Publishing News: Issue 17
Publishing Hopefuls Praise Penguin’s Spare Zoom Project
In a previous issue we looked at Penguin’s Spare Zoom Project, an initiative designed to give publishing hopefuls an insight into the industry through an informal chat with professionals in an area of publishing they’re interested in. We’ve spoken to some of the people who have taken part as they share their experience of the scheme and some advice they’d give to others thinking of applying.
According to The Bookseller, since November the project has organised 320 introductions since November 2020, with 90% of participants saying they found their session useful.
“Communications were great from the beginning and it was an easy process to navigate. After organising a call with the professional I was linked up with, we had an in-depth discussion where they shared lots of useful career tips and resources. Since then, I have further looked into the areas we spoke about and her fresh perspective has been invaluable in my job search thus far.”
- Annabella Costantino.
“The Spare Zoom project was a perfect opportunity to network and learn from a publishing professional without the pressure of approaching someone out of the blue. They'd already signed up and they were willing to answer my questions! I went in with a set of questions prepared but once we got started the conversation was very natural and a really interesting chance to see into the intricacies of marketing and publicity. It's great that you can specify which department you'd prefer. My mentor was knowledgeable and genuinely excited to help me get to grips with the publishing process better. We've stayed in touch and email regularly. I feel like I have someone with insider knowledge to reach out to with any questions or to help with an application, and so far her insights have been invaluable. I'm looking forward to staying in touch and maybe even meeting in person one day! My only advice is to do it, even if you're not sure if this is the industry for you. Everyone involved in the scheme already wants to help you, and publishing is a really friendly industry! You definitely won't regret it.”
- Alex Haywood
“I found the Spare Zoom Project so helpful as it is a rare opportunity to be matched with someone who can offer you completely tailored advice to your publishing journey! I would definitely recommend it to a publishing hopeful; it is a great way of making contacts and learning new ways to find publishing experience/develop new skills to enhance your applications. It’s also a brilliant opportunity for someone to look at your CV and give advice and improvements!”
- Erin Hill
“It was a great insight into the industry as I was partnered with someone in Publicity who gave me some top tips and told me about their role. I would say just be yourself and use the opportunity to ask any questions you have, as well as to extend your network for future.”
- Avneet Bains
What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
“My biggest takeaway was that the publishing industry isn’t a daunting, inaccessible career route. I think sometimes from reading blog posts and articles etc. it can make the industry seem so difficult to get into and almost a pipe dream, but after my chat I realised that I could go for this. It made it so much more accessible and less daunting. I was able to learn about what it's actually like to work in publishing. I felt at ease because I knew it wasn’t an interview and I knew that the person I was paired with had signed up willingly and wanted to help and we ended up having such an honest chat. I immediately started applying for more jobs after with all the knowledge I gained, and we still keep in touch which is so great.”
- Hannah Lucy
What piece of advice would you give to publishing hopefuls on how to make the make out of the scheme?
“I would advise that when you're filling out the application to pick one specific area you want to know more about, i.e. specifically a literary agency, audio etc. it makes it easier to match you to people! So maybe that involves doing your own research beforehand to help decide what area would interest you the most.”
“I was surprised by how quickly they got back to me and found our chat super helpful and encouraging and gave me a much needed confidence boost in my job hunt.”
If hearing from these Publishing Hopefuls has inspired you to take part, you can sign up on the website at thespareroomproject.co.uk.
Is WHF Here to Stay?
As we start to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the endless tunnel that is the Covid-19 pandemic, many are speculating about the long-term effects of the pandemic. But as one major side-effect may be permanent – that is, working from home – the phrase “a new normal” takes on a new importance.
According to the Publishers Association’s latest workforce survey, we are twice as likely to be able to work from home after this pandemic.
The report shows significant statistical changes: from July to October 2020, the proportion of respondents who were able to work from home has jumped from a pre-lockdown 40% to 89%, and those who had no flexible working arrangements fell from 22% to 4%.
In the longer term, Bonnier Books UK and Bloomsbury have committed to offering flexible hours for all staff, allowing employees to work from home up to three days per week. Starting on 17 February, the Oxford branches of the National Union of Journalists, the Society of Young Publishers and Oxford Publishing Society launched a survey titled PublishingBeyondLockdown to explore the experience of working from home. The survey examines personal and professional factors of working from home, including commuting, productivity and socialisation. Respondents are invited to take part in an online discussion once the findings have been collated.
For some, having casual chats with their work friends over the office kettle are an invaluable part of their day. Equally, others may not have a home environment that doubles as an office. While the ironing board desk is certainly revolutionary, it was never meant to be permanent. Finally, many will be glad to see the back of their London rent and 2-hour commute. In other words, point of the survey is to give everyone a voice.
@Jennie_Inspired tweeted “I think this is a positive for many!” One group who may benefit are the hordes of publishing hopefuls who cannot, or would simply prefer not to, move to London. As the infamous M25 barrier starts to falter, the door to remote working suddenly feels wide open.
Cat Mitchell, lecturer at University of Derby, tweeted “I feel so passionately that remote working could help to increase the diversity of the publishing workforce in particular, and crucially make a lot of our businesses less London-centric.”
The PublishingBeyondLockdown survey is live until mid-March.
Bezos Steps Down
At the time of writing, Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person…again.
As of 17 February 2021, Jeff Bezos has reclaimed his top spot on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index after Elon Musk lost roughly $4.5 billion (£3.2 billion) as Tesla (TSLA) saw its shares fall by 2.4%. This puts Bezos back into the position he held for three years, before Musk overtook him on 8 January 2021.
According to the Index, Bezos is worth $191 billion (£136.7 billion).
Bezos to Step Down as Amazon CEO
But to move away from economics and into the world of publishing let’s explore the news that broke earlier this month: Bezos is to step down from his position as the CEO of Amazon.
After Amazon’s largest quarter ever reported, sales of $125.6 billion (£89.9 billion) – the full year had a 38% increase on the year before – Bezos made the announcement that he will be moving to the role of Executive Chair in the third quarter of 2021. Andy Jassy, who has been with the company since 1997, will be stepping in to fill Bezos’ shoes.
Amazon, now an empire boasting the title of one of the largest businesses on the planet, was founded in 1994 as a bookseller, and credits its success to “invention”. Bezos has said:
“When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition."
Bezos will remain engaged in Amazon initiatives but will use the transition to allow him to focus on other passions, including the Day One Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin and the Washington Post, making it clear that this isn’t a retirement. Analysis by James Clayton, a North America technology reporter, comments that Blue Origin wants to “build a road to space” – perhaps following the route of Musk?
Amazon Moves Further into the World of Technology
Twitter users took to the platform to share their ideas, with @DaveSellers10 tweeting:
“Jeff Bezos’ decision to step down as CEO of Amazon was big news. For me, seeing AWS CEO Andy Jassy asked to lead Amazon was even bigger. It highlights that Amazon is really a technology company – not just a company that makes deliveries.”
It appears that choosing Jassy moves Amazon one step further away from its origins as a bookseller and into the world of technology; Ed Anderson, a Gartner analyst, comments that Jassy “knows how to apply technology to transform and grow businesses.” Scott Carey reports for InfoWorld that Jassy is relatively low profile, tweeting less than his predecessor and publicly criticizing Donald Trump.