One of the things that doesn’t get old about studying abroad is the recurring realizations that I am in a different country experiencing things that I’ve never before experienced. I think this is a common occurrence with the other students on this internship program with me; there will be moments in the middle of exploring a new country or going to a new sightseeing location when I’ll realize how cool it is that I am getting the chance to have these experiences. And while things are starting to wind down with my internship, I feel like I’ve really only just gotten started with my relationships with my coworkers and my comfortability at my internship site. This isn’t to say that it’s taken me this long to feel comfortable in my work environment; rather, now that I’ve reached a certain level of familiarity, it’ll be especially bittersweet to say goodbye to it this week.
Although it’s difficult to summarize the Irish cultural definition of “success” only based on my eight weeks here, I have generally picked up some of the understanding of what being successful in the Irish publishing industry means. Here in Ireland, success seems to be at least partially measured by how respected you are in the industry and how well connected you are. Especially in the publishing industry, knowing lots of people and being good at networking is essential for financial success. One thing I’ve noticed from observing my coworkers and attending book launches and festivals is that relationships and connections between different publishing professionals (such as editors, agents, authors, marketers, and others) are like currency in the publishing world. If you are an editor, being able to connect with and talk to agents is imperative for securing future book deals and settling new book contracts. Because financial gains in this industry are so dependent on who knows who and who is agreeing to what, a successful editor in Ireland would be somebody who is well connected and an effective networker.
Another way to classify someone as a successful employee in the publishing industry is based on their knowledge of the craft. Being personable and able to network is key, but having the technical knowledge to supplement these people skills is equally essential. Knowing which books to acquire, which authors to reach out to, and which business decisions are justified by their cost are all things that an effective publishing employee would be able to consider. Similarly, knowing the inner working of the book production process (how to pick a final version of a cover for a book based on accessibility and consumer psychology, how to communicate with a typesetter to complete formatting corrections for a manuscript, and how to work with freelance editors, for instance) is essential for a publishing employee to stand out in the field and to be successful long term. If an employee in publishing can balance the important interpersonal stuff with their ability to make strategic business decisions and judgements on which books will sell well, then they would definitely be considered successful in their field.
Similarly, being a successful marketer is a big part of finding success in the publishing industry. Someone who is in touch with current marketing trends is a big asset to any publishing house. If a marketer knows who to send advanced reader copies (ARCs) to, knows how to stay in touch with authors, knows which awards to submit books to, and knows how to interface with the public and with potential book sellers, they will likely get very far in the industry and be wanted by a range of publishers.
Overall, I don’t necessarily think that the Irish publishing industry is that drastically different from the American publishing industry. I think that anywhere you go, publishing will be a fast-paced, intense industry to work in due to the nature of the work (book deadlines are generally unforgiving; if you miss a deadline, and the book is delayed, you don’t meet a release date and you subsequently can’t make the intended or anticipated profit). As a result, publishing is going to have a similar feel in generally similar economies. However, I have heard first-hand from some of my Irish coworkers that the Irish publishing industry is generally friendlier than the American industry. In other words, the American publishing market is more cutthroat than the Irish one. In Ireland, a successful publishing employee would be someone who is knowledgeable and serious about their job, but someone who is also friendly and compassionate when working with authors and other colleagues in the field. By comparison, in America, a successful publishing employee would be someone who is more comfortable doing anything to get ahead and advance themselves or their project – even if it meant entering a book bidding war with a former colleague or friend in the publishing industry who is at a different publishing house than you. In America, it’s more about the bottom line, and less about sparing feelings or maintaining friendships across the industry.