October and November were extremely busy months for me. Multiple assignments and projects across all of the courses suddenly began or reached their deadlines, and there was simply no time for anything else. Now that the winter holiday has begun and I am blissfully allowed to stay in my pajamas whenever I feel like it, it’s time to catch up on the list of blog posts I’ve been wanting to get to. I’m starting with #MPUB’s October wrap-up.
PUB 600 (Topics in Publishing Management): Sadly, this course ended halfway through October. We presented the marketing plans for another group’s book on the 13th, and then class was basically over. I also turned in my third assignment, which I talked about in Episode 2. I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished in that course, and am eager to learn from Prof. Johnson again next term, when we switch gears to learn more about magazines.
A lot of presenters came to our class in October, including Zoe Grams, from ZG Communications; Shannon Emmerson, Jane Hope and Taryn Hardes from ECHO Storytelling Agency; Joyce Burn from Avenue Magazine; and Sean Tyson from Quiet.ly. Each presenter brought their own expertise on book marketing, publicity, women in publishing, and content marketing (as an added revenue stream for publishers).
PUB601 (Editorial Theory and Practice): Prof. Steedman pulled back some of the intensity of PUB600 this month as PUB605: Book Project started. He’s the instructor for both, so was the most acutely aware of the amount of work we were going to dive into. I did have to give a seven minute presentation on a topic of my choosing, though. I decided to talk about beta readers and their role in publishing, as it seemed the whole process of selecting/using them was a bit mysterious to the class (or at least those who’d never done creative writing before). Unfortunately, the dates for the presentation were bumped, and I had to give mine the day after the US elections. I was so overwhelmed by the events of the previous day that I hadn’t even been able to get through a practice run without getting distracted. I think at one point I even said “Well, I’ve lost the plot” during the actual presentation…. yikes. But, my very generous cohort said I did fine, and in the end I got a B on it. Or an A-. I can never tell. Canadian grading systems are so different! Most departments grade on a sliding scale, but if you get 80-85% or above, you’ve got an A…. compare that to the US’s 92+… (no wonder Americans are so freaked out about our grades all the time…)
We had two industry guests this month, both whom I really enjoyed listening to. Barbara Pulling, an editor, came in and talked about a matter close to my own heart: editing fiction! And then we had Robert McCullough (who edited Butter, one of my favorite books from the year!) come in from Appetite by Random House…. and that was highly amusing. I also got a free cookbook, which is never a bad thing! It’s so pretty…. 😍
PUB602 (Design and Production Control in Publishing): Remember how I said I was going to be doing a redesign of all ten books of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber omnibus despite only being assigned one? Yeah, probably not. Unless I make all ten books separate from one another… which could happen. Then I could play with the cover designs…. hmmm. Well, the debate continues, but October in 602 was pretty mellow.
The first two lectures of the month were about branding (with Prof. Pagé). We looked at various examples of how publishers not only brand series or themselves (most famously Penguin), but also how a publisher can brand an author through graphic design. One of the great examples of this is V.E. Schwab. You know Schwab’s books right when you see them.
Lara Smith from Figure 1 in Vancouver came in to talk about distributor (printer) relationships, and the importance of checking your documents thoroughly. She also talked about the whole printing process, which was pretty fascinating, but I won’t bore you all with those notes!
We also had Peter Cocking, one of the premier book cover designers in Canada, come in to talk with us about cover elements and layout. I learned so much, and really enjoyed it. The lecture made me determined to try and self-teach myself Illustrator over the winter break. I have a free account to Lynda.com as long as I’m an SFU student, so I might as well make the most of it! Here are some of the covers he showed us:
PUB802 (Technology and Evolving Forms of Publishing): PUB802 has continued to be the class that challenges me the most, and October was no exception. I had two essays due (of which I published both here [1 & 2]… sorry to be a bore!) and since I signed up to lead the class in a tech lesson, I taught the class about Sigil, an ebook editing software. While I made a bunch of materials for the course, I figure other people who create their own ebooks might appreciate the materials as well, so I’m going against my better freelancer judgement and sharing it here!
PUB605 (Books & Long-Form Titles): The dreaded Book Project has begun! This is a seven-week project that simulates a real publishing house. The department describes the course as: “During this 7-week simulation project, students work in groups to form a publishing company and to establish a list of 4-6 book or other long-form works in print and digital. Weekly assignments progress from establishing a company branding and identity to forming title ideas and then doing everything necessary to bring those titles to market. The project culminates with a presentation to an industry panel, faculty and guests.”
We were randomly put into groups of 5-7 people, given a parent company (ours was ECW Press) and a mandate (we had to incorporate technology in some way into our company). Then we were set loose into the wild. The first couple of weeks in the project were absolutely insane. Multiple six-hour meetings, which meant getting home at midnight, pitching ideas and developing titles and authors from scratch. I’ll have to do an entire blog post on it in the near future, but I don’t want to give too much of it away. Part of the not-knowing the details is critical to the project’s core purpose: to simulate the real publishing world, where conflicting advice and critiques are an everyday thing. All I can say is, if you are thinking of applying to MPUB, be prepared to work hard and make time for your teammates. It’s just seven weeks. Keep your schedule clear!
It was another busy month. Much tea was consumed. Despite all the coursework, I still had a little time to do other things, too, like attend some panels at Writer’s Fest, kick out some more freelance book projects, and put my name in the hat to attend DHSI this summer, a conference for tech and publishing. I was told a few days later that I get to attend, for free! So are two other girls from my cohort. We’re all going to rent an AirBnB in Victoria, near the beach, and have a grand old time for a week. I’m so excited!
Other than that, not much happened in October… 😂 How about you?