Alumni in the Spotlight – October 2011

Linda Bathgate is the Publisher of Communication and Media Studies at Taylor & Francis (www.taylorandfrancis.com).  Ms. Bathgate is a 1992 graduate of the M.S. in Publishing program and is also an Adjunct Professor teaching the Editorial Principles and Practices course each year.  By sharing her first-hand experience and extensive knowledge of the role of the editor today, she has contributed to the successful launch of many young publishing careers.  In this interview she will share with us some of her thoughts on opportunities for publishing professionals, the state of the industry, and the role that technology has and will continue to play in all aspects of the industry.

Prof. Denning: Hi Linda, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been 20 years since you graduated from the M.S. in Publishing program.  Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing and how your career has developed since then?

LB: Hi Jane. Thanks for the opportunity to share my experiences. I have spent the majority of my career working as an Acquisitions Editor in academic publishing, commissioning Communication and Media titles intended for scholars and students. I started off in professional publishing at Wiley in 1991, moving from Editorial Assistant to Associate Editor in the Architecture and Interior Design list. I was laid off during a bad economy in 1995, did some freelance and short-term jobs, and then found my current job in 1997. The company was Lawrence Erlbaum Associates when I started, based in Mahwah, New Jersey: a small social sciences publisher that had a strong list of books and journals in Psychology, Education, and Communication. It was acquired by Taylor & Francis in late 2006, so I’ve been part of this global company for nearly 5 years.

Prof. Denning: Could you tell us about what your current job entails?  Tell us a bit about Taylor & Francis and some of the initiatives they have taken in response to new technological developments.

LB: As a publisher, I have a team working with me, including an Editor, Assistant Editor, and two assistants, all engaged with building the Communication and Media Studies list of titles. I continue to commission new projects as well as manage the members of the team. We publish textbooks, handbooks, and other resources for students, scholars, and researchers. I travel to academic conferences several times a year to meet authors and promote our titles, and I also go to campuses to talk with professors about trends in teaching and research. It can get very busy, but I have made a lot of friends through the years so it’s great to have the chance to see them year after year.

T&F has several imprints, including CRC (Science/Engineering), Garland (Biology), Psychology Press (Psychology and Behavioral Science), and Routledge (Humanities and Social Sciences). The company headquarters are in the U.K., and they have three U.S. offices – Boca Raton, where the main administrative offices are, Philadelphia, where the U.S. journals are managed, and New York, where many of the U.S. editors and marketers work. We meet with our U.K. colleagues via video conference at least once a week, and are often in touch by email and phone. I meet in person with my U.K.-based manager 3-4 times a year. We have sales representatives or distributors throughout the world, and are able to get our books just about anywhere.

On the technology front, T&F is pursuing the interactive electronic textbook this year. The books are electronic and have audio and video components, as well as links to other materials and websites. We are doing a test run of 10 textbooks this fall, and we expect to apply what we learn to the next generation of interactive texts. All our books are published as ebooks (unless the rights prohibit doing so) and are available in multiple formats, including the Kindle. This past summer we launched Taylor & Francis Online, where our online journal content is now available and where our book content will be hosted in the near future. We expect to be able to sell individual chapters (maybe pieces of chapters) in addition to selling entire volumes.

Prof. Denning: How does technology and social media fit into your current job?

LB: I work with my authors and our development team to plan out companion websites for many of the textbooks in my list. These sites include materials for instructors and students, such as PowerPoints for use in lectures and practice quizzes. Social media is used primarily by our marketing team – we have a Routledge Communication Facebook page and Twitter account, where we send out news about our authors, books, conferences, awards, and related information. Some of the conferences we attend have “virtual” components, so we post content there, as well as having physical books in the exhibit hall. When an author blogs about his or her book, or a journal posts a review, we send out notices to draw attention to the book.

Prof. Denning: Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience and your Graduate Assistantship at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.

LB: My degree at Pace provided me with the “big picture” of publishing, which has served as the foundation for working with various departments – editorial, marketing, production, and others. I also got my first job in publishing at Wiley through a friend I met in the program, so it’s a great place to network! As the Graduate Assistant, I was able to see and participate in the inner workings of the program, as well as help put together one of the early volumes from Pace University Press: Opportunitas: The History of Pace University. I really liked the fact that the professors in the program all had experience working in publishing and could share real-world knowledge about the industry.

