A manifesto on the publishing workforce

A manifesto on the publishing workforce

"Publishers could win big by looking at the future workforce and taking a leap of faith on some of these new candidates." My Bookseller colleague Maria Vassilopoulos sees those new candidates, many of them promising, in her role managing our Careers & Jobs division. Publishing isn't alone, of course, in wrestling with creativity and verve over training and background. Many specialists will tell you that this is a time of peculiarly unfounded expectations—young job candidates may seize on the notion that formal training and experience are less important than bright ideas and energy; hiring managers may disagree. It's a moment to look back at Emma Barnes' A manifesto for skills. What of these job candidates, Vassilopoulos asks? "Why not work with them and stop making them feel like their chances are so limited?" —Porter Anderson


Drop 'entry-level' as a label in commercial publishing roles                 

A new generation of publishing hopefuls is in place at this very moment.  They've attained their degrees and other academic qualifications, but they've also been busy creating their own profiles as bloggers,twitter personalities and stars of social media.  Their generation is constantly bombarded with the success stories of vloggers who were just young people living in Brighton before their lucky break and now have a book and a celebrity lifestyle that transitions them over to traditional media.

These publishing hopefuls know that:

  • Competition to work in publishing will be fierce; 
  • Most of their contemporaries will be trying similar tactics to stand out, and
  • They—having already seen that they could make it without any help at all from traditional avenues—are then pulled back into this traditional world by the job hunt.

Publishing companies will always get the most applicants for that revered entry-level job

As soon as I post one of these on @Jobsinbooks, the RTs kick in, people start interacting with each other, and a collective “wishing it could be me” attitude comes to the fore.  The publisher wants a person who doesn’t need experience to come and work with them.

These young guns want a way in

They hope that if they play their cards right they can work their way up. But is it fair to assume that just because a whole lot of candidates are industry beginners that they are all at the same standard?  Are there middle roles that usually say things such as, ideally 2 years publishing experience required, into which some of these entrants could be placed?

Imagine a crowd of people all trying to get into a building through one door.

Then look up that building and see doors on each level up with only two people, four people, and fewer going through their doors. 

What if there was a way to access the huge crowd and see whether some could cope with being higher up in the building? Just looking at the plethora of book blogs, book-related twitter feeds, young authors, and literary style coming from these "entry-level" candidates, jobs in sales, marketing, and PR could be good fits for the self-taught knowledge of these candidates in at publishing companies.

Office manager or PA is more accurate for most advertised entry-level roles.  Assistant roles in actual departments are good ways to learn particular areas of the business and great for those who may not know where they want to settle.  However, job seekers could be put off by the middle roles branded "executive" or "officer" if they don’t have the specific publishing experience being asked for.

Publishers could win big by looking at the future workforce and taking a leap of faith on some of these new candidates who have big ideas for the future of books and the publishing industry. 

Don’t forget, every time you tweet, make a statement, speak at an event, these candidates are the ones following you, liking what you do, challenging your ideas. Why not work with them and stop making them feel like their chances are so limited?


This is another entry in our series of "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones revisited his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we thank all our manifesto writers. See their articles here.

As we add more in this series, our most recently published #FutureBook15 manifestos are:

Main image - iStockphoto: Gemena Com