Alumni in the Spotlight: Asdrúbal Hernández

Asdrúbal Hernández is a publisher, writer, and photographer living in New York City. He has worked for several newspapers, magazines, and many other media platforms in Venezuela and the USA. In 2011 he founded Sudaquia Group, a venture that aims to promote and offer products and services in Spanish for the US market through its divisions Sudaquia Editores, a publishing house of books in Spanish in the US, and Sudaquia Publishing Services, a consultant agency for any type of publishing and in-Spanish projects.

BREANA SWINEHART: Hello Asdrúbal! It is a pleasure to be interviewing you for the Pace MS in Publishing blog. To get started, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York and the Pace Publishing program in particular?

ASDRÚBAL HERNÁNDEZ: I went back to Venezuela after finishing my Bachelors in Communications at Loyola University in New Orleans and working for a year in Philly as a photographer and reporter. In Venezuela, I was invited to participate as a photographer and Production Project Manager on the production of an illustrated book about a region of my country called “Los llanos” (the plains), which is famous for cattle production. We began the project in the last trimester of 2005 and completed it by September 2007. This experience opened many opportunities, and I got involved with many different print and digital medias as a photographer, writer, and —in some of them—also on the managerial side.

I had all this experience and wanted to get some type of formal education about publishing. After searching on the web, I found a couple of Masters in Publishing programs in Spain and London, and when I checked the bios of the professors, all of them had some type of experience or connection with New York City, so I thought: “Why do I want to go to Spain or the UK when they want to go to NYC? I have to go to NYC, too.”

In spring of 2009, I came to NYC to visit the two programs that I was interested in: New York University and Pace. However, after meeting Professor Raskin, I had no doubts that the program that I wanted to join was at Pace.

BRE: You have many talents that would lend themselves well to multiple job positions in publishing, yet you choose to start your own company. What motivated you to establish Sudaquia instead of getting a job with a pre-established publishing house? What are your goals?          

ASDRÚBAL: Since I came to New Orleans to get my Bachelors in Communications, I have followed the growth of US Hispanics and found that there was a great opportunity there. When I came to Pace, I enjoyed spending time checking the shelves of many bookstores and felt frustrated finding Spanish sections filled up with no contemporary Hispano-American literature.

That led me to write my final thesis about the marketing of books in Spanish in the USA, which showed me a CAT scan of the books in Spanish publishing industries in the USA. It had found a great opportunity, in the right time, and in the right place, so why not venture into it?

Our goal is to become a bridge between Latin-American literature and Spanish readers in the US and around the world.

BRE: Can you tell us what the name of the company means and how you chose it?

ASDRÚBAL: Spanish people use the term “sudacas” to refer, in a very derogatory way, to all Latin-American people. Sudaquia is the place from where sudacas come from, or in other words, a derogatory way to refer to Latin-America. Sudaquia Editores was the name of the fictitious publishing house that I used in Professor Delano’s Book Production and Design’s class term project. When my wife, Maria Angelica, and I decided to move forward with the idea of starting our publishing business of books in Spanish, we thought that using Sudaquia Editores was a great idea because it was powerful, irreverent, and a great way to re-vindicate both the term and the Latin-American people by showing the richness and diversity of the Latin-American literature.

BRE: Can you tell us about some of the books that Sudaquia publishes? What book are you most proud of? 

ASDRÚBAL: Sudaquia begun with two collections originally, one of fiction (Sudaquia), and the other of non-fiction (Enfasis). In 2014 we added a poetry collection (El gato cimarron), and this Fall 2016 we just added a fourth collection (Cangejo) for thrillers, crime, and noir works.

It is very hard for me to choose [a book to be most proud of] because each title represents a journey. Some of the titles from which I feel great satisfaction are Siempre nos quedará Madrid (We Will Always Have Madrid)—a memoir by the Cuban author Enrique Del Risco, Métodos de la lluvia (Rain’s Method)—a poetry book by Leonardo Padrón, La filial (The Subsidiary) by Matias Celedón, Para comerte mejor (All the Better to Eat You) by Giovanna Rivero, and Caléndula (Marigold) by Kianny Antigua.

BRE: What are some major differences and/or similarities you’ve noticed between the publishing industries and their trends for books written in Spanish versus those written in English?

ASDRÚBAL: The main difference between publishers of books in English and publishers of books in Spanish is that, in the English publishing world, books are part of the entertainment industry, while in Spanish books are directly related to culture.

This simple difference defines almost everything, because while entertainment is “cool” and “easy to sell,” culture could become “boring” in some cases, and perceived as something meant to be for an intellectual elite instead of the average person. That defines the catalogues offered and the way marketing campaigns are crafted. For publishers of books in English, each successful author becomes a brand; on the other hand, each publisher of books in Spanish makes a brand of itself that influences authors through the catalogue of authors previously published and readers, due to the quality of the content and design of the books they publish.

BRE: Sudaquia is addressing the untapped market for Spanish-written books in America—how do you hope for Sudaquia to continue to impact the future of Spanish literature outside of Latin American countries? 

ASDRÚBAL: There is still a lot to do for literature in Spanish in the United States. Besides continuing to publish new titles by Latin-American authors, we want to publish more authors that write in Spanish and live in the US. It makes no sense that they have to either write in English or look for a publisher abroad because there is no option in the US. We want to keep expanding our reach in the US and find a way to reach some big cities in Canada where Hispanic immigrants have a notable presence. Sudaquia is part of a group of game changers for books in Spanish in the US, in that, little by little, as result of our hard work, literature in Spanish is gaining some space. We need and want to continue working for it.

BRE: What were some of the highlights from your time at Pace? Can you tell us about some of your internship experiences while there?

ASDRÚBAL: At Toppan Printing, I learned about customer relationships. Almost everyday we received proofs either from the printer in China or from the clients that needed to be processed and sent forward.

At Atria Books, I was submerged in everyday tasks of an editorial department and had the opportunity to experience firsthand the dynamics and philosophy of such a huge publisher as Simon & Schuster.  Some of my responsibilities were proofreading, English-to-Spanish translations, and finding and fixing errors in manuscripts.

BRE: What was the topic of your thesis as a graduate student in the Pace Publishing Program? Did it help you shape your career post-graduation?

ASDRÚBAL: My thesis topic was on marketing of books in Spanish in the United States. It was titled: Is there a market for books in Spanish in the United States?, and was an approach to a topic so niche as books in Spanish in the United States, going from a general understanding of the US Hispanic market to the specifics of books.

I think that it is pretty obvious the influence of this paper over my career after graduating is unquestionable. This experience helped me to learn many things about the books in the Spanish market in the USA, allowing me to achieve a better understanding of the market, the errors and achievements from previous ventures, and it planted the seed that pushed me to pursue this opportunity.

BRE: We just posted an internship at your company. Can you tell us a bit about what the student would learn as an intern working with you?

ASDRÚBAL:  During this internship, the student would have the chance to learn about marketing and publicity of a very niche product for a quickly growing market in the United States. This person will be working directly with me, allowing him/her to experience the everyday of a small publishing business.

BRE: What advice would you give to students who are interested in starting their own publishing company, or who are looking to stand out from other applicants as they apply for jobs?

ASDRÚBAL: For those that have an entrepreneurial interest, my best advice is to learn all you can about bookselling and marketing. Also, read Never Get a Real Job by Scott Gerber. Obviously you already have read and understood Publishing for Profit by Thomas Woll.

For those looking for a job, the best advice is to intern over and over and over, and go beyond what you’re asked or expected to do. If you are sure which specific area of publishing you want to work at, develop skills that you can use to differentiate yourself from the rest.

For both, I will also recommend on networking and follow-up, over and over. You never know who would be the one willing to help you open the door to the opportunity you’re looking for. I recommend you to read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, a great book about how to build successful relationships. And if you haven’t ever seen the Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, please do it. If you have, listen it again. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc.

BRE: And just for the fun of it, what book are you reading now? Or, do you have a favorite children’s book that you read to your young son?

ASDRÚBAL: Besides reading manuscripts, at the moment I’m constantly reading books about business, entrepreneurship, and social marketing. At the moment, for example, I’m reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson and Think Like a Rock Star by Mark Collier. I’m also constantly in search of information about news related to the publishing industry, including which are the bestsellers and why they became a bestseller, and trying to keep track of what the trends of books in English and Spanish are.

About my son, it is not if I have a favorite, but what he wants me to read to him. At the moment, he is enjoying Thomas the Tank Engine a lot from the collection of books he got on his birthday.

BRE: Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share with current students or alumni?

