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.

End of 2015 Roundup

Pace logo 2The Spring 2015 semester has been a very busy one for the MS in Publishing program.

The first event was a Student Appreciation Dinner held on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 163 Williams St.  The event’s purpose was reflective of its name: an evening dedicated to celebrating the success and hard work of the MS in Publishing students.  It was an evening of celebration and good food and conversation.

In attendance were many Pace University officials including Uday Sukhatme, Provost and Executive VP of Academic Affairs, Nira Herrmann, the Dean of Dyson College, Eugenia Hayes, the Director of Development for Dyson College, Maria Iacullo-Bird, the Assistant Dean of Grad Programs, Susan Ford, the University Director of Graduate Admissions, and Professor Sherman Raskin, the Chair of the MS in Publishing program. Faculty members Manuela Soares, Jodylynn Bachiman, Xiao-Chaun Lian, Andrea Baron, and  Paul Levitz were also in attendance alongside some new faculty including Rich Johnson and Kevin CallahanClick here to view MS in Publishing Faculty bios!

Both David Delano and Kathy Sandler spoke about their experiences teaching in the program and their dedicated work in the publishing industry. To the students and young professionals in attendance who are getting ready to make their debuts, they offered words of advice and encouragement. Harry Wang and Ram Katri, recipients of the 2015 Edgell and Littleford scholarships, spoke about the opportunities that the Publishing program has provided for them, and Melanie Mitzman, Imprint Marketing Manager at Gallery/Pocket Books, shared with attendees her role in the industry and how her education in the program prepared her for that role.

Student Appreciation Dinner
Students at the dinner.

Current students and alumni of the program also made up most of the audience, which included over 70 people.  We are very fortunate to have such a dynamic and successful group of alumni (see our alumni interviews here), who frequently contribute to the Publishing program by attending events, teaching in the program, mentoring students and assisting them in their job and internship searches.  This event provided students with a wonderful opportunity to network and to learn more about opportunities for employment within the publishing industry.

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, students, faculty, and friends of the MS in Publishing program were invited to the Spring 2015 David Pecker Lecture. It was an honor to have Professor Paul Levitz serve as the David Pecker Distinguished Professor for the 2014-2015 academic year. Formerly president and publisher of DC Comics and presently teaching Publishing Comics and Graphic Novels and Publishing Transmedia at Pace University, Professor Levitz is a comic fan, editor, writer, and executive. He is currently working on a book on Will Eisner and the birth of the graphic novel for Abrams Comic Arts.
Professor Levitz has been in the comic book business as a writer and editor for more than 35 years, and has been in part responsible for the discovery of writers like Marv Wolfman and Alan Moore, and artists like George PérezKeith Giffen, and John Byrne.

Titlecomp
Titles by Paul Levitz

Professor Levitz presented a lecture titled, The Era of Visual Information. Professor Raskin, the Chair of the MS in Publishing program, gave Professor Levitz a warm welcome and thanked him for his support of the program.

“We expect everything to be visual now,” said Levitz, detailing the rise of a visually driven society. “We are living in the era of visual information and visual communication, and as publishers we need to acknowledge that. More, we need to be prepared to accomplish that. Further, we need to advocate that.” Professor Levitz reminded attendees that the growing interest in visual content is not going to go away any time soon, and as such, publishers need to consider how to approach their field in a way that draws newer generations to storytelling.

Sherman Raskin (L) and Paul Levitz (R)
Sherman Raskin (L) and Paul Levitz (R)

The tools that allow laymen to create content are readily available, and as they continue to develop, more opportunities become available to a wider range of people. New avenues for curating and publishing content are emerging, and Professor Levitz presented a challenge to those in the industry: “We are obliged, as publishers, to find the best ways to connect our creators with the community that is interested in their work. We are obliged, as publishers, to be effective in presenting their work with the widest variety of forms and tools possible.”

The words of Professor Levitz are an urgent reminder to both those just starting in publishing and those who are already an active part to embrace the challenges that the changing publishing and media landscape are presenting. It is our responsibility to engage and present the work of authors and artists in a way that is most meaningful to our audiences and culture.

