Interview with Kathy Wiess, Director of Sales, Marketing and Business Development at Europa Editions
TRS: What skills and traits matter most for success in the publishing industry?
I think the most important thing people can be doing in high school and college is trying lots of different activities to see what you both like and are good at. And I don’t mean just doing things that might lead to a career. Playing sports, learning an instrument, joining clubs- all of these give you skills and experience dealing with things you will encounter when you start working- it could be teamwork, dealing with competition, learning to overcome obstacles etc. In addition to building skills, you also discover what you really enjoy doing and gain confidence from doing it.
TRS: What advice would you have for high schoolers thinking about future careers in general or publishing specifically? For college students?
For those is college who know they have an interest in publishing there are publishing courses or programs you can take. These are just some of the universities and programs offering courses/certificates in publishing: The Denver Publishing Institute, Columbia, NYU, Pace and Yale.
You do not need to take a publishing course to get an entry-level job in publishing. And while an undergraduate degree is important, you don’t need to be an English major. I was a political science major. And it is OK not to know exactly what you want to do. If you are interested in publishing, you can start in one area and then move to another department if you decide another area is a better fit for you.
TRS: What has been happening in your industry over the past year during COVID that surprised you?
It was great to see how resilient and adaptable the industry was. Everyone’s life turned upside down almost overnight. Publishing dealt with some major disruptions but overall the industry adapted to the new normal. Publishers were still able to publish print and digital books and distribute them. And people continued to buy and read books.
One of the hardest-hit areas of the industry was the bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Many were forced to close for extended periods of time. However, very quickly physical bookstores pivoted from hosting in-store events to hosting virtual events. They either developed e-commerce sites or significantly improved their current e-commerce abilities. They became much more savvy at digital marketing and advertising on social media. The entire industry had to make changes to how they were doing business. And many of these changes will remain in place after the pandemic ends.
TRS: What are your predictions for the future of publishing and books?
First, books are here to stay. We continue to have more and more options for how to spend our time but despite the amount of time people spend on social media, streaming and other activities, people still read. Sales of print books and e-books increased in 2020. It is an industry with a future.
I think the combination of COVID and BLM, will help bring more diversity to the industry. I think publishers will be much more open to hiring remote workers even after the pandemic ends and this will open up publishing opportunities for people who never had an opportunity because of their geographic location. And I think publishing is more committed now than ever before to diversifying who is published and who works in the industry.
TRS: Can you tell us about the careers/jobs you think maybe a good match for bookworms, especially those that are not obvious to someone without your breadth of experience? Maybe some surprising ones?
The list is very long but let me suggest some areas to consider:
Roles within a publishing company:
Marketing & Advertising- including print and online
Graphic Design/Cover Design
Roles within the industry:
Scout for TV/Movie adaptations
Bookseller- Buyer, Event Coordinator, Merchandiser
Non-Profits or Organizations focused on literacy and education
And of course, authors and editors are always needed.