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

Young Professional Profile: Beth Ardner

Beth Ardner

Each month, Patricia Payton will be interviewing a young person in ebooks. This month she focuses on Beth Ardner.

Enthusiasm and curiosity have served Beth Ardner well in her career to date.  She graduated in 2006 from the Shippensburg University’s English program and is now Director of Sales and Marketing for print books for IGI Global, a press that specializes in library and technology content.  In the interim she has worked in six positions in two companies, Borders and IGI.

Beth accomplished her career moves by consistently asking questions of her managers in order to learn everything that she could about the business.  She didn’t have a specific career path in mind other than doing something related to books, but practical decisions turned into opportunities for Beth based on how she approached each one. Beth moved from one area of the business to another in order to learn more.  If she’d set a stronger career goal in the beginning, she might not have moved from sales floor to ordering to editing to marketing because these positions may not have “fit” her career goal.  Flexibility allowed Beth to quickly move upward.

Beth chose an English program for her undergraduate degree so that she could write and so that she could attend college close to home.  Beth says that her Bachelor’s degree prepared her for publishing by teaching her basic communication skills and “how to stand on your feet”, rather than preparing her directly for what she has experienced in her work.

Next, Beth chose to work at Borders both to pay the bills and be around books.  At Borders she moved from barista clerk to sales staff after convincing management that she would do better working with books than coffee.  Once on the sales floor, she asked questions about how the books arrived at the store.  The corporate sales rep at the time mentored her.  She learned the business aspects of publishing, such as ordering from wholesalers and calling publishers to get sales quotes.  From there she had the opportunity to work with the corporate office and to identify the best deal for her customers on large orders including buying from wholesalers or publishers.  Before she left Borders, she also handled all store-wide customer special orders, and trained new staff for the store.  Her time there helped her develop her skills in sales and negotiation by dealing with librarians and business people, and gave her knowledge of the publishing business.  Another practical decision that matched her goal of working with books turned out to be very valuable for her next career step, as it helped her land a job as a Development Editor at IGI.

The editing role Beth took on at IGI was the equivalent of project manager for new books.  Beth was responsible for helping book editors collect papers for their assigned monographs, working through copyright issues, and editing the final volumes once the editor completed it.  The timeline for getting each monograph from idea to print was twelve to eighteen months, and she was a key contact with each book editor during this time.  While Project Manager, Beth was noticed because of her interest in copyright law, and asked questions whenever possible to build more knowledge of the publishing business.  A sales and marketing position opened and IGI felt that having a Development Editor who knew the content as thoroughly as Beth did would be an asset to the department.  When a senior person stepped down suddenly, Beth was willing to pick up extra work to cover for the sales and marketing department.  After several months she was offered the role of Director as a permanent position.  This is another instance of how asking questions and being open to learning different parts of the business netted Beth higher level opportunities.

Even at this point, Beth is taking the approach that has served her well in the past.  Looking forward, Beth says she will just see what happens with her career.  Some of her current curiosities: are metadata, and distribution intrigue her.  She would love to experience new parts of the industry in person.

For Beth, publishing is an “awesome” business to be in.  Her advice to others trying to move further into publishing:

  1. Ask questions—Most people want you to be interested, but they don’twant to push too much work to you, so they wait for you to take the initiative.
  2. Be engaged—Managers can tell when you’re there just to collect a paycheck.
  3. Learn everything—Nothing you learn is wasted.  You never know who, or what skills, will help you advance in your career.
  4. Don’t let your romantic view of the industry cloud you—Publishing is a business and you will need to have business skills to be successful in it.
  5. Find a way to be in touch with the publishing community—Use social media and take the time to see what’s going on in the industry.

To this last point, Beth uses Twitter and Facebook to reach out to readers and writers and to engage them in an exchange.  She feels that trade publishers are doing better than academic publishers right now and uses their example for her own company. Additionally, Beth blogs to express her personal opinions to friends. She recalls, “I created my blog because I don’t work in young adult publishing and young adult books are what I love to read most. I had collected ARCs from ALA Midwinter and BEA and I didn’t have anyone to talk about them with so I decided I would put my thoughts on a blog. It was a way to connect myself to the world of YA publishing while still working in STM.” Beth also uses Linkedin to keep in touch with people in the industry. She uses RSS feeds from industry associations, such as BISG, and follows Publishers Weekly on twitter (@publisherswkly). Beth highly recommends that people starting in publishing focus on reading industry news in order to learn what is happening beyond their current positions.

The defining moment when Beth knew she was on the right path occurred at last October’s Frankfurt Book FairShe recalls, “A friend of mine once told me that this industry gets into your blood and he’s right. At Frankfurt I was completely hooked. I don’t remember being tired, even though I had trouble sleeping at night. I was completely energized by the people and the topics of conversation. Everywhere you turned people were talking about books and I remember thinking to myself ‘I could do this forever.’” Since Frankfurt Book FairBeth has had the opportunity to travel to industry events, such as Book Expo America and the American Library Association Conference, explored the industry even further.  The knowledge she has built through her questioning, her experience in retail and publishing, her social media experience, and her travel has allowed her to put pieces together and see the payoff both for her personal career and her knowledge of the industry.

 

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