Mon 11 February 2013 at 4.30 pm

The Publishing Process at Wiley

Sarah Hall (Wiley Blackwell)

Taking Place: Willow Building (room 10), Headington Hill Campus, Oxford Brookes University, OX3 0BT

Missed this event? Find out what our MA students thought in the summary blog below...

By Deepti Tagare

The Publishing seminars organised by the student representatives are held on Monday evenings after the ‘New Product Development’ class. The first of these seminars saw Sarah Hall, Commissioning Editor, in the Physical Sciences Department at Wiley Blackwell, deliver a lecture on ‘Book Publishing at Wiley’.  Sarah took us through the entire process of book commissioning, adding in her invaluable first-hand experience along the way. Although she has spent only five years in the publishing industry, she has advanced from Assistant Editor to Commissioning Editor in a commendably short period of time.

Sarah used one of her projects as a case study to unfold the editorial process step-by-step.  Managing the process from initial idea to final publication is a rewarding experience on its own.  With a typical book project lasting 2.5 years, Sarah remarked that ‘persistence is key’ as you go through the many stages of commissioning a book.   

Not every idea for a book will be developed into a manuscript. Sarah explained that all new proposals must be reviewed internally and externally and a strong business case put forward before a contract is signed and the content written.  This means that she has to keep a regular stream of new ideas flowing into the process.  Here are some of the various ways that these are generated:

  • Conferences: Attending conferences in both the UK as well as overseas in order to develop contacts in the academic industry as well as be updated with the topics currently in demand in your field.
  • Campus Calling: Visiting university campuses in order to get in touch with academics and find out what their needs are.
  • Journals: Subscribing to Table of Content alerts and skimming through journals to look for upcoming areas of interest and being vigilant all the time.
  • List Management: Keeping an eye on your backlist and identifying a need for newer editions for existing books.
  • Market Research: Watching your competitors and looking at what they are not doing and whether you can find an opportunity to develop.

During her methodical explanation, Sarah highlighted three important things that are particularly important for us as students of Publishing:

  • Subject specialisms:  There is a misconception that academic and professional publishing requires a background in relevant academic fields.  This is definitely not the case, even though Sarah has a Chemistry degree it is not essential to her role.  You don’t need to understand the science to understand the market or spot trends.
  • Vision: Identifying gaps in the market is an essential skill that you require while you commission a book.  Beyond this, you need to visualise where your market will be in two or three years time. 
  • Networking and visibility:  You never know where your next potential author or book idea will come from.  So you need to keep a high profile and be easily approachable. 

Recent changes in the market show that ebooks are picking up in the academic industry, as more and more people are using online or electronic resources. Wiley now has online books on the Wiley Online Library as well as ebooks for the iPad and Kindle.

It was a very enriching seminar and proved useful for dissertations and major projects for some of us. It is certainly a good value addition to the course work. 

In addition to her MA studies at OICPS, Deepti is an experienced freelance Editor and Translator.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Telecommunications Engineering and is good with digital stuff in general.

Read more from Deepti in her blogs D-Extracts and Bibliocritic