Link of the Week

 Link of the Week: LinkedIn

 

The Publishing industry has a strong focus on networking and professional connections with colleagues working in different companies.   Professional networking websites like LinkedIn offer publishing professionals the opportunity to connect with people in their working communities.  The MS in Publishing program recommends that students use LinkedIn to help them meet and connect with fellow students, alumni and professors. 

 

In addition to connecting to people through LinkedIn, you can become part of various groups that may provide job or internship opportunities.  Some Pace groups include the Pace Alumni group and the MS in Publishing group.  Publishing groups include Book Publishing Professionals, BookExpo America, and Publishing in the Digital Age.

News from the French Building

The MS in Publishing Blog would like to take this time to introduce our new feature, News from the French Building!   This section of the blog encourages Alumni, Faculty and Advisory Board members to share news about their publications, new jobs, recent successes, promotions and positions on boards with blog readers.  Anyone interested in submitting to this feature should contact Prof. Jane Denning at jdenning@pace.edu or the Publishing Office email account, puboffice@pace.edu.

 

We look forward to reading about all of your continued success!  Below are the first installments to this feature from recent program graduates, Hannah Bennett and Lisa Hartman.

 

Hannah Bennett graduated from the MS in Publishing program in December 2012. She interned with RosettaBooks during her last semester in the program, and began working with them full-time in January as the Production and Distribution Associate.  RosettaBooks is a leading independent ebook publisher, annually selling over 1,000,000 ebooks worldwide. Hannah’s job entails the quality assurance of ebooks, including working with digitizers and proofreaders to ensure the best possible products. RosettaBooks is a small and growing company, and Hannah is excited to be working with a forward-thinking company and expanding her knowledge of the ebook business.

 

 

“After spending the majority of my time in NYC while completing the MS in Publishing degree from Pace, I relocated back to my hometown of Columbia, Missouri in December for my final semester of the program. I was offered a position with Missouri.com, a start-up online magazine that highlights each major city and its culture. I was brought in as a Marketing Consultant for Columbia where I’ll be selling our digital marketing services to local business owners as well as help them set up their profiles on Missouri.com. Additionally, they decided to keep me involved in the design process of client websites and marketing materials based on my publishing background. Since Missouri.com was only launched two months ago, we will eventually be working together to further develop the editorial mission of the site and potentially begin writing feature articles for the city of Columbia. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and extremely excited to be involved in the creative process for Missouri.com.” -Lisa Hartman  http://missouri.com/columbia.

Alumni in the Spotlight: January 2013

Ivy Jacobson is a May 2010 graduate of the MS in Publishing program.  Ivy began her career as an assistant at The Literary Group, one of the premier literary agencies in the industry. In these capacities, she helped scout talent, read manuscripts and wrote pitches.  She then moved on to the Macmillan publishing house, where she worked in the Henry Holt editorial department as an assistant and researched prospective authors and illustrators and read and evaluated agented submission. After, she moved to the magazine side of publishing as an executive assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Plum Hamptons magazine, a luxury living publication owned by the Plum TV, a lifestyle television network. Ivy then made the jump to digital publishing and is currently an Editorial Assistant/Assistant to the Chief Content Officer for Patch.com. Patch is a local news and information platform owned by the AOL Corporation, operating in some 900+ local and hyper local news websites in 23 states in the US.  She earned her BA from Florida State University and her Masters in Publishing from Pace University. 

 

Prof. Denning:  Hi Ivy and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been 1 year 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?

Ivy: Thank you for having me, Professor Denning! It’s been a busy year since I graduated. I feel like I’ve been working in the publishing industry for a while—I started the program in 2010 and worked in various aspects of the field since then. Prior to the job I hold now at Patch.com, I’ve worked within a publishing house, literary agencies, a magazine, and an advertising agency. My main goal when I started the program was to gain experience from every facet of publishing that I could to make myself well rounded, and see what the best fit was for me. Ultimately, I realized I loved working within the editorial side of publishing, and with the industry rapidly turning digital, I realized that that was where I needed to be. With editorial experience from print publications, I wanted to take that knowledge and combine it with working within the digital space. Working for the editorial side of Patch.com is a great fit, and I started here in August of 2012.

Prof. Denning:  What does your job as Editorial Assistant/Assistant to the Chief Content Officer entail?

