PubWest held a September 28 online “boot camp” for members in their first five years of publishing, with presentations on production and design, Amazon tools, and BookTok marketing.
PubWest executive director Michele Cobb opened the proceedings, and later joined PW international and bookselling editor Ed Nawotka for a conversation about global publishing; aptly, Cobb and Nawotka appeared on Zoom via the Riyadh Book Fair. (“Serendipity can lead to new opportunities,” Nawotka advised the attendees.) Karen Bullock, director of trade production at Sounds True, talked about industry lexicon, including ubiquitous acronyms from BISAC to ONIX.
Speaking of acronyms, a “What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Publishing Journey” panel included three 2018 graduates of DPI, the Denver Publishing Institute. All three were thirtysomethings when they enrolled in the four-week summer certificate program, and all three made successful (though not instantaneous) career leaps into publishing.
Marci Monson, formerly in website management, spent six months applying to publishing jobs and networking after DPI. She landed a digital marketing position, but a companywide layoff eight weeks later sent her back to tech work with Adobe. Luckily, “the fact that I attended DPI and went to PubWest's conference in New Mexico” demonstrated her commitment to a publishing career, she said, and within a year she joined Utah-based company Gibbs Smith, where she is senior manager of PR and communications. “As of two weeks ago, we are 100% employee-owned, and we’re a B Corp,” Monson said.
Bunmi Ishola came to her editorial career with Penguin Random House via middle-school teaching and journalism. After telling her students to “dream big,” she decided she would too, and she sought out an editor she’d heard on a Bookish podcast. The editor “responded that she didn’t have time to sit on the phone [with advice], but her tip was to apply to publishing courses, so I went to DPI,” said Ishola, who also embarked on a road trip to conduct informational interviews. Positions at Sourcebooks and the mass-market-directed Kidsbooks led her to PRH, where she edits from her home in Washington state and makes occasional visits to the New York offices.
Amy Schock, associate national accounts manager for Penguin Young Readers online sales, taught high school and worked as a guidance counselor for 10 years before attending DPI. “Connections, or having a degree, feel really key” to entering the industry, Schock said, recalling three failed applications and a fourth successful bid to be hired by Yale University Press. By her fourth try, she had networked so persistently that she “had several people at one time handing my resume to hiring managers.” This July, she joined PYR, where she promotes young adult titles to Amazon and handles e-book sales.
The panelists recommended building on “transferable skills” in sales, production, or editing. Ishola took a part-time bookstore gig to gain knowledge, and referenced Schock’s and her own teaching experiences: “[Teachers] know how to talk about content in a way that makes it accessible,” she said.
“For me it was about making genuine networking connections,” said Schock, who told listeners that a coffee date or virtual meeting establishes a relationship beyond a superficial social media contact. Ishola underscored that job-seekers need to be “authentic, and should have specific questions about someone’s journey.” Monson suggested replacing “you have to network” with “you get to network,” because “it can be fun” to meet people who share your passions.
And as for an informal, warts-and-all education in the biz? Remember, “publishing hangs out on Twitter,” Ishola informed the PubWest group.