Friday, October 14, 2016

What’s The Profile Of Today’s Book Industry Worker?

Book publishing for as long as I’ve been in the industry (since 1989), has been an industry that generally is low-paying, filled with long hours, and dedicated, passionate people who are willing to sacrifice many things for an opportunity to work with books and writers.  A new survey, conducted by Publishers Weekly, still seems to support that.

While showing out of the hundreds of respondents to its annual salary survey, more than one in four earn over $100,000 annually in total compensation, plenty do not come home rich.  One in seven earn under $40,000.  Many of the jobs are in New York City where one’s rent alone couldn’t be covered – let alone food, clothing, commuting, insurance, etc.  42% make below $60,000 annually.  These people tend to be college graduates, and increasingly hold other advanced degrees. That means employees bring in a fat student debt while earning peanuts at the office.

But as I said earlier, people love being in the book industry.  The survey respondents showed the industry is 74% female. That sounds about right.  There are so many women in book publishing.

So what are the chief complaints of those who get to work with books, authors, words, and ideas every single day?

More than half named “low salary” at the top.  Then comes “increased workload,” “lack of advancement” “lack of recognition,” and “problems with management.”

The book industry has a few tiers do it.  There are still dedicated, long-term veterans, but many of them have had to move around from one publisher to another, dealing with layoffs, mergers, and changes in the economic and book sales landscape.  There is still a mix of junior, senior, and mid-level people, but often you will find there are many more younger people running the industry.

You have youth in PR and marketing, in part because they are filled with energy and optimism, and that field requires such traits.  Further, younger is cheaper and the book world has always been fiscally prudent.  Lastly, younger people are the easiest to train and they seem to have a good handle on the latest technology that’s required to perform at a high level.

The editorial division may feature some more mature workers. Words haven’t changed tremendously, in the last few years, so someone with a talent for making a manuscript better will always be of value.

The books that are published and marketed today are of a high quality.  But things also skip through the cracks due to overburdened staffs that operate under tight deadlines, limited budgets, and increased levels of competition.  But the books we get are the products of today’s book industry workplace environment.  If publishers properly hire, train, manage and compensate their people, we’ll get great books.  If they cut corners or undervalue their workers, quality could become compromised.

Though some things seem interchangeable – a marketer could work for Staples, Best Buy or Sears – or all of them.  But one who works for a book publisher may not necessarily be a match for another industry, regardless of how transferable his or her skills are.  To work with books is still something special and luckily the industry still cultivates an overflow of talented and passionate individuals who are willing to work for less while doing more.

My first job required long hours and a crappy salary.  I recall my base pay was $15,600 in August, 1989.  That was low even then but as a newly minted college graduate I was eager to get going.  I ended up working for a small press that published several dozen titles per season.  I did the job of at least two people – all while learning on the job.  But it was fun to promote books to the media and nothing beats that feeling of victory when you get someone a lot of media coverage or a big placement.

I could promote anything – any company, industry, service, widget, or event.  But I choose to promote and market books.  I – and many others – pay a price to do so. But I suspect none of us would have it any other way.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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