When SFU School of Communication alum Casey McCarthy received a promotional email about the master of publishing (MPub) program, she decided to pursue the program to upgrade her strengths and abilities.
“I just wanted to take my skills to the next level. I was looking for something more transferable. I didn’t want to focus on one set path, but focus on things that I really enjoy doing — which is writing, research, and conveying information,” McCarthy says.
She was intrigued by the MPub’s media project which involved putting together proposals, a business case, and coming up with an original media business. She was able to apply what she learned as a communication and publishing student to this project while further developing other skills.
“It was time to try something new, while using my existing skills in a different way,” McCarthy explains.
Not only did the Master of Publishing program teach her the process of writing, publishing, and selling a book, but McCarthy expresses that it also helped her learn more about herself on a deeper level.
“I’ve learned more about what my values are, the kind of career path I’d like to see myself have, the kind of organization I’d like to work with, and the kind of people I’d like to work with,” she shares.
In addition, the program helped her work on her decision-making skills. Receiving criticism on her projects from different industry guests taught her to make solid decisions and understand why she made them.
In these scenarios, students would present, pitch, and defend their ideas in a way that made people understand it clearly.
“I learned that you cannot please everyone. Not everybody is going to agree with you, so you need to be able to explain your rationale for making your decision, and try to persuade them about why it’s a great idea. You need to stick to your guns,” McCarthy emphasizes.
Although she has been pursuing her masters degree online, she says the program helped her develop interpersonal skills through group dynamics.
“In the program, you learn a lot about working in a respectful and collaborative way. Great ideas come out of this positive, collaborative, creative environment.”
Drawn to work on communications and publication projects for an institution like SFU, McCarthy hopes to also explore her passion for writing and research in her long term career.
If you have an interest in hosting a Master of Publishing student for their professional placement, please contact Suzanne Norman at email@example.com
As the Master of Publication application deadline fast approaches, we had the chance to interview Olivia Johnson, who is part of this year’s 2020/2021 cohort. Learn more about Olivia Johnson’s publishing experience and don’t forget to apply by February 1!
1) What was your background before applying to SFU’s Master of Publishing Program?
Before I was a student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program, I majored in English literature at UBC. After graduating, I thought I was going to go into journalism and got accepted into the Ryerson School of Journalism. After one class, I realized that journalism was not a good fit for me. Instead, I switched to the publishing program at Ryerson because I was more interested in the editorial and marketing aspects of publishing. After completing the publishing program at Ryerson, I applied to the Master of Publishing Program at SFU.
2) Why did you choose to apply to SFU’s Master of Publishing Program?
I chose to apply to SFU’s Master of Publishing Program because it is Canada’s only master’s program for publishing. The publishing program at Ryerson was highly informative and interesting, but I wanted a more hands-on publishing experience. SFU’s Master of Publishing Program offers exactly that, where you get the opportunity to go more in-depth and have the chance to do an internship and more collaborative work. Also, SFU’s Master of Publishing Program was back in Vancouver, my home city.
3) What is the most valuable experience from SFU’s Master of Publishing Program so far?
I think the group projects are valuable because you get to take everything you learned in class and create something from start to finish. For example, in one of our projects, we created a business from scratch and learned about all the steps to develop and make the idea tangible.
One of the projects that Olivia worked on with her group was a catalogue for the Fall 2020 Book Project. Olivia’s group was an imprint company of Greystone Books, calling themselves Judith Press. Their catalogue includes all non-fiction titles they came up with and had to sell for their project.
4) What are some skills you have learned from SFU’s Master of Publishing Program so far?
I learned a lot about hands-on design and working with different software such as Adobe to create those designs. I also learned a lot about the different stages such as editing, designing, and business to create the final publication. For each of these stages, it is very in-depth, so you get a chance to figure out what you like. I also find that you can really have your own input in the program. You are definitely not lectured at but taught how to do things and be hands-on. The more effort you put in, the more you learn and take from the program.
5) Upon obtaining your Master’s in publishing, what do you aspire your future career to look like?
SFU’s Master of Publishing Program does a great job at allowing everyone to explore lots of different categories, so you know where your interests lie. For me, since completing the publishing program at Ryerson, I knew that I wanted to work in publishing. Upon obtaining my Master’s in publishing, I can see myself pursuing a career in a marketing or publicity position in literary fiction or nonfiction books.
6) Who do you think should apply to the Master of Publishing Program program?
People who are looking to learn more and become more hands-on in publishing should definitely apply. Publishing is not just about books all the time. You get to learn so many skills that you take onto different careers such as marketing, freelance, editing, and more. If this is something that you want to do, I highly recommend applying.
7) What is your advice for people who are applying to the Master of Publishing Program or considering applying?
I think this is a valuable program because you get to interact with so many industry professionals and receive advice or feedback from them. As well it is such a small cohort, so you get to always work closely with the same people who share the same passion as you. I highly recommend reaching out to the publishing team to ask any questions or concerns you may have because they are super helpful and kind.
Heidi Waechtler was once an MPub student—and now she’s the Executive Director of the Association of Book Publishers of BC (or ABPBC, which being able to say quickly and correctly is almost a right of passage for Master of Publishing students).
She sat down to answer the questions we all have as we’re nervously researching, applying, and starting the degree: why did you choose this program? What doors did it open for you? And was it worth it?
Check out her responses below:
“My decision to apply to the MPub program began with what you would now call FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out.’ (Okay, I didn’t enter the program that long ago.) I had friends who were completing the program or had recently finished, and even though I already held a certificate in editing from SFU, was working in a publishing-related job (as the project coordinator for the Magazine Association of British Columbia), and had begun building a professional network, I realized from hearing about the assignments my friends were working on that there was still a lot I didn’t know about the actual business of publishing. The program made sense to me as a way to ground what I knew in a combination of academic study and practical training, and to receive feedback from working industry professionals along the way.
After completing the coursework, I ended up doing my internship in the editorial department at McClelland & Stewart in Toronto, and eventually became the managing editor at Coach House Books, where I worked for four years. In both roles I had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the country’s top publishing professionals and authors. Two years ago, I moved back to Vancouver to take on the position of executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia – bringing me back almost full circle to an industry-facing role where I now draw on my experience to work on policy, marketing, and business development initiatives on behalf of the province’s book publishers.
Looking back on the late nights spent in the MPub project rooms with my colleagues, I realize the most important thing I took away from the program – besides how to do a P&L or write an effective call to action – was the knowledge that if I were capable of managing the complex, open-ended assignments in a condensed timeframe, I could manage whatever challenges the real publishing world would present me with. Write snappy yet intelligent sales copy for a book that wasn’t yet completed? I’d done it before. Come up with an idea for out-of-the-box promotional swag to include with a review copy? I had a couple of vendors in mind already. Proofread a manuscript overnight so we could rush it off to press? Hand me a coffee, and consider it done.
There are realities about the industry I could have only learned on the job, but the MPub program helped me become more confident in my own ability to see a project through to completion and also – thanks to the aforementioned project-room time – more humble about the value of collaboration.”