Posts Tagged: publishing

MPub Alum Jazmin Welch on receiving credibility and experience with the MPub program

Jazmin Welch graduated in 2021 from SFU’s Master of Publishing program. She now owns and operates her own book design studio, fleck creative studio and design books for Arsenal Pulp Press. Jazmin spoke with us at SFU Publishing to share more about her experience with the program and the impact it has made on her career to this day.

 

Tell us about your background before applying to SFU’s Master of Publishing program.

I went to school for fashion communication at Ryerson University and I always knew I wanted to be in art or design. As someone who spent much of my youth drawing and painting, I applied for the fine arts program at the Ontario College of Art & Design University, but I decided that I would prefer to keep art as a hobby, and try to get into design instead.

At Ryerson I was learning about colour theory, typography, photography, web design, and all sorts of fun design skills.

When I graduated, I just started trying to pick up odd jobs as everyone does, and I thought I would get a quick job in graphic design but that was definitely not the case. There were just so many other graphic designers who were entering the job market. So I did other things like photography and anything I could get my hands on. I eventually got a job in a really tiny creative agency, and started working in project management and then switched around a little bit and worked as an account manager in corporate marketing working on our projects for some fortune 500 companies. I worked with a lot of freelancers to do our production work and that was slightly soul crushing because I was always wanting to be the creative person. Because of my typography experience in my undergrad, I was hoping I would end up doing editorial layout for magazines. So I saved up to eventually quit, and started my own business — I wasn’t 100% sure that it would be in the book world, but I knew I loved everything to do with paper and book design.

 

Why did you choose to apply for the master of publishing program?

While I was at my marketing job, I interviewed for a couple of design positions, but the feedback was always like, “We liked your portfolio, but we want to go with this other person who actually has book design experience.” No one would hire me on the basis of having design knowledge. And of course, I didn’t have much of a portfolio for book work yet. I knew I had to do something that would actually get my foot in the door. 

I was also going on LinkedIn to look at all the people who had jobs that I wanted, and looking at what their experience was. It pretty much came down to just the Ryerson University Certificate in Publishing or the SFU Master of Publishing. I wasn’t very interested in some of Ryerson’s classes so I moved from Ontario to BC for the Master of Publishing. It was always a dream of mine to end up in Vancouver, so it wasn’t a hard sell for me. 

The Master of Publishing program was good for me because I just felt like something solid needed to be put on my resume to actually get a job in book design. So that’s what landed me at SFU.

 

What was your most impactful experience in the SFU Publishing program?

Meeting a lot of people in the industry had the biggest impact. The idea of meeting CEOs of massive companies was so terrifying at first, but the professors and people in the industry that came to the school were all there for us, and were very easy to talk to. It made me realize that we’re all in this together.

The greatest thing was just meeting people and knowing that they are people that I could reach out to, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to make connections. Having the master’s degree on my resume became a huge bonus that also gave me the confidence to be able to reach out to people for work as well.

 

What was your biggest takeaway from the MPub?

Honestly, my biggest takeaway has been learning to think more critically about the industry, because I think publishing is such a traditional industry in the sense that so much of what we do is the way it’s always been done. I think the program did a good job of training us to think more broadly about societal and systemic issues happening in the industry. Of course, there are a lot of tangible skills — like learning how to do a profit and loss sheet — but I think the critical thinking piece is the most important element. It’s not something I’m necessarily acting on now in my business on a day-to-day level, but it is something that’s always running through my head — like, how can we change the way things are being done? How can we bring more inclusivity and diversity to the industry? 

The critical thinking component has impacted the way that I respond to the people around me and the type of work I take on. I wasn’t expecting the masters to actually touch on many of these things, but they did a good job of recognizing the destructive role that publishing has had on colonization in Canada. There are human issues and there are so many issues to address, no matter what part of the industry you’re in! I think that the critical thinking piece stayed with a lot of us when we left.

 

What skills did you gain from the MPub that you find yourself applying to your day to day work?

