Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Not New York: Book Business & Publishers in the Twin Cities

MinneapolisStPaulCherryThe next stop on our whirlwind national tour of publishing hubs are the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Disclaimer: I have never been there. But based on what research and hearsay have told me, the Twin Cities area is one of the best metropolitan centers in the region. In fact, The Economist‘s Ryan Avent recently postulated that climate and economic conditions are driving more and more people west, and that the future is likely to see Minneapolis become the new New York.

Whether Avent is right or not, I think it’s no exaggeration to call Minneapolis the publishing capital of the Midwest. The city is home to indie publishing powerhouses such as Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions, Graywolf, and a slew of media companies, distributors (including Consortium, one of the Perseus Distribution companies), and book stores. If you are looking for a different kind of publishing challenge, the Twin Cities are also rife with magazines and literary journals. To learn more about the publishing life and literary landscape of the Twin Cities from Minnesotans themselves, definitely check out the MN Publishing Tweet Up, a professional and social group devoted to celebrating and promoting a love of the written word amongst Twin Cities dwellers.

In general, the publishers based here are much smaller than their corporate New York counterparts–which doesn’t make many Minneapolis publishers any less well-known or well-respected than the Big Six. For instance, Graywolf Press, perhaps best-known for its poetry publications, routinely wins national and international literary awards;  in 2009, President Barack Obama chose Graywolf poet Elizabeth Alexander to read at his inauguration. On the larger end, Quayside Publishing Group covers a range of nonfiction subjects, as does F+W Media, which has been innovating in ways to connect and communicate with enthusiasts and hobbyists of all kinds for years.

Ranked among the most literate cities in the country, Minneapolis also boasts a vibrant and eclectic arts scene outside of the book business itself. The large number of liberal arts colleges and universities makes for a youth-friendly atmosphere. Across the cities you can find a range of galleries and art shows, readings, coffee house concerts, and open mic nights.

As for the work atmosphere, Anna Waggener, administrative and development assistant at Coffee House Press, attests that the Minneapolis publishing industry is a close-knit and supportive community. However, Anna also notes that the atmosphere and opportunities attract a lot of talent, so it’s still very important for job-seekers to stress any experience they may have. As in New York, internships go over well here.

Yes, the winters can be brutal, but I’ve heard that the summers are some of the prettiest anywhere in the country. As Anna testifies, “the cities and lakes come ecstatically alive and it’s a real joy to be here.” An endorsement like that might be all you need to skip New York entirely and head west.

If you need more reasons to consider a career in Minneapolis, check out the City Pages list of 50 Reasons Minnesota is the best state in America (with some digs at New York).

Do you work in publishing in the Twin Cities? How do you find the industry there? If you’ve worked in publishing elsewhere, particularly in New York, how does it compare?

6 Comments

  1. Linda White says:

    Great article! How we have not yet reached Number One in the most literate cities list is beyond me.
    I’ve worked in the Twin Cities publishing industry for over 15 years, and it is just getting better. The biggest trend I see here is in putting on new and unusual events – like Hazel & Wren’s Words @ WAM, a collaborative effort with the Weisman Art Museum that features an Open Mic. The Tweet Ups have indeed been fun, and they never seem to lack for interesting places to hold their events. We have opened TWO new indie bookstores in the last year (how’s that?), and have several others, many with unique niches. We have the Loft Literary Center, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, lots of great presses, and a dedicated cadre of book supporters (including lots of library Friends groups).
    It’s a great place for any bookish sort.
    Disclaimer: I write the Minneapolis Books Examiner column, and cover a lot of these folks! ;-) http://www.examiner.com/books-in-minneapolis/linda-white

  2. Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.

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  3. BreAnn says:

    Love this series! Wanted to comment that the Twin Cities is also home to a large number of educational publishers, including ABDO, Lerner, and Capstone – just to name the main heavyweights. There are also a variety of independent and niche publishers. It’s an exciting place to be!

  4. Molly Johnson says:

    I am a senior at the University of Minnesota majoring in English Literature.I am interested in becoming a part of the publishing industry when I graduate, yet am lacking experience. Like the article states, it is a competitive field here in MN. The only experience I have had within the field was working as an intern to an author, helping her more with marketing strategies rather than the actual editing/literature end. I am wondering if you have any tips for a young woman, hoping to get her foot in the door of the industry!

    Thank you for your time!

    • Alex says:

      Rebecca-

      I was wondering if you could give a little insight into the illustration side of the publishing industry. My Husband wants to be a children’s book illustrator and his family is in the Minneapolis area. We don’t know where to start, but this article was very encouraging. Thank you for your time.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Molly–
    I’ve worked in the publishing industry in MN for 15+ years and here is what I always tell my college interns:
    1. Get editorial experience on college publications, whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, website, or literary magazine.
    2. Find an internship that will give you real editorial experience working on books (or articles, depending on your preference) before you graduate.
    3. After #1 and #2, network as much as you can and look for freelance proofreading, copyediting or fact-checking jobs to get your foot in the door and also put more experience on your resume. Those freelance contacts will remember you when they have a job opening.
    4. You can also volunteer for charitable organizations, writing or editing newsletters or other publications. Paid freelance as mentioned in #3 is better, but volunteering is another source of experience.
    Remember that just your coursework won’t be enough to make you stand out among graduates–best of luck as you finish college!

    Rebecca

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