I am hip deep in the final prep for Jaguar Bound, working furiously to fix a couple of minor issues that came up in the conversion process. Because of that, I frankly forgot this was Tuesday. That meant I started scrambling this morning before my first cup of coffee finished brewing to find a topic. In my search, I stumbled across an article over on The Bookseller that caught my eye. Then I looked deeper and realized they were following the same plan so much of the media does.
The article in question deals with the conclusion that much of the publishing industry is facing burnout. The magazine based this on a poll it conducted. So far, so good, right?
You see, the poll was announced by The Bookseller on May 5th. The poll closed at 11:59 pm May 6th. Basically, it lasted less than 48 hours. In the announcement, there is no information about other means word of the poll might have been spread or how the questions were selected. That’s problem number one. Problem number two is it limits–severely–the number of those in the industry who will see the announcement, much less have time to answer it. Problem number three, and the one that really resonates with me, is the poll itself is no longer available to check to see what questions were asked, how the questions were framed or even if there was anything that limited access to the poll to those who actually worked in the publishing industry.
And that is just scratching the surface of my concerns with the poll.
But let’s have a look at some of the so-called data it produced. Data that was correlated an reported two days after the poll closed.
According to the report, “more than” 230 people responded to the poll. Of those, 87% were listed as “publishing staffers”. According to The Bookseller, “89% of staffers responding to the survey had experienced stress during the course of their work over the last year, while 69% reported burnout.”
Okay, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem all that out of line. How many employees don’t feel stress at some point during a work day, much less during a year of work? This is the problem with reporting poll results without giving the actual poll question and possible answers at the same time. Let’s see what else this so-called poll had to say.
They complained about having to work in an “always on” atmosphere, of having to work more hours than they were contracted for, and one even complained because they only got to take five days of “holidays” because there was no one to cover for them and they had to make up the time by working weekends.
Pardon me while I boo-hoo–not. Most workers do not have some assistant to cover for them while they take time off. They have to work to either get ahead of the game or know they have to make up for it when they get back. As for the “always on” atmosphere, welcome to the real world, boys and girls. Try working in the service industry for a bit. Then you will know what it means to be “on” all the time. When most of your money comes from tips, you don’t get to be “off”.
I don’t mean to make light of some problems that do exist in the industry. But these aren’t issues unique to publishing. More than that, knowing how many of my friends and family lost their jobs during the pandemic, I get a bit bitchy when I see others complaining because they have a job. Besides that, the additional hours aren’t all that unusual for the industry. I know any number of editors, assistants, etc., who have always put in the extra time because that is how they would get ahead.
But here’s the thing. The data is not a good indicator of what is happening in the industry as a whole. There is no scientific measure of how respondents were chosen. There is no way unless you grabbed a screen shot of the questions before they were taken off-line to see if there was any bias written into the questions and answers. The pool of respondents is too small. But the conclusions are being toted as being indicative of the industry a a whole.
Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? We see this sort of thing all the time in the MSM when it comes to political or social issues. (And this is not an invitation to go into those polls and their results.)
And, frankly, considering I haven’t had more than two days off at a time in at least four years makes me cringe when someone complains about getting what is probably a paid vacation–something I haven’t had in years. I don’t write and publish, I don’t get paid.
So, what are your thoughts about the poll and its results?
Now for a bit of housekeeping and promo.
In the past week, I was called out by a reader for enforcing the rules of the blog. Here’s the thing. We have very few rules here. The main one is that we aren’t a political blog and, unless the OP opens the conversation up to politics, they don’t belong here. The second is that comments need to be related to the post or be a direct response to another comment. We have enough open floors where you can toss out comments and unrelated observations or you can email any of us with your thoughts. Along this line, one sure way to get a warning and possible ban is if you continue to use the comment section of the blog to flog your favorite topic, whether it is anti-Amazon or anything else, when that is not related to the day’s post. Trying to hijack the post and the comment thread will not be looked upon with anything but the hairy eyeball. If we warn you that you are going off the rails, please listen. We don’t block someone lightly and we don’t like having to put a reader into moderation.
Finally, the promo bit. I have a couple of new-ish books out and another coming out soon.
Jaguar Bound — coming May 17th