November 20, 2013

The “big issue” of publishing salaries: survey finds entry-level jobs are the worst


That piggy bank is full of the “private income” that all publishing employees apparently need to have

The subject of British publishing salaries is in the air as, “an independent careers consultancy specialising in the book industry”, launches a new survey of salaries across the publishing industry.

Already, worrying trends have emerged from the 500 responses the survey has so far received. These relate predominantly to the salaries being offered by employers for entry-level jobs, and the opportunities they represent. Suzanne Collier from told the Bookseller:

“One of the things that comes out from the data immediately is that entry-level jobs are still paying the same amount they were five years ago. Middle and senior managers are doing slightly better, but there is quite a disparity with those just starting in the industry.”

Not only does this factor disadvantage any young person who is embarking on a career in publishing, but as Collier notes, it is also ensuring some individuals from poorer backgrounds are completely priced out of the job market: “People talk about a lack of diversity in the industry, and it’s caused by the salary issue.”

That the publishing industry is the reserve of those from wealthier backgrounds for whom a professional income is not a concern has been a long-held belief inside and outside of the industry. The fact that when the survey asks the question, “Is this salary your sole source of income?” and one of the options given is “No, I have a private income”, suggests that the creators of the survey think the stereotype might have some grounding in reality. I suspect there are not many industries in which that question would be asked in a similar survey.

Suzy Astbury, the m.d. of Inspired Selection, a recruitment company, commented to the Bookseller that pay was a “big issue”, while Fiona Swarbrick from the National Union of Journalists (which represents those working in the book industry, as well as journalists) called starting salaries, simply, “awful”.

But bad starting salaries are the least of a new starter’s problems if they are not even offered a permanent contract: the survey is also revealing that short-term roles are on the rise, and positions which would have once been permanent roles, have now moved into short-term contracts, meaning employees are not given the same pay or benefits as permanent employees – plus they have very little job security. There is, however, no mention of the rise of unpaid internships. The survey asks the frightening question: “Do you think you will be made redundant or lose your job (not by choice) within the next 12 months?” which of course sums up a feeling across the whole industry, and does not just relate to young employees.

But the results are emerging alongside an article published by the Financial Times on Monday that puts these findings into a wider context and examines the employment situation for English graduates, for whom a career in publishing has, historically, been the next step. The report finds that:

The earnings of recent English graduates have deteriorated so rapidly since the financial crisis that the latest class is earning 12 per cent less than their pre-crash counterparts at the same stage in their careers. They also owe about 60 per cent more in student debt.

If you are interesting in taking part in the survey you can do so here.



Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.