Episode 3: October Wrap-Up

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.

The Courses

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-15-12-33

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!

Download the whole class’s materials via Google Drive

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!

Miscellany 

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?

Episode 2: September Wrap-Up

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.

The Courses

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?)

Miscellany 

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:

 

My mailbox!

 

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.

img_1340

Episode 1: Orientation Week #MPub

1. Orientation Week

Week One of the Masters in Publishing is now behind me, and tomorrow starts Week Two! Last week was a whirlwind of an experience, but I stepped away feeling more energetic than ever. This year, the MPub faculty has many new faces, and of the classes I’ve been able to attend so far, they’re all going to lead excellent classes and seminars.

What They Don’t Tell You

TUITION DEPOSIT: Because the #MPub program is such a small part of the overall SFU campus, there isn’t a lot of information before the start of term. If you are planning to apply, make sure you budget about $1,000CAD for additional tuition deposits to the Publishing department before the start of term. For me, this was a huge wrench in my summer savings, and as a foreigner with a student visa, I actually wasn’t allowed to legally work before the start of school (they recommend you don’t work at all, for reasons I’ll explain), seriously hampering my ability to settle down in Canada. It may be best to work and save money in your home country, and arrive only a month before (to give yourself time to find an apartment).

CLASS SCHEDULE: The classes run on a liquid schedule that changes a lot. Any schedule you receive through the Registrar will be wrong. Expect classes to shift around a lot, as many of the classes have industry speakers who can only make certain days. Some classes even end earlier in the term to make space for the Book Project, so for the first couple months, you’ll have Fridays free, but then the project will start, and your schedule will shift again. You can see why working any job with set hours would be troublesome.

TEXTBOOKS: Textbooks will arrive in the bookstore. Don’t buy any of them. Unless you want to for your own benefit. Then feel free! If you want to do some reading over the summer before the start of term, check out Publishing for Profit‘s 5th edition. It’s cross-referenced in a few classes and is quite a solid introduction to the publishing industry.

INDESIGN: The design course jumps right into it the first day. Make sure you spend enough time exploring the program to know general layout practices. I suggest picking up a 5-6 hour course on Lynda.com with your free student access to get familiar with the software. From experience, I stress this: InDesign’s learning curve is a monster.

REPUTATION: The Publishing department has a pretty awesome reputation on campus. The advisor for the students is considered one of the nicest in the entire university, and she is a whirling dervish of information. The faculty are good speakers and personable, with varied and fascinating backgrounds. I find myself eager to dive into the coursework for all of my classes.

My First Week, in Instagram Photos

The week started on Tuesday, as Monday was Labo(u)r Day. This means that technically, tomorrow is my first time going to the Technology seminar! Orientation was a little over two hours, and was the only thing planned for the day. I walked around campus for a bit, and dropped my name in the hat for Publishing caucus representative for the Grad Council. (eeeek!)

 

I have to mention that Simon Fraser has some amazing facilities for graduate students. The Publishing cohort get three shared offices to split between 18 people, and they’re key-code protected. In addition, there is free coffee on the Burnaby campus, a student lounge with microwaves and kettles, access to a fridge for your lunch, a massive amount of study space (if you need a quiet place besides home), tons of workshops and services for writing and bookable conference rooms for larger study groups. Also, the Publishing cohort gets free printing in the Publishing wing of Harbour Centre. The facilities are amazingly well-funded.

 

As part of the first week, the Publishing faculty invited us out to Mahony & Sons pub near the Waterfront. It is a gorgeous area, and those of us that attended spent the better part of two hours just getting to know our professors in a very candid and welcoming way. I felt so supported, and could really sense the faculty’s investment in our being in the program. This year has seen some new changes to the curriculum, with students being able to choose between interning, doing a research project, or building a start-up company from the ground up, and I literally can’t decide which one sounds most awesome. Knowing me, I’ll try to do all three, haha!

…Oh, and at the pub, I was unanimously voted in as caucus rep! 😳✊

 

Thursday we finally got to take the Publishing management course and I am SO IN LOVE. Everything about the syllabus is exciting me, and I just can’t wait to gets hands on with our book and magazine projects later in the year. Woohoo!

Also, I happened to meet an upperclassman by chance a couple weeks ago, and he treated me to lunch since Financial Aid was taking its sweet time disbursing. Thankfully, now I have my money!

 

Now, on to Week Two! Follow me on Instagram for all the stories I post about #MPub. 🙂

0. Prep Work & Goals

Welcome to the inaugural post for my attempt to chronicle my journey through Simon Fraser University’s Masters in Publishing program. My goal with this series is twofold: to catalog modern publishing education while I toy around with various ideas for my thesis, and to journal my progress through a graduate program. With the exception of interesting, special topics, I’ll just be doing these once a month. I hope you enjoy the journey with me!

Week 0: Preparing for the program

Because I didn’t take any business courses in my undergrad, I was required to complete a few marketing and accounting textbooks before the term. Luckily, I planned ahead for this, and despite the accounting textbook being extremely boring, I finished the prereq’s with enough time to spare for other things.

I read a few books about the publishing industry as well, including one of the textbooks for the first term, Book Publishing I by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing. I also read Thomas Woll’s Publishing for Profit (highly recommend!) and Claudia Suzanne’s This Business of Books (outdated, but very good).

At the end of last week, professors in the MPub program also sent cohorts two mini assignments focusing on poster design and CSS coding. The poster was no trouble, as I’ve had significant exposure to InDesign over the last few years, but the CSS was a bit daunting, especially since I mostly learned it passively to correct export coding out of InDesign. Nonetheless, the CSS classes were extremely fun, so I’ve spent some more time this week compiling a bunch of ePub coding data to go through and experiment with. (As you may have noticed, this post has a dropcap… fancy stuff I’m learning! 😉 )

The one thing I still feel my skills are lacking in is graphic design. I can put together images, of course, but I really want to start designing. Altering existing fonts for unique book cover typography, and also actual illustration. Unfortunately, digital illustration is a skill that requires years of practice and study, but hopefully in the next few weeks, I can get some groundwork done.

My Goals

I have some pretty concrete things that I want to accomplish with this program.

I want to:

  1. Network with industry professionals as much as possible.
  2. Learn marketing in a real-world setting (not from a book).
  3. Explore my career options through Project Management, Acquisitions, and Account Management.
  4. Fill the gaps in my InDesign knowledge.
  5. Intern at a company focused in the SFF section of the market.
  6. Research and write papers useful to the industry as a whole.

Classes start September 6th!