ASDRÚBAL: Learn how to market and sell books, that is the core of the whole business. You could have the new Harry Potter, but if you don’t know how to market and sell it, it will never become the new Harry Potter. Knowing how to sell books will make you a better professional, regardless the path you want to follow.

BRE: You have recently been asked to join the MS in Publishing Advisory Board.  Congratulations! What do you hope to gain/give in this position? Is there anyone at Pace you would like to thank?

ASDRÚBAL: It is a great honor for me to join the Publishing Advisory Board. I’m sure that listening and sharing with all the board members will help me to keep developing as a better professional and person. My desire is to help in anyway I can, to make the Pace’s publishing program better every day. The publishing industry is changing in many ways, and it is our responsibility to keep the program current with the industry while strengthening the basics of the trade. I would like to thank Prof. Raskin, who believed in me since the moment we met. I’d also like to thank the faculty and staff that, in one way or another, helped through my years at Pace, with special thanks to Prof. Soares, Prof. Delano, and Prof. Denning, who have opened many doors and shared their experience and advice all these years.

Bre: Thank you, Asdrúbal, for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us!

Alumni in the Spotlight: Andrea St. Aubin

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Andrea St. Aubin graduated from the MS in Publishing Program in December 2014. Originally from South Carolina, Andrea received a BA iscreen-shot-2016-11-14-at-12-31-25-pmn English from the University of South Carolina in June 2013. It was always her dream to move to New York City and pursue a career in book publishing, so she wasted no time when applying to grad school. She was very fortunate to be accepted into the Pace Publishing Program and to be chosen as a graduate assistant. Andrea’s favorite fiction author is Haruki Murakami, and she dreams of visiting Japan one day. She is a big kid at heart and will always watch cartoons and Disney movies. More than anything, Andrea loves the magic of words and storytelling.

Breana Swinehart: Hi Andrea! Could please share what your current official job title is and what your work involves?

Andrea St. Aubin: I am an Assistant Production Editor at Penguin Random House, working specifically with the imprints Putnam, Riverhead, Avery, and Blue Rider Press as part of the copyediting team.

Bre: How did you find your current position?

Andrea: I found this position by looking at the Penguin Random House career website. I was very lucky because I actually had no connections in this department. I landed this job with the help of my experience and never giving up.

Bre: Could you explain some of the work you do, such as how your department interacts with others in the company?

Andrea: The production editorial department is essentially the copyediting and proofreading group. We work closely with managing editorial and the production teams to ensure that t’s are crossed, i’s are dotted, and that en- and em-dashes are used correctly… among other things, of course. We’re the team you come to ensure correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style. I also get to check book jacket proofs and am in charge of checking reprint corrections as well as overseeing paperback conversions. I have always valued paperbacks, so this is a very important job to me.

Bre: What was it about this particular field of publishing that made you interested in pursuing it?

Andrea: I knew I wanted to work in a department that would deal more directly with the words themselves. Copyediting and proofreading is a form of protecting the dignity and truth of the content, making sure that the finished product is of expected quality. I know how troubling it can be as a book lover to see a mistake, so I love that I can be a part of catching them.

Bre: Tell us some aspects of your job that you love—what are some things that make your excited about what you’re doing now?

Andrea: I love when I catch a mistake that may have been overlooked the first time around. Normally there are very few mistakes, so it is always a fun surprise to find one and fix it. Looking at book jacket proofs and seeing how their text copy changes is interesting as well. It has to be seen by every department, so you never know who might suggest what. Working with all the different departments and coordinating with them is very fulfilling. I love feeling like I’m part of a larger team. At the end of the day, my favorite thing about my position is, of course, being surrounded by books! Seeing the books you have worked on being sold in book stores? Now that is the ultimate reward.

Bre: You’ve worked in the past with the Women’s National Book Associationcan you explain how that helped you with your professional career?

Andrea: Being a part of the WNBA is great because you get to interact with other strong and intelligent women who have worked in the industry. There are many great connections, but it is also a wonderful inspiration to be surrounded by likeminded people.

Bre: Could you share more details about the path you took to get where you are in publishing?

Firstly, remember that everyone’s path is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. I knew I wanted to work in publishing when I was in middle school. At first I wanted to work for a fashion magazine, but after having an encouraging high school English teacher, I decided I wanted to work in book publishing.

In undergrad I majored in English, and I worked for the university press for several months for some experience. I knew I wanted to move to New York right after undergrad, but I wanted a secure way to get my foot in the door. In my junior year of undergrad I applied to several graduate publishing programs. In the end I chose Pace because of its tight-knit program and the opportunity I received to be a graduate assistant.

During my second semester in the program I began interning at a book packager called MTM Publishing. I highly recommend MTM for anyone who would like to start out with an independent company. I continued with MTM even after I graduated in December 2014 and worked there up until I started at Penguin in May of this year. Throughout that time, I continued to lologook for positions with larger companies, but I was not successful. It took a year and a half from the time I graduated from Pace to land the job I have now. I am very glad I had the dedication and patience to continue searching and interviewing, and that I had a group of people who believed in me never to give up.

Bre: Looking back on your time at Pace, how do you think your educational experiences from the MS Publishing Programs helped you prepare for your current job?

Andrea: The program definitely taught me valuable knowledge about the industry that I may never have been able to learn elsewhere. It is a great feeling to know about how different departments work before jumping into a big company. Knowing the terminology and understanding the hierarchies made me feel more confident when I first began.

Bre: What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?

Andrea: My favorite part of the program was being able to learn all of this wonderful information from these amazing professors who have worked or are working in the industry. I am so thankful I could learn from Professor Soares, Professor Levitz, and Professor Lian. All of the professors were great, but these three in particular were important in my publishing journey. Professor Raskin was a great support as well and always encouraged me to keep going. I also loved working on the blog as a graduate assistant in the computer lab and being able to interact with my classmates as they came in to work on homework and papers. We were a community who all supported one another and strived for similar goals.

Bre: What advice would you give students entering the field to set themselves apart from other applicants?

Andrea: Try to make as many connections as you can. This can be difficult at first, especially for more quiet and shy individuals like myself. However, if you never try to talk to someone, you will never know what could arise from that connection. The program was great for meeting different people in the industry because of the various speakers we had. If you don’t feel like you can introduce yourself to someone personally, grab their business card, and shoot them an email, thanking them for the lecture. That could be the start of a relationship.

I was lucky to have a handful of connections, and a few helped me land interviews. However, I had no connections when I landed my job at Penguin. I truly believe that my experience and my knowledge helped to set me apart from the other applicants—always keep learning and gaining experience. Stick it out as long as you can. Your drive and determination will allow you to prevail.

Lastly, be yourself! You will be working with the person who interviews you, so you want to be honest with both yourself and the interviewer.

Bre: Where do you see yourself professionally in the future, possibly 5 to 10 years into your career?

Andrea: In five to ten years I hope to be in a senior role, whether it be in production editorial, managing editorial, or editorial. I also hope that I will be working with children’s picture books. I love working with adult fiction and nonfiction now, but picture books are my ultimate goal. Even though I did not immediately enter the children’s book field, I know that what I am doing now will be incredibly valuable.

Bre: Thank you so much for your insights! Is there anything else you would like to mention to students reading this?

Andrea: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If this is truly your dream, don’t give up. I know how hard it can be when you don’t achieve what you want at first. But everything you do has meaning, as long as you believe in it. Surround yourself with people who believe in you when you have days when you can’t seem to believe in yourself. However, if you find that what you thought you wanted is no longer what you want, then that is okay. The most important thing you can do is to try. This life is yours, so follow your heart, whenever you can.

Bre: Thank you, Andrea, for your thoughtful and encouraging responses! 

Alumni in the Spotlight: Alex Grover

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Alex Grover is an E-book Production Associate at Penguin Random House. He is also web editor for the New York Chapter of the WNBA. He is a 2016 graduate of the Pace MS in Publishing Program and currently lives in Harlem, NY.

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-12-00-19-pmBreana Swinehart: Hello Alex! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. What’s your official job title, and what does your job entail?

Alex Grover: I am an E-book Production Associate at Penguin Random House. I take print files for Berkley/NAL, Roc, Ace, and other Penguin Group imprints and convert them into e-books for vendors like Apple, Google, and Amazon.

Bre: Can you describe some of the work you do and how your department interacts with the other members of the company?

Alex: I consistently work on mass-market titles, which range from cozy cat mysteries to erotica (an interesting spectrum for sure!), but since our department is very collaborative, I’ve had the opportunity to work on children’s books, business books, cookbooks, and the classics as well. Since I started as an assistant in July of 2015, I’ve converted or updated frontlist and backlist books by authors like Jojo Moyes, Nora Roberts, Christine Feehan, Arthur Miller, and Stephen King.

