Leaf Mag

Jocelyn Hargrave—Educational Publishing, Publishing Sessional

Jessica Harvie interviews Jocelyn Hargrave, Education Publishing professional sessional lecturer/tutor at the University of Melbourne and Deakin University teaching writing, editing and publishing.

A picture of Jocelyn Hargrave. She is looking at the camera, has pale skin and long brown hair parted over one shoulder. She is wearing a fun pink and black patterned top.
Dr Jocelyn Hargrave

Tell us a little bit about your current job, and how you got there.

I am fortunate to hold many ‘jobs’, thanks to academia and industry. First, I am a sessional lecturer/tutor for three Melbourne higher-education institutions—the University of Melbourne, Monash University and Monash College—where I teach writing, editing and publishing. My first teaching experience was in first semester 2015 as a PhD student at Monash University, for which I co-designed and taught the Masters-level unit ‘Editing, Authorship and Text’ with my supervisor Dr Louise Poland. (Unfortunately, the Publishing Program at Monash University was discontinued from second semester that year.) I left the publishing industry in 2013 after a successful career in the Educational Publishing sector (I obtained my first position in publishing in 1997; my final in-house position was Senior Editor – Secondary at Cengage Learning Australia) with the hope that I could not only impart my passion and knowledge to students about the craft of editing specifically and the publishing industry generally, but also undertake research in this very under-researched discipline.

Second, I have been freelancing for Oxford University Press (OUP) since 2015. One of the conditions of receiving an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship while a doctoral student was that I could not undertake more than eight hours of work each week. For the majority of my doctoral study in 2013–2016, therefore, I could not pursue my craft to any meaningful degree, which was very frustrating—continuing to practise my craft and develop my skills are very important to me. OUP offered me a small project in July 2015, which I could comfortably accommodate while finishing my thesis, and I have been freelancing for OUP consistently since then. I edit primarily primary and secondary humanities and science textbooks, as well as their digital-first student and/or teacher auxiliary materials.

What is the best part about your current role?

Variety! I literally live and breathe editing. A bit dramatic, yes; however, the best part is that I can say to my students that ‘I not only talk it, but I walk it’. When I am not teaching editing, I am practising it, which is wonderful and ensures that my days are interesting feasts.

What is your favourite tid-bit you found during your research?

That early-modern printers had little feet—or the illustrators thought so—as shown in Joseph Moxon’s (1683) printer’s manual, Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handyworks Applied to the Art of Printing.

Black and white drawing of a printer with comically small feet
Illustration from Joseph Moxon’s (1683) printer’s manual, Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handyworks Applied to the Art of Printing

Before teaching at a university, I understand you worked in Educational Publishing. The following questions are about your time in Educational Publishing.

What did a typical day look like for you at work? What skills make you successful in doing that?

Project management was a significant component of my work as Senior Editor at Cengage Learning Australia in 2011–2013 (I also completed contract-based in-house work for Cengage in 2010). Over the two-year period, I project managed numerous titles, as many as five titles simultaneously (though only two that I edited) from unedited manuscript to publication—and this was well before workflows became entirely digital. This means that my work was highly administrative. A typical day might involve any of the following:

  • organising and chairing interdepartmental unedited MS-to-ed meetings (when the publisher hands over to editorial the author’s unedited manuscript)
  • conducting manuscript appraisals and cast-offs (to determine whether the unedited MS would meet the budgeted page extent)
  • commissioning freelance editors, proofreaders and indexers and preparing their briefs
  • preparing the edited manuscript for production, which most often meant scanning literally hundreds of artwork briefs, resolving any outstanding problems/issues with the freelance editor and/or authors, and finalising the artwork and permissions list, running headers/footers and notes for the typesetter/designer
  • printing out typeset pages and organising the delivery by mail of chapters to multi-author teams (first to third pages), and to proofreaders and indexers (at second pages)
  • preparing corrected typeset pages for production, which most often meant scanning the freelance editors’ marked-up master set and any new artwork or text permissions briefs, resolving any outstanding problems/issues with the freelance editor and/or authors, and writing final notes for the typesetter/designer
  • approving final typeset pages and press readies before going to print
  • approving advance copies of textbooks before bulk stock was released
  • attending weekly editorial meetings and monthly publishing meetings.

To successfully complete this work, editors’ require excellent time management and organisational skills; the ability to work independently with initiative; well-developed interpersonal skills as they liaise with multiple stakeholders in-house (publishers, production, permissions, designers, typesetters, sales and marketing) and externally (authors, freelance proofreaders and indexers, and photo researchers); critical judgement (to appraise and negotiate content); an unrelenting meticulous eye (educational editors work with very complex content); an understanding of how this complex material fits, and works, on a typeset double-page spread and within the product itself; diplomacy (editors, like every other knowledge worker, represent the companies they work for and thus are responsible for maintaining the companies’ reputation); and stamina (the work of an educational editor is highly administrative, meticulous and unrelenting).

How did your role change over your time working in Educational Publishing? (less about different jobs but the change in digital expectations)

A substantial change occurred in 2012—the slow-but-steady move to digital workflows, from unedited manuscript to press readies. (In 2014, I related my experiences in the article ‘Paperless Mark-up: Editing Educational Texts in a Digital Environment’, which was published in the journal Publishing Research Quarterly.) This meant that editors (in-house and freelance), authors and proofreaders were expected to independently learn how to electronically mark-up typeset pages in Adobe Acrobat. Typeset pages were increasingly being delivered by email or FTP to stakeholders. It also meant discontinuing the lengthy process of scanning both typeset pages and artwork and permissions briefs, which freed up editors’ time to dedicate to their daily administrative and editorial tasks. The latter was a significant boon as hard-copy pages tended to regularly jam printers and extricating these pages without tearing them was nerve-wracking, not to mention rescanning the pages, often from the start, was bothersome. The environment benefited from offices becoming—almost overnight it felt—paperless.

Tell us about a frustrating experience you’ve had at work or in your career generally.

The most frustrating aspect when freelancing (I freelanced in 2002–2011 and have since 2015) is not being included in daily decision-making with internal stakeholders. Decisions will be made, such as to delete or rewrite significant sections of text, between edited manuscript and first page proofs; often the book that you edited might be substantially different when you next review it once typeset. The reasons for these changes are most often not communicated to freelancers. Another frustrating aspect is that the time allocated to review typeset pages and amalgamate all corrections (from authors, publishers, in-house editors, proofreaders) into the master set appears to be shrinking. I remember before commencing my PhD being given approximately four weeks to complete all editorial and administrative work for first page proofs, including author liaison; now, it is closer to two weeks. The misconception that persists in the publishing industry is that digital workflows speed up all editors’ work. For marking up and amalgamating all corrections into an electronic master set, this is not the case—it results in editors not being given sufficient time to conduct their work.

How different is Educational Publishing to Trade Publishing? Do you feel like Educational Publishing is overlooked? If so, why? 

Educational Publishing is quite different from Trade Publishing, namely the acquisition of content, production processes, marketing, sales and methods of delivery. Publishers commission teachers to write content according to state and territory curricula; authors do not approach educational publishers independently with their manuscripts. Editorial standards tend to be more rigorous: the purpose is to educate students; therefore, educational publishers allocate equal importance to the accuracy of content as to its saleability. The backlists of educational publishers are a vital component of their profitability. Educational publishers’ approach to marketing titles is not customer-facing: sales representatives liaise with teachers (primary and secondary) and academics (tertiary) in the hope of securing school or university adoptions, respectively. (Note that I wrote about this in my article ‘Educational Publishing: An Industry in Transition in the Digital Age’, published in 2014 in the journal TXT.)

Educational Publishing is overlooked—even, marginalised—in academia in preference for Trade Publishing, especially the perceived more romantic and prestigious Literary Publishing. Scant time is dedicated in editing and publishing programs to Educational Publishing, despite its contribution to the profitability of the industry. In Australia, sales of educational print products in 2018 amounted to $577 million and for digital, $194 million, which represented approximately 40% of all sales. With Melbourne being the hub of Educational Publishing (most of the multinational publishers are headquartered here, such as Pearson and Cengage Learning), a substantial number of advertised positions in Melbourne therefore relate to the educational sector. For the 2010–2015 period, for example, 63% of advertised educational publishing jobs were for Melbourne; in contrast, for Sydney, it was 27%. The scant attention in academia is therefore not only frustrating and (with respect) negligent, as graduates are often substantially unprepared for the rigorous, unrelenting and complex work conducted in the sector; but also disappointing—the preference for Trade precludes students’ experience of Educational Publishing’s own romance. I urge universities to re-evaluate their views regarding Educational Publishing, and to embrace its complexities and rigour in both teaching and research, so that all publishing sectors are promoted equally, not preference one to the detriment of others.

What are most proud of in your career so far?

I am so proud of the books that I have contributed to making. I am proud that I contribute to the education of students. I am proud of the person I have become as a consequence of my editorial experience over the last twenty-four years. Editing is humbling work—it requires constant learning from others and one’s mistakes, and continually respecting the voices of authors and ensuring that editing best represents these voices.

And what are you hopeful for or excited about?

I am excited about continuing not only to edit educational textbooks, but also to impart my passion and knowledge to university students and research my craft. There is so much more research to do.

What would you say to people interested in getting into this field?

Take note of the beauty that Educational Publishing represents and embrace it as a potential future in the industry. The work of an educational editor is highly administrative, meticulous and unrelenting, but it is also immensely rewarding.