I think the biggest one for me was editorial. I came into the program with a fairly robust design understanding, so there were definitely a bunch of book design skills that I brushed up on and enhanced through the program that I do use on a day to day basis, but I really learned a lot about specific skills like editorial markup, which I now use. Publishing is a very traditional industry and things are done in quite a systematic, straightforward order, so learning all the steps in how things are done, and the phases of editorial has been really integral for my role as a designer and where I fit into the publishing process.

 

Do you have any professors that stood out and impacted your education?

I feel like John Maxwell was such a great resource for us to sit and talk through anything. His Text & Context class was the critical thinking piece that I mentioned, though all the professors incorporated it as well. I feel like it’s always the teachers with the hardest courses that I like the most because they’re really encouraging us to dive way deeper than we would on anything else. We had to write 1,000 word essays, which is so short, but so difficult to get right because we had tackle important issues with so little space while researching it well and creating a good summary. I think the beauty of the course was that we were trained for situations where we’d need to speak out about important issues — you can’t just get into a long rant about something, you have to make it accessible for a larger audience and be concise. So having someone like John who has an endless wealth of knowledge, but also encourages you to look for the answer to your own question was awesome. 

All the MPub professors were accessible and available and I knew they were always there for us. Anyone from the program could tell you how much they loved Jo-Anne who wasn’t a professor, but a manager for the program. She’s always there to help us with admin questions, but she’s also just a fantastic resource for pretty much everything. She’s the number one cheerleader for all the students. 

 

Tell me a little bit about your work with your fellow MPub grad Leanne Prain. What was it like to design her book?

Her book is coming out this spring, and it just arrived like the other day from the printer! It’s called The Creative Instigator’s Handbook and Leanne was so lovely to work with. We did the cover and layout together. and then the layout on the inside. 

It used to have an illustration only cover, but when the sales representative recommended that we add photos. So we revamped the cover and changed the book title. I’m very happy with where it landed! The whole book from front to back is so bright, fun and cheery with a lot of little icons within it’s pages as well. We’re trying to make all of our books more accessible, so Leanne wrote the alt text for all the images for us, which is a lot of work, but she was all hands on deck. I love this book. It’s such an exciting read for people that have any love of craft or art but want to use it for their own activism!

 

What kind of advice do you have for people thinking of pursuing the Master of Publishing degree?

My one piece of advice is that you’ll get out whatever you put in. And I think that’s always a tricky balance because everybody’s got their things going on outside of school. I worked the entire time that I was in the program, and of course many of us have bills to pay, but I think it’s important to put your all into projects, go to extra meetings, and use the extra library help. It’s also good to know that if you have a specific thing you’re passionate about, you can talk to your professors about adjusting certain projects to focus on what you specifically want to learn. 

For example, I had already done an undergrad in design, so in one design class I asked if I could research something else for one of the projects that I was interested in. My professor was happy to accommodate and I really enjoyed getting to learn something new!

Making connections is incredibly valuable as well so getting the most out of the program also involves meeting as many people as you can!

In a small program like this, you can really take advantage of so many learning opportunities. That would definitely be my biggest piece of advice — just know that you have control over what you get out of the program.

 


Apply for the Master of Publishing program by February 1, 2022!

Don’t miss out on this opportunity — Learn how to apply here!

SFU’s Master of Publishing (MPub) program is the only program in Canada to offer a postgraduate degree in publishing, and is the country’s premier training ground for publishing professionals.

Taught by publishing practitioners and research faculty, along with masterclasses from industry leaders, the program offers a blend of seminar and hands-on project courses that provide tomorrow’s industry leaders with the knowledge, skills and understanding needed for a successful career.

Students who graduate from the program will gain…

  • A solid grounding in the informing principles as well as the art and business of publishing
  • Connections with working professionals who will become their colleagues
  • Invaluable practical skills to carry into a career in any print or online publishing activity!

SFU’s MPub program helps graduates develop the practical and conceptual tools they need to launch their career in the fast-changing publishing industry and contribute to the creative sector in Canada and beyond.

The deadline to apply for the MPub program is February 1, 2022.

To be considered for admission to the Master of Publishing program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum second-class average (3.0 or greater GPA).