Because e-books require many of the same resources as the print edition, we receive specific instructions from production and design, editorial, and managing editorial on how exactly to create an e-book for a given title. We also create promotional e-books for marketing and work with subsidiary rights when acquiring the rights to new backlist titles that need e-books.

Bre: What are “promotional e-books?”

Alex: I guess the “promotional” nomenclature is a bit wonky! What I generally mean is a free e-book that marketing will promote to get the word out about an author, develop a readership, and simply just create content that brings more readers to PRH. There are also e-galleys that we create (which are different than what I call promotional e-books) that serve as first-pass press copies.

Bre: What made you want to work in this particular field of publishing?

Alex: In 2014, it didn’t even occur to me that there were people dedicated to making e-books full-time. Here we are in 2016, and I’m neck-deep in it.

I actually stumbled onto the Pace University publishing courses when I was looking for creative writing programs. I was lucky enough to receive a graduate assistantship at Pace University Press, where I developed some of my initial production chops. But, of course, I didn’t think anything of production at first. I’d caught the editorial bug, which I think is the bug most everyone who initially enters publishing has. Editorial is great for a lot of people, but something really important I learned through Pace—and came to find out firsthand at PRH—is the range of different jobs you can find in publishing. There’s quite a lot other than editorial: sales, marketing, legal, design, human resources, online services, IT, and, of course, digital production.

Bre: How did you find your current position?

Alex: The e-book career path came by chance. Professor Jane Denning recommended I apply for an internship with RosettaBooks, whose production manager (Hannah Bennett) was also a Pace publishing alum. Once there, I truly started delving into the world of e-books.

After roughly four months, Professor Denning forwarded an opportunity my way for an assistant position in PRH’s e-book production department. A year and a few months after accepting the position, I’m entirely immersed.

I do have to say, and as you can see, Professor Denning and Pace were really influential in helping me find my way towards e-books. It took a bit of luck and timing, but their connections were absolutely huge for me. I sincerely couldn’t have made it to PRH without them.

Bre: Tell us some aspects of your job that you love—what are some things that make you excited about what you’re doing now?

Alex: I love to read books, but I think there’s a part of me that loves making books more. The actual craft of building an e-book gives me joy to no end. While the technical details may be mundane to others, what makes me happy about the job is translating a quirky design format to HTML and CSS, or finishing an image-heavy book, reading it over, and thinking, “Wow—this actually looks really good.” And the coding component, which includes both e-book design and workflow automation, helps ensure I have a new puzzle to solve every day.

Bre: Looking back on your time at Pace, how do you think your educational experiences from the MS Publishing Programs helped you prepare for your current job?

Alex: The program gave me a stellar survey of the general publishing process. I was able to jump right into the production schedule at PRH because I’d already prepped for these schedules in my Pace classes. Hearing anecdotes from my professors—each currently or previously having been immersed in publishing—also made me feel very comfortable from the start when meeting production and editorial staff. I even had a situation where a new colleague at work knew one of my professors, which helped ensure an instant connection.

Bre: The thesis you wrote as a graduate student here—“E-Books as Non-interactive Textual Compositions: An Argument for Simplicity over Complexity in Future E-Book Formats”—was published in an edition of the Publishing Research Quarterly. (Congratulations!) Would you mind sharing some background on the article and what you hope readers come away with understanding?

Alex: Thank you! When I began work on my thesis, I was obsessed with the idea of virtual reality, or VR, as the new way that readers could consume their favorite books or the news. Funny enough, the more I looked into the idea, the more I realized that e-books are not fit for VR devices (at least for the next decade). It’s not that VR e-books (or v-books, as I called them, which is me trying to be clever and failing), aren’t possible, it’s really that there’s no demand for something like a VR e-book that would warrant a budget more suited for a video game or mobile app. Instead, I think the converse will come true: that e-books will emerge in even more accessible formats than they are now. That said, having now worked almost a full year in e-book production after finishing the paper, I don’t really see this happening until a new trailblazing product or service comes to supplant current e-readers.

Bre: What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?

Alex: Having mentioned the editorial bug to you, I can tell you how I was freed from it. I took Editorial Practices and Principles with one of my favorite professors at Pace, Meghan Stevenson, and I was bent on being the best student in that class. I wasn’t, though, because frankly editorial wasn’t the right fit for me. The professor gave out many true-to-life and sobering assignments that reflected the editorial world. While I didn’t quite bomb them, they helped me rethink my trajectory in publishing and focus on what I was good at, which was production. That professor is now a good friend that I very much count as a mentor.

The friends I made at Pace are still some of the best I have in New York. The same close-knit group I used to study with and sit with at the infamous David Pecker Lectures are now contacts at Macmillan, Workman, Hachette, and elsewhere. A MS in Publishing graduate from Pace can expect to make friends across the industry.

Bre: You recently became a member of Pace’s MS in Publishing Advisory Board—again, congratulations! What do you hope to accomplish with this new position?

Alex: Thank you again! I’m very grateful to Prof. Sherman Raskin for inclusion on the board. For one, I want to give a perspective on the program from a recent graduate. A way for the board to get the most accurate insights on the program is to ask its own students what they think of the program. But I think I can really help when informing what’s needed for digital production, which has become a much more prevalent part of the publishing process. I had a recent discussion with a supervisor who said that a lot of otherwise qualified candidates don’t have the necessary skill set to work in digital. I want Pace students to have the advantage in that regard.

Bre: What advice would you give students entering the field do to set themselves apart from other applicants?

Alex: Here is where that skill set I mentioned comes into play. For any position in digital production, desktop publishing software like Adobe InDesign and languages like HTML and CSS experience are a must. Applicants who don’t have these knowledge bases aren’t even considered. I’d also recommend learning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, which are other industry-grade programs used across production and design.

penguin_random_house_2014_logo_detail_whiteWhile I don’t hire anyone myself, I do have an interview story. When I applied for my first position at PRH, I was coming in with a decent bit of experience in production, but not more than any other committed applicant. Months later, I learned that I was neck-and-neck with another candidate who had the same level of experience and skills that I had.

The reason they chose me? They asked me where I saw myself in five years. I said I was interested in a career in e-books. When they asked the same question to the other candidate, they said they weren’t sure. That was the tipping point.

My advice: If you’re sincerely interested in a position, be sure to express that certitude in the interview, even if you don’t see yourself there in five years. If you find you don’t even have that conviction, be mindful of whether or not you actually want that position.

Bre: What do you see yourself working on in the future, say 5 to 10 years into your career?

Alex: That’s an interesting question, since I’ve really only just begun at PRH. Wherever I end up in the next five years, whether I’m managing a department or more heavily involved in programming, I hope my work is e-book related.

Bre: Thank you so much for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Alex: I appreciate you taking the time to interview me! I also want to thank Professor Denning and Prof. Raskin for all of the opportunities they afforded me over the past two years. I intend to remain part of the Pace community for a long time.

Publishing is not for everyone. It’s a mix of corporate office work, number-crunching, and literary craftsmanship. Yet, there’s an immense joy across colleagues when a book becomes a rousing success. When publishing is good, it’s really good.

Bre: Thank you, Alex, for your informative interview!

Pace Alumni Named in Publishers Weekly Star Watch 2016

imgresPace alumni Hannah Bennett was just recognized by Publisher’s Weekly second annual Star Watch. Star Watch is designed to formally acknowledge young professionals in publishing who have promise as future leaders within the industry. Hannah graduated from Pace in 2012 and is now the current Managing Editor at RosettaBooks.

As per the article: “Poetry aside, there is nothing Zen-like in Bennett’s workaday world. When she joined RosettaBooks in 2012, it published only backlist e-books. Now, with a print frontlist that she and her team built from scratch, it is a bona fide trade nonfiction publisher. “We’ve got an efficient and coaaeaaqaaaaaaaah3aaaajdu3nwzmowuzltuzmtytnge4mc05zjnilti1ztazmtg4zwm0mgmpetitive program that I’m truly proud of,” she says. Upcoming on the list that she has forged is a book by the radio talk show host Delilah and a memoir by Dawit Habte, which she describes as the “harrowing story of a brilliant Eritrean refugee who now works for Bloomberg.” When Bennett is not working with such high-profile experts as the legal eagle Alan Dershowitz and the Silicon Valley guru John Sculley, she gives her time to the Women’s National Book Association, for which she has recently taken on the role of president of the New York City chapter. She is particularly excited about a women-in-comics panel that she is organizing with Pen + Brush. Other un-Zen-like activities include serving on the advisory board of Rosetta and tweaking the draft of a book that she just completed.”

