5 Questions for Suzanne Kavanagh [INTERVIEW]

suzanneSuzanne Kavanagh (@sashers) is Director of Marketing and Membership Services at the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). She is a passionate advocate of collaboration and skills in the publishing industry; a perfect speaker for our Unplugged event on the 23rd. We interviewed her to find out more:

1. What are the best examples of collaboration you’ve seen in publishing?

Two that spring to mind from companies I worked for are the launch of the Routledge Classics and reissue of a biography of Cardinal Ratzinger when he elected Pope Benedict by Continuum. Both were print product launches. They involved working with internal teams across sales, marketing, editorial, design and production. But they also drew in contacts from printers, typesetters, warehouse, wholesalers, key retailers and the press.

The Routledge Classics series was a long-term project with many months spent planning, consulting, developing and evolving the concept. Although driven by the editor, the involvement and buy-in from all the other stakeholders ensured a brilliant idea was conceived and delivered successfully. If you take a look in any philosophy, politics or other academic section in your local bookstore, you’ll see for yourself.

With the Cardinal Ratzinger book, the pace was very different. In a very short space of time (two weeks to be precise) daily summit meetings got all the key people in the room to collaborate. This ensured we could take advantage of this very high profile event by representing a niche title languishing on the backlist. We had a new cover, stock, sales material, PR and substantial orders all in place within 10 working days. That’s a giddy pace to work at by anyone’s measure, but made possible by everyone working together.

 2. What collaborative projects are you most proud of?

While working at Creative Skillset, we received government funding to update the National Occupational Standards for Publishing. These are like a shopping list of all the competences and knowledge you need to work in the industry. The project brought together specialists from all departments in publishing as well as MDs, Chief Executives, HR, learning and development to discuss and review the existing standards to bring them up-to-date.

Most industry folk look blank when you try to explain what the standards are about. And who can blame them. They’re technical and a little dry. And yet they are so critical in a time of unprecedented change as they allow you to check what skills you need, act as a resource to develop job profiles, training plans and for use in appraisals. Creative Skillset developed standards across the creative industries, but the technical team were blown away by the level of collaboration, support and engagement from the publishing sector.

3. How do you see ALPSP helping publishers to collaborate?

Collaboration is at the heart of what ALPSP is and does: we are run by publishers, for publishers. Our work is developed through consultation with those that work in the industry who help deliver it as well. The small ALPSP team is there to facilitate industry working together. We focus on professional development through events and training; collaborative initiatives such as the ALPSP Learned Journal Collection that are of particular benefit to smaller publishers; information and guidance through advice, briefings, reports and information; and, perhaps most importantly, networking to share ideas.

4. What might we expect from your talk at Unplugged?

I’ll focus on the National Occupational Standards project and how ALPSP works as I’m passionate about keeping your skills up-to-date, networking and collaboration. These three things are essential for an individual to thrive and develop in the industry, and by extension, for the industry as well.

5. What advice would you give to anyone who hasn’t been to this sort of event?

Charge your phone and get on Twitter. Follow the hash tag before and say hello to those who are attending in advance. Force yourself to introduce yourself to at least two people. Look for others who are looking a little lost, go up to them and get talking. Ask what they do, what they thought of the talks and what advice they could give. Have some business cards ready to give out. Remember, this is a fun, informative and friendly event, so enjoy it!

Join us on 23rd May to hear Suzanne Kavanagh talk about the National Occupational Standards for Publishing, published in 2012.

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