Prof. Denning: How has the industry changed since you began your career?

LB: The pace of work is much faster now than when I started. We were still filling out forms on typewriters when I was an assistant. (Although we had PCs, we did not have Windows!) Editors used to spend a lot of time on the phone and writing letters. Projects came in through the mail and were copied and sent out for review. Everything was on paper! Then email started up, and that advent accelerated the pace of work substantially. Manuscripts come in digital files rather than on reams of paper. With the digital era, the type of work Editorial Assistants do has changed – they are as likely to be updating a database or spreadsheet as writing a letter or reviewing a manuscript for production. We are also able to analyze the business in new ways through the sales and revenue data we can access in our systems. We reach a global readership and communicate with people around the world on a regular basis. I think the job opportunities are increasing – the key is to look beyond consumer publishing at the smaller segments where there is growth, such as academic and professional publishing. These lines are often more stable overall (less prone to the ups and downs of the general marketplace), and offer great opportunities in good companies.

Prof. Denning: Have you always been interested publishing?  Where did that passion come from?

LB: My first interview out of college was at Academic Press in San Diego. I did not get the job, but that did not keep me from wanting to be involved with making books. I have always loved books – they are friends always there for you – and I like that they perform so many important roles, such as educating, informing, entertaining, and sharing. I think education is the key to change, and I like being part of the educational process. I sometimes say that I’m changing the world, one book at a time!

Prof Denning: What do you think the future holds for book publishers?  Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers and the iPad (and subsequent tablets) forever changed publishing as we know it?

LB: I think books will be around for as long as people are, even if they are not always in the traditional print form. Books are a huge part of human history, and the major changes in technology in recent years have provided new opportunities for accessing, disseminating, and using content. But the essential desire to read a book remains – as a species, we love books! There will continue to be a need for publishers to obtain and manage the content, to prepare it for public consumption, and to provide new perspectives on traditional topics. Regardless of the device delivering the content, we’ll need publishers to ensure the quality of the content and to market and sell it.

Prof: Denning: What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?  What are the biggest challenges that publishers face?

LB: The ebook is the biggest trend of the moment, and, along with that, the interactive ebook, which provides multiple media (sound, video) and links to additional content. Print on demand is becoming much more common, as it enables publishers to reduce their warehousing costs and print only when a book is ordered. Customizable content is next, where consumers can buy pieces of books or combine pieces, articles, or chapters. Graphic novels and visually oriented content is increasingly popular, emphasizing the use of pictures and words together. The technology for creating and reading ebooks is evolving at an incredible pace (new tablet computers are released almost daily!), and keeping up with these changes is a full-time job.  Making the right decisions for the company is challenging – which technology to invest in, which format to use, which vendor to deal with. At T&F we tend to watch what others do and learn from their successes and failures, rather than taking on the risk and leading the market. Watching prices is also critical – consumers expect to pay less for an ebook than for a print book, but the publisher still has a lot of associated costs with producing the ebook (editing, designing, technology, storage, and overheads, for example). Making money off of e-only products is a significant challenge, but that may change as the market for e-content expands.

Prof. Denning: Would you like to speculate on the future of ebooks? Books in general?  What areas do you think will be the most impacted (textbooks, children’s books, trade, graphic novels, romance, etc.)?

LB: I think ebooks will be around for a long time, and will then evolve into something that is outside the realm of the imagination at the moment. Textbooks will be significantly affected by the ebook surge – the pedagogical possibilities are nearly endless. As I mentioned earlier, books will be around as long as there are people to read them. Just as we have our favorite songs and movies, we have our favorite books – we have an emotional engagement with them.

Prof. Denning: What do you think are the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?

LB: The ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively and professionally, to listen, to think critically, to be creative, to be willing to work and contribute as part of a team, and to have a passion for their work.

Prof. Denning: Is there any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?

LB: Don’t be afraid to ask someone to talk about their work with you. Most people love to talk about their jobs. Just ask, make an appointment, be respectful of their time, thank them for their insights, and don’t expect anything more than a conversation. Very few people will turn you down – and if they do, don’t take it personally. You are likely to learn something from everyone you talk to.

Do your research before applying for a job if you know which company is hiring, and definitely find out before the interview. Showing that you know something about what the company does and its position in the industry will demonstrate that you have made an effort to inform yourself about a prospective employer –a great way to make a good impression.

