Podcasters on sharing industry knowhow

Podcasters on sharing industry knowhow

While publishers and industry figures have used podcasts as a platform to promote books and authors for several years, many new podcasts are joining long-established channels and offering insight into how the trade works behind the scenes. 

The team at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing (OICP) at Oxford Brookes University started recording audio content from interesting visitors and industry speakers more than a decade ago. Professor Angus Phillips, director of the OICP, says: “We aim to keep current with the industry and the latest developments. The podcast is part of our research and also supports our teaching. There is no strict format; the content is varied across topics and industry sectors.” 

Guests are selected to offer insight into the industry and the latest trends. The podcast is uploaded onto the OICP website, with more recent episodes shared on YouTube as well, reaching a core audience of OICP students and alumni as well as industry professionals. Phillips also hopes that it will encourage people to study at the centre.

One former OICP student, Flavia Marcocci, began researching and producing her own podcast as her major project for her MA in Digital Publishing in 2018. Marcocci, who is platform manager at AI search firm Yext and previously worked at Polity and DK, launched “Publishing Insight” because “at the time, there weren’t many career podcasts focusing on the publishing industry and the roles that comprise a publishing house”. 

She explains: “I decided to produce it myself, both as a free resource for anyone looking for more information about what it means on a practical level to work in publishing, but also to shed light on all the various departments and functions that exist in the industry.” “Publishing Insight” takes the format of an interview with someone who works in publishing, discussing their career path and their current role. Marcocci says: “I select my guests from many areas of the industry, different companies and different functions, in order to showcase as many perspectives and experiences as possible.” 

  

Angus Phillips and Flavia Marcocci

Marcocci records and edits the episodes herself then uploads them to a hosting site which distributes them to all the main podcast platforms. Two seasons of the podcast have been produced so far, receiving more than 10,000 downloads. Marcocci is planning to produce a third season in 2022, with hopes to find a sponsor so she can hire a professional audio editor and focus more on content development. 

Lessons shared

Suzanne Collier, founder of bookcareers.com, launched the “Bookcareers” podcast in the run-up to the 2019 London Book Fair, and originally planned for it be one series long. But she decided to extend it after finding that she had “a never-ending supply of content”, with the show now on its 150th episode. Collier says: “I had wanted to podcast for a long time as I get asked the same questions repeatedly and it isn’t always possible to have a conversation.” Episodes come out weekly on all major podcast platforms and are around 15 minutes long. Guests are sometimes featured, but mostly it sees Collier talking about issues that have come up with her clients, or changes in recruitment processes. 

Her aim with the podcast is “to make publishing truly accessible to all by discussing current issues in publishing and career trends, and open up the world of book publishing careers to everyone”. 

Similarly, the Society of Young Publishers’ (SYP) fortnightly podcast, “Inside Publishing”, was launched in 2020 by SYP Oxford co-chair Charlotte Parr in an attempt to create a more accessible digital platform for aspiring publishers who could not attend in-person events. Following the initial success of the podcast, this year the SYP adapted it into a UK-wide initiative, opening it up to contributions from SYP members across the country in a bid to expand its reach and diversify its output. 

Rosy Webster, SYP Oxford’s digital content officer and curator of the podcast, expands: “In rebranding the podcast, I was keen to ensure that it would remain a fantastic resource for publishing hopefuls to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to navigate the industry. But I also wanted to create a platform where we can really explore and examine the more misunderstood and often misrepresented parts of the industry.” 

  

Rosy Webster and Suzanne Collier

Federica Fiorillo, SYP UK digital content officer, adds that the aim is to make “Inside Publishing” “a window for anyone who wants to have a peek inside the industry” as well as helping people to “feel like publishing isn’t the élitist, shut-off world it used to be”. 

This is also a concern for the hosts of the “Main Characters” podcast: Katie Packer, senior commissioning editor at Headline; Soraya Bouazzaoui, assistant to Lauren Gardner at Bell Lomax Moreton; and Rochelle Dowden-Lord, sales executive for 4th Estate and William Collins. Reflecting on their reasons for launching the show earlier this year, they say: “We each realised there was space in the podcasting world for a very casual and laid-back podcast that incorporated discussions of publishing, pop culture and just general chat.” 

Though “Main Characters” is currently on a hiatus, it was broadcast weekly on Apple and Spotify with each hour-long episode focusing on a different theme based on timely topics; guest authors joined the hosts around once a month. The trio plan to bring the show back in January, with aims for it to be “bigger and better than ever, with more author interviews and reaching out to a wider audience to demystify publishing and help others see the book world as accessible and inclusive”. 

Behind the curtain

A desire to demystify the book trade is shared by many of the podcast producers The Bookseller spoke to. Marcocci feels it is “really important to show how complex and multifaceted an industry it is, as well as how many skills and competencies are required nowadays to build a career in publishing”. The “Main Characters” hosts say: “A lot of people still don’t understand how publishing works and though they might read and consume pop culture, they don’t understand how they might fit into that world. The simpler we make it for them, the more inclusive and representative our industry will become. You don’t have to be reading 100 books a week or be part of the ‘literati’ to work in publishing. There are so many more different skills and facets involved than that.” 

        

(L-R) Katie Packer, Soraya Bouazzaoui, and Rochelle Dowden-Lord

According to Webster, the podcast format is “well suited to the often busy, fast-paced lifestyles of our listeners”. Packer, Bouazzaoui and Dowden-Lord echo this: “Podcasts are reaching really diverse audiences and are quick, easy and accessible. They let us talk to our audience directly and hopefully relate to them and get them excited about what we’re reading and watching.” 

When considering why she decided a podcast was the best medium through which to reach her intended audience of students considering a career in publishing, publishing professionals hoping to progress in their career, and readers wanting to learn more about how books are made, Marcocci says: “Podcasts are an exceptional medium, really intimate, informative and conversational, as well as easily available and accessible from anywhere in the world.” 

Collier agrees podcasts can feel like having “a real conversation”; many of her listeners reach out to her via email. She says: “I get excellent feedback all the time, mostly from people who have found jobs or dealt with a work situation from the advice given… I’ve had positive feedback too to some of the personal stories I have shared about my experiences about working in publishing; it makes people feel they are not alone and what they are experiencing is not unusual. It’s a great feeling knowing that the pockets of career wisdom I share are influencing people’s careers in a positive way.”