The “Great Publishing Resignation” Exposes the Failings of the Industry

From Book Riot:

On March 12, 2022, four editors from two Big 5 publishing houses, all mid-level employees, publicly announced their resignations on Twitter.

“It’s funny how it happened because I think it was three or four of us who quit on the same day. We definitely didn’t plan it, even though it was a big moment on Twitter,” said a former Big 5 editor who spoke to me with condition of anonymity.

One former Tor editor, Molly McGhee, posted their resignation letter on Twitter. McGhee wrote that her promotion was denied even though her acquisition, The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, hit the New York Times Best Seller list. Making it to that list is a “career high” for an editor, according to McGhee, but she was told that she needed more training to be considered for a promotion.

McGhee didn’t have an issue with her employer, Macmillan, but finds there’s a “systematic prejudice against junior employees” like her. “When the great masters of editing die, or retire, what will happen to all their apprentices? Like me, they will have left before they became a master themself. Soon, our great publishers will be staffed only with novices. I find myself asking: what will books look like then?” she ended the letter.

The United States has been hit with the so-called “Great Resignation” since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Americans quit their jobs, chose to stay home, or looked for better opportunities elsewhere. Dubbed the “Great Publishing Resignation” by Twitter users, the phenomenon has just recently hit the publishing industry.

Two editors from Hachette also threw in the towel on that fateful day in March: Angeline Rodriguez, who is now a literary agent at WME, and Hillary Sames, who has since moved to another industry. Rodriguez didn’t explain her reasons for leaving but tweeted goodbye on Orbit, while Sames, also from the same imprint, wrote that she’s “leaving NYC and publishing.”

At Macmillan, meanwhile, Erin Siu, also bid goodbye to publishing on that day; she has since taken a new, non-publishing role.

. . . .

Apart from McGhee, it’s unclear what provoked the editors to quit, even publicly announce their job departures on a similar day in March. But according to the former Big 5 editor I spoke with for this story, the low-wage work and the unwillingness to allow employees to move out of New York City, the book publishing industry’s capital in the U.S., are the final straw.

“The reason that I left my job in publishing was pretty much 95% because I was not allowed to continue to work remotely… And I wanted to move out of New York City because it’s very expensive and very hard to save money, especially [with] what they pay you with publishing salary.”

Link to the rest at Book Riot

One of the more interesting aspects of the Two Years (or thereabouts) of Covid for PG is how many people became accustomed to working from someplace other than an office in a large city or its environs and then decided they didn’t want to go back to their former work lifestyle.

It’s akin to someone taking a long vacation to a place much different from where they normally live and deciding to become a professional surfer instead of riding the subway. PG has mentioned before that Florida, Texas and several other similar places have seen a great deal of in-migration during and after the Covid shutdown and older-style/high-tax/high living cost cities like New York and Chicago have experienced declines in their populations. New York has lost over 300,000 residents, metropolitan Los Angeles lost over 175,000 residents and San Francisco lost over 110,000 residents. The San Jose, Boston, Miami and Washington areas also lost tens of thousands of residents primarily from people moving away.

Dallas, Phoenix and Houston gained residents. Since districts for members of the house of representatives are redrawn every ten years following the Census, 2022 will see elections based on those newly-redrawn districts. Due to the Covid movements, some states are expected to lose members in the House of Representatives and others will gain.

8 thoughts on “The “Great Publishing Resignation” Exposes the Failings of the Industry”

  1. One aspect of the Great Resignation has seen workers hack their work life in unique and entrepreneurial ways creating the flexibility to have two or three sources of income, more freedom, and no commute. They’ve shunned their dependence on the corporation.

    The self-published author resigned from traditional publishing years ago.

  2. I suspect four employees at the publishers are now quite happy they have been promoted into the vacant positions.

  3. A common characteristic of any industry that people dream of working in is that all but the top jobs are overworked and underpaid. This is perhaps most obvious in professional sports. The guys working in the front office are absurdly underpaid, but they are in sports and therefore will put up with it, at least for a while. Acting, music, fashion: All pretty much the same. Similarly with book publishing. A certain sort of bookish person will think working in publishing the best of all possible worlds. Like all those other dream job industries, the employer take advantage of this. It may be that publishing is reaching a turning point where the junior people are unwilling to accept this. My guess, however, is that employers won’t have much trouble finding replacements.

    • Agree. Publishing employees in the editorial department compete with each other for the jobs, and there are many who can do the job. That drives down pay. If fewer people wanted those jobs, pay would increase. Companies have to compete for actuaries and block chain programmers. They pay more for them. They don’t have to compete for editorial positions. They pay less.

      Anyone know how IT guys and accountants are paid by publishers? More than editorial?

      I know some guys who work on the field for an NFL team during games. Think they get paid? There are a zillion other guys who would do it for nothing.

      Truth in posting: I would pay to drive the Zamboni over the ice at an NHL game.

    • Your guess is almost certainly right.
      Reading between the lines these are probably recent hires that got an attaboy and want to be promoted for it. Because they’re special.

      • Or — as is equally likely — at least one is a recent hire whose path to promotion is being blocked by nepotism. Parallel to Monty Python’s assurances that there is no cannibalism in the British Navy, there is no nepotism in commercial publishing (and by that, I mean there is a certain amount). Jenkins, put that down!

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