You can read more about Publishers Weekly’s Star Watch, as well as see more from Publishers Weekly, here.

Bennett has also done an Alumni Interview with Professor Jane Kinney-Denning, which can be found here.

Alumni in the Spotlight : Carrie Conta

Alumni in the SpotlightIn this alumni interview, Brittany Fuller  speaks with Carrie Conta, an MS in Publishing graduate who has furthered her publishing career as the Advertising and Promotion Manager for HarperCollins Publishers’ Adult division.

Carrie Conta
graduated in May 2010 with an MS in Publishing, and went on to work for Springer Publishing before being hired by HarperCollins Publishers. Since then, she has worked in their Client Services, Harper 360, and Advertising and Promotion departments. Before diving head-first into her Publishing studies and into her new life in New York, Carrie graduated from the University of Kansas with a BA in History, and volunteered at the National WWI Museum, Liberty Memorial, in Kansas City. When she’s not researching swag or creating ads, she can be seen writing, catching up on terrible television, and creating tabletop games with her husband.

Brittany F
: Where do you currently work and what is your job title?
Carrie: I am the Advertising and Promotion Manager for HarperCollins Publishers’ Adult division.

Brittany F: What does your job as Manager in Advertising and Promotion entail? Can you describe some of the work you do and how your department interacts with the other members of the company?
Carrie: The majority of my job involves creating advertisements, social media assets, and promotional items, as well as coordinating shipments and manning the booth for conventions. That “swag” you get when you visit BookCon or Comic Con? It’s fun to say I research and design that!

Brittany F: What is it like to work for a prestigious and innovative company like HarperCollins?
Carrie: From day one, you’re surrounded by people who not only know the ins and outs of the industry and have cultivated the careers of many bestselling authors, but you’re also around people who just love to read. It’s a large company, but there are opportunities to get to know your coworkers with book clubs, networking events, and groups like HarperCollins Emerging Professionals, which was helpful when I was starting out.

Brittany F: Why did you choose the particular field or aspect of publishing you are currently in? How did you get this job?
Carrie: I actually joined the company in our Client Services department, assisting the sales team. I had taught myself the Adobe Suite in college, primarily Photoshop, and was able to put those skills to work a few times in creating sales materials. I still love sales, but over time I wanted a chance to really put my design skills to work. In my first few years at HarperCollins, I was also given the opportunity to visit or volunteer at BEA and New York Comic Con, which gave me the chance to look at all the interesting “swag” various marketing teams were using to promote their latest titles (plus, I was able to nerd out over my favorite books and authors). From there, I found a position in our Advertising and Promotion department, and I was lucky enough to get the job. My experience in the company and self-taught skills didn’t hurt, though I know finding the right job at the right time has some degree of luck to it.

Brittany F: What are some of your favorite parts of your job and some of the biggest challenges?
Carrie: I can’t describe how cool it is to create a promotional item for a book I’m really thrilled about. T-shirts, tote bags, headphones, sunscreen bottles, whatever. I just made custom cookies and am researching sunglasses options, for crying out loud! It changes all the time, so I’m never bored. The challenge that comes with that, though, is there are a lot of time constraints, so you need to be able to prioritize and turn pieces around rather quickly. Some pieces take up to a month to produce once final files are sent to the vendor. For some books you may not have art or final copy in until just before the deadline. From there, you need to send the current design to a number of people to sign off on and it may make several rounds of changes, which can be rapid-fire or take weeks. Like I said, I’m never bored.

Brittany F: What are the perks and highlights of being part of the publishing industry?
Carrie: Free books! I don’t think I’ll ever get over the joy of holding an ARE for a title I’m excited about. Also, you can never underestimate how wonderful it is to be around like-minded people. I’ve been lucky in having wonderful coworkers and supportive mentors who enjoy publishing, are passionate about books, and want you to succeed. It’s an ever-changing industry, and I honestly believe that, regardless of what shape books take in the future, people will always be passionate about reading. To have the chance to contribute to that is a privilege. Continue reading “Alumni in the Spotlight : Carrie Conta”

Alumni in the Spotlight: Drucilla Shultz

Alum_Spotlight3In this alumni interview, Prof. Denning speaks with Drucilla Shultz, an MS in Publishing graduate who has furthered her publishing career as Bookroom Editor at Publishers Weekly (also known as PW).

Before her publishing dreams took her to New York City, Drucilla Shultz was born and raised in a small town in southern Arkansas. After graduating with a degree in English from Hendrix College in 2011, Drucilla got a double shock: the Pace Publishing program (graduating in 2013) and New York City. Despite her mother calling every time something in NY makes the news and sending her vials of pepper spray with alarming frequency, Drucilla has settled into her life of reading and video games quite well and looks forward to her one year anniversary as Bookroom editor at Publishers Weekly.

Professor Denning: Hello Drucilla! Please tell us where you currently work and what is your job title? Also tell us a little about your company and what they do.

Drucilla: Hi! I currently work at Publishers Weekly as the Bookroom Editor. Publishers Weekly is a weekly magazine featuring industry news and pre-publication reviews. I’m also an editorial assistant at BookLife, which is our site that’s geared towards self-publishing news and helping self-published authors achieve their goals. Indie authors can submit their books for PW review consideration there as well.

Professor Denning: What does your job as a Bookroom Editor entail? Can you describe some of the work you do?

Drucilla: Well, I oversee the PW bookroom (and the interns that work there) and, consequently, deal with any non-technical issues with GalleyTracker, our online reviews submission system. In addition, I assist the Reviews editors in whatever they need, including taking on their role when they’re on vacation/leave. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job! As a BookLife editorial assistant, I answer customer service emails for BookLife and our PW Select marking program as well as conduct author interviews for the site.

Alumni pic
Drucilla Shultz

Professor Denning: How is it different working for your company (Publishers Weekly) than other publishing companies in the industry?

Drucilla: Technically this is my first “real” job in the publishing industry and the internships I’ve had have been very different from one another and from what I’m doing now. I’ve interned at the Children’s Book Council, Macmillan Children’s Publishing, and at PW (before they hired me, of course). I think two things set PW apart from other companies: the fact that we work on a weekly schedule (much faster than the 1-2+ year turnaround that publishing companies work with!) and that I get to see such a wide variety of books. Smaller publishers don’t have this problem, but when I talk to friends at bigger houses, they usually complain that they have tunnel vision in regards to their imprint. I love that I get to see all of the different books that come in.

Professor Denning: Why did you choose the particular field or aspect of publishing you are currently in? How did you get this job?

Drucilla: I’ve always wanted to do editorial work, but I kind of just lucked into the PW position. The previous Bookroom editor was promoted to a Reviews editor position and they knew I was looking for a job so they offered it to me. I had always heard about people being hired on after their internships ended and I’d think, “Those lucky dogs!” Now I guess I’m the lucky one.

Professor Denning: What do you love about of your job and what are some of your favorite parts? What are the perks and highlights of being part of the publishing industry?

Drucilla: The perks are definitely the books! I think everyone in the industry will agree with that (it certainly isn’t the paycheck!) I’ve been a huge reader all of my life so getting to learn the nuts and bolts behind my favorite pastime is always eye-opening. And I love that my job is so varied. I do so many different things in a day. If I get bored or frustrated, I can move onto something else for a short while.

Professor Denning: How do you think that technology has impacted and continues to impact the Publishing Industry? In particular, editing? Are there any traditional methods that you see staying the same despite technological advances?

Drucilla: Being able to get immediate feedback from an editor or literary agent or the printer or author or readers is the single most important thing to happen to the publishing industry. Being able to writing clear, precise comments on a manuscript and immediately send it to an author has definitely helped the editing process.

Professor Denning: Do you have any thoughts about what the future might hold for bookselling? What do you think are the biggest challenges in the Publishing Industry today?

Drucilla: I think we can safely assume at this point that print books aren’t going anywhere so I think the biggest challenge on the horizon is Amazon. Industry people have talked about Amazon’s business practices for years but Amazon still managed to stay in the background. It wasn’t until the Amazon-Hachette battle shoved them into the limelight that people outside the industry started to pay attention. I’m going to be very interested in what happens the next few years.

Professor Denning: Where do you see yourself in the future — 5 to 10 years into your career?

