1.How has the MPub degree helped you with your career and role as the Development Manager at the Vancouver Writers Fest?
The MPub program gave me a solid understanding about the different aspects of publishing and allowed me to build valuable connections with industry professionals. Since the program gives such a broad overview of the publishing industry and allows you to work with different students on many projects, I felt well informed and prepared to work upon graduating. As an MPUB student, I had the opportunity to attend events like the Vancouver Writers Fest, where I learned more about the organization, built meaningful connections, and eventually ended up working there!
As the Development Manager, my tasks include overseeing the fundraising, getting sponsorships, working with community partners, and managing donors and grants. Although this role is different from my initial role as a marketing and development coordinator, the MPub program allowed me to understand the different aspects of publishing and develop a diverse set of skills that has helped me with my career.
2.There are a few MPub alumni working at the Vancouver Writers Fest. What makes this organization such a good fit for our alumni and co-op students?
What makes the Vancouver Writers Fest so fascinating is that you get to work in such a broad and special space where everything is always changing. There are always new programs, different authors, and exciting events throughout the year. For co-op students, you get the opportunity to work on many different tasks and talk to a wide range of teams such as marketing, administration, etc. This is a space where everyone’s opinions from the team are valued and so many unique voices can be heard.
3.How has the Vancouver Writers Fest evolved since you joined in 2018?
Since I joined in 2018, we have added many events such as Books and Brunch and Free Saturday. I especially love Free Saturday, because it allows those with financial barriers to attend events at a pay-what-you-can rate. This is especially important as a non-profit organization because we want to be more inclusive and allow as many people to attend as possible. With that in mind, we made many of our programs such as the Youth Education Program more accessible during covid-19 by transitioning them from in-person to virtual spaces. Every year, we continue to evolve and ask ourselves what role we want to play in the publishing industry, while keeping our values of accessibility and inclusivity in mind to best serve all members of our community.
4.What will this year’s annual Festival look like?
This year we are hoping to have a hybrid Festival with more international authors holding events online and domestic authors in-person on Granville Island. We are currently planning some very exciting events for attendees.
Stay tuned to our website for more updates on the upcoming events and the annual Vancouver Writers Fest happening from October 18-October 24, 2021!
5.Who do you think should attend this year’s Festival and how can they make the most out of it?
Since the Festival has a wide range of authors and events, I recommend anyone who would like to engage in meaningful conversations and hear about important dialogues of today to attend the Festival. Regardless of what you are interested in, the Writers Fest has so many different opportunities for you to explore and discover what you could potentially like. To make the most out of your experience, try attending an event that you normally would not think of attending.
6.What advice do you have for MPub students interested in working for an organization such as the Vancouver Writers Fest?
My main advice is to be open-minded and explore different areas that you can work in. Many of the MPub students that I graduated with ended up in a different career than they had originally envisioned. Try gaining a deeper understanding of the different aspects of publishing by attending events and building connections with members of the industry. You never know until you try!
It is with great pride and pleasure that the SFU Publishing Program announces the establishment of The Greg Younging Publishing Award Endowment.
The endowment will create a fully funded opportunity for an Indigenous student to complete the Master of Publishing (MPub) degree at Simon Fraser University.
This award honours Dr. Gregory Younging, who was the first Indigenous graduate of the MPub. It was during his studies at SFU that Greg began his work on what would become the influential book, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guidebook for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples. The guide is fast becoming a staple for writers, editors, and publishers throughout North America.
“Greg was a huge presence in publishing in Canada. We worked very closely with him here at SFU and following his passing on May 3, 2019 we knew we wanted to establish something lasting that would further his life’s work, which was to build a stronger Indigenous publishing infrastructure in Canada. Greg was very aware of the opportunities that education can provide, and we hope this endowment will be one of those opportunities. Having the support of publishers from across the country has been affirming. We are thrilled to announce today our first multi-year commitment: a three-year, $45,000 donation from Penguin Random House of Canada,” said Suzanne Norman, industry liaison for the SFU Publishing Program.
The endowment will be built over the next three years, with the goal of welcoming the first award recipient in fall, 2025.
The Master of Publishing Program is an 18-month professional program comprising academic and professional experiential learning. It was founded 25 years ago in consultation with members of the Canadian publishing industry which continues to strongly support the program’s students through hosting professional placements and as new hires, as well as teaching as guest faculty and serving on advisory boards and funding projects.
Applications to the MPub close each Feb 1, with successful applicants beginning their studies that fall.
