Face Off: Educational versus Trade publishing

The great divide. They are like peas in a pod or oceans apart; really depends on the day and the issue and the speaker.

Mike Murphy, Maeve Healy and Jane Rogers have all worked in both and give their opinion on each side of the great wall of publishing….

Mike MurphyMaeve Healy Jane Rogers
You can find Mike Murphy on LinkedInYou can find Maeve Healy on LinkedInYou can find Jane Rogers on LinkedIn

Best part of working in Trade Publishing?

Picking up a script that makes you think differently or tells you
something you don’t know. It’s always a pleasure to be working on
something you’d happily take off the shelf in your local bookshop.
I get to work on a wide range of books on a variety of interesting subjects. Unlike educational publishing where the books are not always about subjects you might personally be interested in, in my current job the books I work on are often books I would buy myself. I currently work on non-fiction four colour books which is interesting work from a production point of view as I work closely with the designers and photographers and get involved in colour correcting to make sure the finished books and photographs look as amazing as possible.The authors – I relished the interaction I had with a variety of fascinating people and their manuscripts. I was fortunate enough to work in a publishing house that published both non-fiction and (a small number of) fiction titles, and had a wonderful publishing manager and mentor who gave me the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects. It was incredibly stimulating.

Best part of working in Educational Publishing?

Product innovation; if you look at the product evolution curve,
education is ahead of trade – although the gap is undoubtedly closing.
Being in situations working with innovative formats really fires the
Education publishers generally offer quite a diverse range of products and choice for the customer. From a production point of view this means working on a wider range of products such as DVDs, websites, custom publishing and e-books as well as printed books. My experience of education publishing is that they are often more advanced than trade in terms of digital publishing which is great if this is an aspect you are interested in. I worked for a while in custom publishing which was really rewarding as you were working closely with the university to make sure our products closely matched what they needed for their courses.The satisfaction of being part of an organisation that’s making a positive contribution to society. I derive great pleasure from knowing that teachers and students all around the world are empowered by the educational support our materials provide. In my marketing role, I am privileged to travel a lot and work with highly motivated colleagues around the world – their expertise and passion is inspiring.

Worst part of either job?

It’s publishing, I’m not really sure there is a ‘worst’ part.
Prescriptive curricula and not going the whole hog for concern about
whether schools would want something very different can be
I guess the typical answer here when talking about publishing would be the pay! However, on a serious note, I have actually enjoyed all my jobs in publishing so far in my career. It is a really interesting industry to work in and there aren’t any aspects of my job that particularly stand out as the worst part that wouldn’t be true of any industry. Its always hard to get up on a Monday morning but it helps when you enjoy what you do.I actually haven’t found anything about either publishing area distressing – all jobs have their more mundane aspects, but the stimulation provided by both roles has more than made up for the less exciting tasks.

If you could start again; trade or educational?

You’ve got to do what excites you so that you will really contribute,
and for me that’s probably more true in trade, but I’ve worked with
plenty of engaging and stimulating content developments in education,
too. I think challenging the author, your colleagues and yourself is
more important than which sector you are in.
This is a difficult one as I have enjoyed working in both fields and I think the experience I gained in educational publishing has helped me develop the wide range of skills I currently use in trade publishing. I think if I was starting again the field I chose would depend on what opportunities were out there at the time that I felt would be most interesting to me.If given the chance to start over, I wouldn’t do anything differently – I’ve had opportunities that I wouldn’t necessarily have had if I’d stayed in only one area of the industry. If you’re prepared to take a small risk here and there early in your career, try both!


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