Drucilla: I’m not sure. I’m still absorbing the fact that this is the first time that my job doesn’t come with an hourly salary! I had never considered working at a magazine before (in fact I actively avoided magazines courses at Pace), but I really enjoy working at PW. I said this before, but I just love seeing all of the different genres that come in every day and unless I went to work at a smaller house (or managed to snag the right imprint at a bigger house), I wouldn’t get to see that.

Professor Denning: Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.

Drucilla: Learning from people who were working in the industry was a big help because it gave me a better understanding of publishing. I had no idea what the industry was like before I started classes and my professors gave me a basic overview which my internships could expand.

Professor Denning: What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience? Are there any  teachers, courses or just fond classroom memories here?

Drucilla: Well, I’ve already mentioned how much I love children’s books so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I took the Children’s course with Professor Soares. It was my first taste of children’s publishing and I loved it. The guest speakers we had were fantastic. In fact, just about all of the guest speakers I had in my classes turned out to be wonderful. I was also surprised at how much I liked Supply Chain Management with Professor DiMascio. I didn’t really know what to expect and I learned a lot. Book Production and Design with Professor Delano was another favorite.

Professor Denning: Did you do an internship(s) while getting you degree? Can you tell us a bit about your experience(s)?

Drucilla: I took the Internship course and did my internship with the Children’s Book Council. I was the Library and Special Projects intern. It didn’t have much to do with the publishing industry per se, but it was a fun little internship. I love organizing and keeping track of things and that was basically what the internship was. And again, it was fascinating to see the wide variety of books come in.

Professor Denning: What was your topic for your thesis paper? Do you have any advice or tips for students currently writing theirs?

Drucilla: My topic was Crowdfunding in Publishing and, by extension, I included self-publishing. At the time, there wasn’t much information so I had to make it work. I recommend setting a schedule for yourself: a section/paragraph every couple of days. This way you won’t get burned out writing or put it off for too long. I also found index cards to be extremely helpful. I would write each of my sections on a different notecard so I could get a clearer view of what the paper would be before I had actually written it. Finally, don’t worry too much. I agonized over my graduate thesis and it turned out that the whole process was easier than what I had to do for my undergraduate thesis!

Professor Denning: What advice would you give students entering the field do to set themselves apart from other applicants? Do you look for anything specific on a resume or in an interview?

Drucilla: Be extremely well read and not just in your genre. When I interview, I like to ask about favorite books or the last book that they read. I think it’s a good way to evaluate not just an applicant, but any person. I just discover “reading challenges” on the internet and I highly recommend them. There are many different kinds and they’re a good way to cover a wide variety of books that you otherwise may not have picked up.

Professor Denning: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Drucilla: Lots of really clichéd advice comes to mind, but other than that, make friends in the industry. Not networking, but actual friends. It’s such a stress reliever to be able to talk to someone who understands your job. And you never know when they’ll be able to pass along that book you’ve been dying to read!

Thank you for doing this interview with us!

Alumni in the Spotlight

Alum_Spotlight3In this alumni interview, Prof. Denning speaks with Dan Shao and Mengqi Li, two recent MS in Publishing graduates who have returned to China to continue their publishing careers.

Dan Shao graduated from Pace in May 2013 after working at Open Road Integrated Media for two years. Now she is the Deputy Director of Platform Operation Department at CNPIEC (China National Publications Import and Export Company). She started her path to publishing in childhood. Growing up in her family’s printing factory, she loved the smell of paper and ink and started to study all the different ways of binding. Dan received her bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang Gongshan University in editing and publishing and worked for her university’s press as an editor for a year. She then attended Pace University’s MS in Publishing program to start her fantastic digital publishing journey.

Prof. Denning:  Hi, Dan. Could you tell me a little about the progression of your career since graduating from Pace? How has the adjustment been, from school to work?

Dan: My path was quite simple. I started my internship at Open Road Integrated Media in my third semester, which turned into full-time employment after I graduated in 2013. The next year, I went back to China to work for CNPIEC, which stands for China National Publication Import and Export (Group) Company.

Working for a company and doing a master’s degree at school are quite different. There are lots of new things to learn and adapt to…little things like how to book a meeting room, get familiar with the kitchen (haha, just kidding), everything is brand new to me. I think the internship helped me a lot—helped me transition from school to work smoothly. Also, I am doing something that’s real; the books I created will be sold in Apple Store and Amazon straight to the readers’ hands. That makes me really excited be involved in this industry.

Please tell us about your experience at Pace studying for your MS in Publishing degree.

Dan: I entered Pace after one year working as an editor in China because I thought the world was turning to digital, and I need to learn something new. Pace offered me all the good resources, the professors, the wonderful lab (I learned all publishing-related software here, did lots of my homework here, talked with my lovely classmates here… wonderful memories!), and of course networking.

The thing I love most about Pace is that lots of our professors come from the industry and know the industry very well. We learned things both from the textbook and the professors’ rich experience. They taught us comprehensive knowledge an provided  hands-on training. I really want to thank Professor Raskin, Professor Denning, Professor Lian, Professor Soares, Professor Delano, Professor Baron, Barbara Egidi…I just want to thank everyone I met at Pace!

Could you tell me about your current job? What is it that you enjoy most? What’s the hardest thing you’ve encountered in your career?

Dan ShaoDan: I am the Deputy Director of Platform Operation Department in the Digital Development Center at CNPIEC now. My work is to lead the production team; all our content will be sold on our digital platform, which is called CNPeReading. CNPeReading has aggregated millions of digital content files, including magazines, journals, ebooks, audio, video, and all other digital materials. CNPeReading sells this content to libraries and institutional users directly, and will cover individuals in the near future. If anyone is interested in our platform, feel free to e-mail me (shaodan@cnpiec.com.cn).

I love the way everyone is connected in our daily job and people work together to solve problems and conquer challenges.

The hardest thing I have encountered in my career… hmm, I think it might be at my previous job at Open Road. I was a digital production editorial assistant when it turned into full-time position. But two months later, my manager left the company and they were not able to find someone to fill her position. I took over all her responsibility for half a year, creating ebooks, talking to production-related software providers, working with marketing and editorial teams, and managing interns. That was a really fast growing process for me, but the experience enriched me; I learned to manage people, arrange tasks, and communicate with people well. Over time, it made me more confident.

You worked for Open Road Media, which is a heavily digital company. Have you always been interested in the digital aspects of publishing? How did working there influence you?

Dan: Yes, I can always learn new things in digital publishing, which is why I’ll always love it. The experience with Open Road helped me to understand the trends, technologies, standards, and business models in digital publishing.

What are some digital trends that you’ve been noticing in the publishing industry, specifically those in your area of work?

Dan: From my point of view, mobile reading is absolutely the trend in China. You can see people reading on their mobile phones everywhere, especially on the subway. Last year publishers got billions of dollars in revenue from mobile reading. I believe this will be the trend, and the market has huge potential.

What would you tell students who are beginning to look for work in publishing? Were there any pieces of wisdom that you employed to help you in your search?

Dan: I would say use the network you have at developed at Pace. Recommendations from people in the industry help a lot. I really want to thank you, Professor Denning, for recommending me to Open Road.

Also, you will need one skill that others do not have, or others are not doing well as you do. Open Road still hired me as their consultant after I went back to China, because I know how to create interactive eBooks, which is a more comprehensive epub format.

How has your education at Pace and elsewhere affected you in your pursuit of a career in publishing? Have you always been interested in publishing?

Dan: Yes! I love publishing, and I love the way publishing affects our life and society.  I studied publishing during my undergraduate schooling, learned basic knowledge of the publishing industry, went to Pace after one year’s working experience as a proof editor, worked for Open Road for two years, and then came to CNPIEC. I am happy that I am always doing something digital, and I will continue my digital path all the way.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you think publishing is facing now?

Dan: Amazon is definitely one of the biggest challenges for publishers in America. In China, I would say the piracy, because there is still tons of free content online that a lot of people are downloading. It is still the biggest issue in the industry. Government, publishers, readers should all put forth effort to change the situation.

What advice do you have for students who aren’t sure about where they want to land in publishing?

Dan: Find internships and try different positions. I saw some interns work for Open Road and they figured out if they loved a certain job or not after trying different departments. We had an intern who worked in our production department first, then interned for the marketing team, and found herself liking the marketing position better.

What are some valuable lessons or skills that you’ve learned since starting work full-time?

Dan: Team work! I know everyone knows team work is essential, but I truly understand how important team work is in my work. Everyone in the team needs to communicate with each other to make the work process clear and efficient.

