Personally, I was struck by the warmth of the people I met. It was very exciting to meet dignitaries from Phoenix Publishing & Media Group and China Publishing Group, which are among the largest publishing companies in the world. But it was heartening to meet a number of former students who were so grateful to Professor Raskin and Professor Lian for what they learned at Pace.
I was lucky to have a tour guide in Beijing who worked at China Publishing Group named Yin “Ling” Mengling. I spoke with her at length about some of the great opportunities available in publishing associations in New York. We also discussed a book called Designing Your Life, which I recommend people use to think about their career and life goals.
After we parted, she paid for her own overnight train to Wuhan to attend the weekend conference and take Professor Lian, Professor Raskin and me around Wuhan University. She has since started a Literary Salon speaker series for her friends and colleagues, which she said I inspired her to do. Mark Fretz, who also attended the conference as part of the delegation from Pace, spoke at the inaugural session. I am very proud of Ling and happy I was able to touch her life.
Another thing that struck me in China that I hadn’t fully appreciated before was the giant contribution that Professor Raskin and Professor Lian have made to publishing education in China. Professor Lian was actually one of the founding members of the first publishing program in China at Wuhan University and was instrumental in starting the partnership between Pace and Wuhan U. Professor Raskin has made extremely strong relationships with the major publishing companies in China and, because of this, the companies have hand-picked executives to come train at Pace every year. (And they were able to start the Confucius Institute at Pace University, where I took Chinese classes before I went.) I have a newfound respect for the hard work they have done to build such strong ties.
At the conference, my talk was on innovation. I spoke about projects in the publishing industry, including grass-roots efforts, where employees at any level can test their idea and pitch it to management. I was surprised that I was asked how an employee would be reprimanded if they had an idea that failed. I explained the value of a learning organization, where failing fast (and small) is a good thing. I was happy to see that they were thinking about how this idea could be implemented in their environment, and I hope in the future that organizations encourage their employees to submit ideas.
While Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites are blocked in China, the country is very technologically advanced. Most people use a platform called WeChat, which is a combination of the functionality of many programs in the U.S. like texting, FaceTime/Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and many others. (WeChat was created by TenCent, a phone company.) Many restaurants have you order and pay through your phone with Alipay, which is from the e-commerce company Alibaba, which has 423 million annual active buyers and about 80 per cent market share of e-commerce in China. There are QR codes everywhere on posters, bus shelters, ads, and menus, and they are very useful in connecting quickly through WeChat and other systems. I made many new contacts and friends in China and hope to stay in touch through WeChat.
I also visited many bustling bookstores in China. It was incredible to see the multi-story homage to the books owned by Phoenix Publishing & Media Group. I also visited a few branches of the Librarie Avant-Garde, including the famous one in a former bomb shelter/parking garage that has a beatnik vibe; a rustic one in a lush park, where you could sink into a comfy chair and feel like you were in a log cabin surrounded by books; and one on the Purple Mountain that sold only poetry books with lots of little rooms to explore. I felt right at home!
It was a fascinating trip, and I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to go! It really opened my eyes to different perspectives and I learned a lot about international publishing, innovation, and myself.
In the last couple of weeks three iconic companies made major moves toward reinvention, however these moves are not reflecting a positive outlook on their own futures, or for the print magazine industry overall.
First, Time Inc. laid off 300 people recently. “The June 13th cutbacks came three years almost to the week when the company spun off from Time Warner,” according to the Folio article. The company is also relocating one of its titles, Food & Wine, to Alabama, partly because of cost considerations. Wenner Media announced it had sold Men’s Journal to American Media. This sale leaves the once-powerful company with just a 51 percent stake in flagship Rolling Stone and a gaming website launched last year. Rodale was also said to have cut 80-100 employees ahead of an announcement “that it is exploring strategic options.” The company announced in January that “it was selling some of its properties in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, in a bid to centralize and to raise $4.6 million.”
Time Inc. CEO Rich Battista, through a spokesperson, told Folio writer Tony Silber “that further consolidation (presumably of the kind that just happened at his company) is likely given the long-term secular decline in print.” It seems for media companies today, it is more important to build a bran than to rely on print businesses and practices.
“The industry is evolving quickly, and while change can be disruptive, it also brings opportunity,” a senior Rodale executive said to Silber.
At the time that the first Harry Potter book was released, young adults and children were accustomed to titles and series such as The Babysitter’s Club, that were a bit more lightweight. The Harry Potter series made way for blockbuster sagas like The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent. Harry Potter easily changed the game for YA fiction.