Dr. Greg Younging was a nationally and internationally renowned expert on Indigenous publishing and a tireless voice and advocate for raising Indigenous voices in Canada.
In celebration of his work and his life, the Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing and the SFU School of Publishing are deeply honoured to launch The Greg Younging Conversation.
This annual event will celebrate all aspects of Greg’s work from poetry to music to building toward a robust and thriving Indigenous publishing industry in Canada.
Greg was a true bridge-maker and could bring together even the most disparate voices, even if just for a short conversation.
One of Greg’s earliest mentors was Jeannette Armstrong, founder of the renowned En’owkin Centre in Penticton. Jeannette is this year’s featured speaker and will talk about his work as a publisher, poet, scholar and advocate.
In true Greg style, this event will be a conversation and Jeannette will be joined by Deanna Reder, chair of Indigenous Studies at SFU. Time will be provided to open the conversation to all in attendance.
The Greg Younging Conversation will take place annually on the first Wednesday in May.
Jeannette Armstrong is Syilx Okanagan, a fluent speaker and teacher of the Nsyilxcn Okanagan language and a traditional knowledge keeper of the Okanagan Nation. She is a founder of En’owkin, the Okanagan Nsyilxcn language and knowledge institution of higher learning of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. She currently is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Okanagan Philosophy at UBC Okanagan. She has a Ph.D. in Environmental Ethics and Syilx Indigenous Literatures. She is the recipient of the Eco Trust Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership and in 2016 the BC George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award. She is an author whose published works include poetry, prose and children’s literary titles and academic writing on a wide variety of Indigenous issues.
Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis) is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Indigenous Studies and the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. She is a founding member of the Indigenous Editors Association (see www.indigenouseditorsassociation.com); currently, she is co-chair, with Drs. Sophie McCall and Sarah Henzi, of the Indigenous Voices Awards. (see indigenousvoicesawards.org)
Greg Younging may best be known more broadly for his work as the author of “Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guidebook for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples” a seminal work that began during his time as a Master of Publishing student at SFU. The guide is fast becoming a staple for writers, editors, and publishers throughout North America.
His reputation in Canada as a leading scholar in Indigenous Studies often led him to take on important but sometimes very difficult work, including as Assistant Director of Research for the Canadian federal government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.
Greg’s passion for making more space for Indigenous writing and publishing led him to complete a PhD focusing on copyright and Indigenous stories and at the time of his death in May 2019, he was a professor and co-ordinator of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Irving K Barber School of Arts and Sciences at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan.
A member of the Opsakwayak Cree Nation, Greg was the managing editor of Theytus Books, Canada’s oldest fully owned Indigenous Publisher from 1990 to 2003, returning to the role in 2016 until his death in 2019.
The confluence of voices, languages, and poetic traditions in Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek’s poetry reflects her sense of belonging and migration across many places. In this wide-ranging conversation, Acholi Canadian poet Okot Bitek will talk about her writing process as a poet, her experiences with publishing in Canada, her collaborative projects with poets and visual artists, and her practice of listening across histories, identities, continents.
The year 2020 will long be remembered for the global Covid 19 pandemic. Lockdowns impacted work spaces as people scrambled to reorganize their work and home lives.
The whole world suddenly seemed to be online and publishers and retailers had to quickly up their game in the virtual space. Ironically, demand for books skyrocketed. Everyone was stuck at home and desperate for ways to pass the time. The 2021 Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit reflects this changed world by going virtual and through discussing the many ways book publishing led innovation and embraced entrepreneurship, as well as the many challenges still left to meet.
On Tuesday, February 9 at 2 pm, join psychological thriller authors Samantha Bailey (Woman on the Edge), Amy Stuart (Still Mine, Still Water, Still Here ), and Catherine McKenzie (I’ll Never Tell, Six Weeks to Live) with their editor, Nita Pronovost, for a spine-tingling panel discussion about their writing process.
This free virtual event is part of the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit and is open to the general public.
I’ve worked in publishing for about 15 years, but every year I’m caught off guard by the January phenomenon of aspiring authors who’ve resolved that this is the year they’re publishing a book. Manuscript submissions and calls about the publishing process become more frequent, as do inquiries about how to get into the industry itself. When we field these calls at the Association of Book Publishers of BC, we direct these individuals to various resources and wish them luck, but in 2021, I’d also suggest they pay close attention to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic when pitching themselves to the industry, whether as an author or a publishing professional.
