There is nothing wrong with having English major or with liking books, except that neither is a sufficient qualification for entering the publishing field. Better prerequisites are to be passionately persuaded about print, committed to the power of the word, in love with both the idea of books and the ideas in books, in love with language, capable of enduring frustration, and possessing a taste for long odds.1
Vaughan counsels beginners with the advice that editorial work is just one of many immensely interesting jobs in publishing, and general trade books only a slice of the industry. To succeed in these jobs, it isn't necessary to major in publishing in college. However, in today's competitive marketplace specialized training may help get that first job or speed the advancement process once you're employed.
From an educational standpoint, there are three sources for this preparation: undergraduate publishing or related majors, summer book publishing programs, and college extension courses. We'll look at each.
Graduate and Undergraduate Programs in Publishing
The following is a list of colleges and universities with majors and/or courses in publishing and its allied fields:
- Arkansas State University City University of New York Columbia University Florida State University George Washington University Hofstra University Kent State University New York City Community College New York University Northeastern University Oregon State University Rice University
- Rochester Institute of Technology Sarah Lawrence College School of Visual Arts (New York)
- Simmons College Southern Illinois University
- State University of New York (Albany, Geneseo, and Old Westbury)
- Syracuse University University of Alabama University of California (Berkeley)
- University of Chicago University of Connecticut University of Denver University of Illinois University of Iowa University of Kansas University of Kentucky University of New Mexico University of Southern California University of Tennessee West Virginia University
A number of colleges conduct comprehensive summer publishing programs. New York University, Radcliffe, and Stanford combine magazine and book publishing, while the University of Denver only has a book publishing program. All are expensive and require a commitment of four to six weeks. However, these programs can be extremely productive in helping to build a career in these professions. Admission to any of the four programs is highly selective and competitive. We suggest early application.
Summer Publishing Institute, New York University
Having written the magazine portion for the first joint magazine and book program in 1980, I am obviously partial to New York University's Summer Publishing Institute. The institute runs for seven intensive weeks each summer in New York City, the publishing capital of the world, and combines both magazine and book publishing. All students are required to take both programs. Each segment-book and magazine-consists of morning, afternoon, and optional evening and Saturday sessions, field trips, and panel discussions. Students learn the fundamentals of publishing through lectures. In a typical program, about forty book industry leaders participate, along with forty from the magazine field.
Highlighting the program are the skill development workshops, where students tackle the nuts-and-bolts aspects of publishing. Assignments are critiqued and graded. In simulations, students are organized into teams and engage in such sophisticated practices as evaluating manuscripts, bidding for the rights to projects they wish to publish, developing marketing plans, and, finally, presenting their proposed list of books at a sales conference.
The Summer Publishing Institute helps students in the job hunt, including participation in a job fair, which gives students an opportunity to meet and interview with major book and magazine firms. Field trips to publishers and their resources are arranged. Summer Publishing Institute certificates are awarded to students who complete the seven-week program.
As two recent graduates put it, "The Institute actually helped me find a job as soon as the program ended," and, "The Institute really is where publishers go to look for new talent in the business."
The program at New York University's Summer Publishing Institute runs for seven weeks. Dormitory housing at the university is available at moderate rates. It's a worthwhile investment. For information on New York University's Summer Publishing Institute, call (212) 988-7219.