Alumni Profile: Michael Despotovic, BC Book Marketer and Digital Marketing Data Analyst

Before I Was a Student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I was doing my undergraduate degree, also at Simon Fraser University. I majored in World Literature and did a double-minor in Publishing as well as Interactive Arts & Technology. Originally, I thought I was going to be a fiction writer, but a funny encounter with local author, Douglas Coupland, made me rethink my plans. After a Vancouver Writers Fest event, I asked him if I should become a writer. His answer was a simple, and curt, “no”. When I stared blankly, he followed up by saying, “go live your life, do something else, become old…and then you can write.” While his advice may not have made sense to many others, it entirely made sense to me.

And given that I had to do something after my undergraduate degree, you know, while I waited for a story (or stories) to find me in life, I reasoned that helping writers get published would be just as meaningful as being published myself.

While I Was a Student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and every aspect of my education. I was in the 2013/2014 cohort and both the faculty and my colleagues were uniquely aware that the rise of social media, Web 2.0, and other new, digital technologies were going to have a lasting impact on the publishing industry. So, in addition to learning all the foundational—and by definition, “traditional”—components to book and magazine publishing, we were also schooled in things like online marketing, the emerging ebook market, and digital means of production and dissemination.

It was specifically because of my high aptitude for digital technologies that I was recommended for an internship with Penguin Random House Canada’s digital department, which would serve as my third, “professional placement” semester for the MPub program. I wasn’t “handed” the internship, by any means, as I still had to interview and otherwise qualify for the position. But it certainly helped that my then, soon-to-be-manager/mentor was an MPub alumna herself, and knew the benefits and expectations of this program.

Soon After I Was a Student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I either freelanced or worked for various local companies that were in the Canadian publishing landscape, such as ZG Communications, Page Two Strategies, and Clevers Media, before finding a special place at Caitlin Press, a general trade book published located on the Sunshine Coast. Although I worked remotely, from Vancouver, I often would visit headquarters for a week, perhaps every month or so. My role was to market, do publicity, and manage author events for approximately 20 new books a year, in addition to the backlist, which I proudly accomplished for three years. During this time, I also helped launch a new imprint dedicated solely to queer women’s voices, called Dagger Editions.

Each season, I experienced “favourite” moments, but perhaps the most notable one was when Caitlin Press published Gently to Nagasaki, the one-and-only memoir by Joy Kogawa, one of Canada’s most celebrated authors. It was an honour to serve such a powerful voice of peace and truth, and in the context of Douglas Coupland’s advice to me, I felt like I was part of the success of a truly great writer with an incredibly important story to tell.

Now, as an Alumnus of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I have one foot in and one foot out of Canada’s publishing scene. Since moving on from Caitlin Press, I’ve started a marketing and analytics agency called Apples & Oranges. We help to grow small to medium size organizations that express culture, which includes publishers such as UBC Press and others like the Association of Book Publishers of BC. Our portfolio also includes businesses rooted in social value, such as end-of-life planning, diversity and inclusion training, and bicycles for those with mobility challenges.

Much of my career path is similar to the alumni and the faculty of SFU Publishing. I can never pass up an opportunity to give thanks to instructor Monique Sherrett, who runs Boxcar Marketing, for demonstrating the career path of someone who bridges traditional and digital modes of marketing in Canada’s publishing industry. Nowadays, I can call her my peer and am very fortunate to have her support in helping Apples & Oranges succeed. Thank you, Monique!

If you’re interested in getting the kind of education in publishing that allows for entrepreneurship, innovation, data-driven decision making, and elevating author success, consider applying for the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University before February 1st.

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