The year 2020 was tough: at the end of it, BC book publishers were projecting a 30 to 40 per cent decline in their annual sales, in line with what was being reported across the country. While many bookstores were reporting strong sales leading into the holiday season, store closures through the first and second waves continue to impact publishers’ cash flow, forcing difficult decisions about acquisitions, printing, marketing and overall business operations. It’s too early to say if the fourth quarter results of 2020 will indicate a gradual return to normalcy.
Industry consolidation also presents challenges for independent publishers, who invest in new and diverse voices. The pending sale of Simon & Schuster, announced in November 2020, to Bertelsmann/Penguin Random House, will create a behemoth that dominates market share. Books written by established and bestselling authors, and published by well-capitalized multinational companies, have a competitive advantage in a changed marketplace, where booksellers and, in turn, consumers may gravitate toward safer bets. Authors will also find a narrower market for their work, which may mean lower advances.
So where are the opportunities for change in book publishing in 2021 and beyond? The pandemic hasn’t really highlighted how much is possible so much as it has underscored what should have been happening already.
Nothing will replace in-person book events. That said, online events have increased accessibility, and I expect these will continue in a hybrid capacity, even when social gathering restrictions are lifted. Some of the best virtual events I attended in 2020 were those in which the audience could interact via the chat or be present on-camera.
Publishers also got creative, reinvigorating their sales and marketing strategies. They offered higher discounts to independent bookstores, experimented with digital licensing for schools and libraries and creatively engaged readers online. In BC, Orca Book Publishers’ digital class sets, Rocky Mountain Books’ Think Outside podcast and Arsenal Pulp Press’s author Twitter takeovers and @arsenalpups Instagram account are examples of successful adaptations.
Publishers are well-equipped to work from home, and many are meeting their operational needs by hiring more remote staff. While these are still early days, we may observe that publishing begins to decentralize from major urban centres with higher costs of living, better positioning West Coast companies to compete for and retain talent.
I taught in the SFU Master of Publishing program last fall, working with a brilliant cohort of emerging publishing professionals. While they’re understandably anxious about their job prospects, they’ve recognized that their experiences working independently and resourcefully in a remote learning environment are an asset to prospective employers. Up-and-coming authors and publishers alike will need to be comfortable using collaboration tools (not just Zoom!) and to hone their skills as thoughtful and efficient communicators.
Finally, we can’t let the pandemic overshadow our need to grapple with the industry’s diversity problems. Just as the deeply rooted societal inequalities that were further exposed during the crisis will not be undone simply because anti-racist books sold well in 2020, neither will book publishing’s own lack of diversity. There are numerous initiatives underway in Canada to hold the industry accountable for its lack of diversity, and to change who and what gets published, including the BIPOC of Publishing in Canada collective. The pandemic presents a watershed moment for publishers to re-evaluate outdated practices and to expand their communities and their impact.
Whether you are hoping to get published for the first time, move into a career in the industry or stay the course, publishing in 2021 and beyond is going to require more of all of us. I hope we’ll answer the call.
When I first started teaching in the Master of Publishing, I was anticipating some culture shock. I have a much more traditional graduate school background — an MA and PhD in English literature — and my graduate education consisted largely of traditional seminar courses, deep dives into specific topics culminating in journal-article-length research papers. Trained in close and careful reading, scholarly research skills, and academic writing, I was a little nervous about teaching in a more professionally-oriented program. What I didn’t anticipate was a feeling I slowly developed over the course of my first few years, a feeling of jealousy.
Because as it turns out, the job of being a professor involves a whole lot of skills that grad school never taught me. But you know who is being taught these skills? My students! What follows is a brief list of reasons I secretly wish I could go back to school and do an MPub.
Every piece of text my students produce looks better than the best thing I can make, based on my fairly solid understanding of Microsoft Word. That’s because MPub students learn how to typeset text in Adobe InDesign, and learn how to do it with an eye to accessibility as well as aesthetics, from an actual professional book designer. Imagine how good our CVs and cover letters and syllabi and all the many many documents we produce would look if we actually knew what a hierarchy of type was!
They’re also better at making websites than me, which is a bit embarrassing because I swear back when I worked in English departments I was a real WordPress expert. Not only do my students know how to build beautiful websites, they also know how to use SEO and web analytics, all skills that would be wildly useful for any academic trying to build a platform for their work online (which, in the 21st century, is pretty much all of us).
