Joy Bertan, director of talent acquisition at Simon & Schuster, had been thinking for some time about how to better reach young people interested in publishing before she launched the company’s Publishing Prologue program this summer. For years, she’d visited college campuses to give presentations about careers in publishing to students, she said, though the number and kinds of students who were able to attend was limited. But when the pandemic forced most in-person programs online, including S&S’s internships, Bertan realized that “we now had the chance to reach more students who under regular circumstances couldn’t get to New York.”
This year’s Publishing Prologue was a direct response to the upheaval caused by Covid-19. Bertan said she wanted the program “to target the 2020 and 2021 graduates who missed out on the chance to intern and find their way because of the pandemic.” And to widen the pool of potential applicants, the program was free of charge, designed for graduates with no prior experience in publishing, and focused on students from (somewhat vaguely defined) “underrepresented backgrounds.”
S&S selected 25 recent graduates from 24 colleges across the country in an effort to cultivate geographic diversity. While the virtual option allowed participants to take part in the program from outside of New York City, they would still likely need to move there to get a job. How would they shoulder the costs of relocating?
“This has always been a topic of conversation, and the situation hasn’t really changed,” Bertan said. “However, it’s not for us to determine who can come to New York for publishing and who can’t. Everyone that’s interested should be given the chance to make that decision on their own.” She hopes, however, that the efficacy of remote work will create more opportunities for people outside of New York.
During the week of July 12, the program offered 10 unique sessions over five days, with presentations about various aspects of publishing. This reporter viewed several recorded sessions after the program concluded. One of the Prologue’s greatest strengths was its focus on real-world operations and its detailed look at publishing’s inner workings. Many speakers acknowledged the reality that publishing is first and foremost a business. Another reality of publishing was made clear more tacitly throughout the presentations: while most of the participants were people of color, markedly few of the presenters were.
Bertan said she received good feedback about Publishing Prologue, and in what she called the “greatest measure of success,” S&S has hired one of the participants.