As I mentioned in my last article, I have wanted to work in publishing since I was 12 years old. In college, after my very first English methods class, my professor dragged me into her office, sat me down, and asked me what I wanted to do after graduation. “I want to be an editor,” I said, with confidence. And so we began to plan out the rest of my life. Along with a list of classes to take, extracurriculars to join, and department alumni to contact, I was told that, after graduation, I should attend the Denver Publishing Institute (DPI).
The Publishing Institute is a month-long intensive summer program run by the University of Denver. It was founded in 1976 by the late Elizabeth Geiser, a distinguished member of the New York publishing industry. It is currently directed by Joyce Meskis, owner of the amazing Tattered Cover Bookstore. Classes consist of a week-long editing seminar, a week-long marketing seminar, and lectures on every subject related to book publishing, all taught by industry professionals.
In addition to DPI, there are two other major summer publishing programs: the Columbia Publishing Course and the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. All three boast superb networking that can help you land an entry-level job, and the Columbia and NYU courses, obviously, are in New York City, right in the heart of the industry. However, only the Denver program concentrates solely on book publishing–unlike Columbia and NYU, which both split their time between books and magazines. This strong focus convinced me that Denver was the program that would be most beneficial for me.
In 2010, my goal became reality. Every morning, roughly a hundred of us would file into a lecture hall. For the first week, we spent the mornings with Nan Satter and Karl Webber, two well-respected editors-turned-freelancers who led us in a book-editing workshop. Over the summer we had been asked to read a book manuscript, for which we had to draft a reader’s report. In the workshop, Nan and Karl directed us in various editing exercises, culminating in a revised reader’s report of the manuscript. The mornings of our second week were devoted to a marketing workshop led by the ever-energetic Carl Lennertz, former VP of Indie Retailing at HarperCollins (he is now the Executive Director of World Book Night US). For this workshop, we read another manuscript and devised a marketing plan for the book.
In the afternoons and the remaining two weeks, we heard from representatives from across the industry. We had lectures from industry leaders on all aspects of book-publishing: editorial, marketing, publicity, literary agencies, subsidiary rights, printing, design, e-books, book packaging, finance, copyright law, and bookselling.
In addition to our formal lessons, there was a great emphasis on breaking into the publishing industry and finding an entry-level job. The Director of Human Resources at Scholastic spoke to us about what he looks for in an entry-level candidate and how to structure our resumes. DPI arranged for each of us to have a mock interview with representatives from companies in both New York and Colorado, and there were information sessions and even some real interviews during the final days of the program.
But if there was anything I learned at DPI, it was the importance of networking. A month of lunches and Thursday picnics gave me plenty of time to learn to approach strangers and promote myself, not just on a resume, but in person. I jotted down names and took business cards. After every productive conversation, I would run back to my computer and write an email to the person, thanking him or her for our chat. In the end, this really paid off! On the day that Roth Wilkofsky (President, at the time, of Pearson Higher Education’s English, Communications, Political Science lists) came to talk about textbook publishing, I volunteered to escort him when we went to lunch. We discussed my past achievements, as well as my hopes for my professional future. He told me to get in touch once I had graduated from Denver, and I did exactly that. As soon as I got home, I applied for every Editorial Assistant position that Pearson had to offer. I emailed Roth to ask him “for advice,” and before I knew it he had personally passed my resume to HR with his compliments. A few weeks later I moved to New York to start my job as an EA in Roth’s own division, and I’m sure that his recommendation made a difference.
The other thing I learned at DPI is that publishing is a business. This may seem like an obvious statement, but I, like many bibliophiles, had come to DPI an idealist. I wanted to revolutionize the industry, to only publish books of high literary merit, to elevate the standard of reading material so that the reading public would have to elevate their taste as well. (No more Fifty Shades of Grey in my marketplace!) But what I quickly discovered is that publishing, like any other business, is driven by its consumers…and people will read anything. The important thing is that they are reading. This newfound business savvy has served me well in the textbook world, which depends entirely on market reviews and customer feedback.
Yes. The Denver Publishing Institute was absolutely the right choice for me. I learned a lot about the industry; made contacts, not only with our lecturers but also with my fellow students; and, of course, I got a job out of it! Also, did I mention ALL THE FREE BOOKS?!
* * *
If you are interested in applying for the Denver Publishing Institute, the application will soon be available on DPI’s website. Deadlines are Feb. 25, 2013 for early acceptance and March 20, 2013 for general admissions.
If you’re going to be in central Pennsylvania on Feb. 5, 2013, I will be leading an information session at Dickinson College in Carlisle. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] for information about the information session or with general questions about DPI.