So You Want a Masters in Publishing

The last few weeks have been really busy. I’ve taken on a lot of volunteer work since the beginning of this year, including two concurrent anthology projects for Fiction Writers Group, app design and article layouts for Kyoto Journal, and slush reading for the semi-pro Fantasy Scroll Mag. They have all been wonderful and worthwhile experiences. The anthologies, which require a lot of organization since I’m an admin, have taken up the bulk of my time, with most of my mornings and spare moments in the evenings being devoted to beta reading or editing for one, and submission queueing and notification for the other. My work with Kyoto Journal has been extremely rewarding, giving me a behind-the-scenes look at an established quarterly magazine and hands-on experience building a Newsstand app with interactive elements. They’ve even honored me with a couple opportunities for page layouts.

In both of those situations, I took on a leadership role. In the case of Kyoto Journal, I was tasked with the digital development of the magazine, but had to learn techniques and software from scratch. For Fiction Writers, I learned InDesign and workflow efficiency. Over the last year, the focus of so much of my interest has been on the publishing side of novels. What is the slush pile? How does one edit a completed piece, and what are the differences in the types of edits that can be made? How is layout decided? Illustrators hired? What about distribution, pricing, and marketing?

All of these thoughts, and the sheer amount of time I have devoted to learning about it, led me to look into a Masters program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. Specifically, their MPub (Masters in Publishing) program.

As many of you now know, we are moving to Vancouver next year and leaving Japan. Vancouver is NJ’s hometown, and Simon Fraser (serendipitously) is also her university. I found out about SFU’s MPub course six years ago when I made the then-innocuous Google search for publishing programs. SFU’s was ranked second in the world, with Oxford naturally holding the top spot. SFU has alumni working in nearly every major publishing house, but the most important element for me is the 16-week internship portion of the program. I can choose which publishing house I want to try to get placement in! Imagining interning at Tor, Ace, Daw, or Penguin quite literally blows my mind.

Applications for the program are due on February 1st next year, which means that I have about ten months to prepare my application and portfolio. I met with the program director last December, so am feeling pretty confident, but I’m not one to take things for granted. So, what will I be doing for the next few months? Beefing up my resumé and knocking out the prerequisite reading!

If you have an interest in publishing, I share with you the following bibliography of books and online courses I’ll be taking.

The Books

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Some of these books I have read before, but I’ll be reading again, just to freshen my memory. (Bold for recommended reads!)

  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
  • Plug Your Book: Online Book Marketing for Authors by Steve Weber
  • This Business of Books: A Complete Overview of the Industry from Concept to Sales by Claudia Suzanne
  • Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers by Thomas Woll
  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
  • Book Publishing I by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing (SFU)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style (Yes, I’ll be reading it!)
  • Marketer’s Toolkit by Harvard School of Business (a bit outdated; prereq)
  • Editing Canadian English by the Editors Association of Canada (prereq)
  • Essentials of Accounting by Robert N. Anthony (prereq)
  • The Yahoo! Style Guide (a recent gift, and yes! I’m reading it!)

The Courses

All of the following courses are on Coursera, and offer verified certification on completion (for a fee). If you don’t need the certificate, they are free! Dates provided for anyone who might want to take the course with me. 😉

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There’s also a few classes on Skillshare that I have my eye on, if time permits:

As I was sharing all of those links, thinking of all the hours each course and book will require, I started wondering if maybe I was getting a bit over-zealous. But, then again, this is my habit and my history. When I want to learn something, when I want something, I try to give it everything I’ve got, and then a little more.

Of course, this amount of work is going to mean that this year I have to put aside some other pursuits, like learning digital illustration, and writing more. I will still try to get some short stories out this year (I have one due on Out of Print in two weeks!), but between all of this, and prepping for a transcontinental move, my time is booked!

I won’t forget to go out and see the flowers, though. 🙂

45 thoughts on “So You Want a Masters in Publishing

    1. Hahaha! Sorry. They actually -do- look interesting to me (all except accounting… but I’m trying to change my outlook 😛 ) I hope I can take them all before February!

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  1. Thanks so much for all these link. Some look so awesome… uhm 🙂

    I’m not completely unaware of the process of publishing, since I’ve been working for ten years in a bokkshop owned by a publisher here in Verona. You can’t imagine how much you learn just by proximity! But having new material to go through is always good. You never stop learning.

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    1. Oh, I definitely can imagine!! I had to learn to be a teacher on the fly. The brain can absorb astounding things when compelled. XD

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  2. Wow, you are very organised and determined, I’m impressed. Good luck with all that (well I know hard work makes its own luck) and sending you both lots of supportive thoughts for the move preparations.

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    1. Thanks so much, Anabel. It’s going to be a big change, but I know we’ll make the best of any situation. 🙂 I’ve got to get IN to the university first, though!

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    1. That’s very sweet of you to say, Denise! My parents are proud (I think!)… My father’s hoping I end up in classy NYC some day! (I’m kinda hoping the same!!)