In China, the whole industry is quite different than it is in America. Every publisher claims they are going digital, and everyone does their own thing using their own standards. We got all kinds of original digital files from publishers, resulting in a lot of extra work for our production team. Our team did a lot of work together to deal with these files and build our own standards for both the original files and our e-products.  That’s all team work; no one can do his job by himself.

What are your thoughts on the current discussion of digital rights?

Dan: Digital rights are always the issue in the industry. Open Road had dealt with issue before, but I didn’t quite understand the judgement. I think the judgement was a misunderstanding and misreading. In my opinion Digital publishers owns the digital rights so long as they received permission from the authors.

 How do you think students ought to approach their brand new careers in publishing?

Dan: Be brave and see yourself as a blank slate to learn things in the tough and wonderful publishing world.  A publishing career is a good life.

 

 

 

Mengqi LiMengqi Li is the Digital Project Manager at Penguin Random House China and a May 2014 graduate of Pace’s MS in Publishing program. Mengqi is from China where she received her bachelor’s degree from Nanjing Normal University, majoring in Theatre, Television, and Films. During her time at Pace, she interned at Open Road Integrated Media and became a part-time editor for a year.

Professor Denning:  Hello, Mengqi. Could you tell me a little about the progression of your career since graduating from Pace? How has the adjustment been, from school to work?

Mengqi: Hi Prof. Denning, thank you for asking me to do this interview! I miss my Pace Publishing classmates a lot now that I am in China! When I graduated from Pace, I had already been working at Open Road Integrated Media as a part-time digital production editor for over 6 months. I was extremely fortunate last September. I had the chance to be the special authorized liaison for The First World Digital Conference (Beijing, 2014). I invited international guest speakers from the US, Spain, and Brazil. For example, Open Road CEO Jane Friedman and PublishNews CEO Carlo Carrenho came. After attending that conference as an interpreter for Open Road, I was recommended for Penguin Random House China and luckily got my current full-time job as a Digital Project Manager in Beijing.

The knowledge I learned at Pace helped me a lot in the real world. The publishing industry in China is different, from government policy to consumer behavior. Although I had hands-on experience in publishing, I still feel new to this industry and I am learning every day.

Please tell us about your experience at Pace studying for your MS in Publishing degree.

Mengqi: I wasn’t from a publishing-related major when I was accepted to Pace. I worked for a provincial TV station in China as a hostess, editor, and video maker. I knew that I wanted to change my field, so when I found the Pace Publishing program, I thought about Digital Publishing— “Ha! That would be interesting and still in the media area (this is totally not true for books!)”. My first semester at Pace was extremely hard. I didn’t know the NYTimes Bestseller authors and had no idea about Marketing Principles, Finance, or Electronic Publishing. My daydream about publishing was too naïve. Nevertheless, Pace Publishing has very good, kind, and professional teachers and amazing, talented students! I received encouragement from them and learned quickly from the well-prepared courses.

My experience at Pace taught me that publishing is a small industry, but reflects the changes in every aspect of modern society. To survive in the current tide, you have to think smart, work hard, and keep learning.

Could you tell me about your current job? What is it that you enjoy most? What’s the hardest thing you’ve encountered in your job?

Mengqi: My current job is Digital Project Manager at Penguin Random House China. I am handling digital-related projects and assisting my colleagues in providing digital solutions. The merging of Penguin and Random House finally completed in China, and 2015 marks the 80th anniversary of Penguin and its 10th year in China. So, I am doing some special cases for the celebration and branding.

Working at PRH China, I am able to communicate with PRH staffs around the world. Penguin is a very creative publishing house. I am intrigued by their amazing ideas every week! Our parent company Bertelsmann organizes seminars about the hot topics frequently within the group, so I feel even though I am in publishing, I can get to know other industries as well.

PRH is a foreign company in China. We can’t publish books independently due to censorship. We have to co-publish with a local publishing house. Feeling confined is hard, but on the other hand, it gives me opportunity to learn the reality in Beijing efficiently. China has quickly developed in the past 4 years and Beijing is a new home to me; I am still in the exploratory stage.

You interned for Open Road Media, which is a heavily digital company. Have you always been interested in the digital aspects of publishing? How did interning there/working there influence you?

Mengqi: Yes! I like digital publishing. I was interning in the digital production team. My primary responsibility was to assist in creating eBooks. I practiced my skills there and gained hands-on experience in digital publishing. Working as a part-time editor later gave me the opportunity to handle some titles independently and corrected my opinions about digital publishing. For example, I wrote my thesis about metadata, because I believed that data was power enough to lead the trend of publishing. However, with help from the metadata coordinator, I did research and read several papers/books about big data and metadata, and I realized the reality is much more complicated.

Working at Open Road was a precious experience for me. Although it was a temporary job, I learned how to be professional, strong, and enhance myself. Also, it was my honor to work with Jane Friedman. When I left Open Road, I got her hand-written recommendation letter. The words she wrote about me and the greetings from my colleagues encouraged me to pursue the career I dreamed of.

What are some digital trends that you’ve been noticing in the publishing industry, specifically those in your area of work?

Mengqi: I strongly feel that integrated media is the trend and the inevitable. Books are not only in the physical bookstores or online (such as Amazon, iBooks); they also appear on the FM mobile platforms. For instance, audio books are getting more and more popular in China. You can also find ebooks on airplanes or read on Uber (Uber X Kindle). They say people don’t read, but the demand for contents is increasing. TV shows and movies are hunting for good content. Mobile games are based on books. Digital publishing is no longer just digitalizing print books and creating databases. Publishing is expanding in different industries and you have to be more creative.

What would you tell students who are beginning to look for work in publishing? Were there any pieces of wisdom that you employed to help you in your search?

Mengqi: Keep your eyes on this blog! Networking is vital! I got the position in Open Road because of the Pace blog and the help from Dan (my classmate)! She passed my resume along to my former supervisor. All the opportunities I had at Pace—for example, being the interpreter for 2014 BEA US-China Rights section and other seminars—were from the benefits of networking. It helps you get to know people, make friends, and offers you the chance to see the wonderful world!

How has your education at Pace and elsewhere affected you in your pursuit of a career in publishing? Have you always been interested in publishing?

Mengqi: Making things fascinates me. I liked video making when I was in undergraduate. Coding (Prof. Lian’s class) and desktop publishing skills helped me find jobs in the digital publishing area. My background and experience assisted me in understanding today’s rich media phenomenon. The papers and homework I wrote in Pace Publishing taught me to think deeply. I am not the same as some classmates that liked to read from childhood, but the day I stepped into this program, I knew I would like to develop my future career path in this industry. Working in an office that has books and book-related products is wonderful!

What are some of the biggest challenges that you think publishing is facing now?

Mengqi: I think the impact of the Internet is a big challenge. Internet-based products are rising fast in China. Publishers have to compete with mobile platforms, find solutions to partner with new media, and keep eyes on their regular competitors. Woo, that is really hard.

What advice do you have for students who aren’t sure about where they want to land in publishing?

Mengqi: I would say keep learning and don’t miss any opportunity in this industry. Pace is a great resource. Try an internship first. Even if you don’t like or know the job, at least you have the chance to know the real world. Then, figuring out what you want to do won’t be a problem.

Do you see yourself continuing in your current field long-term?

Mengqi: Yes! I think there are plenty of things I could do and experiment with in this field. Technology is changing fast, but it’s fun! Books could have more functions and no limits to their physical format!

What are some valuable lessons or skills that you’ve learned since starting work full-time?

Mengqi: First, different countries and companies have diverse working environments and policies. Study them first! Second, be creative and always think outside the box. Last but not the least, no pain, no gain. All the efforts you made in the past will benefit you eventually.

What are your thoughts on the current discussion of digital rights?

Mengqi: In China, the legal system of digital rights is not fully operational. Parents worry that devices will harm children’s eyes, so not many publishers acquire digital rights on kids’ titles. The majority of people here like to read on mobile, and they are more intrigued by web articles. However, the rights in this area are still up for discussion. I feel digital rights are not only about eBooks; they are appearing more and more comprehensive. When you look at a book, eBook rights are just a start. You will have to think about video, audio, and other digital-related subsidiary rights. I am looking forward to seeing how this system will be established eventually.

How do you think students ought to approach their brand new careers in publishing?

Mengqi: Networking! Don’t be afraid of talking to people. I was extremely shy because I didn’t have the confidence in speaking English and I was lacking publishing knowledge. Thanks to our kind teachers and classmates, I started by making friends from 551 5th Ave to forcing myself to participate in different events. Finally, I realized people in publishing like to share their opinions and experiences, and they want to know you as well! It is fun!!!

