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. Alison Baverstock, co-founder of the MA in Publishing at Kingston University, looks to the future for those studying publishing.
Why time spent with other publishers is never wasted…
I regularly find that those embarking on a qualification in Publishing Studies arrive on the course with a specific idea of what they want to do in future (and ‘an editor for Faber’ is remarkably common). From the start, we try to make them aware that publishing is a very collaborative process, that processes don’t necessarily happen in a specific order or in isolation from each other – and that one of the most significant skills publishers can develop is an aptitude, if not a preference, for active collaboration.
For example, once a book has been commissioned, even while the author is still actively involved in finalising their manuscript, the jacket design team will already be preparing how the finished product will look and the rights team selling the concept of the book to other publishers and organisations who might also invest. It follows that it’s really important that the latest information provided to the commissioning editor is passed on to everyone else involved. So, is the hero all are expecting still in the frame? Has an additional chapter been added to a ‘how to’ book that could influence the way the title is optimally presented?
I was struck very early on in my career in publishing how very collaborative the industry in general is. Having worked for a marketing agency that had many publishers as clients, one of them advertised a job that looked right up my street. I was interviewed and delighted to be offered the post of ‘Marketing Controller’ by Heinemann. Yet before leaving the agency, I was contacted by several of my henceforth competitors to be reassured that when (not if) I was faced with a situation in which I did not know what to do, I should not hesitate to ask them for advice. Along similar lines, we regularly ask publishers to come to Kingston and talk to students on our course, even though those they inspire may end up working for their direct competitors. Publishers openly debate issues that matter to us all at conferences and in the trade press; in other industries (having done some research into this) professionals are significantly less willing to share.
Time spent with other professionals is in any case generally very positive – and discussing with others both boosts your awareness of what is going on and your ability to develop solutions. Which leads me to my real reason for writing.
I wanted to congratulate those who have had the gumption to organise a conference for the Society of Young Publishers in Scotland on 18th March and remind everyone else to turn up and take part. Share your ideas on current challenges and where the industry is going. Contribute to the debate about what publishing should look like in two, ten or twenty years – and enjoy being part of the community of those who are likely to meet the challenges ahead.
As David Shelley, CEO of Hachette said at a recent publishing Masterclass at Kingston, given the speed at which our industry is developing, the future needs ‘people who are inspired not frightened by change’.
I hope you all have great day.
Associate Professor Alison Baverstock is the author of How to market books (Routledge, 5th edition 2015).
There are still a few tickets available for our conference on March 18th. Book your place over here.