It’s been around a month now since the classwork portion of our Master of Publishing degree wrapped up, and now that I’ve had some time away from the intensiveness that was the last few weeks of school it seems like a good time to talk about the Media/Tech Project.
In the fall semester we devoted six weeks of our lives to starting fictitious publishing companies complete with a detailed list of books. But what to do in the second semester of a publishing degree?
In the spring, the program moved away from books to focus on media and technology (in the past, the program focused more heavily on magazines). As the publishing industry changes, it has become clear that in order to for publishers to remain relevant, they must understand how technology impacts all aspects of their business. It’s not enough to focus on print and traditional forms of publishing. We have to look ahead to what publishing could become. And so, our class became Media/Tech Project guinea pigs.
While we started off the semester working on the Media project and finished with the Tech project, for all intents and purposes they were the same thing—the second was simply an extension of the first, which meant the project ran the entire course of the semester.
On the second day of class after the holiday break, we were divided into our groups and told to form media companies based on direction we pulled out of a hat. One group was assigned B2B (they pivoted and become NFP2NFP instead), another group got arts and crafts, and the final group pulled politics. From there, the groups were tasked with building a media entity from the ground up.
How do you build a brand? How do you become financially viable? How do you grow sustainably? What gap in the market are you meeting? What will your product be?
In our groups, we began to answer these questions and sketch out our business plans. Nearly every week, groups met with instructors to pitch their updated businesses, which evolved as we completed more research and received more feedback. At the beginning of the project, it was stressed that our start-ups would need to be agile, and that became our mantra as the semester progressed and the work piled up.
And every week, we were given additional pieces to complete. Brand guidelines. Marketing and advertising plans. Financials. Websites. Podcasts. The list went on.
Halfway through the project we were divided into additional groups with specific skills (this is where the Tech project came in). The Web Development, Analytics, Media Production, and Ebook teams provided focused support to their media entities following a series of mini lectures aimed at providing them with hands-on skills. Of course, all students were invited to attend the other teams’ lessons.
And just like the fall book project, we made it through to the end of the semester, presenting our launch-ready companies to panels of industry guests. Some of the most rewarding feedback we received was that our final companies were even pitch-worthy to potential buyers. And some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen were on that final day as well: one group even “recorded” the beginning of a podcast as part of their presentation.
While the Media/Tech project will undoubtedly look very different by next spring as our field continues to evolve and the skills that are in demand change, what I hope future classes also take away from the project is the importance of being flexible and ability to find creative solutions.
I’ve talked to a handful of Master of Publishing alumni lately, and somewhere in the conversation I always ask what advice these accomplished, successful women have for the next generation of publishing professionals. Their answers have been strikingly similar: work hard, accept opportunities, ask questions, and seek out mentorship.
And it’s that last point that I want to focus on today, both from the perspective of the mentees (Shirarose Wilensky from Arsenal Pulp Press and Paula Ayer from Greystone Books), and a mentor whose name has come up again and again (Nancy Flight from Greystone Books).
Ayer and Wilensky’s stories are similar in a lot of ways. They both completed the Master of Publishing program at SFU around 10 years ago; they have both done freelance work and have worked for independent publishers in Vancouver; and they are both local editors who have recently transitioned into roles with substantial responsibility.
Wilensky just took on the position of Editor at Arsenal Pulp Press after freelancing for the past few years; while Ayer became Editor at Greystone Books in the fall after spending nearly a decade working at Annick Press. As a current student in the MPub program, it’s been both reassuring and exciting to get a glimpse of where my career could also take me within the next decade when I talk to alumni.
“Take every opportunity that might be offered to you, talk to as many people as you can, go to events, and volunteer at the Writer’s Fest,” Wilensky suggests when I ask about nurturing your career path. Ayer lists all of the same things, and adds that you should also showcase your special skills.
And of course, they both speak to the value of mentorship, and cite the value of the connections they made in the MPub program.
“I can’t overstate the importance of mentorship. If there is a specific person you really admire, approach them,” Wilensky encourages, saying that a good way to find a mentor is to find someone who is doing what you’d love to be doing in the future. “Recognize and appreciate how important, valuable, and rare these relationships are.”
She highlights how mentors can share both professional and personal advice, and can give you those always important job recommendations. In return, she says, make sure show your appreciation for your mentor, who is likely very busy with their own career.
Ayer echoes her advice. “Use the connections you make—don’t be shy to send them an email, go to industry events, keep nurturing those relationships, and show people you can do good work.”
The editors are quick to highlight the mentors who have played significant roles in their careers. Ayer thanks long-term MPub instructor Mary Schendlinger from Geist Magazine and Colleen MacMillan from Annick Press who she says gave her opportunities, believed in her, and were brilliant teachers. Wilensky mentions Nancy Flight, also a past MPub instructor and current Editor Emerita at Greystone Books, whom many other alumni, Greystone employees, and MPub faculty have highlighted as being a VIP in the Vancouver publishing industry.
