What are some computer applications in publishing

REPORT / 025: How do you become an editor in a book publisher? (Agora - Uni Eichstätt-Ingolstadt)

Agora - magazine of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Issue 1 - 2010

How do you become an editor in a book publisher?

From Walter Hömberg

Language skills, the ability to work in a team and specialist knowledge are the most important recruitment criteria and requirements for editors at book publishers. This is the result of an empirical study that has just been completed and was funded by the German Research Foundation.

The editor in the book publisher is an unknown being for empirical occupational research. So far, representative data on the job description, requirement profiles and working methods of this communication occupation have never been determined in Germany. A study that has been carried out at the Catholic University of Eichstätt since 2005 attempts to remedy this research deficit. This journal has already presented the system and first results of the project funded by the German Research Foundation ("Agora", issue 1/2007). Some further results of the telephone survey of 311 permanent lecturers are given below. The entire study was recently available in book form. In line with the diversity of the publishing industry, the demands placed on editors and young professionals are also diverse. "In your opinion, what are the three most important criteria that someone has to meet in order to be hired as a lecturer in your company?" The answers to this openly formulated question (a total of 944 responses) can be grouped into five categories:

• Training requirements
• Requirements for vocational training
• required knowledge
• Skills required
• required properties.

All in all, prospective lecturers today are required to have a broad spectrum of knowledge, skills, skills and personal characteristics. "Skills" are mentioned most frequently (27 percent of the answers) - a mixture of competencies and behaviors that mostly correspond to so-called soft skills. This is followed by the categories "Education" and "Qualities", each with 22 percent of the answers. Special "skills" make up 20 percent of the recruitment criteria. Professional "experience" brings up the rear: it only accounts for 8 percent of the answers.

A closer look at the criteria shows that a university degree is required today. The subject is in part of subordinate importance. For work in a specialist or non-fiction book publisher, however, it makes sense to study in the relevant area. A broad general education and - depending on the program area and orientation of the publisher - sound specialist knowledge are also important. Vocational training in the narrower sense is rarely required as a condition.

With regard to the required professional experience, it seems advisable to seek contact with the industry during your studies and to gain insights into the work of the publishing house through internships lasting several weeks - even if this is rarely explicitly requested by the publishers. Interns do not necessarily have to gain their first experience with giants in the industry - small publishers in particular offer a good start into their careers. Committed participation in the internship is also the best self-recommendation for a volunteer position. However, only ten of the lecturers surveyed named internships and / or traineeships as one of the most important recruitment criteria. 53 respondents, on the other hand, state that relevant experience in editing or in the publishing, book and media sectors should be available. This shows that editing continues to offer opportunities for career changers from the book trade, journalism and related professional fields.

Practical work in publishing enables you to make contacts and build networks, which can be very important when starting your career. Some editors point out that relationships can be a decisive criterion when hiring. It is not only important that you know the right people in the publishing house yourself. Some employers also expect an editor to bring useful contacts for the publisher to authors, external service providers or subject matter experts.

The requirements for the knowledge of the editors are extensive. Most important, however, is that you have a perfect command of the German language (85 mentions). Foreign language skills are also an advantage (25 mentions). Knowledge of business methods, the (book) market and the target groups, on the other hand, are less important criteria - as are literacy or knowledge of the publishing industry (between 10 and 17 mentions each). When it comes to recruitment, it is even less important whether the applicant is familiar with the new media and electronic data processing or has an idea of ​​book production or didactics (between 5 and 7 mentions in each case). Marketing knowledge is not mentioned once - even though the editor in small publishing houses is often also active in this area. The requirements that can only be learned in part include a feeling for language (40 mentions) and text comprehension (19 mentions). In addition, social competence (62 mentions), organizational talent (49 mentions) and communication skills (42 mentions) are among the most important skills a lecturer should have. Great importance is also attached to the ability to work in a team (24 mentions). This also applies to negotiating skills and assertiveness (16 mentions). Some editors stated that an applicant must have a flair for books, a passion for them (18 responses). Others consider talent and an inclination for the job to be particularly important (3 responses). This also means that a lecturer has a feel for quality, recognizes topics and trends and is able to carry out conceptual work (9 mentions each).

When it comes to the requirements for personal characteristics, curiosity, interest and versatility are of particular importance (41 mentions). In second place is the resilience (35 mentions). Meticulousness, care, accuracy and patience follow at a considerable distance (23 mentions). But also mental and temporal flexibility are required (20 responses) - as well as creativity (18 responses) and commitment (14 responses). In addition, a lecturer should have common sense, be able to learn, be quick to grasp and be able to concentrate (13 responses). Often the personality and appearance decide about a job. After all, 21 editors stated that it is particularly important that an applicant fits into the team or the publisher. And four respondents mention that an applicant should above all bring idealism and have little career awareness. He must be ready to do a lot of work for little money.