They learn how to collaborate effectively and manage projects, a skillset that didn’t seem particularly relevant to me when I was writing a dissertation (a decidedly lonely undertaking) but that I’m deeply jealous of now that I spend my weeks chairing meetings, running committees, and overseeing collaborative grants.
They can balance a project budget! Many of our students come into the MPub certain that they’re bad at math, but they all come out able to balance a P&L (a profit and loss statement, used to calculate the costs and revenues associated with publishing books). Meanwhile I’m over here building my grant budgets in Word because who has the time to learn Excel?
We still have seminar classes (that’s what I teach!) in which our students can explore the history and theory of publishing, but those ideas are always intertwined with a focus on practice that is much closer to the reality of my own academic work. One of these days I’m going to sit down with my colleagues and make them teach me how to set a line of type, how to dig into my website’s analytics, and how to balance a budget. But until then, I’ll just keep hiring my own wildly useful students as research assistants, and wishing I was as good at project management as they are.
I’ve spent much of this pandemic summer preparing to teach PUB 800 for the first time: wading through dense treatises on publishing and working out how to deliver an engaging remote seminar. So you’ll forgive me for devoting my introductory post for SFU Publishing to a delightfully frothy show that I’d like to recommend as a companion to your quarantine reading: Younger.
If you aren’t watching it already, Younger is a romantic comedy/drama series, based on a novel by Pamela Redmond, now heading into its seventh season. The premise: a 40-something woman attempts to reenter the book publishing world after taking a hiatus to raise her family, and finds she’s better received when she presents herself as a millennial industry neophyte. So she commits to the lie.
Younger’s ostensible focus is its love triangle (#TeamJosh all the way), but it’s actually a Trojan horse for plotlines ripped from the headlines of Publishers Weekly; Jia Tolentino, writing for The New Yorker, described it “a Gossip Girl for the publishing industry.” Publishing personalities who’ve been lampooned include George R.R. Martin, Karl Ove Knausgård, Marie Kondo, John Green, Kathryn Stockett, and Jeff Bezos (Paste Magazine has a full rundown of who’s been trolled). There are knowing nods to trends (colouring books! hygge! influencers-turned-authors!) and scandals (bulk-order bestsellers! plagiarism! #MeToo!); with a real-life New York book editor serving as a consultant, the show feels firmly grounded in reality. Empirical Press, the venerable yet scrappy book publisher where the show is set, is hopelessly cash-strapped—perhaps in part because their publisher, Charles Brooks, is a self-professed romantic better at making speeches about how “great literature will survive, because we need great stories,” than he is at publishing said stories. Empirical is forever courting investors, considering a merger, or else being bested by Amazon—or, ahem, “Achilles.” Like I said: the verisimilitude is there.
Sure, there are quibbles. There’s the episode where the team decides to go to the Frankfurt Book Fair…the week before the Frankfurt Book Fair, or the instant-book pace with which every new acquisition hits the market, or the fact that there seems to be only one literary agent in this version of New York City. And the show is sorely lacking in racial diversity, which you could say is actually a little too accurate for a show depicting book publishing today.
Still, I’m predisposed to like any series with a publishing angle, and Younger offers those of us in the trenches an escapist rendering of the industry, where the untenable P&Ls and the massive returns happen off-camera. Even real-world publishers are getting in on the fantasy: Simon & Schuster published Marriage Vacation, the roman à clef written by in-show character Pauline Turner Brooks. Besides, it’s been a few years since the CBC’s Being Erica, where the perilous trade was always more of a backdrop to the protagonist’s time-travelling journey to self-actualization. And Gilmore Girls, for all of Rory’s bookishness, never quite got it right: remember the Yale prof who confidently asserted, about the assignment of her own book as course text, “I get full royalties whether you buy the book new or used”? (No, she doesn’t.)
If you’re enrolled in my PUB 800 seminar this fall, we’ll talk about how publishers accumulate, deploy, and signify cultural and economic capital, publishing’s colonial roots, and the future of the book, among other topics. And I look forward to those spirited discussions. But, if I could add a “recommended binge watch” to my syllabus, it would be Younger, which has some surprisingly trenchant commentary on publishing to offer as well. As Rachel Syme observed, writing for The New Republic, “Publishing, at its heart, is about trying to capture and disseminate the zeitgeist; many of the conversations that the characters end up having on Younger are about how best to shepherd these new stories into the world and about the bumps they hit along the way.” May publishing provide enough industry gossip to sustain the show for years to come.