Let's talk! Non-academic-careers #5
:: Non-academic careers ::
Practitioners in talk #Part 5
Many roads lead out of the BGHS. But where do paths lead to after the doctorate? In the winter semester we talk to historians and sociologists who have taken up their profession outside the university. Karin Werner talked to us about her work as a publisher at Transcript Verlag.
Karin Werner at her working place.
Karin, if you remember the beginnings of Transcript: How did the idea of founding a publishing house come about?
Karin Werner: Well, the idea was in the air for a long time. And Transcript was not the first company we founded. We met in 1984 in the university's computer centre: Roswitha Gost, Oliver Schönebäumer and I. Roswitha and I transcribed our interviews there at that time - they didn't have PCs back then. Oliver studied mathematics. In the computer centre, space was scarce and he always wanted to have our seats. That's how we got to know each other. We all had to finance our studies ourselves, and Oliver was in the process of founding a limited company together with a fellow student. I needed money and asked if I could join in. That's how it started, that we did book typesetting in this company. So, we had contact with scientists who were publishing and we set them the books.
Between 1990 and 1999 I was at the university for another ten years, first with a doctoral scholarship, later with a habilitation scholarship. The GmbH and a second company, which we had founded in the meantime, continued to operate. As a sideline I also produced music. In 1999, I had a decision: either to aim for a professorship or to do freelance work more intensively. I decided to put all my eggs in the Transcript basket with Roswitha and Oliver. And to professionalize the publishing house, which we had founded in 1997 as our third company and a further source of income. Well, we never had much money - it was enough for us - but we had accumulated a lot of know-how. Even though not everything was crowned with success.
This is the long history of a few youngsters, 24 years old, who founded their first GmbH. Quite naive. But they also learn: What does it mean to serve customers? You have to develop products. You have to set up an accounting department. You have to get to know a company as a financial construct. With all tax and legal aspects. That was possible - or necessary - from 1984 onwards. In 2000, we stopped cooking in a lot of pots and made a cut: we acquired representatives and built a professional sales structure; we won our first interns and our first saleswoman. And then we quickly reached 50 or 100 new publications a year. That went relatively quickly.
The website of Transcript
What do the Transcript Verlag of 20 years ago and the Transcript Verlag of today have in common?
Karin Werner: Transcript is still one of the very few publishing houses that is managed by editors. At larger publishing houses today, business economists or business people are at the top, and the editors are more in the position of product managers. This means: We also accept a moderate calculation if we want a title at all costs and if we think that the title is good for our programme and for scientific reception ecology. This is an approach to publishing that used to be more common and has become very rare. I would estimate that 75 percent of the titles result from requests to us. But we also acquire titles. That means we stimulate science and try to convince scientists to write this or that book. This active development of the program is, I think, our beating heart. I don't believe that you only acquire bestsellers all the time. But we won't stop there. Well, we're fine, but we're modest.
What tips do you have for colleagues from sociology or history who are interested in a career in publishing?
Karin Werner: If you want to work in an editorial office or a program department, you should have the ability to write, edit and read texts. You should not be afraid of software. You should be fluent in spoken and written German and English. But what I think is generally important for a professional career is that you know yourself and your own working methods well. For example, people who know: I am a slower but also a thorough type - these are the ideal proofreaders. But to be a good program person, for example, you need the ability to develop ideas from an existing set of books. Or: I can organize teams well and I enjoy doing that. As I remember, these skills were never an issue in the graduate college I was in. And I would like to see this reflection - these things suit me, those don't - in the preparation of a professional career also being discussed more at university.
Karin, thanks a lot for your time!
The talk was conducted by Ulf Ortmann.
For a complete version of the interview (german) click here:
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