Home-working has hit junior publishing staff, Copeland fears

Home-working has hit junior publishing staff, Copeland fears

The pandemic has been a boom time for books but there are fears that home-working has had a negative impact on more junior staff in the industry, agent and author Sam Copeland has said.

Speaking at this week’s IPG Spring Conference about children's publishing alongside Nosy Crow commissioning editor Tom Bonnick, the RCW director said that sector had fared very well during the past year.

Touching on the wider impact, he said he did not think the decentralisation of the publishing industry from London will “be as dramatic as we think", for the larger publishers. Copeland said he was “uncertain” about how long changes brought about by the pandemic would stay in place.

He cited the example of Hachette UK recently announcing its staff would work three days a week in the office, despite expectations from some that work might be more flexible than that. However, Copeland said it was important to realise the personal impact of home-working, particularly for more junior members of staff.

Copeland said: “It’s the junior staff who are losing out, because I learnt everything about the business from sitting in an office with my old colleague and mentor, listening to how he dealt with problems, how he spoke to publishers, that’s how I learnt everything. Also meeting junior colleagues across the industry for drinks and what not. All those people I grew up with are now in positions of seniority. So, I do fear for the more junior people in publishing. I think they are the ones who have suffered.”

Copeland said he was also concerned about Amazon's “encroachment”, saying: “There’s a potential ‘Spotification’ of the industry. These are all big, huge concerns.”

The children's writer said that the big-name authors were also faring better and he felt “desperately sorry” for debut authors publishing over the past year.

Nevertheless, he concluded: “The positive thing is people still love books. Children love books. Adults love books. So I think there are reasons to be positive and, actually, I think the independent shops have done fantastically well. We are seeing independent bookshops open and I think it’s been a positive time for the more nimble independent publishers.”