Thursday, July 8, 2010

School Days, School Days....

For this week's post about Publishing Careers I was looking into various publishing programs, graduate school and continuing ed. I realized that while I knew a little bit about it, I only took 3 continued ed classes at night. so I asked a friend of mine if I could ask her a few questions about her experience, for another perspective.

Emily Sachs is Production Coordinator at a high-powered Government Contractor in the DC Metro Area, and is the Washington, DC Chapter President of the Women’s National Book Association.

When and where did you go, and what degree did you receive?
I attended Pace University in New York City from 2003-2005 and received a Master of Science degree in Publishing.

Has the information you learned at Pace been helpful to you in your career?
In my opinion, no education is a wasted experience. With that said, I feel as if I learned more valuable lessons by doing, rather than by sitting in a classroom. For instance, the book production class in which we visited presses and production offices, and saw people on the job, was more valuable in furthering my education and love of production processes than a classroom scenario.

What was the most helpful thing you learned (or most helpful class)? The least helpful?
The most helpful class was that on book design and production. This class taught us the basics about paper, ink, binding, presses, and the design process. Since I wanted to be on the production side of publishing, this was the most interesting class!

The least helpful thing conveyed was that you pick one path—editing or production, book or magazine—and from then on, that is the path you are on. It is hard to switch over. Many professors at Pace enforced this viewpoint on us. But I have found that this simply isn’t true. In my career so far, I have worked for a literary journal, an industry newsletter, a magazine, and a niche book publishing company. I now work in the production department of a government contracting company that specializes in developing and delivering all kinds of courses—instructor-led, web-based, blended—and in conducting human capital analysis..

I remember one professor saying repeatedly, “None of you will work in trade book publishing. None of you will make any money. None of you will work in fiction.” When students talked about this with our thesis advisor, she shrugged it off: “Oh, that’s just how Professor So-and-So is.” Although, in fact, I didn’t want to work in fiction, or in trade book publishing, these exchanges point up a complaint about Pace. Not only did the faculty have no faith that any of us would “break in,” but they didn’t go out of their way to assist students to find jobs in the industry. Students were more helpful than faculty members or the internship coordinator in helping other students to network and find jobs.

Do you think these programs are better for people who aspire to work in publishing and haven’t yet, or for people already with jobs in the industry?
Everyone has a different reason for advancing his or her education. I am not sure that one can evaluate for whom these programs work better. I myself attended graduate school right after undergraduate.

What do you know now that you most wish you’d known when you were first starting out in this business? Do you have any advice for young adults wanting to break into the book industry?
Education only takes you so far. Real-world experience is every bit as valuable as academic knowledge, and is valued more by most prospective employers. Employers look for people with a good work ethic and experience. I don’t think my master’s degree has given me an advantage when it comes to getting hired, although my on-the-job experience has. My advice to those just starting out would be to apply for internships, part-time jobs, or full-time jobs while you are in school. Join organizations. Volunteer at events within the industry. It is good to have connections in the field in which you want to work.

Thank you so much Emily! You have such a different experience with publishing grad programs than I do, and I hope people find your perspective helpful. I know I certainly learned a few things. Some of what you said solidified some beliefs I already had about publishing programs, and I'm glad that you did find your experiences valuable if perhaps not exactly what you were hoping. In future posts I will discuss some of your other suggestions such as publishing organizations and internships.
Next Thursday I will have a post with all the information about publishing programs: where they are, what they offer, why one might want to take these classes, and so on. But I felt that a personal story would be useful for people contemplating this option.


Hannah Stoneham said...

This was very interesting. Thanks for sharing


Teresa said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've thought off and on about getting a masters in publishing. When I finally went to an information session for the program in my area, one of the people running the session said that you could learn much of the material on the job, which I thought was interesting. I now have almost 10 years of on-the-job experience in journal/magazine editing, but still I wonder if I'll hit a wall in my career eventually without that degree, even if I know the job.

Chelle said...

This was a very interesting post! There's some great advice in it. I'm tweeting it!

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

This was such a great interview stock full of information for us fascinated by the whole publishing industry. Thank you Carin so much yet again for providing us with an inside look into what goes on and how to get there!

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

after i wrote that comment i thought, i hope that made sense! especially my last sentence that just kind of rambled. i know what i was trying to say....i hope you know that i was simply saying WOW - it's so cool to see how it works!

Carin Siegfried said...

Teresa, I don't think that's the case. I know in some jobs it is, but not in publishing. I wouldn't worry about it at all if I were you.

Stacy, I totally get what you mean! Explaining the whole entire publishing process is one of my goals, since I think it's confusing. I'm obviously not explaining it from an author or reader's point of view, but from my own point of view, which is from someone who works in the industry. I really think this business needs more diversity, so if I can explain the different options I hope to encourage others to get into the business on the inside. I'm really glad you are enjoying these posts!