Ivy: A good chunk of what I do is assist with social media and audience engagement for Patch’s metrics and social media outlets, plan editorial content for the year, write and copyedit articles, monitor content, interact with bloggers, and plan special events for Patch.  I also support the Chief Content Officer, who oversees all editorial, branding, technology and product for the website. I work closely with each facet of the content team, such as Audience Development, Custom Content, Social Media, Product, News, and Editorial Operations, and am involved with various projects for each.

Prof Denning:  What are some of your favorite parts of your job? What What are the perks and highlights of working on the digital side of the publishing industry?

Ivy: From working for a website, it was great to see that publishing comes in many forms. It was a bit challenging at first realizing that the term “editorial” doesn’t translate across different platforms. I had to learn to think in broader terms, because writing for the web is different than writing for a print publication. Your article doesn’t just stop at 250 words on a page. You provide hyperlinks in your articles to emphasize points, you have to dive into learning about SEO and realizing that SEO rules in article writing, and not the witty little ledes, heds, and deks I was used to writing, because that’s not how people think when they are looking up articles online. It’s writing and editing content that is measured in UVs and not subscribers and newsstand circulation. For a little background of Patch.com, it is a hyper local information and engagement platform, so it is strictly for local community news. I write lots of national custom content, where I create the shell of a story, and it is up to the local editors to tailor them to their town. I think that being able to be up to the minute on in news reporting is fabulous (such as our reporting during the Newtown massacre, which is a Patch town), as opposed to having to wait month to month to report at a print publication, which is why so many magazines have more engaging digital platforms. I love working for a website that is there to tie together small communities, because I was born in a Patch town and raised in another, so I really relate to the tiniest things going on really resounding for people who live in the community.

Prof. Denning:  How does technology/social media fit into/impact your current job?

Ivy: Technology and social media are a huge part of my job. Patch is a website with no print counterparts, so the readership is derived solely from how we market ourselves, how we partner with advertisers, how local our content is, and how easy we make our platform to use in the community. Every Patch town has a Facebook and Twitter, so that helps with getting breaking news out, engaging the community to a higher degree, and seeing what stories are being shared the most. We also email daily newsletters to subscribers, have a Patch mobile app, and have community bloggers. Besides, since Patch is a digital content medium, our platform is constantly evolving. We have a redesign of our site plan being rolled out with more components to it to better involve communities.

Prof Denning:  Patch.com is part of AOL.  Can you tell us what it is like working for such a large company?   What makes AOL unique?

Ivy: AOL owns other websites besides Patch that often partner together to create more content for their audience, such as the Huffington Post, Mapquest, Moviefone, TechCrunch, and many others. AOL is getting to be known as a big, branded lifestyle platform with lots of topical verticals. Patch has various opportunities to work with AOL, such as pitching Patch’s stories to the AOL homepage, partnering with other AOL entities, or when we team up with Huffington Post Live to expand on various topics trending in Patch towns. The CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong, actually came up with the idea of Patch and digging back into hyper local news, because of his love and interest for his own small hometown.

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

Ivy: What was most important to me in my class choices were getting lots of information about all facets of publishing and being well rounded in both print publications and the web. I took classes in book, magazine, and digital publishing, marketing, financial aspects of publishing, creating publications, how publications are physically made, etc. I loved that all professors in the program are industry professionals as well, and spoke from personal experience in class about their careers and what its like to work at certain places, and also brought in former and current colleagues to speak to the class. I got to attend class at the Reuters building once, which was hugely informative.

Prof. Denning:  Have you always been interested publishing?  Where did that passion come from?

Ivy: In college, I was an English Literature major. As an avid reader and writer, I realized my senior year that reading and writing the words wasn’t enough to satisfy me—I wanted to delve into the business behind them. Why do certain comedic children’s books sell and others don’t? Will an e-book of Dante’s Inferno sell more copies than the classic printed edition? What will become more valuable: digitally enhanced e-book art or illustrations on a page printed from the 19th century? Will children learn to read better on a Kindle or a piece of paper? Will this amazing writer’s books sell, even though they only have 100 followers on Twitter and don’t have a blog to use as a marketing platform? If a magazine doesn’t hit their advertising goals, will it fold even if the editorial content is great? If you ask yourself those types of questions as you are reading a book, magazine, or website, publishing might be the right path for you if you don’t want to be an English Literature professor, go to law school, or work in Public Relations.

