How to Climb the Ladder: Publishing
Ever wonder why the idiots seem to always get ahead in the game? Ok, maybe not idiots, but it’s definitely not always the hardest workers, the most rational managers, or the friendliest employees. So I’m letting you in on a secret – there’s a reason why they end up there. Follow these tips to ease your climb to the job you want.
Getting Ahead in
Publishing is such a varied industry and different from any other type of company I’ve worked at. While there are small differences between book and magazine publishing companies, the tips below will cover both industries for success. Publishing touts itself as being difficult to break into, but it also prides itself on having eccentric personalities running the show.
Be very good at your job. You can absolutely keep a job in publishing by being mediocre, but you will not be able to get ahead with that approach. You want to hone the skill-set for the department you are in and bring it every single day. If you are in marketing – don’t just know how to market a book, also know what trends are happening in different sectors and see if any of those can apply. You never want your lack of ability to deliver on your core job, get in your way – as this will stain your reputation which will be difficult to repair.
Set-up your allies. From day one, start figuring out who the key players are and align yourself with them. But don’t stop there – expand into many different groups. The leadership and direction of publishing can turn on a dime (and often does), so you never want to be stuck being aligned with only one leader/camp. Who you know and who likes you will absolutely help safeguard your position within the company, whether you’re trying to climb the ladder or not.
Know thy authors/writers. It seems obvious that you would become the author’s best friend, but it’s easier said than done, especially when so many authors make it their mission to be difficult. BUT, the authors are what makes money for the publishing company, so keep your cool at all costs and try to connect with them on a personal level. My career has continued to be shaped through the authors I met and worked with during my stint in publishing. If you make a positive impression, they will go to bat for you. Keep them as your friends, and you will have an ace (or two), in the hole.
Make your boss look good at all costs. If you are below the manager level, you will most likely be taking the heat for a few things that your boss did erroneously. Suck it up. You want your boss to look good no matter what – so be ready to take the heat if needed, and know that your boss will take credit (for the most part) for big successes. Your boss is a key crusader for your career within publishing, so keeping him/her happy will help propel you to future success.
Know your place. (see above). The publishing industry is a very hierarchical world – the publisher wants to believe they are king, the editorial director is brilliant, and so on. Know your place within the company and stay in your lane. Do not go over people’s heads, do not step on toes unnecessarily, do not deliver amazingness without letting the higher ups think it was their idea. And above all else – respect the positions.
I know, it seems a little silly to most of us, but it really is a big deal once you’re on the inside. So treat the higher ups with the respect they crave, help them out whenever you can, and keep your cool (while letting them be as eccentric as they want).
Be creative and handle the pressure. Most publishing companies hold weekly creative or update meetings (they are company-wide in the book world, typically by editorial or publishing in the magazine world). These are the meetings to bring it. All levels within the organization are typically able to participate, so be sure that if you are there and are called upon, you have a creative idea. Add value, and do not succumb to the scariness of speaking up in front of everyone.
Those who make it to the top in these organizations, constantly bring ideas and solutions; do not say no often; and can handle the pressure of these types of meetings, without breaking a sweat. Put on your best inner confident face, and play ball. (oh and side note – be sure to not step on your boss’s toes when delivering this brilliance).
Human Resources plays an interesting role within publishing companies. They are typically involved and a trusted member of the senior staff team, but they do not have much power of influence over specific career paths. Although cross them, and you will NEVER work again within the industry. That being said, know who the HR people are and be friendly with them when possible. You don’t need to go out of your way to interact with them, but you definitely do not want to be on their radar for any reason.