Though not necessarily original in its common tropes of magic, fantasy, adventure, unfair teachers, a common enemy, heroes, etc., Harry Potter was able to resonate with children and young adults in a way that other tiles could not. Claire Fallon in an article for the Huffington Post writes, “Children’s book writers, especially fantasy authors, who were once the masters of their domain found themselves ignored in media coverage and discussions of ‘Harry Potter.'” Perhaps it was Rowling who wrote the right book at the right time, or she was able to masterfully and creatively construct a seven-book mystery/adventure story arc following characters as they aged into adulthood that coincided with her aging and growing audience. Either way, as Joe Monti, Editorial Director of Saga Press says, “Harry Potter made the careers of many authors possible.”
Harry Potter was able to boosts the sales of YA fiction altogether because of its success. “The Atlantic reported that the number of YA books had increased by a factor of 10 between 1997 and 2009.” The series was also able to help rebuild the disparaging reputation that fantasy had as a genre in YA fiction. Monti says, “Fantasy is mainstream.”
Rowling and Harry Potter as a series took on many risks, including long-form story arcs, thick-sized books, and a fantasy genre as well as the idea that the books also age with the audience. Harry Potter takes on darker themes like lengthy battle scenes, concepts of mortality/fatality, and romantic relationships, all of which challenged what YA fiction was at the time and what publishers can put in front of children and young adults.
Harry Potter was able to open up the horizons for what YA literature could be. Rowling also capitalized on the success of her series, which is part if the reason why Harry Potter has been cemented in pop culture history. It continues, to this day, to pave the way for YA fiction authors.
The Huffington Post has compiled a list of 15 short stories that viewers can read online to kick off their summer reading lists. “These make for great lunch break reads,” as the writer, Maddie Crum, says.
In September, Pace University’s MS in Publishing program hosted a delegation from the Beijing-based China Publishing Group (中国出版集团公司). Formed in 2002 when China joined the World Trade Organization, CPG now publishes more than 16,000 new titles annually, including ebooks and audiovisuals. It also delivers information services online and in print. According to Publishers Weekly, CPG reported revenues of US$1.4 billion, profits of US$138.5 million, and total assets of US$2.7 billion in 2015.
CPG is headed by Mr. Tan Yue (谭跃), a big advocate of managerial training and development as a source of innovation and competitive advantage. CPG conducts ongoing scientific research in publishing technology so that its printing and copying facilities remain state of the art for both print and electronic media.
This is Pace’s fourth executive program for CPG. Participating were Mr. Tan’s top managers from fourteen business units:
China National Publications Import & Export Corp. (CNPIEC), which oversees the import of foreign books, the licensing of Chinese-language translation rights to foreign titles, and the export of Chinese-language books and translation rights to China’s best titles
China Publishing & Media Holdings Corporation
China Publishing & Media Journal
China Translation Corporation
Commercial Press International, Ltd., established in 1897, the oldest publishing house in modern China
CPG Digital Media Co., Ltd. (including its audiobook division)
Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, Ltd., led by the head of the delegation, Mr. LIU Guohui (刘国辉)
Orient Publishing Center
People’s Literature Publishing House
Rong Bao Zhai Publishing House
SDX Joint Publishing Company, Ltd.
Xinhua United Distribution Group Corporation, which oversees the Xinhua Bookstore chain of over 200 stores
Zhonghua Book Company established in 1912
Co-directed by professors Xiaochuan Lian and Kirsten Sandberg, the three-week program focused on the future of publishing, particularly trends in digital strategy, content marketing, and operations; digital rights management, intellectual property law, smart contracts, and blockchain technology; and innovation through incubation, integration, partnership, and acquisition.
Bloomberg, RosettaBooks, and Simon & Schuster each hosted the delegation for tea, tour, and talk. Guest lecturers included publishing professionals at the top of their game (listed alphabetically):
The executives received their certificates of program completion from Sherman Raskin, professor and director of the publishing program, Dr. Nira Herrmann, dean of Dyson College, and Dr. Uday Sukhatme, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs for Pace University. Assisting throughout the program were graduate students Mr. Li Zhongke and Miss Wang Qingke, with support from their classmates Anna Bailey, Kevin Mercado, and Breana Swinehart.
On Tuesday, September 27, the students in the Magazine Production and Design course got the chance to go to the opening lecture in the Labor, Literature and Landmark Lectures Series at the General Society Library, founded in 1785. The lecture was in honor of the 70th anniversary of Penguin Classics and the launch of a new book, Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover. Elda Rotor, Vice President and Publisher of Penguin Classics, and Paul Buckley, Senior Vice President and Executive Creative Director, spoke about the process of creating the covers for the Penguin Classics.
The lecture started with a simple question: “What makes a classic?” After sharing her opinion that classics are the books that have had readers in the past, and will be guaranteed to have readers in the future, Rotor moved on to discussing specific projects and covers that have been created by Penguin Classics. Buckley said that they wanted to “let the titles do the work,” and that the typography should encapsulate the “flavor of the book.”