Prof. Denning:  What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?

Ivy: I’d say that the biggest trend right now is a toss-up between enhanced e-books for children, and reading monthly and daily print publications on e-readers. There are great studies coming out about sales skyrocketing for children’s e-books because they are so interactive. They have moving illustrations, audio that helps sound words out, and often include games to further literacy education for the child. Many publishers are doing this with books for adults, available for immediate download on iTunes and other outlets. Romance novels are also huge sellers for e-books, because women can read them on the go and at the beach without other people judging the 50 Shades of Grey cover. I definitely think e-books and e-magazines are here to stay, but I also think that print publications won’t entirely diminish. Sentimentally, there are people (like me) who will always love holding an actual book. Financially, sometimes creating e-publications cost just as much as printing a book, although the boom in e-book trending is great for self-published authors who can control how much they sell it for and in what capacity. The print magazine world was also shocked when Newsweek recently transitioned to a digital publication only. They found it was more efficient and effective to reach their readers in an entirely digital format. That jump to solely digital is a huge leap for the publication, and raises questions of steady advertising revenue and being able to perpetually reach their targeted audience in the coming years.

Prof. Denning:  Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students? To those looking to survive and thrive in this industry?

Ivy:  Be resilient. The world of publishing might seem large with books, magazines, e-books, and websites, but it’s actually quite small. Keep a positive, can-do attitude through every position you have, and you will develop a good work repertoire. Own every task given to you, and soon those small tasks will become larger ones. Also, don’t get discouraged easily. Working in publishing today is so seamless when you aren’t employed full time. Interning, temping, part-timing, and freelancing are all the same to me—so whatever your job is, do it well, and you will be remembered for the full time jobs that open up down the road when your old editor is pressed for time and thinks, “Who can I bring in in a pinch who is smart and trustworthy?” I also think that being successful in publishing also comes from knowing how to relate to other departments at your publication. Working at literary agencies and a publishing house made me realize the important relationship between editors and agents. Working in the editorial department at a magazine and at an advertising agency made me realize how editors want certain ads to speak for the image they are trying to convey to their targeted audience, who also need a certain type of content. Knowing how other components of your job field operate usually makes it easier to anticipate requests, deadlines, and needs from others.

Prof. Denning:  What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?

Ivy: I loved the courses I took, especially the ones I had with Professor Rosati. Her classes dove into what it’s really like to work in publishing and prompted lots of discussion. I also loved my internships, especially at the Macmillan publishing house where I ended up getting to be an assistant to one of the editorial directors for a children’s book imprint. Also, a huge highlight of the program were the friends I made. We all ate, breathed, and slept publishing for two years together, and we all work in publishing now—it’s been really helpful to be able to bounce ideas about our jobs and careers off of each other. I’m so proud of all of them—walking across the stage at Rockefeller Center together to get our diplomas was the perfect final highlight.

Prof. Denning:  What advice would you give to students who still have to write their graduate thesis papers?

Ivy: Since your thesis is based on your internship experience, try to apply what you are doing at your internship to what you are learning about in class—for me, they really bounced off of each other. Start making notes of certain topics you want covered in your paper, and how you dealt with them at your internship. Once you do that, you will find that writing your thesis will be easier once you have facets of your thesis statement to string along. Also, choose a topic that really interests you and you want to dig deeper into. It is hard work to write, but if you choose a topic that you’re passionate about, the words will flow much faster.

Prof. 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?

Ivy: I would definitely make it a point to really specify what you have done in your resume, and not just put “wrote articles, researched sources, and manned social media platforms.” How many new Twitter followers did you gain solely because of a great article you wrote that you posted in a tweet? What kind of professionals are you used to working with for tapping for sources? If it’s a fashion assistant job at a magazine, how quickly can you steam a dress, pack it in the garment bag, and run it back to the Valentino showroom? If it’s a publicity job at a publishing house, what type of clients have you worked with before, and how will that experience lend to the publishing house in your cover letter? With so many applicants applying to every position advertised, you really have to make yourself stand out with your capabilities and not your run of the mill tasks. I’ve interviewed interns before, and the ones that stood out were ones who told me exactly what they liked to do involving certain tasks, how they succeeded in them, and how they could apply that directly to the position they were interviewing for.

