Grown-up publishing

Claire Vincent

Claire Vinent is Lead Content & Publishing Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter (@clairevinent).


So ‘working in publishing’ doesn’t mean quite what it used to. Gone are the days of long, booze-filled lunches and free passes for those with relatives ‘in the industry’. These days, you have to earn your stripes.

I decided I’d like to become a publisher when boozy lunches were still the norm, but not for that reason, because I was only five. The local library (or a portal to other worlds) was the deal-maker. Stories were new, wonderful, and could take you round the world in 80 pages.

At university, I decided to try and get into the industry and embarked on my quest by taking on unpaid writing jobs and a copyediting course. More unpaid experience at magazines followed, and then I got a real job. Fast-forward a few years and roles, and I’m lucky enough to be managing the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Content & Publishing team.

The experience of working in publishing today can be described in many ways. You’re balancing the uncertainties of a creative industry during a recession alongside demanding authors and, of course, deadlines. At the same time, there can’t be many industries that offer as much or are changing as quickly.

It’s a fantastic time to be involved because there are so many opportunities to work beyond traditional remits and develop new skills. These days you just as easily find yourself commissioning photos, making videos or creating web content as editing draft copy. There’s so much room to develop and innovate because the rules are currently being re-written.

We live in a digital world that lends itself fantastically to telling stories, and the industry is changing not year on year, but moment by moment. Publishing is awhirl with wonderful storytelling mechanisms – apps, ebooks, smartphones, tablets and mobile sites have taken the world by storm.
Will there still be publishers in 2015?

So where do we go from here?

During periods of change people love to make predictions about the future, and publishing is no different. The recent spate of fantastic conferences and reports about the future of the industry is testament to the fact that the future is there for the taking.

The ‘war’ between print and digital is likely to rumble on for some time, but what comes next? It’s hard to think about when speculation is so rife about so many unknowns.

When, or should, we adopt web-first workflows? Can you make money by giving content away? How much should ebooks cost? How do you schedule ‘creating content’ into your days? Where do bloggers and self-publishers fit? Why is usability so important? How do you best re-skill staff?

The past couple of years have put an end to publishing as we know it. The industry is an excited child again, daydreaming about what to be when he or she grows up. The answer must come back to storytelling, and how best to make the most of the opportunities to take content to a wider audience than ever before.

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