With the increasing fluidity among industries, it’s not unusual for executives to leave traditional publishing roles in favor of new business ventures. In this Off the Beaten Path series, we asked four former traditional publishing professionals how their publishing experience affects their roles in their current companies and what they miss about their old stomping grounds.
How has your traditional American publishing experience been helpful in your current job?
My experience in traditional American publishing actually laid the groundwork for my current job, because my current job is to help my Chinese boss establish a company that will ultimately be an American publisher. I have used not only the experience I gained in positions held at US publishers, but the professional network I’ve built up through my career to make the decisions I’ve made at every turn in my current job.
Do you see your current job as being another mainstream publishing job?
More or less. That we are a start-up at this point is as much an influence on things as the fact that my parent company is based in China. In other words we’re developing not only general processes and policies, but our editorial direction as we go. At this point I presume that the company I am building will be a more mature version of what we are today in 5-10 years and by that point we will be publishing content not only from Chinese authors, but from writers in the US as well. We’ll be publishing this content in print and electronic editions, etc. So, while there are several not-quite determined or ‘non-traditional’ elements of my job it is really not that much different than were I with a US start-up or an established US house.
Are there aspects to your job which are different and will they impact how you handle your next job?
Not so much. Arguably the biggest difference between my current job and those I’ve held previously is language. That said, I’ve worked for several UK-based publishers in the past and it has been made clear to me that while my American is great my English isn’t, so that my current boss speaks neither American or English seems not so different than past jobs. Ultimately, working in the US for foreigners one is faced with similar questions about market, etc. Even if one works at a traditional US company and somebody from another business takes a senior position this sort of interpretation and translation is required. Perhaps I’m being a tad Romantic here, but to my mind this is sort of the nature of things in publishing: translation, regardless of what language everyone speaks, is inherent in the publishing process from author to agent to editor to sales & marketing to retailer to reader. After all, this business is all about getting the author’s ideas to the reader, right? This will be part of whatever my next job is in this industry.
Do you think your next job is likely to be a traditional one?
Yes. Frankly, I’m uncertain what “traditional” publishing is. I know that there are companies doing “non-traditional” stuff or operating in “non-traditional” ways, but it seems to me that as many of them adopt useful elements of traditional publishing as traditional publishers are adopting elements of non-traditional companies. So, yes, I do expect that my next job is likely to be rather traditional and that the experience I have had through the past 25+ years will be no less useful in obtaining and maintaining it.