After hearing so many great things about Nancy Flight, I wanted to talk to her about the essential role she has played so many people’s careers over her own 45-year career in publishing (around 24 of those years were spent at Greystone).
“I love doing what I can to help foster their skills,” she explains, adding that it is always exciting to meet others who are passionate about publishing and show aptitude in the industry, pointing out the that the MPub program is ripe with talent. “And it’s wonderful to see people blossom, and see where they’ve gone with their careers.”
“It’s really important to me to encourage woman that they can do both [have a successful career and fulfilling home life],” Flight continues. “It’s wonderful to think that there are all of these young people who are more than ready to take on the challenges [in publishing].”
As a mentor, Flight notes the importance of mentees making their goals and interests known so that the mentor can tailor their advice to the individual relationship. However, she is quick to clarify that mentorships can be as formal or informal as you’d like—there is no one right way for the relationship to work.
Mentorships are a win-win for both parties: people like Wilensky receive great advice that helps them advance in their careers; while people like Flight are able to cultivate talent that they can later hire or recommend to another publisher.
Reflecting on the BC publishing industry, Flight confirms what we’ve been hearing from our many guest speakers all year: that the publishing community is very welcoming and friendly. “There is a feeling like we’re all in this together and we want to help each other.”
It was also around this time that our conversations with industry leaders, which took the form of keynote lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and one-on-one mentorship sessions, began to change. At the beginning of the week we talked data, marketing, trends, and growth. But as we began to talk diversity, inclusion, and responsibility, we discussed not just the problems in publishing, but what we can do to make a positive difference.
Discussions centered around how to create space for marginalized groups, the importance of mentorship and support, and ways in which we can make our industry more representative and balanced—both in terms of who works in the industry and what is published. These things matter so much.
“It was intense…it was daunting and overwhelming at times,” said MPub student Jesse Savage. “It was great to have everyone come out and hear everyone’s stories, and gain some perspectives and start conversations. I think after hearing everyone talk, I’m really interested and excited to see how things are going to change…it’s pretty clear that things have to change.”
Industry leaders from a variety of publishing backgrounds (including Simon & Schuster Canada, Penguin Random House Canada, Indigo Books and Music, Rakuten Kobo, Theytus Books, Orca Book Publishers, and a variety of smaller publishing houses), along with academics and authors, also noted the impact the week of listening, discussing, and learning had on them. The deeper conversations have inspired MPub students, external participants, and professionals alike to get back to their important work with a renewed sense of fidelity and responsibility.
As Digital Broadcaster Ryan McMahon said, “We’ve made this connection, and now we’re all going to continue to work together on this conversation, and that’s a really amazing offer by everyone who participated.” McMahon also gave a special public talk on the Wednesday evening, where he problematized Canada’s recent race to Indigenize everything, and challenged people to really think about how thoughtless actions and platitudes will only further harm Indigenous Peoples. He also talked about how we need to be aware of who is in spaces—and who is missing; why the conversation about colonization needs to happen before we talk Indigenization; and why building relationships needs to be at the centre of all we do if change is going to happen.
Much of what he and other guest faculty shared led to the MPub cohort looking at publishing with fresh eyes. We leave with the language to have these hard conversations, a better understanding of what needs to change, and ideas on how we personally can affect change. I hope that moving forward from this week we will continue to not be afraid to ask hard questions, push for better representation in the industry no matter our positions, and break down barriers within the publishing industry.
As promised, the week was one of transformative change and learning.
Faculty guests included: Dave Anderson (Rakuten Kobo), Kristin Cochrane (Penguin Random House), Gregory Younging (Theytus Books), Hazel Millar (Book*hug), Will Ferguson (award-winning author), Noah Genner (BookNet Canada), Kevin Hanson (Simon & Schuster Canada), Robyn Harding(bestselling author), Rania Husseini (Indigo), Jónı́na Kirton (Indigenous author), Ruth Linka (Orca Book Publishers), Janice Lynn Mather (Bahamian author), Nita Pronovost (Simon & Schuster Canada), Felicia Quon (Simon & Schuster Canada).
Next year Emerging Leaders in Publishing will be held February 4-8, 2019 and is open to everyone interested in learning more about the publishing industry in Canada.
On February 5, leaders from across Canada’s publishing industry—including authors, publishers, and academics—will converge in Vancouver for a weeklong summit to discuss and share the latest developments in the publishing industry.
Organized by Simon Fraser University’s Publishing Program, in collaboration with book industry partners, the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit is open to industry participants as well as credit students. The week will include panel discussions, lectures, break-out brainstorming sessions, and one-on-one mentoring opportunities.
A special evening featuring Ryan McMahon on Indigenizing the Media will take place on Wednesday, February 7. McMahon is an Indigenous comedian and cultural commentator, known for his initiatives in Indigenous media, including the Indian and Cowboy podcast network.
