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13 November 2019

What skills are in demand in publishing today?

Atwood Tate has been helping to place skilled employees in the publishing industry for over nine years now. Between us, we have decades of publishing and recruitment experience. I left publishing and joined Atwood Tate in October 2010 and, broadly speaking, the core skills that we are looking for in candidates haven’t changed. Editors still need to have strong attention to detail; commissioning and acquisition editors continue to require a commercial eye and great interpersonal skills; sales people still need to be target driven and in possession of excellent relationship-building techniques; book production processes continue to evolve, but production professionals remain strong project managers and process oriented.

Over the past nine years and more, the industry has grappled with digitisation of content and processes. Five years ago, we saw a spike in the demand for XML and HTML skills in production and digital editorial roles, and an increased demand for analytical skills and people able to interpret marketing and sales data. Sales roles in certain sectors also began to change and there was increased demand for sales people, who had experience of selling services (notably Software as a Service). These requirements are no longer a “new trend” and tasks relating to digital production or digital content are embedded within most roles.

More recently, we have noted an increased focus on product management skills. Publishers have understood that commissioning for digital products often requires a different approach to traditional commissioning, and there has been a rise in the need for digital product management experience: analytical skills and a customer- or user-focussed approach are key. 

On the sales and marketing side, there is increased focus on discoverability and meta-data management, particularly in more junior roles, where hands on skills are highly sought after. Pricing analysis and business analysis expertise are increasingly in demand and not always available from within the industry, so those are areas to which finance or commercially oriented publishing professionals could look for inspiration if they are looking for development opportunities.

Specific job roles aside, soft skills are very much in demand and all interviews now tend to be competency based. Our clients are looking for adaptable, resilient and driven creative thinkers, who are willing to learn and collaborate in a faster changing business environment.

Helen Speedy