Publishing News: Issue 22
The Book Trade's New Bookbinders Cottages
By Katie Gough
The London-centricity of publishing is one of the biggest issues facing hopefuls, as people are forced to weigh up the price of the commute with the price of rent, with the social cost of the move and the safety of living in the city.
The Book Trade Charity exists to alleviate some of these pressures with their new Bookbinders Cottages: a small, unique development of 17 apartments that aim to provide a home for people starting their book trade career in London.
With sharing rents as low as £350—400 and beautiful, spacious studio flats for £585 per month, including utilities, these are the entry-level flats to the entry-level role, aiming to reach those people that would struggle to reach London otherwise. Eligibility includes those very early in their career using these apartments as a “stepping stone”, those struggling to find a place to reside for a six-month internship and those already in London but living in an unsafe environment.
Glenda Barnard, Operations Manager, spoke exclusively to The Post, to explain that “finding affordable housing in London was a real issue and creating additional barriers for new entrants… Our hope for the future is that the accommodation at Bookbinders Cottages and our provision of bespoke support for young tenants starting their careers in publishing will provide a standard of excellence for both housing organisations and professional bodies, not only in London, but across the UK, and, who knows, maybe even beyond!”
Keen to help promote diversity in the industry, Vic Perry, Chief Executive, said: “It is such an exciting year for The Book Trade Charity, with the launch of Bookbinders Cottages – our unique London housing development for new entrants to the Book Trade. Affordable, safe and beautiful, we couldn’t be prouder of these homes and our ambition to create a diverse, vibrant community of people entering our trade.” They also run a grants programme that can help successful applicants with removal costs and the purchase of household items.
Hena, a very early resident of the Bookbinders Cottages also said “passionate entry-level employees can focus on establishing themselves in London as well as the industry without the financial strain of making ends meet. I personally have been able to focus on creating bookish content and discovering myself... Those interested in working in the book industry from underrepresented and/or disadvantages backgrounds will benefit.”
Discussions of home working are now becoming more permanent: Bloomsbury announced a two-day office return; Bonnier books are set to move to flexible working permanently; Springer Nature unveiled a hybrid plan of two days a week from home; and Hachette staff are to work three days in the office. With this, along with The Book Trade Charity’s new move to inclusivity, is publishing branching further out? The brochure and information on how to apply can be found here.
Should publishing employees be expected to set aside their principles for their job?
By Molly Anna Chell
Every now and then a controversial release or an author sharing unpopular opinions on their social media will be big news in the industry. When a publisher decides to go ahead with a contentious title, the staff, from editorial to marketing and publicity, typically have to do their jobs and work on the book, even if they are uncomfortable with the subject matter or the author they’re dealing with. In an age where we’re very aware of what we’re seen to be supporting, is it always fair for publishers to ask that staff set aside their concerns?
This is an important conversation currently taking place in the industry after the CEO of Hachette, David Shelley, and literary agent Clare Alexander told the Communications and Digital Committee that people entering the industry need to be warned they may have to work with books written by people they don’t agree with. Shelley is right to emphasise the importance of publishers being clear with candidates at the interview stage on what they represent, but organisations change over time and poor editorial decisions can be made regardless of a publisher’s values.
Whether this is right or fair is a difficult question, and one that must be answered as the industry continues to grapple with ‘cancel culture’ and the extent to which an author is entitled to free expression. But if a publishing house can choose which books it is happy to be seen supporting, shouldn’t this privilege be extended to the people who will help it be published? At what point would such a request encroach on an editor’s or publicist’s own rights? For instance, it would seem entirely unreasonable for a transgender person to be expected to promote a book by an author with hateful or derogatory opinions about transgender people.
However, recently there have been notable cases where staff concerns about a title were ignored by those higher up in the company. In the US, Simon & Schuster decided to go ahead with publishing two books by former Vice President Mike Pence. This followed a petition from their staff calling for the deal to be scrapped. President and CEO Jonathan Karp responded that the publisher was committed to working towards greater inclusivity.
In recent weeks, the new @PublishingTea Twitter account has been sharing inside stories of staff at certain publishing houses who have been told not to air their views.
In an extremely competitive field, where junior staff in particular will be aware that there are hundreds of people eager to do their job, employees may feel pressured to keep silent on issues close to their heart. Conversations on how to manage the current situation are ongoing, but we hope that the right balance can be struck between freedom of speech and ensuring that potential authors with hurtful views against marginalised communities are not given a platform to share potentially upsetting and hurtful perspectives.