Prof. Denning: What are your hopes and dreams for your own career? Goals?

Ivy: Ultimately, I’d like to pursue being an executive editor, and then an editorial director and oversee editorial content and operations for an online edition of a magazine or a lifestyles website.

Prof.Denning:  Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Ivy:  A firm handshake while giving eye contact counts for more than you think in an interview (and in life!).

 

Thank you Ivy, for this thoughtful and informative interview!

Alumni in the Spotlight – July 2012

Noah Efroym is a May, 2012 graduate of the MS in Publishing program.  Noah began working as an Assistant Manager for eBook Development in the Digital Content Development department at Simon & Schuster in October of 2011.   Noah received a full scholarship to the MS in Publishing program at Pace and served as the Graduate Assistant in the multimedia lab while he completed his graduate studies.  In addition, Noah interned at Open Road Media, a digital publisher and multimedia content company, where he was able to apply his excellent technological skills and publishing knowledge, thus exposing him to numerous career and job opportunities.  In this interview, Noah will talk to us about his work, how to prepare for a career in today’s competitive job market, and about the world of publishing in general.

Prof. Denning:  Hi Noah, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  You are a recent graduate of the program and you successfully landed a position in your last semester of your graduate studies.  Can you tell us a bit about how you got to where you are? How did your educational experience at Pace prepare you for your publishing career?

NE:  Sure! During my time at Pace I tried to take as many courses as possible that focused on technology and its application to modern publishing. I found I really enjoyed working with the Adobe creative suite of products, like InDesign, in the Desktop Publishing course, and later applied that knowledge to the Information Systems in Publishing course, where I was able to get some hands-on experience with eBooks. From there I found that I was well positioned for my internships working in digital production at Open Road Media and Hachette, which were themselves the springboards for my current full-time position at Simon & Schuster.

Prof. Denning:  What does your job as Assistant Manager for eBook Development entail?

NE:  As a Big Six publisher, S&S has over a dozen imprints. I’m responsible for creating eBooks for three large imprints—Gallery Books, Pocket Books (which includes Threshold editions), and Touchstone. Our production cycle is typically six weeks long (though rush jobs where I may have to convert assets into an eBook and archive the finalized assets that same day are not unheard of). This means that when the designers are finished with the final layout of the print book in InDesign, I have that much time to collect those assets and create a final eBook. Two weeks are spent on the initial conversion, two on quality assurance, and the final two is taken up by the ingestion period of online retailers. My secondary responsibilities include working with editors and the managing editorial staff to update older titles with teasers, back ads, and reading group guides.

Prof. Denning:  Can you tell us about the Digital Content Development Department? Is this a relatively new department in publishing houses (do other houses have them)? How is the department structured?

NE:  Although our department is relatively new to the world of publishing, every major publishing house has some sort of digital departmental equivalent, absolutely. As eBooks continue to gain traction and eat more of the market share traditionally occupied by print books, these departments are constantly growing and commanding more authority within modern publishing houses. For example, our department at S&S recently filled a new full-time position, and we’re taking advantage of a great many temps and interns.

Prof. Denning:  How do you work with other member of the publishing team?  Editorial, Marketing, Production, Sales?

NE:  Every department interacts with us in different ways. From editorial I’ll often receive correction memos for older or recently published titles. These are sent both to production and to myself. But while the print book needs to be carefully reset to accommodate the addition of a sentence or the correction of a typo, I can typically correct the eBook in seconds and immediately upload the finished product for re-ingestion by online distributors. This means that the corrected eBook will be available for sale on Amazon.com the next day. A print book would have to wait for the next print run, and there’s no guarantee that would happen if the sales figures didn’t warrant it.

I’ll work with managing editorial to schedule pub dates for older titles for which we’ve recently acquired rights. Funny enough, we’ll actually have to buy these older books used from Amazon because we simply don’t have any copies sitting around anymore. Marketing will send us back ads or request linked buy button pages to be inserted into the backs of eBooks. These are great revenue-increasing tools that make purchasing the next title in a series just a click away.