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    1. Yes, I’m trying to tackle it as a fun challenge. Besides, I think my natural state is being a busy bee. 😉

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  3. Thanks for sharing! That cover design class on Skillshare looks interesting. I have been doing plenty of Coursera courses as well — though scientific ones — and was thinking whether to enroll into science fiction & fantasy one too. 🙂

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      1. Skillshare has 14-day trial period. I just need to choose those 14 days and go on a full marathon about cover design. I’m more interested in the videos than in class projects. My main project is my new cover-to-be for the book I have yet to finish. I think I’ll start somewhere next week with these two: Introduction to Book Cover Design: Making Stories Visual and Read, Think, Design: Creating Stunning Book Covers.

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        1. Cool! I’ll try to get on board with those next week. 😀 I did the Modern Marketing with Seth Godin (great!) and SEO class this week. 🙂 I’m not doing the class projects either (though I might for Coursera for the CV credit). On Skillshare I’m just watching the movies and taking notes for what is relevant for me. 🙂

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          1. I ended up enrolling in five courses on Skillshare: Introduction to Photoshop: Digital Painting and Illustration (because why not), Fundamentals of Manga: Digital Illustration (again, why not), Book Marketing: Craft a Killer Plan! Learn 21 Fun, Effective Ways to Promote Your Book or eBook (industry necessity) and the aforementioned cover creation classes (necessity). I’m pretty literate with Photoshop and Illustrator (i’m on CS4), but maybe i’ll learn new stuff. There was a 0.99 cents offer for the first month after the two weeks of trial, so I have a whole 1 1/2 months to have fun! Yay.

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            1. Those are all on my saved courses list, too! I need to still learn Illustrator (badly!) but I’m on CC, which seems worlds confusing over the editions prior to CS5. Let me know what you think of the courses! 🙂

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  4. My goodness! So much to do! But you seem very excited about it and you will only learn a lot along the way. As long as it makes you happy, there is no reason to not be so busy. Don’t burn yourself out, but as you said, if you remember to sometimes see the flowers, I think you’ll be just fine. =)

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    1. Thanks, Lissa! I am feeling very excited about it! ^_^ I will always feel like a student, I think, so making a curriculum of sorts is keeping me focused and happy and productive — three things I need in my life!

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  5. All before February? Have you figured out a way to divide yourself into four people? I’d think that even if you had half the folks in Kyoto take the courses and read the books for you and then summarize them into Cliff notes, you’d still barely make it under the wire.
    But you are determined and resourceful. Not to mention wonderfully clever, so if anyone can make this a reality, I’m putting my betting dollars on you, Alex.

    I can’t wait to see your publisher’s career soar. It’ll be wonderful to get an inside peek at your process. Go Alex! (NJ? Finished with the couch yet? I get dibs on it for the next napping shift.)

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    1. Hahaha~ no, no division capabilities, but I’ll try my best! I did already read two of those books this week, and finished two of the Skillshare classes, too… so it’s not impossible! Just gotta stay focused! ^_^

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Shelley. As always, it means a lot! NJ has been a very good cheerleader. Every time I start a sentence with “If I get into SFU–” she interrupts me with “GOD! You’re getting IN! Stop pretending you won’t!” XD

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  6. Holy… !! That’s staggering, Alex, but also incredibly exciting. Do you have a plan as to how and when to tackle each course and required reading? And yes, make sure you don’t forget about the flowers – and lots of tea! *lol* But seriously, this sounds like an incredible opportunity, and I wish you the absolute best of luck with reaching your goal. 😀

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    1. My basic goal is to read the book and take the courses that are relevant to each other, first. So, right now, all of the classes and books I am tackling are related to marketing, SEO, etc. Then I’ll move on to Typography and book design (my favorite stuff!) and then editing/copywriting.

      I have drunk so much tea this week. It is unreal. Hahaha.

      Thanks so much for the support, Sara!

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  7. Phew — this is a lot, and yet, I have no doubt you’ll complete most of it, and I love your eagerness to learn and determination. I appreciate knowing about the free online courses. I’m fascinated by the typography one in particular. While this adventure would overwhelm me, I’m happy to live vicariously through your blog posts. Thanks for toting me along on your journey.

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    1. I’ll be making book reviews and class reviews for everything on the list, so I can promise recommendations down the line. 🙂 I’ll also be moving my book design website to WordPress soon, so I may make all of that stuff available over there (don’t want to splinter this blog too much)… Big decisions to make!

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  8. So exciting! My friend’s mom is an editor at Penguin and I’m hoping to go shadow her at some point in the next year and just see what a publishing house is all about.

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    1. Hello, Fawn! Good to see you again! ^_^ Yes, I’m feeling pretty energetic about it. I actually knocked out one of those books and a Skillshare class yesterday. 😉

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  9. You sound exactly like me, Alex, when I am in the throes of enthusiasm about learning something new! Best of luck getting through that list. I’m looking forward to hearing how the journey goes. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Sue! I’m pretty excited. I barreled through a Skillshare class and an entire book yesterday, haha. My review will be posted soon! ^-^

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    1. Thank you JoHanna! I just checked out your blog, too…. Those cookies look amazing! I haven’t had molasses cookies in ages….

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