase their skills and How to Pitch will exemplify a difficult but important skill at the crux of publishing: negotiation.
I don’t think a better skill training structure will be here by 2020 but I think we’re beginning to negotiate our way there. 2020 will, however, be the year of the outsourced freelancer. Time to get those skills sharpened.
Laura Jones is a book production and promotion freelancer and is currently coordinating Scot Lit Fest, Scotland’s first virtual festival celebrating Scottish literature. She was previously employed at Saraband as Editorial and Marketing Assistant and graduated from the Stirling MLitt Publishing Studies course in 2014.
There are still tickets available for our conference on March 18th, where you can attend the skills-based sessions that Laura mentioned and more. Book your place over here.