Prof. Denning:  What skills did you need to qualify you for this position?  How did you prepare yourself for a position like this?

NE:  HTML, CSS, and InDesign knowledge are absolutely essential tools for this position. General tech savvy and familiarity with major e-Reading platforms like the Nook, iPad, and Kindle are also useful assets to bring up during an interview. Knowledge of common programming skills/tools like GREP or Oxygen will only help, and for extra points you can learn Javascript. Learning the internal mechanics of eBooks themselves and current IDPF specifications is a constantly evolving process, but establishing a workable knowledge of how eBooks work is relatively simple. Several great books, like Liz Castro’s EPUB Straight to the Point, are easy to find online.

I deconstructed several eBooks in my free time before I secured my internships—nothing trumps hands-on experience.

Prof. Denning:  Can you tell us a bit about Simon & Schuster?  What is it like to work there? Where are they in terms of digital publishing?  What are some of their most successful initiatives?

NE:  Working in digital is fantastic because we’re often the nexus of not only new technological initiatives, but of every other department in the company since we interact with most everyone at some point. S&S is doing some great work and is really taking advantage of modern publishing technology. The design department incorporates some great XML-first workflow practices, spearheaded by Steve Kotrch, into their cover design workflow. We’re also discussing experimenting with DRM-free eBooks, similar to what Tor is doing at Macmillan, and have recently launched our first digital-only imprint, Pocket Star Books, for which I’m designing all the eBooks.

I may be biased, but I think we’re doing some amazing work in eBook design, layout, and optimization. S&S only creates one eBook file, so it has to work consistently across all devices, and we’re constantly thinking about how to give readers the best experience possible. We can do a lot of things with eBooks that may not be possible with our analog counterparts. For example, we may try to get color photo insert assets that the print version couldn’t budget printing in color, or we’ll remove/reorganize front matter assets so that readers don’t have to flip through extraneous content before they can start reading.

Prof. Denning:  Has social media played a role in the success and growth of eBooks?

NE:  Well it certainly hasn’t hurt, but quantifying the impact of social media in eBook sales is notoriously difficult. I think most every imprint at S&S has Twitter/FB pages, and we work with our authors to set up pages on these websites and interact with readers to promote their titles. What’s really important is fostering an online community, ala Seth Godin, to encourage the growth of digital sales. S&S is tackling this head-on with websites like pocketafterdark.com.

Prof Denning:  What do you think the future holds for book publishers?  Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers and the iPad (and subsequent tablets) forever changed publishing as we know it?

NE:  Electronic reading devices will always be able to do so much more than print books, and as time goes on, the technology with which they do what they do will only become more advanced, refined, and inexpensive. Color eInk devices aren’t far off on the horizon, and working prototypes of flexible paper-like electronic display devices are already in circulation. Publishers who embrace these changes and actively work to take advantage of them will find themselves with a continued role to play, and those who don’t will wind up like Houghton Mifflin.

Who knows, maybe Google’s Project Glass could prove to be the next great leap in the way books are read. I mean, at least until we can plug ourselves into the Matrix and consume them instantaneously.

Prof: Denning:  What do you think the biggest trends in publishing are today?

NE:  Right now it looks like romance/erotica is sweeping the country. Hey, I’m not one to judge, but when I see someone reading 50 Shades next to me on the subway it still grosses me out a little.

Prof. Denning:  What was the topic of your thesis paper?  What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers?

NE:  I wrote about the relationship between publishers and authors through the lens of the eBook and how the availability of inexpensive digital publishing/distribution servicers has forever altered that relationship. Writing that paper had a large influence on my philosophical perspective of DRM and royalty rates—often favoring the author. It’s something I was really interested in exploring so the paper flowed from me as a natural extension of that enthusiasm, making it really easy and enjoyable to write. I think a thesis should be a relatively painless process for these reasons, so my advice to students it to focus on writing something they’re passionate about, too. It also doesn’t hurt to explore institutions or departments you’d like to work at in the future. For example, I wrote about the XML-first workflow at S&S that I mentioned earlier, and was able to impress people there with my ostensibly superhuman knowledge of some of the minutia of their design and layout processes.

Prof. Denning:  What do you think are the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?