In addition to the open question about the most important recruitment criteria, the editors were given a list of ten skills and knowledge, the importance of which they were asked to rate using a four-point scale. The result of this question block again shows that knowledge of the German language and spelling is ascribed the greatest importance. 89 percent of the respondents stated that it is very important for a lecturer to have a good command of their own language, both written and spoken. Teamwork takes second place. It is considered very important by 72 percent of the editors. In third place is specialist knowledge, closely followed by nervous resilience and knowledge of relevant computer programs. Knowledge of the book market and the publishing industry is rated significantly less highly. Only 41 percent of those surveyed consider this to be very important. The special knowledge of manufacturing, marketing and sales is even less important. This is rated as very important by just under 29 percent of the lecturers. The categories of layout knowledge, leadership qualities and good basic knowledge of business administration are far behind in the last place. The fact that these are given such little importance is astonishing, however, as they were mentioned more often when asked about the most important recruitment criteria than knowledge in the field of manufacturing or electronic data processing, for example. Otherwise, however, the assessments of the importance of individual skills and knowledge largely correspond to the recruitment criteria.

Question to the editors: "I will now read out some characteristics and knowledge to you:" In your opinion, how important are these when someone is striving for a professional activity in your area of ​​work? "

The following were classified as "very important":
9. 10.
Good knowledge of the German language and spelling
Ability to work in a team
To have the specialist knowledge necessary for the respective program area
To be nervously strong
Master the most important computer applications
Knowing the book market and the publishing industry well
Knowing well about manufacturing, marketing, and sales
Layout knowledge
To have leadership skills
Good basic knowledge of business administration
89,1 %
72,0 %
68,8 %
61,2 %
59,2 %
41,2 %
28,7 %
16,4 %
13,6 %
6,5 %

If you compare the information given by the editors with each other, it is noticeable that there are clear differences in the assessment. Technical knowledge and skills relating to computers and layout, for example, are rated particularly highly by editors in the field of electronic media and publishing-on-demand processes. The assessment of layout knowledge depends on the number of editors employed in a publisher: the fewer of them work in a publisher, the greater they estimate the importance of this knowledge. A relatively large amount of importance is also assigned to layout skills by editors who mainly work on the text. The fiction editors, on the other hand, give them the least importance. For the fiction editors - as well as for the non-fiction editors - the language and spelling skills are of noticeably great importance. In addition, these groups are characterized by the fact that they rate knowledge of the book and publishing industry significantly higher. This is much less the case for editors who mainly work on the text; this can be explained by the fact that they participate in the program work to a much lesser extent. So it is not surprising that the importance of industry knowledge is related to the number of licensed titles supervised by an editor. The more licenses an editor processes, the more important it is for him to have a good understanding of the book market and the publishing industry. The importance of knowledge of manufacturing, marketing and sales increases with the professional experience of the editors. But the size of a publisher also has a decisive influence on it. Knowledge in these non-editing areas is particularly important for those members of the profession who work alone in editing. In large publishing houses with many permanent editors, these tasks are more likely to be taken over by independent departments.

How relevant is the nervous resilience? This quality is more important for female editors than for their male colleagues. In addition, the assessment of the importance of nervous resilience correlates with the number of licensed titles and the weekly working hours. This shows that the relevance of this category mainly depends on the workload of the editors. The verification based on satisfaction with the daily workload confirms this. There is a clear negative correlation between the importance of nervous resilience and satisfaction with the daily workload. Ability to work in a team is especially important for the "text workers". In their work, they are particularly dependent on agreements with other people such as the responsible editors, authors, layouters, manufacturers, etc. Leadership qualities, on the other hand, require chief editors and lecturers in managerial positions. Knowledge of business administration becomes more and more important as the number of professional years increases. This indicates that the responsibility of the editors increases with the professional experience.

There is hardly any other media sector that is as heterogeneous as book publishing. This applies to both the programmatic orientation and the content profile as well as the size of the company, where the spectrum ranges from small publishers to multimedia groups. A separate written survey was carried out among the publishers for this purpose. The qualification requirements for lecturers are correspondingly diverse. The survey of this professional group showed that editors in large publishing houses will likely be much more affected by the change processes caused by the economization in the future. Project costing, sales opportunities, economic interests and planning tasks will increasingly shape the job profile. In small publishing houses, on the other hand, classic all-rounders will still be in demand, who, in addition to editing work, also take on competent tasks in sales, production and public relations.

With the challenges of the future and the change in the job profile, the demands on the qualifications and skills of the lecturers are growing. It is therefore necessary to promote their training and further education more strongly and thus create the basis for them to be able to keep pace with developments in the industry in the future.

The study presented here is currently in the UVK
Verlagsgesellschaft Konstanz published.

Prof. Dr. Walter Hömberg has held the Chair of Journalism I at the KU since 1988. His areas of work are journalism research, cultural communication and media history. Susanne Pypke and Christian Klenk were involved in the Lektor research project.


Agora - magazine of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Issue 1/2010, pages 33-35
Editor: The President of the Catholic University,
Prof. Dr. Andreas Lob-Hüdepohl
Editing: Press and Public Relations Department of the KU,
85071 Eichstätt
Tel .: 08421 / 93-1594 or -1248, Fax: 08421 / 93-1788
Email: [email protected]
Internet: www.ku-eichstaett.de

AGORA is published once per semester and
can be obtained free of charge.

published in Schattenblick on May 4th, 2010