Working at a Big-Six Publishing House: Culture, Pay, Advancement and Getting In
By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid
Competitive compensation, generous benefits and access to top authors and top industry talent are why human resource professionals at big-six publishing houses say you should come work for them.
Following up on our Best Publishing Companies to Work For list, we caught up with human resources at both Penguin Group USA (tied for No. 3 on the list) and Hachette Book Group (No. 5) to find out what it’s like to work at their companies. In the course of the conversation, each made a pitch to prospective employees. Here is why they think you should come work for them.
Benefits of Both Small and Large Companies
Despite their relative size (Penguin has 3,500 employees worldwide and Hachette has 914), Penguin and Hachette both boast having that “little company” feel.
“We do feel like a big and a little company,” said Paige McInerney, vice president of human resources as Penguin. “There’s no bureaucracy. Not every decision has to go through layers and layers of red tape before someone acts on it. People are really empowered to do things.”
At Hachette, chairman and CEO David Young makes a point to meet personally with as many new hires as possible. Both he and executive vice president and chief operating officer Kenneth Michaels hold monthly lunches with the staff in which employees are encouraged to suggest ways in which the company can improve.
At the same time, the companies offer the level of benefits one might expect from large, global firms: Competitive health benefits, educational benefits, flexible work-from-home policies, opportunity to advance up the corporate ladder and opportunity to work in different regions of the world.
Penguin, for instance, has a program where, once a year, a half-dozen people from its New York office work for a week in its London office; and a half-dozen people from the London office work in New York on a different week. The program is popular. The company says that it gets about 50 applicants for each of the six New York-to-London spots each year.
Mentorship, Training, a Path to Advancement
Both Penguin and Hachette offer mentorship and training programs to their employees.
“Our mentoring program is highly valued and a lot of people participate,” said Penguin’s McInerney.
The proof is in the results. Several top Penguin executives have made long careers at the company, advancing up the ranks.
Rick Pascocello, vice president and marketing director for Berkley Publishing Group, NAL and Riverhead Trade started as a publicity assistant at The Putnam Berkley Group in 1992. And Yvette Dano, vice president and director of operations for Penguin Group USA started as a part-time sales assistant at The Putnam Berkley Group in 1981.
Hachette offers a formal, annual program as well as informal mentoring as needed. Those who want to advance at Hachette should, “Join the mentor program, volunteer for special projects, distinguish yourself by doing a great job and go above and beyond the basic requirements,” said Hachette vice president of human resources Andrea Weinzimer.
Similarly, at Penguin, employees need to be proactive about advancing. The company has an in-house career coach, the executive director of training, who performed 150 hours of one-on-one career coaching in 2011, according to the company.
Publishing is a notoriously low-compensation industry. Many of the sample negative reviews offered in our list of Best Publishing Companies to Work For mentioned low compensation as an issue. Even some of the positive reviews mentioned the meager pay.
But the larger publishing companies may offer some haven from industry-wide low compensation.
“We pay competitively with the rest of the industry. Unfortunately at times, book publishing doesn’t pay the same as banking,” said McInerney, responding to one Glassdoor commenter who complained of low pay at the company.
Hachette compensation is also “competitive,” according to the company, and all employees are eligible for bonuses at the end of the year. Benefits start on the day of hire.
Additionally, both companies offer competitive benefits and perks that may not necessarily be found at smaller companies.
Hachette offers, “Flexible work arrangements…softball and volleyball teams…events such as an annual pool tournament (with pizza and beer, weekly after work hours), an employee holiday craft fair, book giveaway parties, a summer outing in Central Park complete with bake-off, our ‘Gallery Event’ showcasing employees’ creative works [and] in-house author signings [and] toasts,” said Hachette’s Weinzimer.
One thing that Penguin touts is its mother-friendly work environment.
Last year, the company had 35 mothers on maternity leave in the New York office alone. The New York office has two lactation rooms and each mother gets their own breast-pump accessory kit for the rooms. New mothers get a gift bag of Penguin baby merchandise, including bibs and baby outfits. And when they return to work, they are offered a flexible work schedule.
Penguin’s parent company, Pearson, is the lone representative among big-six publishing companies on the 2011 Working Mother magazine 100 best companies to work for list. (McGraw-Hill is also on the list.)
So, How Do You Get Your Foot in the Door?
Competition for positions in publishing is fierce. Penguin gets an average of 150 job applications for each open entry-level position.
If you want a job there, don’t despair. There is hope and it comes in the form of a tried and trusted job-search technique: Know someone.
Both Penguin and Hachette have employee referral programs and having an application that comes with the recommendation of a current employee is advantageous. For those who don’t already know someone at the company, don’t fret.
“Find ways to meet someone at the company in some way,” said McInerney. “Attend one of the publishing courses at NYU [New York University, which offer summer publishing courses]. Be persistent and creative.”
Social media may also offer a way in. McInerney advises following the company’s career Facebook page, speak to a recruiter through the social network. Weinzimer recommends engaging with the company’s Twitter presence.
Internships are also both good ways to get a foot in the door, both companies said.
Penguin currently has 73 full-time employees who were once interns and likes to hire out of its intern pool. Getting one of 120 of the company’s annual internships, however, could be tough. Penguin gets nearly 4,000 applicants each year for the job, which pays minimum wage.
Write to Jeremy Greenfield