'Tis the end of the season of summer publishing programs, and PW spent some time with 25 students who participated in the intensive two-week program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C.

The students, whose publishing experience ranged from none to several years, were divided into three groups of mock publishing companies. Working together, each group was expected to deliver and present a complete catalogue of five books on their lists on the last Saturday of the course. The days started early (8:30 a.m.) and ran late; SFU packs in a lot of information. The faculty—many are graduates of the program themselves—put in almost as much time and effort as the students.

Most of the students were Canadian, but there are always some Americans and often students from the U.K. and other countries, said Suzanne Norman, coordinator of SFU's summer publishing workshops. SFU, which offers a master's program in publishing, holds three immersion programs, in book design, book publishing and book editing, with some overlap. (For instance, the book design students worked with the publishing students to design real covers for their proposed books.)

While the proposed books might be made up, the work that goes into making them viable publishing projects, from solid P&Ls to creative marketing plans, is very real. “It's a simulation,” said Norman, “but it is very real.”

Steve Gansen, with six years' experience as an acquisitions editor at Zenith Press in Wisconsin, said the SFU program was exactly what he needed to spark his career. “I was hoping to get a little bit of what everyone does at a publishing company,” he said. The highlight for Gansen came when Kevin Hanson, president of Simon & Schuster Canada, challenged him to really push the P&L analysis on a title—something that is not normally part of Gansen's job.

Since Shara Alexa-Clara, an S&S Canada sales rep, has returned to her job, she, too, has a heightened interest in all areas of the business. “Before, I would just learn my list and sell it,” she said. “Now I want to know more about each book: Who edited it? Where does the author live? How are we going to support it in marketing and publicity?” S&S Canada sends one employee to SFU every summer; Alexa-Clara said she begged to go.

With six years' experience working as managing editor of New Society Publishers on Gabriola Island, B.C., Ingrid Witvoet was one of the more seasoned publishing students. Her mock house had an embargoed title on its list and made the students sign nondisclosure agreements before they could hear the pitch.

“The students always make this leap and come out with things at sales conference that I didn't think they knew,” said Michelle Benjamin, co-director of the publishing immersion program (and a graduate of the program) and former publisher of Raincoast and Polestar books.

Norman said the faculty return year after year because of the quality of the students and their work. David Kent, CEO of HarperCollins Canada—a regular on the faculty for years—said his company has hired many graduates over the years.

Suzanne Brandreth, this year's other co-director and director of subsidiary rights at the Cooke Agency in Toronto, attended as a student in 1998 and said that every former student believes their year was the best. So what does she think of the class of '98? “Oh, yeah, I'm certain my year was the best.” Not that she wasn't thoroughly impressed with this year's class—“Their commitment to their books, lists, colleagues and 'house' never wavered,” she said.

This year's SFU class all signed up for Facebook to stay in touch.