Cicely Bland is an author and publisher whose works are featured in newspapers, magazines and Web sites locally, nationally and internationally. In a career that spans over two decades, she has served as an editor for six publications in major U.S. markets. As the (CEO) of Empower House Publishing, LLC, headquartered in NYC’s Financial District, she oversees all of the organization’s book and custom publishing operations. Ms. Bland also facilitates success courses and workshops at academic institutions, businesses and spiritual centers. Cicely has been featured in the New York Times, MSNBC and regularly appears on various radio and television programs. Cicely also serves the citizens of New York as Electronics and Communications Media Manager with the City University of New York. (CUNY).
Professor Denning: Hello, Cicely. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing and how your career has developed since graduating from the M.S. in Publishing graduate program?
Cicely: Since graduating from Pace’s M.S. in Publishing program, I have expanded my business by relocating to NYC from Atlanta. The City of New York originally retained my services to execute a short-term digital communications contract for its university system. The scope of work was so extensive that I was offered a position and am now in a HEO position with the City University of New York. I graduated from Pace May 2011 and by January 2012, I had relocated my residence and business to NYC in addition to accepting the position with CUNY.
Professor Denning: Can you tell us a bit about Empower House Publishing, LLC? What inspired you to start your own publishing company?
Cicely: I enrolled in the M.S. in Publishing program at Pace shortly after incorporating my publishing company Empower House Publishing, LLC, in an effort to gain more information about the business side of publishing. I had worked on the editorial side of media outlets (newspapers, magazines, ad agencies) for over a decade before starting the program and desired to learn more about the business side of the publishing industry.
Professor Denning: As owner of Empower House Publishing, LLC, can you tell us what your job entails?
Cicely: My job entails overseeing all aspects of our book publishing and custom publishing operations – editorial, sales, accounting, printing and fulfilment.
Professor Denning: What are the challenges of running a publishing business?
Cicely: Managing working capital, slow payments on invoices, securing retail shelf space and manufacturing defects all present challenges for our independent publishing house. In order to produce quality publications and optimize profitability, all of these have to be carefully managed.
Cicely: I have studied many prosperity and success books for several years and started facilitating workshops at a local college. One of my most popular courses was exploring the principles in Napoleon Hill’s famous success book, “Think and Grow Rich.” In this book, Napoleon Hill encourages readers to use prosperity affirmations to condition their minds for success; however, he doesn’t include specific affirmations in the book. I initially wrote my first title, “Money Blessings: Powerful Affirmations for Attracting Prosperity” as a companion to “Think and Grow Rich” for my students to use in the workshops. One of the reasons I wanted to study in the M.S. in Publishing program was to learn how to learn how to publish this manuscript independently without having to shop it around to large publishing houses. I now have a 12-book series in production that I will be publishing which should be available for release by mid-2014. Since our distribution deal was finalized, Money Blessings and our upcoming titles are sold in major book retailers including their websites and in e-book format for most devices –Kindle, Android, Nook and through the iBooks store for iPhone and iPad.
Professor Denning: What are some of your favorite aspects of running your own company?
Cicely: I love seeing the growth of the business knowing it started as just an idea. A manuscript that I had written in a spiral-bound notebook is now a published book sold all over the world and distributed by the largest distributor of Mind-Body-Spirit titles. It is gives me great satisfaction.
Professor Denning: Were you always interested writing and owning your own company?
Cicely: Yes. I have been an entrepreneur at heart ever since I was a little child and always loved books. My first foray into business started in middle school when I would buy Blow Pops for ten cents and sell them for a quarter in between classes at school. I started writing professionally during my Freshman year as an undergraduate when I was 18 years old. I started as an intern reporter at a newspaper in Atlanta. I’ve been working in the publishing industry ever since.
Professor Denning: What advice do you have for current students who are looking to make connections in the industry?
Cicely: I’ll give the Pace students the same advice that I have given to my College Reading and College Composition students: Get out and meet people. Find your niche and join organizations where there are like-minded individuals who will help you reach your goals. Understand that your professors are a wealth of knowledge and have lots of valuable information that they want to share with you. Use your time wisely. Prepare yourself to achieve your dreams while your friends are goofing off.
Professor Denning: How did Pace’s M.S. in Publishing Program help you in your career? Did you make any lasting connections through Pace?
Cicely: I had such a strong desire to build a successful company when I joined the Program, I was always asking questions. I set up meetings with my professors often and asked them for advice. As a result, I have made lasting connections with my professors as well as classmates. Many of us are friends on social media and communicate quite often.
Professor Denning: What were some highlights of your graduate career at Pace?
Cicely: I am grateful to have been the recipient of the Herbert Schnall “Los Angeles Times” scholarship which really helped to offset the cost of graduate school. I had an opportunity to volunteer at the BEA Publishing Business Conference (hosted by Book Business Magazine) and the Custom Publishing Council’s Pearl Award while I was in the Program. Additionally, I was able to attend the IBPA’s Publishing University for free twice because of relationships Pace had with the event organizers. These experiences paved the way for many of the successes that I am experiencing today.
Professor Denning: What did you write your thesis paper on? What advice do you have for current students who are about to write or in the process of writing their thesis papers?
Cicely: My thesis paper was actually my business plan for Empower House Publishing. Prof. Manuela Soares believed in me when I told her about my dream but she wanted me to establish a practical blueprint to follow once I completed graduate school. I had to do the research and put it all on paper. She was tough but accessible and gave me valuable feedback along the way. It took several rewrites and I’ll admit that there were times when I grew frustrated because she refused to allow me to just throw anything together and submit it to her. I want students in the program to understand that their chosen career will have considerably more demands than their graduate school studies. They must prepare themselves to compete in the workforce and business world. Writing the thesis is only a small step toward success. A career is something that you will do every day. I am still working from the business plan Prof. Soares had me to develop and I am constantly updating it. Many of the milestones that my company has celebrated were first researched and written down in that business plan. To me, it is a living and breathing document that I plan on using for the life of my organization.
Professor Denning: What advice would you give students entering the field to set themselves apart from other applicants?
Cicely: Get real experience. It’s too many people who graduate with a degree but never invested the time to develop the skills and work ethic necessary to succeed. Take advantage of internship opportunities. Attend conferences. Be determined to stand out from the crowd. Surround yourself with seasoned veterans in your chosen industry and do not be afraid to ask them for professional guidance along the way. Moreover, study the titans of your industry. Read or watch videos of their biographies and lectures. Never stop learning. I am a firm believer in conditioning your mind for success.
Professor Denning: Is there anything else you would like to share?
First of all, I want to thank the professors in the M.S. in Publishing program for their contributions to the success of my book and publishing company. The publishing industry has been in a period of significant transformation over the course of the past decade. I have seen many of my former colleagues at print publications become dinosaurs because they were not forward-thinking enough to prepare for the new innovations that are now the norm. For example, on the custom publishing side of my organization, I am so grateful that I learned how to create content that can be repurposed for print as well as across digital platforms – mobile, Web sites and social media. Our professors at Pace taught us that this revolutionized way of communicating was going to create lucrative opportunities for those who were prepared. I knew too many who were resistant to these inevitable changes and regret it.
Thank you Cicely!
You can find Cicely’s book at the various places below: