My Job in 5: Dr. Helen Saunders
Describe your role.
On a day-to-day basis, I run an academic journal, the Open Library of Humanities. OLH is an open access scholarly publisher, meaning that we publish articles that are openly available and not hidden behind a paywall or institutional log-in. This is quite a new way of publishing within the academic humanities, which makes my role very exciting! Day to day as a managing editor, I sort submissions, arrange peer review, copyedit pieces and oversee the production process.
What do you like best about your role?
I really enjoy working with an article all the way from initial submission to eventual publication: my relationship with authors is briefer than in book publishing, but I work much more closely with their manuscripts, which I enjoy. Having completed a PhD prior to this role, I enjoy using my writing and close editing skills to help authors shape their work. OLH has a really innovative funding model, set up by Martin Eve, so we don’t charge authors to publish with us (as some academic publishers do) and we don’t charge readers for the articles. Instead, we’re funded by an international library consortium. Thinking about new ways to make the economics of publishing work - which is an important conversation for any part of the industry to be having - is an aspect of my role I find fascinating.
Which new projects or titles are you working on at the moment?
Like everyone who works in publishing, I always have many, many projects on at once! In particular, we have some special collections of articles coming up which I’m excited about, which focus on topics including Indian literature and culture, social media and right wing discourses, and working-class experimental art. We’re a very diverse publisher, which really keeps me on my toes.
What skills do you need for your role?
Time management skills are so important. In my role as managing editor, I not only have to manage my own time, but other people’s too. Being able to meet deadlines is essential. Understanding authors is a huge part of my role too, so interpersonal skills are crucial: I like to give authors extensive feedback on the strengths of their work and give practical tips for how to improve it. Recognising that non-fiction writing is still extremely creative and, at times, emotionally invested, is a really vital part of this.
What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?
Read, read, read! But remember that publishing is more than just books: keep up with industry news, journals and events, and read the reviews and supplements. It’s worth remembering that the role of a publisher is changing rapidly and that looking at what other industries are doing might well give you some new ideas for how ours should function, too. Finally, be passionate!