Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Aiming for the Top: WNBA’s Women Executives in Publishing Panel

Last night, the Women’s National Book Association hosted a Women Executives in Publishing panel event and invited the Young to Publishing Group to attend.  Although the event was aimed toward giving young women advice to succeed in the publishing industry, much of the advice was pertinent to any individual interested in reaching the executive level.

The panel included Harlequin’s VP of Editorial Margaret Marbury, Simon Pulse and Aladdin Books VP, Publisher Mara Anastas, Penguin Random House SVP, Director, Consumer Marketing Development Amanda Close, and HarperCollins President, Children’s Susan Katz.  It was moderated by Alloy Editor Annie Stone. The theme of the evening was to succeed, never stop learning and growing.

The panel started out with a conversation about advanced degrees. In discussing whether an MBA program is necessary for someone who wants to be an executive in publishing, the panelists all agreed that it’s not necessary. “I don’t feel it’s a prerequisite,” Close, who has an MBA from NYU Stern, said. However, it does give someone a chance to develop business and financial skills as well as allowing for more networking.

The panel expanded on the point, saying that finding success is more about having the practical knowledge of running a business, which you can learn through an MBA program, through a certificate program, or through your own individual experiences.  “Absolutely learn those skill sets that aren’t completely tailored to your job, because it will make you a much more effective employee,” Marbury said.

One way the panel agreed was helpful to them for learning new skills was switching between departments within a publishing house.  “You definitely want to have an area of expertise and develop your reputation,” Marbury said. But, she continued, you also need to be adaptable, because you never know where your next opportunity will come from.  Katz agreed, adding “Changing areas of the organization, for me, gave me a much bigger and broader view of what everybody else’s jobs are and how hard it is in the marketplace.”  Someone who only stays in editorial might never realize the bigger picture of the business, Katz continued.

You should have many mentors at your job, among your supervisors and peers, the panelists noted.  They agreed if you’re not learning at your current job, it might be time to move on to your next opportunity.  If you’re switching jobs, don’t be afraid to move laterally or be demoted, if it means you’ll be working with great people who you can learn from.  “You will work for a very long time. Life is short, and there’s no time to be unhappy.  There’s no reason for it,” Anastas said.

The panelists also had some general advice, including:

  • Be organized. Make your day as productive as possible. Developing these skills now will help you later in life when you might have to balance a family and work.
  • If your boss doesn’t delegate or won’t teach you, try to fix it or, if it’s unfixable, find a new job.
  • And on that note, don’t throw out an entire organization because of one bad boss.
  • Negotiate for your salary, within reason. People want good negotiators on their side, but you need to research so you’re not requesting more than someone at a higher level.
  • Try to resolve work conflicts head-on. It might give you a different perspective on the situation in addition to clearing the air.
  • If you want a raise, you need to ask for it and give examples of why you deserve it. Be prepared for critical feedback from your supervisor when you approach them.
  • Acknowledge others’ achievements, maybe by writing them a personal note.
  • Listen and learn. Always. You should share your opinions, but don’t forget to encourage others’ to share theirs and listen to everyone who disagrees with you.

The most important message from all the panelists: “Confidence is everything.”  They ultimately believed that young professionals, especially women, need to develop their skills and believe in themselves.  Knowledge and confidence in that knowledge are essential for success.

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