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

Moving Right Along: What Changing House or Department Means for a Publishing Career

MovingHouseMuch of what we talk about here at Trendsetter involves starting your career in publishing, but for those who have already landed the entry level job, a whole new set of challenges presents itself. It’s one thing to get your foot in the door, but how do you ensure that you continue to grow and learn and (hopefully) even get a raise in the process?

This past week, our parent site, Publishing Trends, has run a series of articles on “How to Get Your Second Job in Publishing,” and earlier this week, we posted some of the best pearls of wisdom gathered from our research here on Trendsetter. We’ve seen a lot of important career themes emerge: what it means to be proactive, how to leverage your strengths to move up the corporate ladder, and what roles fate and timing play in finding new opportunities. We also discovered how common it seems to be for people to not only move amongst houses throughout their careers, but also to different departments.

When we initially embarked on this article, we assumed a majority of people stayed in their respective departments for the majority of their careers. Surprisingly, however, our survey showed to the contrary: 67% of our respondents said they moved departments when they transitioned into their second job. For those who want to stay in the coveted role of Editorial, turnover is lower; 68% of our respondents who started in Editorial say they are still in the same department now. Of those respondents who started in Sales, though, only 37% are still working in that department.

In interviews, we saw a lot of fluidity between departments, as many of the people we interviewed have moved amongst all of them. “I left [Beacon Press] for Houghton and was in publicity but in a more corporate way,” recalls Todd Berman, VP, Client Development at Random House. “I felt siloed in many ways and eventually burned out on publicity. That’s when I transitioned into marketing for two years.” Bruce Nichols, who is now SVP, Publisher at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, transferred out of Editorial into Sales so that he could increase his future opportunities, Within only 6 months of joining a textbook publisher as an Editorial Assistant, he was “…in fact told by many people in the Editorial department that the best way to move anywhere in College publishing was to get into Sales.”

Part of the reason for so much movement could be at least in part because of the way technology is changing the roles of these departments, particularly Marketing and Publicity. Where media contacts were once difficult to come by and mediate, there are now infinite outlets for spreading the word about new books. Especially for young talent today, one’s skillset as a digital native can offer important leverage. “Younger professionals have far more computer skills than the older generation did at their age,” admits Charles Kim, Associate Publisher at the Museum of Modern Art. New media opportunities also bring book business options outside of traditional houses. “To someone starting out now, I think the pretty obvious advice is not only to take advantage of [cut “the”] digital opportunities,” says Bruce Nichols “but also the areas of the business outside the traditional publishing model—start-ups, new forms of business that are proliferating now.”

If your ambitions are strictly editorial, however, moving departments may not be an option. You’ll need to use your initiative to move up rather than over. “The trick is to do a conscientious-enough job at those basic entry-level duties but at the same time to be ‘selfish,’ focused, and ambitious enough to land projects that make you seem like a full-fledged editor before you’ve been fully recognized as one,” Rebecca Saletan, Editorial Director at Riverhead Books, says. “You have to be proactive to make this happen – go after writers and projects, come up with your own ideas, not just wait for agents to hand things to you.”

Treading the editorial straight-and-narrow doesn’t exempt you from having eclectic interests and a global view of publishing, though. Bruce Tracy, Senior Editor at Workman, says, “Everyone gets into [publishing] wanting to be an editor, and for that very reason, when I was hiring, I was always interested in people who were interested in other things. So that if someone had worked in publicity, for instance, I almost automatically liked them more.”

If you’re happy in your department but there’s little room for growth within your current company, the answer might be to move publishing houses. “When I’d first started, I wish I’d known how often people move houses,” said one Production Associate we interviewed. “Without a doubt, I would have started looking for a new job much sooner than I did.” Several interviewees pointed out that moving houses every few years no matter what can be a good way to stay ahead of the salary curve, but Bruce Tracy argues “it’s also important because you learn more. At the same time, given the change of scenery, you’ll be shocked how much you already know.

Even if an actual move doesn’t occur, having offers can serve as leverage: “At some point when I was Managing Editor at Vintage, I got an offer, and I made it known I had an offer and was able to parlay that into more money – because Vintage was growing then and I was a very inexpensive managing editor they didn’t really want to lose me at that point,” explains Rebecca Saletan. Even then, however, it’s good to be aware of your options and your peers, as Rebecca does add, “I wish I’d been more proactive about figuring out which houses and situations might have been right for me rather than waiting to be approached.”

So how does one go about proactively looking into other houses and departments (particularly if opportunity isn’t coming knocking on its own)? The main thing is to build your network and learn about different roles within the industry. Todd Berman says this can even be as simple as taking colleagues to lunch and talking to them genuinely. “There’s value in networking,” he insists. “I’ve never heard of anyone getting a job on”  This knowledge of publishing people and culture will not only connect you to possible new jobs, but help you to evaluate whether a new company environment will be a good one. “Consider the overall tone of top management,” encourages Amy Rhodes, who worked in several houses before joining Market Partners International as a publishing consultant. “Even for those at fairly junior levels, sane top executives create a positive and productive environment.”

Growth within a publishing career is an individual—and very personal—experience. Still, knowing that there is fluidity amongst houses and departments offers options—options that are commonly taken advantage of throughout the industry. While a major change may not necessary for your second or third job, it helps to know that it might be an option when transitioning to your fourth, fifth, even fiftieth job later down the line.

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  1. […] I’ve worked on, however, my favorite article I wrote (and the series it was connected to) was writing about second jobs in publishing, a.k.a. what to do when you want to move beyond entry level. It took me over 6 years to break into a […]

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