Monday, October 7, 2013

Considering a Future in Publishing? Might Want to Read This

Based on the title, you might think that this post is about scaring people away from the publishing industry, or explaining why it’s a dying field. Quite the opposite: I want to inform you. Not only is it an exciting field, it’s one that it is being shaped by new professionals, now. Even if you have no interest in the industry (though I’m guessing you do, if you’ve read this far), you might enjoy some of my insights.

This post came into being after I was recently asked if I had any advice or insight into the publishing industry, and how to get into it. This person was asking me on behalf of his teenage daughter, who was interested in getting into “publishing.” While I certainly don’t consider myself an expert in a field as changing and dynamic as the publishing industry (which I including in my response), I know enough to understand some of the trends that appear to be unfolding. This question gave me an opportunity to consider a few inherent facts that aren’t readily obvious to people not in the industry (and even to some people in the industry).

Sometimes, it feels like this is the best way to understanding the future of publishing
Firstly, we have to consider a basic question: “What kind of publishing? Educational, trade, journalistic, etc.?” (for the purposes of this post, I’m including scientific publishing under educational. My list is far from comprehensive). This person wasn’t asking about journalism, but, rather, educational or trade. About five years ago, the advice I would offer to someone entering educational or trade publishing would have been somewhat similar. But, that has changed drastically in the past few years. Educational and trade publishing is becoming two entirely different industries (if they aren’t already).

While the distinctions between these types of publishing are numerous (and the subject of a different blog post), the main idea is the relationship to technology. Therefore, it really becomes a question about what format of content do you want to contribute to? Trade, while supporting those more able to integrate technology, still relies on traditional means of content consumption (the consistent book-reader) and training (Creative Writing and the like).

Another important question is in what capacity someone wants to engage with/support this content? There are a variety of positions in content creation: editorial, marketing, sales, IT, and so on. Each of these will require very different skill sets.

But, in answering these questions, I came to understanding that it's an interesting and changing industry, and the people best suited to succeeding in it will be those who come at it from a fresh and open-minded point of view. Knowledge and comfort with technology, with a creative mind and talent for writing and editing will be needed to succeed in the shifting landscape. Additionally, there are many fields of study that may be useful for ideally positioning oneself into the industry: Marketing, Information Technology (I had an interesting blog reference me that shows why IT background may be necessary in future digital book formats like epub), business statistics, etc. These fields, studied alongside more traditional ones - English and Creative Writing - will enable one to take advantage of the changing atmosphere and really integrate new ways of considering content creation.

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