Link of the Week: Women’s Leadership Conference

 

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When it comes to advancing in your career, it can be difficult to know when taking a step forward is worth the risk. The working world is full of opportunities, but not every opportunity is the right one for you. Knowing how to take steps that will advance your career and cultivating leadership skills are important to having a successful and productive career.

But we’ve all heard of the people who went to school for one thing and ended up doing something entirely different. Sometimes things just happen; we all have to ready to embrace whatever comes. Maybe it’s not the dream, but who knows… it could lead you to a new dream.

On March 27-28, the Women’s Leadership Conference provides an opportunity to explore what it means and looks like to step out on a limb, to push forward in your career. Speakers will talk on a variety of topics, including brand management through digital profiles, turning talk into action, and others. Click here for a full list of the speakers, workshops, and panel discussions available.

One of Pace University’s Publishing program’s graduates of 2009, Dior Vargas, will be on a panel discussion titled “Life I Didn’t Expect.” The Women’s Leadership Conference is an excellent opportunity to engage with current discussion on a variety of issues and questions in the working world.

Click Here to see full event details

Also, take some time to read Vargas interview with Jane Denning here.

Alumni in the Spotlight

Alumni in the SpotlightRakesh Suresh is a 2012 graduate from the MS in Publishing program. He is currently employed with HCL’s Media Services vertical as an Assistant Manager. Rakesh’s role is to develop and offer focused solutions for media, publishing, and entertainment companies across the globe. His focus and desire is to take the conventional publishing world to the next level.

 

 

Professor Denning: What have you been up to since graduating from the program in 2012?

Rakesh: It’s been a great journey. I returned back to India after my graduation with a vision to take India’s publishing service sector to the next level. However, it was a little difficult to convince Indian executives to change and expand their organization’s portfolio (typical example of an innovator’s dilemma). So, I did a little introspective reflection and changed my game plan a bit. I joined Newgen Knowledgeworks as an Operations Manager, where my role was to handle a business worth about $1 million a year. As handling day-to-day operations is not my cup of tea, I had a very brief stint over there. I then joined HCL Technologies as a Presales Consultant where my role is to provide media/publishing related solutions (from both IT and business perspectives) to organizations across the globe.

Professor Denning: How do you think the program helped you towards your career, however unconventional?

Rakesh: This program changed my perspective on publishing altogether. If we limit the term ‘publishing’ to just books and magazines, we are simply missing the bigger picture here. The size of the pie is always greater than what we think! My humble opinion is, publishing isn’t limited to big corporate houses anymore. Publishing defines the dissemination of content, and it can be carried out by anyone in the world. Even a layman, who is publishing his content/views on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or a blog is a publisher today.

On that note, this program helped me to understand industry trends and the impact of the west coast (i.e. technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, Scribd, etc.) on the east coast (i.e. conventional publishing industry).

Rakesh_Suresh (2)Professor Denning: Seeing as you work in the technical end of publishing, what do you think is the up and coming trend in regards to digitization?

Rakesh: There are so many new developments: big data analytics (predictive marketing), semantic publishing, localized content owing to higher internet penetration in developing countries, XHTML or digital-first workflow, affordable CMS, CRM and DRM, customized content in e-learning and magazine industries, dynamic newsstand, technologies enabling content discoverability, value added to services through QR codes, augmented reality, near-field communication (NFC) etc., consolidation of niche products with bigger players e.g. Adobe CQ5, Adobe Experience Manager etc., the dominance of Google and Amazon in terms of advertising/display ads, content aggregation, device and distribution channels.  These are just a few trends that I can think of immediately.

The others, which are hugely discussed in almost all content related conferences, are apps, responsive websites, social media content aggregation and analytics.  I think most of the organizations have to get a better grip on these disruptive technologies.

Professor Denning: When did you discover that this path was the right path for you?

Rakesh: I did my Bachelors of Engineering in printing technology. During my undergraduate years, I felt that print books’ market share was slowly dying and hence I was curious about the role of technology in publishing. At that time, I happened to meet India’s national newspaper editor-in-chief and he advised me to pursue my career in new media, which was nascent and a hot topic seven years back. Hence, my game plan was to know/understand hardcore software development before I ventured myself into the business aspect of publishing.

The Publishing program really helped me understand the intricacies of the publishing business. My internship with Hachette Book Group and the many guest lectures I heard steered me in the right direction and paved the way for my growth.

Professor Denning: What advice do you have for other students who want to stray away from the traditional publishing path?

Rakesh: My input (not advice) to the future achievers/aspirants is not to negate the impact of technology in our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, publishing isn’t limited to books and magazines. It’s all about content, content, and content. Content is and will be in ‘bits’ going forward! If you can have a strong foundation in technology and business, success is not far away.

The world is in dire need of content experts who not only understand the business but also enable organizations to reach their audiences at the right time and the right place through the right channel.

HCL-TechnologiesProfessor Denning: What did you write your thesis on? And what advice do you have for those about to write their thesis?

Rakesh: My thesis was entitled ‘Searching for the Perfect Methods to Forecast Recurring Demand in Trade and Academic Publishing Supply Chain.’ I think the industry is still in search of a perfect method and, I think it will always be a combination of few methods.

My advice to students: stay focused on what you are passionate about. It is great if you can challenge the status quo. Never hesitate to talk to professors about your topic and objective. In my case, they were so kind and helped me to connect with industry people like Thomas Di Mascio, Linda Bathgate, and Jason Epstein, who not only gave clarity on the topic but also shared valuable industry insights.

Professor Denning: How important is it to network, even on the digital side of publishing?

Rakesh: It helps us to understand:

  • The current reality of the industry, and test the waters before you make a decision about your career
  • Your skill gaps or your areas that need improvement
  • Redefine your game plan/strategies at the right time
  • Envision the future of the industry/business units
  • Understand how the micro-level implementation impacts the macro-level objective
  • Thinking on our own feet – It gives an opportunity to examine our own mental models
  • Learn how to land in a job, if you are interested.

Professor Denning: What kind of skills do you need to enter your line of work?

Rakesh: A blend of IT and business knowledge. Analytical thinking. A love for new technologies and an interest to learn new things around the clock. More importantly, be willing to agree that the known is a little drop, the unknown is an ocean.

Professor Denning: Considering you have a unique view of the industry, what is something important for our students to know about publishing that they may not know otherwise?

Rakesh: Most of the processes are getting automated, and they are challenging and demanding (both in terms of development and usability). Several small software applications created with a well-defined focus can bring a paradigm shift to the organization. For example: subscription and distribution of eBooks, implementation of workflow management software, a seamless editorial management system, etc.—these not only change an organization’s capability matrix but also test employees’ skills and talent.

Every organization is looking out for innovative ways to monetize its content, for which technology is acting as their sole partner. To put it in a nutshell, publishing companies are becoming more of a content service provider backed by technology.

Publishing is evolving into a newer form, which embraces faster, personalized, user-generated content, new ways of digital storytelling and content sharing etc., and seamless integration with all sorts of devices.

Professor Denning: Where do you see the publishing industry headed in the next 5, 10, 15 years?

Rakesh: I wish I could!! It is really difficult to predict the future of the publishing industry over the long term at this juncture. That said, we can be sure of one thing: publishing is going to be more dynamic than ever before.

Technology is playing a key role in defining an organization’s strategy and the rate at which it should grow. Every aspect of publishing like format definition, distribution, editing, production, monetizing the backlist, the role of print and eBooks, etc. is changing faster than we ever dreamt of. It is an optimistic sign, and I personally envision many innovative business models evolving by collaborating with technology companies in the imminent future.

Publishing companies will have their own indigenous product development and R&D team, which will bring out innovative deliverables in conjunction with the latest technologies in real time. For example, recent research indicates that Augmented Reality (AR) apps currently generate $300 million in revenue. These apps could potentially earn $5.2 billion by 2017. In terms of print, it is going to be specialty products that can support smelling, tasting, augment reality, and offer innovative packaging to name a few. To sum it up, the focus would usher in a strategy fueled by technology, innovation, global markets, and strong ties with end users.

Thank you, Rakesh!

Alumni in the Spotlight–Robb Pearlmann and Jessica Napp

For this month’s Alumni in the Spotlight, Jessica Napp (2000) interviews her fellow alumna and colleague, Robb Pearlman (1994). 

