Tyler Carey has worked in publishing and technology for over 20 years, with a background including work at Wolters-Kluwer and Harris Connect. Tyler joined Westchester Publishing Services in 2014, and in 2017, he was promoted to Chief Revenue Officer, overseeing the company’s sales, marketing, and business development efforts as well as the growing staff supporting those initiatives.
Welcome Tyler and thanks for joining us!
What services do Westchester provide?
Westchester Publishing Services is a US employee-owned company, headquartered in Danbury, Connecticut, US. We have an office in the UK, in Stratford-upon-Avon, offices in India and an additional satellite office in the US. Our services include editing and typesetting books and journals, content development, illustration and consulting in the educational publishing space as well as for educational technology providers, with many clients requiring print and digital formats of content. Our clients range from small, children’s book publishers to large trade houses and academic publishers.
Why might publishers come to you for your services rather than using an in-house service?
For a lot of our clients they already have some in-house services but there are peaks in their calendar where it’s hard to provide the resources between those book seasons. In these cases, we act as additional capacity for typesetting, proofreading and copy-editing. We have a lot of clients who compare the year-round cost of maintaining an in-house team with the advantages of using a company like us, where we have staff in the US, Europe and India who are very skilled and efficient at typesetting. Our operation has a very minimal staff turnover and an exceptional track record with quality so from small publishers to large companies, they rely on our operation a great deal.
You mention that you have staff across the world. Is it mainly US publishers that use your services and are you trying to expand into other countries?
We work with about 300 publishers currently; about 240 of those are in the US and the other 60 plus are in the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, other parts of Europe, and Australia and New Zealand. In the US we are expanding in the educational space, so it’s more of a growth across expanding verticals. We’ve been moving into that market very successfully in the last 4 years - we started off with a handful of clients and now we have dozens of clients in that space. Globally we have expanded our operation in the UK and we’ve added sales capacity to grow our educational and trade work in the European and Asian markets.
Why are you looking to grow so significantly in the educational sector?
Our CEO ran an educational publisher for years and when we both joined Westchester 7 years ago - to transform the company into an employee-owned company - part of the mandate that we had was to ensure revenue continued to grow, because that's how we essentially fuel the ESOP pension or compensation plan that Westchester employees have. He saw a great opportunity for Westchester, which previously had not done much educational content before, and he was very familiar with managing companies in that space. That led us to look at the needs that a lot of educational publishers have, from writing children’s books to textbooks, to illustrating them and typesetting them.
It’s a market that relies much more on freelance and outsourced capabilities in those areas than the trade space which tries to keep as much in-house as possible and historically focused production vendor outsourcing to just typesetting or digital conversion. Within education it’s an attractive area for us - there aren’t as many vendors in this space and it’s something that requires a great level of expertise, and we’re very fortunate to have attracted a lot of staff with that knowledge.
How do you help the workflow of your clients?
What we’ve found over the past year and a half - with the impacts of the pandemic and remote working - is that a lot of publishers are taking this opportunity to look at how they are handling other tasks outside of the pieces they typically outsource. For example, we have some trade publishers who used to manage lots of different freelancers who did cover design for them but wanted to use a company like us, where we can do all the covers using our own designers and freelancers ourselves. Other publishers are looking at the editorial functions that they have in-house, at the peaks in the calendar and whether they have copy-editors who are leaving or freelancers who are no longer available, and ask: is there a vendor based solution? So, we’ve been working on workflow audits with our clients to see why they might have gaps in their workflow and what tasks we can take on.
How do you use technology to help your clients with remote working?
A lot of the technology that we have put into place in reaction to natural disasters in the US and India over the past decade were things that made us very well poised to support the remote work environment we now find ourselves in. Due to winter storms in the US that knocked out power for almost two weeks in our US headquarters several years ago, and a particular summer with very bad storms in India, we have always tried to be as cloud-based as possible in the last decade.
