By Hannah Johnson, with reporting by Erin L. Cox
Jon Slack is on a mission to create an international community of young publishers. After three years of volunteer work with the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) in the UK, Slack believes such a community has great potential to educate and support publishing professionals in the first 10 years of their career while providing a forum for educating those who would like to be mentors, and offering students insight into the industry. It follows that such an enthusiastic group can also generate momentum and innovation for the industry as a whole.
“The impact of the SYP on the UK book industry is obvious,” says Slack. “Some of the most influential names in publishing have at one stage or another been involved, and continue to lead and shape prominent companies today.”
On Wednesday, the SYP held a joint event with the Junge Verlagsmenschen, a similar young publishers’ group sponsored by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Boersenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels). The goal of the event was to start an international conversation about current developments and challenges in publishing, and how these two groups can together establish a larger international network.
With the approximately 30 attendees at the event, Slack divided them into three groups to discuss topics on a smaller scale and then open up the discussion to the larger group. Discussion topics ranged from economic challenges facing in publishing to career progression and ethnic/class diversity in in the industry around the world.
Whether or not publishers in the attendees’ countries would respond to a network such as SYP and if meeting peers in the industry would help promote careers in publishing was still up very much up for debate at the end of the event.
To close, Croatian literary agent, Ivan Sršen, encouraged networking through the SYP events and told a story of a connection he made at such an event at The London Book Fair. Including his email on Jon’s sign-in sheet, Sršen was contacted shortly after the fair by an illustrator in New Zealand about doing work together. The two now have a book deal.
In order to help foster international networking, Slack thinks the next steps are to build an online community and inspire the creation of local groups in more countries. Slack acknowledges that there are logistical and financial hurdles involved, and he is looking for organizational and financial backing from publishing businesses. “I feel that as long as I keep pushing this thing forward, sooner or later, someone is going to snap it up.
The SYP has a long history of education and network building, and it welcomes students and mentors among its members. Of the 650 members of the SYP, 220 of them are students interesting in publishing careers. “I find it personally rewarding to help people who were in my position a few years ago,” says Slack.