Robb PearlmanRobb Pearlman is the Associate Publisher of Universe Books, Calendars, and Licensing at Rizzoli New York, and is the editor of pop culture titles including The Joker: An Illustrated History of the Clown Prince of CrimeZombies on FilmThe Princess Bride: A Celebration, and Stuck on Star Trek. He is the author of Fun with Kirk and Spock (Cider Mill Press, 2014), 101 Ways to Kill a Zombie (Universe, 2013), Nerd Haiku (Lyons Press, 2012), Spoiler Alert!: Bruce Willis Is Dead and 399 More Endings from Movies, TV, Books, and Life (Lyons Press, 2010), The Q Guide to Sex and the City (Alyson, 2008), and the upcoming Game of Thrones: In Memoriam and Game of Thrones: The Starks (both Running Press, 2015), and 101 Ways to Use a Unicorn (Universe, 2015); two books for children: Leaf Dance (Little Simon, 2001), Passover is Here! (Little Simon, 2005), and the upcoming Groundhog’s Day Off (Bloomsbury, 2015); as well as two storybook engagement calendars: Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (Universe, 2011) and Disney’s Winnie the Pooh (Universe, 2011). Robb has had successful events and signings around the country including San Diego ComicCon, New York ComicCon and BookCon, the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, and book and comic book retailers in Los Angeles, New York, and New Jersey. He has performed at the Nerdnite Nerdtacular, and has had essays featured on the Los Angeles and Las Vegas CBS websites, HuffingtonPost.com, and StarTrek.com.

Jessica Kapp

 

Jessica Napp is currently Associate Director of Publicity at Rizzoli New York, an integral part of its parent company, the Italian communications giant RCS Media Group.  Rizzoli New York is a leader in the fields of art & architecture, interior design, photography, haute couture, gastronomy, performing arts, and gay & alternative lifestyles.  She is also the VP of Communications for the Women’s National Book Associaton (WNBA) NYC Chapter and the PR and Marketing rep to Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, NY. To read a complete interview with Jessica, click here.

 

In a galaxy far, far away, two Pace MS Publishing alums happened to meet on the job and for the last seven years they have been working together in harmony!

When I started working at Rizzoli in 2007 it was a surreal experience. On the one hand, I knew a handful of people from previous jobs, so in some ways, those early transitional days were super easy because at least 5 people knew my name. On the other, I was the stereotypical new kid, needing to learn a whole new crop of names and faces. And in that mix was Robb!  I had heard of Robb before, but somehow we had yet to meet. I worked with his partner at Abrams, we had both worked at S&S, but in different divisions, and now, here we stood in the halls of Rizzoli, circling and bantering, and realizing we had one more connection (other than good taste in people) – The MS in Publishing program at Pace!

Our working relationship over the years has evolved into a friendship like no other, so I am proud to have had the opportunity to interview Robb for this blog.  Now, mind you, if you can’t keep up with Robb, don’t read the post. Synapses will be firing on all levels and not laughing is not an option.

Jessica:  Hi Robb, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. It has been 20 years since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program. Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing and how your career has developed since then?

Robb: Hi Jessica, it’s my pleasure, and thanks so much for reminding me how old I am. I can’t believe it’s been that long! After graduating from Pace, I worked in the subsidiary rights departments for Disney/Hyperion and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. I decided to transition to the editorial side of things, and moved to Rizzoli as a senior editor. I’m now the Associate Publisher of Universe Books, Calendars, and Licensing. I acquire and edit pop culture, entertainment, and children’s books such as Zombies on Film, The Princess Bride: A Celebration, The Bow Tie Book, Miroslav Sasek’s This is The World, and The Joker: An Illustrated History of the Crown Prince of Crime; I direct our calendar program, which publishes calendars based on television and movie properties like Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Family Guy, Downton Abbey, Clueless, and Dirty Dancing, institutions like MoMA, The National Gallery of Art, Amnesty International, The Library of Congress, and artists including Masha D’yans, Lotta Jansdotter, Rob Ryan, and Vermeer. I’m very lucky that my geeky personal interests serve me well in my professional life!

Fun with Kirk and SpockJessica: Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.

Pace gave me a working knowledge of all of the different departments and functions that make up a publishing company. As if my inability to do simple arithmetic wasn’t enough, I knew, thanks to my accounting class, that I would be completely ill suited to working in finance.  Anywhere. In any capacity whatsoever. My first publishing job was in the subsidiary rights department, and I know I would never have known what a subsidiary right was without the class I took at Pace. It’s funny, so many people—even those working in publishing—don’t understand what the department does, but subsidiary rights are a huge moneymaking revenue stream for any company. Working in that department also gave me access to every other department, both inside the company and in my licensees. I was able to work with the editorial, sales, and marketing teams at the home and school book clubs and fairs, large print and audio publishers, and scouts and producers at studios and production companies. While at Simon & Schuster, I was the brand manager for Raggedy Ann, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys, and I was able to reach back to my legal and financial classes at Pace when negotiating licensing contracts. Pace gave me the multi-faceted groundwork upon which I could build my career (and my calculator gave me the ability to calculate royalty percentages.)

101 Ways to Kill a ZombieJessica: Have you always been interested publishing? Where did that passion come from?

Robb: I have. Even when I was young, maybe six or seven, I was interested in the idea of publishing- how books came to be in the library or bookstore, how the words got on the pages, the pages into the book, the books onto the shelves. I could spend hours in the bookstore or library, just surrounding myself with piles of books and thumbing through them all. One of the first books I tried to take out of the library was, coincidentally, a Hardy Boys book.  I was tripped up by the word “motorcycle,” so my mom and the librarian steered me toward the more age-appropriate early readers. I was very fortunate to have parents who valued reading and education, so I was never without easy access to a book.  Plus, as an only child, it was a great way for me to entertain myself on rainy days or, thanks to my debilitating allergies and hatred of playgrounds, a delightful summer’s day. I wrote my first book in fourth or fifth grade—it was called “Herbie” and was about a blueberry or a Smurf knockoff of some sort.  I wrote and illustrated it, and, with my aunt’s help, bound it into a hardcover book. I still have it on my bookshelf next to my other books. Unlike some of today’s bestsellers, the binding has held even after all this time! One of the best gifts I ever received was an electric typewriter. It weighed about a million pounds and had a tendency to overheat and melt the ribbon. The vibrating keys would often make my fingers numb, but it was entre into the world of writing something for myself.

Robb Pearlman at ComicCon

Jessica: What do you think are the essential skills current students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?

Robb: Given that publishing a book is a collaborative endeavor, one of the most important skills is to listen and appreciate what other people have to say. Now that’s not to say that other people are right all the time—they’re not—but no department or person works alone, and without cooperation and open discussion nothing’s going to happen. And if something does happen, it’s not going to work as well as you think it would. I think it’s invaluable to understand, at least minimally, what other departments do, and the reasons they do them. With the exception of sociopaths, your colleagues are going to want each and every book to succeed. I think Pace’s ability to provide insight into all aspects of the publishing process is an invaluable tool to understanding other perspectives on the process. In order to thrive, you have to be able to adapt to the changes in the industry and the world. Holding on to the past, and resenting the present state of affairs, whether it’s ebooks or lack of retailers or trends in reading, is self-defeating. Things are changing every day, and if you don’t allow yourself to continue to learn, try new things, and new ways of doing things, you’re going to dig yourself into such a rut the young whippersnappers tweeting and posting and blogging are going to leave you behind and you’ll be archived along with the fax machines and word processors.

Spoiler AlertJessica: In addition to your day job as Associate Publisher, you are also an author.  Tell us about the books you have written and what it is like to be on both sides of the industry.

Robb: I’ve written 10 books so far, with (hopefully) three or four more on the way in 2015 and 2016.  I write pop culture books, like Fun with Kirk and Spock Kirk-Spock, which mashes up the classic Dick and Jane books and the crew of the Enterprise, 101 Ways to Kill a Zombie, 101 Uses for a Unicorn, Nerd Haiku, and Spoiler Alert, in which I give away the endings to books, movies, television shows, and life.  Editing and writing are two different skills, and it’s fun for me to use both parts of my brain. It’s a great privilege to be able to be on both sides of the publishing equation, and I don’t take it lightly. I know what editors go through every day, so I try to make the process as smooth for them as possible. I make sure my editor understands that I know what the process is, how important deadlines are, and that I know what they’re going through.  I do my best not to get too “authory” on them- meaning I’ll try to keep my demands to appear on Good Morning America and at the top of the New York Times bestseller list to a minimum. You think I’m kidding, but these are things authors have said to me. That and “I’m sure Oprah would give a blurb for this if you would just ask her.” I think I’ve done pretty well on that front—to my count I’ve only had one unpleasant discussion (and my editor and I were on the same side of that discussion), but you’d have to ask my editors about that.

Thanks, Robb!  I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Can we go to ComicCon already?