It’s not something that a lot of publishers have done as successfully and some publishers didn’t necessarily have the experience of having multiple groups of distributed workers, like we do, and supporting projects that are centralized. So when the pandemic hit and people started working from home more, we opened up a lot of the training materials that we had already been using for employees and put some of those videos on YouTube. This showed everything from: how to make PDF mockups for copyediting and page proofs, which might have normally been on paper; how to use Dropbox and limit access. We sent a lot of information to our clients and shared our knowledge with them, particularly though our YouTube channel, and also picked up a lot of great ideas from them as well.
How did you remain connected to the publishing community without in-person events and meetings?
Gone are the days of just getting a train into London or New York and meeting with clients over lunch or dinner! So we had to find new and better ways to engage with our clients. We’d already been using Zoom for remote meetings with our clients but amped up our use of that. We started hosting a lot more informational webinars either on our own or in partnership with other organisations, such as inviting speakers from BISG, BMI, and other groups (also on our YouTube channel). This became a great way for us to engage with the market and to get a few thought-leaders together to talk about supply-chain issues and navigating distributed work in general.
What about with your colleagues - how did you navigate working remotely with them?
We had certain areas which were already very distributed, such as our educational group, so that group was able to share a lot with our Danbury HQ and teams in India about different approaches they were using to remain in touch with their team - such as a virtual happy hour or virtual get-together with staff. We also continue to look at a lot of our clients and organizations that we participate with, like The Stationers’ Company, BISG, Book Industry Guild of New York, and see how they were engaging with their membership and try to do similar things with our staff.
Will you carry on some of these initiatives in the next few years?
We still don’t have any of our physical offices open right now so we’re really evaluating how much of an office experience there will be, what will be required of people and the best ways to support that. Our current plan is to reopen with a hybrid (few days in, few days out) model in January, but that’s - like everything right now - to be determined based on where things are as we track the state of the pandemic. Looking back in hindsight now, we’ve been very effective and hitting all of our key performance indicators in terms of productivity. Our staff have been very receptive to the ways we’ve supported distance working and our clients have been very receptive to our products and service.
How did your podcast, Westchester Words, come about and what’s featured on there?
We were looking at new marketing channels about 18 months ago and how to engage with our existing customers and potential new customers. We found that there was a need for existing accounts to hear from the people that worked on their products - the management and department heads. Clients wanted to share the challenges that they were going through and we wanted to share where we were headed with our products. A lot of trends in the discussion were consistent from chat to chat with our clients, such as Print on Demand and its impact on getting books to consumers, so we thought a lot of these topics could be recorded on a podcast instead.
We also started featuring outside people on the podcast, to talk about their businesses, such as Cathy Felgar from Princeton University Press who joined us to talk about Princeton’s activities around equity and inclusion. We brought in guests from the Publisher’s Weekly podcast and now have people contacting us on LinkedIn about when the next episode is coming out! Our new episodes will be streaming soon, and Season 1 is available through all major streaming platforms along with our website. Within our niche in the industry, it seems some of our friends are curious to hear what we have to share about current trends and what we’re working on which is great to hear.
You mentioned Print on Demand as a hot topic that keeps coming up with your clients, what other challenges are publishers facing and how do you help them?
There are a few key topics - supply chain is still the biggest issue at the moment and we host our webinars with thought-leaders and attendees who can ask questions. People tend to ask questions like: how am I going to get my book printed? Is there enough paper? How am I going to get it shipped? What are the distribution channels looking like right now? We advise clients but we also have relationships with companies like Ingram where we can refer clients to as well.
Other topics coming up, other than the supply chain, include a continued evaluation of distributed workflow and questioning what workflow looks like these days, with roles changing and staffing challenges. If someone leaves a company and they were the only person who could do certain tasks, people ask if we have someone on our team who could help them with that.
The third topic which has become much bigger in the last year and a half, partially driven by the activities of Amazon, is accessibility within digital content. We had always been producing equally accessible products using DAISY and other tools that test epubs to make sure they adhere to these standards, and we always had the capability to write alt text and insert that into publications. However, due to the expanded interests in that space we started working with Benetech and are now Benetech GCA-certified to provide accessible epubs using their certified standards.
That all came from Amazon saying they required certain standards of epubs for Kindles so Amazon has really helped drive a lot of the client requirements there. Until then, inserting alt text for images to make standards accessible for media consumption devices was considered solely a ‘nice-to-have’ by some publishers. But by Amazon forcing the issue, folks have seen not just a bureaucratic requirement but also how important it is to make sure your content is as usable for as many people as possible, and it’s helped shine a light on ability and access to content.