Within the framework of The Author and Key Publishing Transitions and Implications some of the major themes to be explored include throughout the week include:
• Pre-publication: authors, publishers, processes
• Diversity and Inclusivity in Publishing – in and out of house
• The Author’s Place in Marketing and Sales
• Emergent and Innovative Publishing Considerations
• Publisher Responsibilities: to culture, to truth, to society, to the future
• Women in leadership roles and discoverability
Speakers on these topics will include Gregory Younging, UBC Indigenous Studies Program Coordinator and Publisher of Theytus Books; and Hazel Millar, the co-publisher of Book*hug, an award-winning independent literary press based in Toronto.
“Once again I’m pleased to be involved in the Emerging Leaders Summit at SFU. The mix of students and faculty aims to tackle many topics very much front and centre for the industry today,” noted Kristin Cochrane, President and Publisher of Penguin Random House Canada. “From how books get acquired, sold and marketed through to how to build for the future, address and foster a diverse and inclusive environment for authors and employees and overall create a spirit of mentorship and support throughout the industry.”
Other Emerging Leaders faculty include: Dave Anderson (Rakuten Kobo), Will Ferguson (award-winning author), Noah Genner (BookNet Canada), Kevin Hanson (Simon & Schuster Canada), Robyn Harding (bestselling author), Rania Husseini (Indigo), Jónı́na Kirton (Indigenous author), Ruth Linka (Orca Book Publishers), Janice Lynn Mather (Bahamian author), Nita Pronovost (Simon & Schuster Canada), Felicia Quon (Simon & Schuster Canada).
“We’re really pleased to have such a great collection of guest faculty in this year’s Emerging Leaders Summit,” said Dr. John Maxwell, Director of the Publishing Program. “These conversations between students and industry guests have the potential to transform and renew Canadian publishing.”
Raincoast Books, based in Richmond, B.C., is seeking a Publicity Assistant to start immediately. We are looking for a motivated and organized professional who has excellent communication and technical skills to work in our Richmond office.
Our publicity assistant supports the work of our three publicists and our freelance publicists outside the company. The successful candidate’s tasks will include:
organize media mailings and compile campaign results
monitor bestseller lists
maintain departmental databases
organize blog tours
send out excerpt materials
coordinate award submissions
create online newsletters
The successful candidate will possess:
superior writing and copyediting skills
proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite tools
a minimum of two years of relevant media, marketing, publishing or senior book retailing experience
The following technical skills will be an asset:
an interest in Young Adult and Children’s publishing
a basic proficiency in HTML
experience with MailChimp
Candidates should send their résumé and cover letter by February 2 to:
We regret that we can only acknowledge applications from candidates selected for interviews. No phone calls or agencies, please.
This February, Publishing Unbound is coming to Vancouver (February 9-11, 2018). This event came about as a way to bring together authors, activists, scholars, and publishing professionals in Canada to discuss inclusivity and accountability in the publishing industry.
Over the last year or so, many necessary conversations have taken place in the world known as CanLit. We have talked about the structural role racism, sexism, and colonialism play in the publishing industry; now we need to talk about what concrete steps we can take to change this industry for the better.
Publishing Unbound spans two and a half days, organized in conjunction with the Simon Fraser University Publishing Program’s Emerging Leaders Symposium (a weeklong event which fosters connections between MPub students and industry professionals). It begins on Friday, February 9 with en evening of readings and talks open to the public. Registration for this evening is currently full, but there is a waitlist in case of cancellations.
Speakers on the Friday night panel include Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, an Anishnaabe writer of mixed ancestry from the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation and founder of Kegedonce Press; David Chariandy, Associate Professor of English literature at Simon Fraser University and 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize winner for his novel Brother (McClelland & Stewart); Jordan Abel, a Nisga’a writer from BC pursuing a PhD at Simon Fraser University and the winner of the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize for his third book, Injun (Talonbooks); and Vivek Shraya, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Calgary, founder of Arsenal Pulp Press’s new VS. Books imprint, and an award-winning artist whose body of work includes several albums, films, and books. The panel will be hosted by Erin Wunker, Assistant Professor of English at Dalhousie University and author of the award-winning Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life (BookThug).
Assistant Professor in Publishing Dr. Hannah McGregor, who was instrumental in organizing Publishing Unbound, said, “The inspiration for [the event] came when I was trying to add readings to the PUB 800 [Text & Context: Publishing in Contemporary Culture seminar class] syllabus. I was new to the [Master of Publishing] program and I wanted more readings on the syllabus that spoke to race, class, gender, disability, and sexuality.”
She put out a call on Twitter, expecting to be inundated with papers and articles and assuming there was lots of work that she just hadn’t heard of.
Instead, she received an underwhelming number of responses and was struck by the realization that there is a significant gap in publishing studies as a field that speaks to the systemic barriers to access in the industry.
While the second day and a half of this event consists of closed roundtable workshops (no audience), Publishing Unbound will be disseminating the results of the discussions to the public at a later date.
For those unable to attend the Friday night session, the event will be recorded and shared publicly.