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The Research

What do we know about salary transparency?

In January 2018, I received an email from Katherine Stephen, a PGDip Career Guidance and Development student and a publisher at Abandoned Bookshop. Katherine was working on a Labour Market Studies module in which she would be presenting a piece of work she would eventually title 'Barriers to Early Careers: Salary Transparency and Geographical Factors in the Publishing Industry'. Based on her research, we can present the following statistics. They are a starting point only, and not a full academic study in themselves, but we hope they can provide some useful context to conversations around the importance of book job transparency, and some of the wider issues concerning diversity in the publishing workforce. 



Based on a 40-hour week:

  • Minimum legal wage for age 21-24 (typical graduate age) is a yearly salary of £14,664.

  • Real Living Wage (calculated based on real costs by Resolution Foundation – not the government’s so-called National Living Wage, which is legal minimum for age 25+) is a yearly salary of £18,200.

  • London Living Wage (again based on real costs) works out as £21,216.

  • This discrepancy of almost £7,000 in London – an entire third of the total – means that entry level salaries are in no way easy to predict.


Can candidates afford to apply?

  • Jobs take time and effort to apply for. Applicants are always told to tailor their CVs and cover letters to the specific job and company – great advice, but if you don’t know until after interview stage that the salary can’t support your life, this is a complete waste of time. 

  • 30% of applicants would not apply if the ad was unclear about salary (

  • Applications are up to 68% higher if the job advert includes a salary (100% IT Recruitment)


Can employers afford to avoid this?

  • ‘The right candidates, at the right level’ only happens if candidates know what they’re applying for.

  • Publishing is geared towards the privileged. Those who have generous family, already live in London, know someone in the department, have no children or costly caring commitments. This is exacerbated by assuming the applicant doesn’t need to know what they’ll be paid. Without diversity in your workforce, you limit your output, your customer base, and your reputation.

  • Transparency = equality = morale. Not knowing what your peers earn builds resentment and uncertainty.


Where are the jobs?

  • 29% of all publishing jobs are in London, with a further 20% in the South East.

  • These two areas are far more expensive than average to live in (ONS, 2017). Yet the legal minimum wage is no different.

  • In 2016, 1790 out of 2255 publishers in the UK had four or fewer employees. This means the pool of available jobs at any one time is small, and geographically restricted, which directly impacts who can apply.

  • Only 15 companies have 250 or more employees (thus more regularly available jobs). These are all based in London and the South East, with HarperCollins also having a Glasgow office.


What’s the average salary?

  • Based on employees self-reporting – an inherently flawed approach, but the best we have, unless companies become more transparent – the average starting salary for the publishing industry is £20,470 (BookCareers, 2017).

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