Postgraduate Skills seminar: Kate Hammond, Acquisitions Editor, Brill

Blog written by PhD student Konstantin Wertelecki

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Photo attrib. James Stringer, CC-BY-ND-ND 2.0

On Thursday April 19, former PhD student Dr Kate Hammond, who currently serves as publishing editor at Brill Publishing, addressed history postgraduates on pursuing a non-academic career in the publishing industry. This event was sponsored by the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (CAPOD) under the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland (QAA) theme ‘Transitions’.  She discussed her own career path and offered valuable insights into the scholarly publishing industry regarding its structure, positions, products, and career opportunities.

Dr Hammond opened her talk with a general overview of the academic publishing industry and its structure. Brill operates with three central divisions: Finance and Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Editorial. In the industry, Finance and Operations not only maintain daily business operations, but also retain sustainable fiscal flow. Employees who work in this department include accountants, finance analysts, IT Support officers, record managers, production editors, and distributors. Sales and Marketing sells the books published. Jobs in this department include marketers, sales representatives, and sales and marketing managers. Dr Hammond noted that academic publishing marketing differ from trade publishing marketing because of the concentrated industry of scholarly publishing. Academic marketers must possess skills to not only to understand the subject of the product they sell, but they must also be able to present these academic books to international customers. The Editorial division lies at the heart of the academic press. Within this department, publishing directors develop company strategies, and project managers, acquisition editors, and assistant editors review incoming proposals to determine if they are appropriate for publication.

Serving as a publishing editor in the Editorial division for Brill Academic Publishing, Dr Hammond, further detailed the diverse duties of her job. Projects are developed based on the demand of the academic market, in accordance with the latest research trends. From this framework, a certain number of books, journals, and other products are published per year, in agreement with expected revenue. Dr Hammond explained that a typical work week consisted of soliciting book submissions, reading and assessing book proposals, maintaining and expanding a published book or journal series, researching topics in her chosen genre of academic publishing, conducting market research, and creating fiscal projections for proposed books and series.

Dr Hammond expressed that despite the seemingly strong differences between the academic publishing business and academia itself, she found her doctoral training extraordinarily useful for her role as an academic publishing editor. As a publishing editor, one maintains their project, just as a scholar maintains their thesis. An editor must understand the market, just like a PhD student must understand a field of research. A publisher must network and market to grow projects, just as an academic must engage with others to further their own project. Both the editor and the academic must have strong organisational skills to balance multiple projects, be they professional duties or research, teaching, and conferences. Furthermore, Dr Hammond explained that her experience in academia serves as an advantage in the academic publishing industry, as she is familiar with the university hierarchy, methods of researchers, and even such matters as the academic calendar, which differ from business culture.

Dr Hammond obtained her position as publishing editor after receiving experience at Brill Publishers through a Marie Curie Initial Training Network,  Power and Institutions in Medieval Islam and Christendom. She asserted that for her, and other PhDs, doctorates may permit quicker ascension through the ranks of the academic industry publishing industry. Though she stressed that such companies are looking for business-minded editors, academic experience is always welcome, as are freelance publishing experience and related internships.

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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