[Image Description: A bright blue sky, with multiple fluffy and wispy clouds. In the centre of the sky is a wispy grey and white cloud. The sun is hiding behind this cloud and peeking out slightly, giving the illusion of a warm, bright ‘silver’ lining surrounding the cloud.]

We all know how the saying goes: “every cloud has a silver lining.” We’re all living in the the shadow of a particularly dark and gloomy cloud right now — the pandemic. Yet, if we choose to look for them, there are some surprising silver linings to be found. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one for toxic positivity. The past year has been one of the most difficult periods in our history, presenting challenges that none of us could have prepared for, and robbing us all of normality. 

My own Publishing Master’s has been completely online so far, and although there are worse things happening in the world, this has often been a challenge. Online learning has brought difficulties such as digital burnout, limited in-person socialisation, and a perpetual sense of grief for ‘the year that could’ve been’. 

But today, I’m choosing to focus on some of the unexpected positives for myself and other publishing hopefuls during this digital-centric year — and these go beyond the fact that my commute has been dramatically shortened to a 15-second walk from bedroom to livingroom.

At the Society of Young Publishers‘ (SYP) recent conference, the publishing industry’s move to digital was a key topic of discussion. The general consensus among panelists was that going digital has, in many ways, created better accessibility in the publishing world; particularly for those limited by disabilities, geographical location or socio-economic circumstances. 

For example, disabled author Julie Farrell explained that digital events are now much more accessible for disabled individuals, as events can be attended from home, with the addition of closed captions, and the option to watch recordings of live events at a later date. The SYP Conference itself offered all this and more, with speakers also giving visual descriptions of themselves for the visually impaired.

Other panellists commented on the way digital opportunities have eradicated many geographical and economic barriers. Not everyone can afford to move to a publishing hotspot like London for example, but new work-from-home opportunities are increasing access to places like this. More and more job adverts are giving publishers the option to work from home, improving industry accessibility across the UK and beyond.

Digital opportunities have also changed my experience as a Publishing student for the better. I’m currently doing a digital internship with Little Door Books; an award-winning, Children’s indie publisher based in Argyll and Bute. This experience has been incredibly valuable and enjoyable, but pre-pandemic, it would’ve been inaccessible to me due to location.

The positives mentioned above have led publishers to consider what the future of the industry will look like. Going back to ‘normal’ is no longer on the table, for fear of reversing many of the advances we’ve made when it comes to accessibility. So what is the answer? Well, according to panelists at the SYP Conference, the industry’s goal is now a hybrid model; offering both digital and in-person options for industry events and working environments, when it is safe to do so. 

The hope is that this will create a newly accessible industry, retaining the levels of access we’ve reached this year, while allowing many of us to enjoy the in-person experiences we’ve sorely missed. To me, the very discussion of hybridity is a huge achievement, and I’m really excited to see the industry move toward this.

As we pursue this model though, we must be sure not to settle. We still have far to go when it comes to accessibility, inclusivity and diversity in the publishing industry. As many SYP Conference panelists stated, we must continue to hold the industry to account, in order to tear down more barriers of [in]accessibility for marginalised groups.

Yet, I strongly believe we should also celebrate the positives and achievements made so far. Despite the challenges and hardship the industry has faced this year, there is good to be found. You know what they say; every cloud…