September is long gone, but I haven’t had time to document everything that happened in September until now. If anything, that should tell you how busy it’s been! But even a month and a half in, I’m loving this program, and have no regrets in working so hard to pursue it.
PUB 600 (Topics in Publishing Management): Absolutely my favorite course so far, PUB600 delves into management and financial considerations for publishing houses. We’ve had a number of industry guests come in (or Skype in) as well, and they’ve told us about all of those things I went into the program to learn. Marketing and PR (as the trad. presses do it), title P&L (which basically tells you whether you can publish that book you want to or not), and how to position your publishing house to succeed in the market. This course also has two “major” group assignments and presentations, which I actually found to be really enjoyable. We reverse engineered a marketing plan for an existing book on the market, and then had to work with a 40% budget cut to still make the book viable in the marketplace.
One of the nicest things about the coursework is that you can build your third project into something personally beneficial. In my case, I decided to work on a SWOT and Competitor Analysis for a magazine near and dear to my heart. That meant getting in touch with the management team and having real discussions about the future of the publication and where it is heading. I might be getting a letter grade in the course, but the document itself will keep evolving to help this company in a real way (and also help my CV!)
PUB601 (Editorial Theory and Practice): This has been a surprising course for me. I’ve done editing in the past, but have never really felt like I wanted to become an editor. However, this course is making me reconsider! PUB601 is probably the most-discussed class among the cohort, as we are learning the acquisitions process from a real book that is actually being published next year. The book we were given to analyze is in pretty awful shape (would have absolutely been rejected by a trade fiction U.S. publisher). Obviously for the purposes of the class, the author’s name and book title have been redacted, but we’ve had to write “letters” to the publisher and the author describing what we think the book needs to be publish-ready. The vast differences in everyone’s answers have been really enlightening. You really could give your manuscript to ten editors and get ten different prescriptions back. What I’m learning for self-publishers is that you all need to have more confidence in your vision, and drop editors and beta readers who don’t “get” you. For traditional publishing, I’m finding that all the experiences in editing I’ve gained by working with self-publishers is going to serve me well going forward, if being an editor is the path I want to take.
PUB602 (Design and Production Control in Publishing): Ah, design! This class, so far, has been a lot of typography and general design philosophy, though more recently we’ve had the opportunity to ogle beautiful books and learn all the ways design can run amuck. Most of my Instagram photos from the last week have come from Design.
I really like the instructor for this course, and am hoping for guidance in building up my portfolio and rebranding Country Mouse Design (that’s a project for February). I think I already know where I want to intern, and will be seeking advice from both my PUB600 and 602 professors. The other big project for this class will be a novel redesign, and I’ve chosen (because I’m nuts) a redesign of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber omnibus, because I really hated the layout of that book. Why does this make me insane? We only need to redesign the cover and first few pages of the interior. I’m doing all ten books. Because why not. 😂
PUB802 (Technology and Evolving Forms of Publishing): PUB802 has probably been the most difficult class so far, as a lot of it is simply theory so far. There is a lot of reading every week, and we use an annotation plugin to have conversations throughout the week on the various articles assigned to us. If technology in publishing interests you, you could actually read all the course materials on your own time here. One of the things I’m finding particularly trips me up in the tech class is just the idea of reading books online (any books). It’s hard for me to imagine a situation where books could be hosted by the publisher online, and the book would still make a profit. Considering link rot on regular articles, and the abundance of free fiction on the web, I sort of feel it might be too late for regular books to make their own way on the web without insulting readers with paywalls or subscriptions. (Since publishers, they say, are rarely branded, what would make a reader want to fork over a monthly fee for a specific publisher’s backlist, unless that publisher was Harlequin, Penguin, or Tor?)
It was definitely a busy month. I’m just managing to keep ahead of my assignments by a couple days a piece, but others in my cohort seem to be having a little difficulty. I’m finding that not working has definitely allowed me to have the energy to take on all of the reading that is assigned, and if you’re someone who plans to apply in the future, you should definitely keep that in mind.
Other than that, I think the rest can be shared in pictures!
A minimalist cover for “The Three Little Pigs”… created in 20 minutes with my classmate:
Working on the editorial outline for that PUB601 manuscript:
The “art” installment in my department’s hallway:
I got a haircut, at long last. I hadn’t had the confidence to get to a stylist for over a year. My poor hair…
Playing with pretty books and paper and ink! (I ended up being a huge dork and buying a bunch of sample paper packs from local presses…)
And then we learned about all the ways production can go wrong…
And finally, I got some glasses! My long distance vision has been deteriorating for some time, but I really started noticing it when school started. Now I finally have some glasses. Somehow, it makes me feel like more of a writer. 😉
Hope you all had a great month, too.