NE:  Well, that all depends on what part of the industry students would like to work in, but for Marketing and Digital, and even to some extent Editorial and Sales, then a solid knowledge of HTML is invaluable. And I don’t just mean the ability to distinguish a <div> tag from a <span> tag, but real workable knowledge of web design and CSS. Books are words, and manipulating them used to mean working with arcane typesetting devices, but now it means working in a digital environment, and for that HTML is the main tool of the trade.

Prof. Denning:  Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?

NE:  Take as many internships as you can! It’s impossible to know what you’ll enjoy until you’re actually in the thick of things. Also remember that internships are the currency in which full-time positions are paid.

Prof. Denning:  How have you been involved in the program since graduating?  Would you like to guest lecture? Teach in the program?

NE:  I’d love to guest lecture at some point, and I’ve been invited to do so, but I feel woefully underqualified to occupy the time of so many students. Give me a few years, and maybe I’ll glean enough wisdom that’s worth sharing with others!

Alumni in the Spotlight – May 2012

Justin Colby is a 2008 graduate of the MS in Publishing program.  Since then he has been the Project Director at Onward Publishing, a premier custom publishing company “that successfully combines outstanding leadership with exceptional talent.”  Onward Publishing is renowned for award-winning editorial and design and has a proven expertise in creating and strengthening world-class brand images.  As a premier custom publishing company, Onward publishes magazines and newsletters, and provides web/digital services. In this interview, Justin will share with us his insights on the value of custom publishing and industry trends, as well as his thoughts on the future of publishing.

Prof. Denning:  Hi Justin, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been 4 years since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program.  Can you tell us what you have been doing since you graduated?

JC:  I actually got the call from Onward Publishing the day I handed in my thesis, and started with them almost immediately after that.  Thanks to my experience with the MS in Publishing program and the Pace University Press, I’ve also been able to help a couple of my friends self-publish their books.

Prof. Denning:  What does your job as Project Director entail?

JC:  My job is to bring together the “puzzle pieces” of what we do – the conceptualization, the writing, the design, the production and the distribution – and help make the process as seamless as possible for our client. Therefore, my week is usually split between visiting clients to learn their needs, and working with our internal editorial and design teams. Since I spend so much time in the field, I also have my finger on the pulse of what our clients are looking for from us, whether it’s the latest printing bells and whistles or interactive versions.

Prof. Denning:  What exactly is custom publishing?  Is it similar to advertising? Who are some of your clients?

JC:  That’s the beauty of it – custom publishing can be many things to many people. We combine agency-level creative talent with years of publishing and printing experience to create measurable, targeted publications for our clients that accomplish specific goals.

Healthcare is a major business for us, both big hospital systems and managed care companies (HMOs). One of the most rewarding parts of what we do is helping blue chip names like Mount Sinai and UnitedHealthcare keep people healthy. It’s sort of an enlightened self-interest for them, but the end result is healthier people.

Our business changed significantly when we signed an agreement with National Geographic in 2008; we soon added clients including Airbus and FSC to our roster.

Prof. Denning:  How does custom publishing differ from self-publishing?

JC: I love the idea of self-publishing – it’s truly revolutionary in allowing authors to reach an audience on their own terms, and I think it will only become more democratic as the barriers to entry fall with the advent of digital magazines. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to make money in the self-publishing industry with a service-based model. Most authors don’t have many resources to work with and there are already some inexpensive services available.

We have some book and magazine vets on our staff, but what we do is really a marketing tool for our clients. They approach us with a specific goal and we give them a soup-to-nuts solution. The piece is then distributed directly to their customers or referral sources, tracked and distributed. In a sense, we become a part of their communications team. Some companies call this “branded content.”

Prof. Denning:  On the webpage for your company, it states that “designing ways to communicate is what ONWARD Publishing is all about.”  Can you tell me what is meant by that?

JC: Onward has always hung its hat on design. While content is king, the key to getting customers to pick up and consume your message is to provide it in a pretty package. It’s amazing how attached people get to a well-designed and written magazine, even if it comes from a marketer.

Prof. Denning:  Your company also provides web/digital services.  Can you explain what that means?

