Antonia Seymour, VP and Content Acquisition/Publishing Director at John Wiley & Sons
What does your role as a Content Acquisition/Publishing Director entail? What do you like most about it?
In my role I’m responsible for the performance of the content acquisition team as measured against our strategic objectives. I direct and coordinate global content acquisition ensuring that the required volume of appropriate content in the appropriate form is delivered on time. Currently the content acquired is predominantly published as books – from undergraduate textbooks through reference to professional handbooks and manuals – in both print and electronic form. Increasingly though we are acquiring content that can be used in new digital solutions and services that better serve an end user’s evolving needs. I also have shared responsibility for the creation and delivery of Wiley’s Professional Practice and Learning Division’s Leadership Team strategy and objectives, including development of new business models.
What I enjoy most about my job is leading a team of highly talented colleagues who have a wide and deep knowledge of Wiley’s markets. Content Acquisition (Editorial) colleagues have always been expert in understanding user information needs and how to solve for them. Now more than ever our expertise is needed to develop content-enabled digital products that continue to delight users and customers. Our network of authors are also our users and are our customers, and the insights we gain from interacting daily with our authors, editors and reviewers means we’re able to bring a uniquely valuable perspective to product development.
How did you end up here? What’s your background?
I was always an all rounder at school and found it difficult to choose between sciences and arts. I did Biology, Chemistry, English and Art A Levels before reading Biological Anthropology at Cambridge. I vividly remember the day I visited the university career centre and hit on the idea of a career in scientific publishing. What better way to combine my love of books with science. After I graduated I decided to go to West Herts College in Watford and do a 1 year diploma in Publishing. Getting into publishing continues to be competitive and doing a postgraduate diploma showed my commitment to the profession. Sure enough I landed a great first job at Harcourt Brace (now part of Elsevier) working as a Journal Production Editor, implementing and overseeing all stages of production from receipt of manuscript through to publication on eight high-impact-factor journals. After 18 months there I moved on to a Development Editor position at Churchill Livingstone (now part of Elsevier) working closely with two medical commissioning editors to develop a diverse range of books and CD-ROMs. From there I joined Blackwell Publishing as a Commissioning Editor acquiring books in veterinary medicine and health sciences. After that I progressed through various combined book and journal editorial roles with rapidly increasing budget, programme and strategic responsibility. One of the most transformative periods for me was the time I spent running Blackwell Publishing’s Ames, Iowa office in the USA. There I had to rebuild several teams from scratch after colleagues left with the acquisition of Iowa State University Press. Without any regional publishing industry to hire from, I had to recruit local graduates and train them up in the art of publishing. This required intense coaching and mentoring on my part and it’s one of the most rewarding things today, to see several of those talented colleagues now holding senior positions within Wiley.
Other than a recent 9 month stint working in a completely different industry (a whole other story!), I’ve spent my entire career working in scientific, technical and medical publishing and it’s suited me perfectly.
Would you recommend new professionals be driven by a single career goal or take opportunities as they come, even if they lead you away from your dream career?
That’s a tricky question – times have changed a lot. The traditional publishing career steps of eg, Editorial Assistant through to Publishing Director are not so well-trodden now, and roles and responsibilities are changing as fast as publishing is changing. Roles are blurring and becoming more cross-functional. Plus there are many new roles spawned by the shift to electronic with cross-pollination from other industries now commonplace. New professionals bring new perspectives and good business leaders will appreciate fresh thinking - particularly at a time when the industry is in transformation. Opportunities will arise for those who demonstrate a strong understanding of user needs and have a firm grasp of information technology and data analysis. So my advice for new professionals is to remain flexible and open minded when it comes to career progression. Show that you’re willing to learn and you’re hungry for it and you’ll go far.
Which 3 words would you use to qualify Publishing in 2014?
Striving, data-rich, customer-focused.