Rotor and Buckley also discussed the new use of Penguin’s traditional orange and white tri-band, which has never before been used in American publications by Penguin, in the Penguin Orange Collection. Buckley discussed how he wanted to add a new level of creativity to the basic design by adding additional dimensions, like having images weaving in and out of the bands. This is something that we all strive to do with cover design: maintain the traditional branding of books and magazines, keep the recognizable images, while also finding something new to do with the old designs.
When discussing books like Lord of the Flies and The Haunting of Hill House, Rotor and Buckley talked about finding the right imagery to accompany the book. Even though the final covers are not always what they originally imagine, but they always end up being the perfect representations of the books. For example, in discussing The Haunting of Hill House, the house is actually barely scene in the far background of the cover, which instead dramatically depicts a single pivotal scene from the book in the forest.
Rotor and Buckley’s lecture on cover design at Penguin Classics covered topics of science fiction books, horror books, international books, collections and series of books, and even touched on the process of dealing with authors and estates. However, what it really boiled down to was the importance of the cover for a book. As Rotor put it, the cover is “sparking [the reader’s] imagination and curiosity,” as their first impression of the book ultimately comes from the cover. After the lecture, copies of the new book Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, were available for purchase and signing. It was truly a great experience to be able to hear from the people that really work hard to make sure the visual of a book is stunning. It was a great learning experience that the Magazine Production and Design class had the unique opportunity to experience.
Written by: Kevin Baker
Kevin Baker is a graduate student studying magazine publishing at Pace University, with a particular interest in design and editorial work. In the past, he has worked as an intern at his undergraduate college magazine at York College of Pennsylvania, YC Magazine, as an writing, proofreading, and fact-checking intern.
Publishers Weekly has recently posted their annual Salary Survey for the Publishing Industry.
For anyone looking into careers in the publishing industry, it helps to research the current atmosphere and understand what you’re getting yourself into. The Salary Surveys are a good tool to use to see what the statistics are and what overall salaries look like so you can have a better understanding of what you should be negotiating for when you look at job offers, what job security looks like, details to better help you plan for the long-term, and so on. It’s interesting to note that the Salary Surveys seem to have similar problemseveryyear—racial diversity is severely lacking, men make more than women, there’s an overall dissatisfaction with pay and too much work with no recognition or advancement. Perhaps if we’re more aware of these changes that need to be made, as we move into the industry we can be more cognizant of what we can do to make these statistics shift in a positive direction.
Besides Publishers Weekly, some other useful sites to consider while searching down the Google-rabbit hole for information on salaries in publishing are PayScale and GlassDoor.
In her 10+ years of teaching in the Publishing program, she has been asked lots of advice on networking and job- and internship-hunting.She has been teaching magazine publishing in the program , with the goal of giving students a thorough grounding in the field and bringing them deeper into the industry. She teaches courses in production and design, consumer marketing, and an introduction to magazine publishing.
Professor Baron has shared this article, “How Not to Be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice”, from the New York Times , which gives a terrific summary of the most effective way to go about networking . She hopes you’ll read it and share it.
Here is a snippet of the article :
“So here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a networking parasite.
Make the meeting convenient. Ask for time frames that would work well, and meet at a place that is convenient for them, even if you have to drive across town. If they leave it up to you, give them three options and let them pick the one that works best.”
At 84, she sits comfortably as one of the greatest authors in American history, even as her uncompromising dream for black literature seems farther away than ever.
The opening to a feature on Toni Morrison in the New York Times Magazine describes her as one of the great American authors, whose voice is powerful and authentic. Morrison once described the novel as that which “has always functioned for the class or the group that wrote it.” This places the novel as a powerful piece of culture, and Morrison has proven it as such by her legacy of authorship: 11 novels, a Nobel Prize in Literature (1993) and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1988), and her continuing work.
On one level, Morrison’s project is obvious: It is a history that stretches across 11 novels and just as many geographies and eras to tell a story that is hardly chronological but is thematically chained and somewhat continuous. … But then there is the other mission, the less obvious one, the one in which Morrison often does the unthinkable as a minority, as a woman, as a former member of the working class: She democratically opens the door to all of her books only to say, “You can come in and you can sit, and you can tell me what you think, and I’m glad you are here, but you should know that this house isn’t built for you or by you.”
As a former editor at Random House, Morrison has done battle with the question of diversity in publishing.
But what has remained more elusive is the part that Morrison figured out as an editor: What happens after the workshop and the head count? How do people change an establishment? How do people change an industry?
Morrison is prolific, and not just for her writing. The NYT piece that Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah wrote about Morrison is long, but it is compelling and describes the mission and life of Toni Morrison far better than I can. So, really, check it out.