JC:  Traditionally, it meant what we call “microsites” (web sites meant as a companion to a publication), e-newsletters, and interactive flash magazines. But with the advent of tablets, it includes everything from mobile applications to interactive optimized publications online.

Prof. Denning:  Has social media played a role in the success and growth of ONWARD Publishing?

JC: I’ve always been bearish on social media as a business tool, but I’m coming around and realizing the value it can have, particularly for a consumer-oriented brand. In fact, we are even talking to a couple of our clients about helping them to manage their social presence.

I think what’s true in publishing carries over to social media – customers are willing to listen to you if you’re “real” and, perhaps even more importantly, if you’re providing useful information. A company’s social voice shouldn’t be drastically different from how it communicates through other channels.

For publishing, I think it’s another equalizer – social media will help the best works get discovered and build a following.

Prof Denning:  What do you think the future holds for book publishers?  Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers and the iPad (and subsequent tablets) forever changed publishing as we know it?

JC:  I put a lot of value in the look and feel of a publication, and to me, there’s a certain luxury to shutting off my electronics for the day and sitting down with a good book or the latest issue of Saveur.

That said, we can’t put this thing back in the box. Tablets are here, they’re sexy, they’re personal, and they’ll get cheaper by the year. You’re not going to bring an $800 iPad to the beach, but a $50 tablet isn’t as precious. I think print will always serve a purpose, but tablets (or some similar device) will become the way we consume much of our media in the near future.

Prof: Denning:  What do you think the biggest trends in publishing are today?

JC: What fascinates me is that despite the long tail and the ability that we have to focus on our most niche interests, we still have mega-hits. Book series like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter show that the fundamentals of storytelling stay the same, and we still want something to talk about over the water cooler. I think what’s changed is that those stories come from unexpected sources. In our connected society, it’s easier for the cream to rise to the top.

Prof. Denning:  Would you like to speculate on the future of magazines?  What do you think the industry will look like in 20 years? 30? 50?

JC: Magazines have two things going for them: a great brand and editors. It might seem like in a world of unlimited content, a magazine is an anachronism, but more than ever readers need someone they trust and identify with to help them find the best information. We’re developing an iPad reader that will allow people to do just that. It intelligently filters information, learning from what users read and adapting continuously.

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

JC:  I think the most valuable part for me was the multi-disciplinary approach. As publishing becomes more and more complicated, employers are looking for someone who can adapt quickly and wear many hats, if you pardon the cliché. Working with professors who had worked or were currently working in the industry was also very valuable. My grandfather always told me you should know something about everything and everything about one thing. I think that’s a good way to go about a publishing career.

Prof. Denning:  Have you always been interested in writing and publishing?  Where did that passion come from?

JC:  I’ve always enjoyed creating. I wouldn’t call myself a writer, but I’ve always imagined I’d have a job where I made something I could point to. I have many artists in my family and though the talent may have missed me, the desire to create is still there. It’s intoxicating to see your work reach such a broad audience.

Prof Denning:  Where did you intern when you were in Graduate school?

JC: I worked for a bit at American Business Media and Haymarket Media. At each company, I met great people and got to see a different part of the industry. ABM is an association of B2B publishers and many of their members were pioneers in monetizing online media. At Haymarket, I learned how to cultivate a niche audience for PR week. In an indirect way, both were related to what I’m doing now.

Prof. Denning:  What was the topic of your thesis paper?  What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers?

JC:  My thesis paper was about how business-to-business companies could monetize digital media to help them recover some of the lost profit from advertisers. The idea was that because B2B serves such niche audiences, it was easier to connect interested buyers with relevant advertisements. As for those still working on the paper, be flexible and talk to a lot of people. You’ll be surprised that the paper will take on a life of its own.

Prof. Denning:  What do you think are the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?

JC:  Anyone who attends the program will leave with a well-rounded understanding of the industry thanks to a great curriculum and great professors. But honestly, I’ve learned that the most important thing in any business is learning how to deal with people. If you can sell yourself and work well in a team, you’ll have a lot of success. As our company’s president always tells us, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Prof. Denning:  Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?

JC:  Be patient. Even with a graduate degree, you’re still going to have to prove yourself when you get out of school. Also, keep in touch with everyone you meet in the program. Professors and other students can be a great deal of help and are usually gracious in offering their advice.