Applicants must also:

• Demonstrate a background understanding of the publishing industry;
• Be capable of using page layout software;
• Be familiar with the basic principles of marketing and accounting;
• Demonstrate basic competence in copy editing and proofreading;
• Demonstrate excellent skills in spoken and written English.

Apply now!

Contact
To request more information on the Master of Publishing program, please contact:

Jo-Anne Ray, Program Advisor

Phone: (778) 782-5242
Fax: (778) 782-5239
Email: pub-info@sfu.ca

Address: Program Advisor
Master of Publishing Program
Simon Fraser University Vancouver
515 West Hastings Street, Room 3576
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6B 5K3

Student Services
For general information on graduate regulations, fees, scholarships, awards, and bursaries, or to request a Simon Fraser University Calendar, please visit SFU Student Services.


Levelling Up: Casey McCarthy’s Publishing Journey

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.

Self discovery

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.

Casey McCarthy working in her professional placement
Casey McCarthy working in her professional placement for her Master of Publishing.

“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. 

Skill development

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 snorman@sfu.ca


On Resolving to Publish: Book Publishing in 2021 and Beyond

Collection of books, illustration, coffee cup, cookies, pens, books

By Heidi Waechtler

*This article first appeared on The Editors’ Weekly blog

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.

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Apply to the Master of Publishing Program here.

The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada.


Reno or Rebuild? Making change and forging connections in an evolving Canadian literary culture

Event Details

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Room 1400 SFU Harbour Centre
Doors open at 6:30 pm
Event begins at 7:00 pm

This public event is part of the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit

Diversity panels and half-hearted efforts at inclusivity haven’t brought the change our industry needs. If Canadian publishing truly wants to excel and uplift, we have to ask some difficult questions about who we publish, what we publish, and how we publish—and we must ensure that both writers and the industry professionals working to publish them represent the change we seek.

Cherie will talk about the need for ‘diverse’ voices in decision-making roles in publishing. Sharing her own experiences and challenges she will examine how publishers can provide readers with what they want while giving them an opportunity to fall in love with what they don’t yet know they want.

Cherie’s talk will be followed by a conversation with CBC journalist, Angela Sterritt. 

About Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline‘s young adult novel The Marrow Thieves shot to the top of the bestseller lists when it was published in 2017, and stayed there for more than a year. It won the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Kirkus Prize in the young adult literature category, the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature, was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award and, among other honours, was a fan favourite in the 2018 edition of CBC’s Canada Reads. It was also a Book of Year on numerous lists including the National Public Radio, the School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and the CBC. Cherie was named Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in 2014, and became the first Indigenous writer in residence at the Toronto Public Library. From the Georgian Bay Métis Community in Ontario, she now lives in Vancouver. Her most recent novel for adults, Empire of Wild, published by Penguin Random House Canada in 2019, was named Indigo’s #1 Fiction Pick of the Year, and is forthcoming in April in the US through HarperCollins.

About Angela Sterritt

Angela Sterritt is an award-winning journalist, writer, artist and keynote speaker from British Columbia. In 2018, Sterritt won multiple awards for her CBC column, Reconcile This which explores the tensions between Indigenous people and institutions in British Columbia. Sterritt’s feature on missing and murdered Indigenous, women, girls and two-spirit people was nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalists Award. She is now writing a book on the topic.

Download Poster

Admission is free, but a reservation is recommended. Please email: pubworks@sfu.ca


Illustrious Alumni: Heidi Waechtler on how her career has come full-circle

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.”


Scholarly Communications Lab Projects

Like nearly everyone in the publishing industry these days, the publishing professors at SFU have plenty going on. For example, take Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin, who teaches PUB802: Technology & Evolving Forms of Publishing, is the Public Knowledge Project’s Associate Faculty Director of Research, is the recent recipient of the Open Scholarship Award from the Canadian Social Knowledge Institute, and on top of all of that is also the man behind many research projects at the Scholarly Communications Lab, which he co-directs.

While not all of them are directly related to the trade industry, almost everything they do is about scholarly publishing. We wanted to highlight some of the interesting things he and his team have been working on lately.

