The UK Publishers Association has just announced #Workinpublishing, a campaign “to raise awareness and change perceptions about publishing as a career option for 16+ students, especially those from under-represented backgrounds.” Coming so soon after the announcement of the London Book Fair/Society of Young Publishers Trailblazer Awards, for younger publishing professionals, this does make you wonder whether publishing is having trouble attracting and keeping the UK’s best and brightest graduates.
Certainly, the PA’s announcement suggests that UK publishing is finding it hard to pull in the diverse skill sets it needs to fully embrace digital publishing and e-books. “Publishing needs to be seen as a career option for lawyers and accountants, for digital coders and science graduates,” it says. Indeed, one key component in the #Workinpublishing initiative is an invitation to try self-publishing. “At the Birmingham Skills Show visitors will be encouraged to ‘Have a Go at Publishing’, from creating their own interactive ebook with CircularFLO, learning how to write a book blurb or design a best-selling book,” the announcement explains.
The campaign is also launching #Workpublishingweek from November 23rd, “which will see tips, blogs, videos etc posted about jobs and opportunities in publishing along with live twitter chats.” The PA evidently wants to involve and mobilize the entire industry, and is “encouraging the publishing workforce to support #workinpublishing week by getting involved and sharing their invaluable industry insight.” PA Chief Executive, Richard Mollet’s emphasis on “the dynamism and innovation underway in the sector” again underlines the industry’s need to attract the right kind of tech-enabled talent.
Then again, the PA may be acting to deal with a problem it isn’t quite so ready to foreground. We’ve seen several statements out of the UK lately about Big Five publishers’ failure to sign up to the UK Living Wage. Would young graduates considering a career in publishing be attracted by Accent Press’s statements in The Bookseller and on Facebook that “publishing is a notoriously badly paid industry” and has a “reputation for being poorly paid and exploitative”? Or by the statement from Andrew Franklin, founding head of Profile Books, at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, that Big Publishing’s habit of paying its heads generous packages and its juniors pitiful amounts, is “disgusting” and “immoral”? Perhaps the problem is not that young talents don’t understand publishing, but that they understand it all too well.