On Thursday March 30, the West Chester University English department hosted a special guest speaker who discussed the current state of reading and publishing in the United States.Dr. Albert Greco, a marketing professor at Fordham University, spoke to WCU students and faculty members about many aspects of publishing with a special emphasis on employment trends in the book publishing industry.
Greco began his presentation by posing the question, “is book publishing a cultural or commercial endeavor?” He answered that question by stating that book publishing is both cultural and commercial.
Greco spoke about employment and internship opportunities in the publishing industry, national trends in media usage, the similarities between national and local bestselling books, and whether or not E-books will eventually replace print media.
In regard to employment in the publishing industry, Greco said that there are over 89,000 people in the U.S who work for publishing companies. Greco also presented an overhead projection of a Publisher’s Weekly study that showed that employees have become less satisfied with their jobs in the publishing industry over the last three years. However, Greco noted that the self-selected sample was not the most reliable resource when trying to determine job satisfaction. Furthermore, Greco displayed another survey that showed that publishing employees’ level of job insecurity was relatively low.
“A life in editing is not necessarily a life in poverty,” said Greco before he showed the average salaries publishing employees earn. For example, the editor-in-chief of a company that earns over $500 million averages a salary of $187,000.
Greco showed the average profits from some of the largest publishing companies in the nation which include Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster. He also recommended that students who aspire to gain employment in the publishing industry make use of “Literary Marketplace,” a publisher’s phonebook of sorts.
Greco suggested that if prospective employees want to earn more money, then they should apply for jobs with the biggest publishing companies they can find.
In addition to discussing publishing employment opportunities, Greco spoke about how much the public uses different media sources and how those numbers have changed in the past few years. “How are people spending their time?” Greco asked, “They’re not reading books. Book publishers are now competing aggressively for your time and money. If you can convince people how to read more, then you will have a golden career.”
The only salvation of the business, Greco said, was religious book publishing, which is the only growth area in the business today. Even Scholastic, which published 13 million units of the Harry Potter series, lost money in the last quarter.
Greco then talked about what types of books sell best, and compared the national bestsellers list to various local bestsellers lists. The overhead projections showed little difference between national and local best sellers. “Oprah is the most important person in the book publishing industry today,” Greco said in reference to a bestseller that appeared in Oprah’s Book Club. He also discussed the possibility of new authors getting published.
“Americans want to read hits, they don’t want to read flops,” said Greco. He noted that unless authors are celebrities, politicians, or serial killers, the odds of a new author getting a book published are 18,000 to 1. Greco said that authors should attend writing conferences whenever they get the chance because editors often scout for new authors at writing conferences and workshops.
Bill Finch, a fourth year student at WCU and aspiring author, said he attended the presentation because he wanted to “get more information about publishing a book.” Finch said he gained a more realistic perspective of the publishing industry as a result of Greco’s presentation.
In regard to E-books and online publishing, Greco said that perhaps down the line E-books may replace print media, but he thinks print will remain dominant because it is portable, inexpensive, and only requires a light source; whereas with online books, a person needs to have a computer and sufficient battery power. “Even Bill Gates admits that when he gets a document more than seven pages long, he prints it out,” said Greco. He mentioned that the book publishing industry in the U.S. has little confidence in E-books.
Greco ended his presentation by saying that the publishing industry is tough to enter as an author, “but if you want to enter the business as an employee, it’s much different.