Cancer in the News
Alperin’s team is looking at news coverage of government-funded papers in biomedical research (specifically cancer) by analyzing how many times each study is mentioned in the news, and where. More specifically, they are looking at how the news is shared based on the 4 tiers of news coverage in both traditional and non-traditional outlets—a hierarchy that editors often use when determining the value of a story.

Open Source Altmetrics
They’re also working on building a tool for academic journals to have article-level metrics. Altmetrics are alternative ways of measuring scholarly impact, such as references in online news media and social media, as opposed to more traditional measures that identify things such as number of citations.

RPT (Review, Promotion, and Tenure) Project
Alperin and his team investigated the review, promotion, and tenure (RPT) process in the U.S. and Canada. Their goal was to deliver recommendations to universities and colleges that would encourage behavioural change towards a greater opening of access to research results.

They began by collecting RPT guidelines from over 100 institutions and assessed the degree to which they included Open Access (OA) recommendations.

“Despite countless policies and mandates promoting open access, as well as the development of tools and resources that facilitate it, and despite years of advocacy work, the majority of researchers are still not compelled to make their research outputs publicly available because the incentive structures that drive faculty’s research dissemination strategies remain unchanged,” says the team.

They found that only five (1%) of the RPT guidelines they studied explicitly mentioned OA, and in four of the five cases it was only “done to call attention to the potential problematic nature of these journals (which are seen as potentially of lower quality than subscription journals).”

The team is continuing on to Phase II of the project, where they will be studying faculty perceptions and beliefs regarding the RPT process, how RPT documents influence perceptions of the process, and the factors outside of RPT guidelines that influence how faculty disseminate their research.

Social Media Use by Researchers
In April, the team hosted a roundtable discussion about using social media to share science stories. Invited were: a YouTuber, an Instagram biologist, a traditional science journalist turned freelancer, and a journalist from Hakai Magazine (which specializes in citizen science).

Science Writers and Communicators of Canada
Similar to the roundtable discussion on how scientists are sharing science stories via social media, this project also looks at how science communicators are using untraditional methods to share their message (such as vlogging, instagramming, etc.).

As Science Writers and Communicators of Canada recently added “communicators” to their focus, Alperin’s team wanted to look at who and where these communicators are and how to best support them. They also wanted to look at how they differ from conventional science communicators in terms of standard ethics, accuracy, and practice; how they see themselves, and how they reach their audiences.

The findings will help identify the goals and challenges of science communication in Canada, and how to best support, train, and create outreach activities that will improve the quality of public engagement with science.

Diabetes Forums
The team combed the social web to identify public concerns about diabetes to direct academic research on the disease. This method of harnessing public engagement to directly impact research helps connect and involve the general public in academia, and vice versa.

Measuring Facebook Engagement
Many people share things over social media privately, such as through direct message or email. This sharing, known as dark social, currently cannot be accurately tracked. So the team looked at how altmetrics measure dark social, and found that there is a considerable amount of sharing done out of the public sphere that is captured by altmetrics.

And some of their work has been recently published in papers:

Zika and Language Use on Social Media
In this paper, they looked at how during the Zika virus outbreak there was an uptick in Zika research. Although the purpose of sharing research was to communicate with and inform the general public, the team used a language detection algorithm and “found that up to 90% of Twitter and 76% of Facebook posts are in English” despite English not being the first language of those at the centre of the epidemic.

Among other things, their paper says, “Our results suggest that Facebook is a more effective channel than Twitter, if communication is desired to be in the native language of the affected country.” They also explain that altmetrics favour English-language communication, large Western publications, and Twitter, meaning we need to build nationally relevant metrics in order to more accurately measure social impact.

Looking at Networks on Twitter
This paper looks at how primary research literature affects the public’s understanding and engagement with science; and how knowledge diffuses using social media. In their small case study, they found that Open Access articles shared tended to stay within small communities comprised of mainly researchers and did not generally reach the outside community.


The MPub Media/Tech Project

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.


Illustrious Alumni: Shirarose Wilensky & Paula Ayer Talk Mentorship

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.”

So don’t be shy, and reach out.


Reflections on the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit

We were halfway through the intensive Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit before we realized that we, the Master of Publishing cohort, were the Emerging Leaders.

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.


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