Founded by novelist Walter Mosley to address the lack of diversity in the book publishing industry, the Publishing Certificate Program at the City College of New York is in its 14th year, committed to preparing a diverse pool of students for a career in publishing. Staffed with a faculty of publishing professionals, the program is funded in part by grants from New York trade book publishers.
Program director David Unger has overseen the PCP since its inception. "We distinguish ourselves by supply[ing] the industry with staff from the communities that need to be represented," Unger noted. The program currently has 130 students enrolled reflecting a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Over the lifetime of the program, Unger said that 196 students have been awarded the certificate, 82 former students have worked in publishing for at least a year, and of that number 46 are still working in the industry. "We believe this is quite an achievement, especially since the majority of these 46 come from diverse backgrounds."
Unger said that the PCP continues to receive financial support from John Wiley, Random House, Hachette Book Group USA, Penguin, and W.W. Norton. Most publishers pledge multiyear grants for periods of four or five years. The grants range from $40,000 to $100,000 per publisher over the period and help pay for internships, operating support, and assistant director Retha Powers's part-time salary. Powers said that for the past two years, the Women's Media Group "has offered some financial support to our female students."
The program operates on a $60,000 annual budget. As late as 2007 the budget was $85,000. However, the City University of New York system decided to cover the cost of faculty salaries, though the PCP chose to add a modest supplement to that. Fund-raising, previously done by Walter Mosley and former City College president Yolanda Moses, is now handled through CCNY's own development office.
"We have received $860,000 over the 13 years of the program, which sounds like a lot," said Unger. "But if you break it down, this comes to about $66,000 per year, which isn't much." He emphasized that while they are "very appreciative of this past support," the program is always in need of more funding. "Paid internships, especially for students from working-class backgrounds, are an essential component of our success. So we would like publishers to continue supporting us; those who haven't, we would like them to step up," Unger said.
Retha Powers, who coordinates the internships, told PW that in the past year a total of 30 students received internships and that 15 students are seeking them this summer. In addition, the program continues to provide interns to staff BookExpo America, as it has since 2001. In the old days, Unger said, BEA paid for four or five interns, plus travel. Now that BEA is in New York, PCP supplies two paid senior interns, who receive a small stipend for scheduling and overseeing 30 to 35 unpaid PCP interns, who work primarily in the autographing area. PCP interns also work with literary agents as well as indie publishers such as Bloomsbury, the Feminist Press, and Citadel.
Veteran publishing professionals teach the program's seven courses. A newly created course on digital publishing taught by Charlotte Abbott—book blogger, social media consultant, and former PW editor—is "a huge success," according to Unger. Lisa Healy of S&S, who has been with PCP since 1998, teaches the Publishing Practicum and, along with Retha Powers, co-teaches Introduction to Publishing. Another longtimer is HarperCollins's John Jusino, who has been teaching Fundamentals of Copyediting and Proofreading since 1998. After a 10-year hiatus, author and former Crown editor Carol Taylor has just returned to teach the Editorial Process; literary agent Tanya McKinnon teaches the Books for Young Readers course, and Penguin's Gina Anderson covers Legal Issues in Publishing.
After nearly 14 years, the program is maturing. "We don't have that much personal contact with Walter Mosley any more; we pretty much run ourselves," Unger said. "We don't do any recruitment, advertising, or outreach, yet our classes are full and we have to turn away students. We have a committed faculty." Some of the program's success stories include Edison Garcia, now working in sales at Simon & Schuster; Peggy Samedi, in Knopf's production department; Edgar Bonilla, associate editor at W.H. Freeman/Worth Press; and Lindsie Augustine, in marketing at Palgrave MacMillan.
"We are not making that much noise any more," affirms David Unger. "But we are quietly doing our job."