It was the end of May, Jon Baker estimates, when he started thinking seriously about creating what went into effect this week: an incubator program to give up-and-comers in the publishing industry a taste of office life. Or, more accurately, what seasoned publishing professionals were accustomed to pre-pandemic, namely the camaraderie, mentorship, and intangible moments that come from working at a desk that isn’t in your bedroom or living room.
With that in mind, Baker, a literary scout who runs the firm Baker Literary Scouting, created a volunteer program called the BLS Publishing Incubator that gives a working area to young people in publishing. In a space next to the new office that his scouting firm occupies in a landmark building in Jersey City, Baker has set up an area with six desks available to young people in the industry on a weekly basis and is open to staffers from any company. The program also aims to foster networking and career development, bringing in speakers, after-hours, to discuss their career trajectories and work lives.
The program, which is subtitled ‘A Strategy to Develop and Retain New Talent in the Book Industry,’ launched in earnest this week and plans to run through August 26. Thus far, Baker said participants have been recommended through contacts and friends, with 13 participants confirmed for the program. Baker explained the program this way: “New entrants into the literary sphere need the opportunity and space to effectuate their own development and professional network.” And this effort, he said, aims to provide that space, where new publishing employees can work away from their homes. The program also seeks to provide networking opportunities and “encourage the retention of talented professionals new to the publishing industry, particularly weighted toward diversity.”
While Baker intended to fund the project on his own—paying to outfit the space—he has been pleasantly surprised to find that it has been entirely supported by donation from colleagues. He said that after sending an email to “150 of my closest friends,” a number of agents and editors said they wanted to contribute.
Now, with some slots still open, Baker said it’s best to nominate potential participants—who must sign a liability waiver and provide proof of vaccination in order to be considered—by contacting him directly at email@example.com.