Major college textbook publishers like Pearson Higher Education are the ones that hire the vast majority of freelance writers to write supplements and other curriculum components.
Pearson Higher Education/Prentice Hall
Now it turns out that Prentice Hall, an imprint of Pearson that you are likely familiar with, has given me a lot of work since the mid-1990s. I have had very positive experiences with Prentice Hall and I strongly recommend you seek work with them. I’ve worked in several disciplines, creating test banks, instructor’s manuals, study guides, and PowerPoint materials for textbooks covering American government, American history, world history, geology, oceanography, meteorology, introductory earth science, and geography. I’ve also done some work for Benjamin Cummings, another Pearson imprint.
Evaluating College Textbook Publisher Financial Health
On to today’s focus: evaluating the economic health of textbook publishers, specifically Pearson. Why is this important? Well, if a publisher is losing lots of money, it may decide to cut costs, including the pay of supplements authors. This may not always be the case; I didn’t see any decline in my pay rates over the last year, or during the economic downturn at the beginning of the 2000s. (As a matter of fact, I did very well around 2001-2002, a time of recession.)
It’s always good to understand a bit about the companies you write supplements for, although it’s not necessary. It may gain you a bit of favor in a conversation with an editor if she can tell you know the basics of the company’s business model and some important recent developments.
Getting College Textbook Publisher Financial News
So how do you get news about a company?
First, you can enter the company name or the name of a specific imprint into the news portion of a search engine. This is the best way when dealing with a private company, one that does not issue stock, like Cengage Learning.
Second, you can go to financial websites. This is my preferred method and it will give you a lot of information. I primarily use Yahoo Finance and Google Finance. Note that this will only work with a public company, one that does issue stock. To find info on a company you need to first know its stock symbol. Find this by entering the company name into the ticker symbol search window. For Pearson it’s PSO.
When you enter PSO into Yahoo Finance, you’ll see a bunch of financial information on top and recent news headlines below, along with links to get even more information about the company.
Let’s look at the finance part first. The most important thing to note is the EPS, or earnings per share. We want this to be a positive number because it means the company is running a profit.
We can also look at how the stock price has fared over the last year, but this can be greatly skewed by many factors, including the overall rise and fall of the stock market, so don’t put too much weight on this.
Clicking on “Key Statistics” allows us to see quarterly revenue growth and quarterly earnings growth. Positive numbers are good, negative numbers are bad. If you poke further you can find out long-term trends about revenue and profits. Pearson has been losing money lately, like other college textbook publishers.
An important note regarding large publishers like Pearson, and also McGraw-Hill, another college textbook publisher. They are involved in many businesses. They publish trade paperbacks and hardbacks, and they also print newspapers and magazines and do other things related to publishing and education. So you can’t look at the overall financial trend of Pearson and draw conclusions about how well the college textbook division is doing.
To do that, you want to look at the quarterly and annual reports. You can find those on Investor page of the main Pearson website. Often you can read through and find details on the textbook division.
Now let’s examine the other important part of the Yahoo Finance page for Pearson: news headlines. There are two basic types of news: press releases from Pearson itself, and news stories and analysis put out by independent media.
The press releases give you information on recent products and achievements; you’ll have to filter out the information that’s relevant to college textbook publishing and also the disciplines you want to write for.
The independent media reports can cover many things. Some of the stories may analyze the overall health of the company and can be especially useful for you.
Now go look at the Pearson Education higher education site, the one that publishes all those college textbooks you want to create supplements for.