It does not take much to stand out. Make an extra effort – whether you are looking for a job or have gotten a position – and you will be noticed. Mention the key books that a publisher has, and ask about their strategy. Stay a little bit late to finish a project without being asked. Double-check your work and make sure that everything you do is your best work. Ask questions to make sure you understand what is expected. Seek out ways to expand your skills. Offer to take on additional responsibilities when you see an opportunity. Don’t get caught up in office gossip or drama – stay professional, and talk with your friends at lunch or outside of work.

Prof. Denning: Do you have any more advice for those looking to survive and thrive in this industry?

LB: Keep up with your network and with the trends going on in the industry. Read the trade publications, blogs, and discussions. Take advantage of any training your company has to offer. Talk to your senior colleagues about their experiences, advice, and the directions they see for publishing. If you are not getting what you want at your current position, talk to your supervisor. Sometimes you can only advance by leaving a company, but don’t move jobs too soon or too often. Volunteer for committees if you have time to do so. Stay connected to friends at other companies.

Prof. Denning: What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?

LB: I really enjoyed my classmates – I made some great friends in the program. Working as the Graduate Assistant with Professor Raskin and Barbara Egidi was a true privilege. And the faculty – I had some wonderful professors who still influence my work today. In my Magazine Production course, we went to see Sports Illustrated being printed at a Donnelly plant – truly awe-inspiring! When I graduated, Professor Rabinowitz persuaded me to rethink moving back to California, and the decision to stay in New York has greatly influenced my career and success.

Prof. Denning: What advice would you give to students who still have to write their graduate thesis papers?

LB: 1) Outline the entire paper and use this outline as the map for your writing. You can change it, but starting with a structure gives you something tangible to hang your words on. 2) Assign yourself time to write, as though you were going to class. 3) Segment out the writing so that you do some difficult parts and some easy/fun parts every time you write. 4) Set goals for what you want to achieve each time you write. 5) Reward yourself when you meet your goals, and especially when you finish the thesis!

Prof. Denning: How have you been involved in the program since graduating?

LB: I joined the Advisory Board several years ago, and when I started working in Manhattan again in 2007, I told Professor Raskin that I wanted to be more involved. He needed an instructor for the Editorial Principles and Practices course, so I jumped into teaching. I teach it once a year, and the students always impress me with their creativity, curiosity, and dedication.

Prof. Denning: I asked one of our students, Hannah Bennett, if she had any questions to add.  Her questions are as follows.

Hannah: What are some of your favorite parts of the job? What do you love about it? What are the rewards and highlights of being part of the publishing industry?

LB: I love working with others – my colleagues, authors, professors – to improve the resources available for education and research. Being in publishing is held in high esteem by many academics – they rely on publishers to put their work into the public forum. Oftentimes they also want an ongoing relationship with an editor. I have developed very good friendships with many of my authors, and often in conversation we come up with new ideas for projects, or identify areas where a new publication is needed. There is a significant amount of travel in my position – 6-10 trips a year, typically – and I have attended conferences in Germany, Singapore, Israel, and Korea, as well as in cities all over the United States.  The exciting and rewarding parts of the job are getting a proposal for a new book that you think has a lot of potential, working with the author to produce it, and then seeing it flourish in the marketplace. As much as the job is about people, it is also about numbers, and when a book does well, you feel that you’ve been part of its success.

Hannah: What can students entering the field do to set themselves apart from other applicants?  Do you look for anything specific on a resume or in an interview?

LB: First thing: Triple-check your resume and cover letter to ensure that no grammar or spelling mistakes have slipped in. Make sure that the cover letter addresses the job you are applying for, and spells out how your skills and interests are a good fit with the requirements for the position. Research the company you are interviewing with. If possible, find out the subject area that the position will cover, and check out the titles that are published. See if you can identify competing publishers and how this company stands out. Don’t be nervous (at least don’t show it!) – think of the interview as a conversation. Remember that you are choosing an employer just as an employer is choosing you. You should ALWAYS have questions to ask about the position, about the interviewer, about the company. Even a basic question such as the background of the interviewer shows that you want to learn about the people you may be working with. DO NOT ask about the salary or the benefits in the first interview, or even the second. Focus on the job – does it sound like something you want to do?  Be enthusiastic about the position, stay professional (e.g., small talk, but not TMI), and send a thank-you note after the interview. The small things stand out, so stay as positive as you can!