Where do you see Westchester heading in the future? You've already mentioned about expanding in the educational market, are there other areas you’re looking to grow in?
What we’ve seen in the past year and a half has encouraged us to take our success and reinvest it back into the company. We are continuing to expand our services so that the things that we passively were alerted to by our clients - such as stand-alone copyediting services for books that they were going to typeset in house; the need for permissions management; adding services in the educational business; evaluating inclusivity and equity in content - are now all things that we have started doing. It’s made us do very in depth and strategic planning for the market needs and what we can do to provide affordable, quality services there.
One area within the educational space that we’re growing in is CRE - Culturally Responsive Education. We have dozens of trained staff and freelance readers who can take content that educational publishers or children's publishers have created and read through that content to see if there’s anything problematic there. Sometimes a publisher releases a new edition of a book or they receive complaints from parents, who are now more directly involved with teaching materials because of distance learning during Covid, and they find that the content is not only outdated but also problematic. We really see the need to make sure every kid sitting in a classroom or learning at home feels they have content that they can see themselves in and also that they don’t feel marginalized while learning.
I’d love to know a bit more about your role at Westchester and your journey into publishing.
Like many of the team at Westchester, I worked on the publisher’s side of the desk before coming to Westchester which I think is part of why we work so well with publishers - we’ve felt their pain before on a lot of things that can happen during a book production cycle.
When I was going through college in the 90s and the internet was getting bigger, I worked in web development and used that to help pay the bills in the earlier days of the consumer web. Out of that, I learnt basic tagging and book production skills so I joined Wolters Kluwer where they were in the process of creating digital versions for a lot of their content. I worked in a liaison role between sales and production, and the limited knowledge I had of book production helped me be effective in helping our accounts by working with production on titles that were being updated and merged into the Wolters Kluwer catalogue.
From there I ended up at a custom publisher for many years called Harris Connect, and we worked with non-profits, universities and charities to create content for them. At its peak, it was publishing about 800 books a year which ranged from alumni directories to coffee table books, tribute books, and photo picture books for capital campaigns. It was a really interesting company to work with because every project was very different. I was on the sales team but as part of this I worked very closely with the publishing and technology teams on the projects my team brought in.
After that, I did a bit of consulting and then joined Westchester 7 years ago, when we became an employee-owned company. It was a great time to join as the management team was expanding and we’ve more than doubled the size of the company in the last 7 years in terms of revenue, expanded our staff, and the number of publications went from about 3,000 a year to 10,000. There is a lot more emphasis on digital and accessible content so it’s a great opportunity to work with a company that’s employee-owned and everyone has a reason to benefit from it.
Do you see yourself in this role for a while?
Absolutely - what’s appealing to the staff at Westchester, and a big reason that our retention level is so high, is the fact that we’re employee-owned so we have an interest in making it a success. We also want to make it an environment where everyone looks forward to coming to work every day. For example, our offshore operation has not opened its office for 18 months, unlike other companies that were encouraging folks to come back before they were comfortable, because we were conscious of the fact that a lot of our staff weren't comfortable yet and we want to be empathetic to their needs and their family’s needs. I’m really proud of what we’re doing to create stellar publications and create an environment that’s supportive of our staff, especially during the pandemic.
Finally, I take it you’re a reader yourself so what do you like reading?
It’s a pretty varied list. I was very nerdy as a high school kid and I don’t think I really grew out of that! There's a lot of bad pulp fantasy novels that I love to read, and a lot of adult nonfiction - I recently read a book by Grayson Perry on gender identity which was really good. What I’ve actually really benefited from is having kids of different ages and different interests influence my reading. My son is very technical so together we’ll read books about how to assemble circuits, for example, and one of my daughters is a big reader and brings back classic novels from school that I’ve never read. I’ve benefited a lot from my kids and their educational pursuits to make me a better person beyond the bad fantasy and pulp novels that crowd my bookshelf and Kindle.
Great to chat to you Tyler, thank you so much for joining!