by Cheryl Lew, Media Connect Publicist
I’ve always loved books, but I knew very little about publishing when I applied five years ago to New York University’s Masters in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program. While I had interned at a literary agency in Los Angeles, I didn’t know much about the different types of jobs available in the industry and how varied they could be.
In the program, the professors, who were publishing professionals themselves, sought to teach us a bit of everything so that we could decide on which part of the industry was the best fit for us. Did we want to work in books, magazines, or digital media? Did we want to be an editor, a graphic designer, a publicist, or something else? When we first started the program, they did a survey, and about 90% of the students wanted to be an editor in a big five house.
However, after the program had concluded, we all went off to start a variety of jobs in every part of the industry. Only a small percentage of graduates went on to join editorial teams. I ended up choosing something that I didn’t even know about at the start: Publicity. While I knew the term “Publicist” in the context of celebrities and large companies, I didn’t realize that this was also a necessity in publishing.
In addition to educating me extensively about my chosen field, the program also introduced me to a vast network of contacts that I still keep in touch with today. I have friends in all different departments of several houses, as well as a variety of magazines and online outlets. Additionally, I am still in touch with some of my professors, who are always willing to help you out and recommend you for a position
I learned a lot about the industry through this program, but of course, nothing can compare to gaining real world experience by working at an actual publishing house. We had learned the basics, but it was difficult to fully understand it without experiencing it for ourselves.
I was excited to witness firsthand what I had been taught, and all the theoretical information we were given helped me greatly when I started my first “real” job at a small, independent publishing house. Because it was a smaller, less corporate operation, I was called upon to perform tasks that were not technically part of my job description as a publicist. While I was able use what I had learned in the program to adapt to and navigate certain situations, I found myself experiencing new ones that I had not anticipated. A few years later, I am now able to draw from both my education as well as my experience at several vastly different companies to do my job.
There’s no “right” way to get into the publishing industry. I’m glad that I pursued my Masters, since it got me to New York from Los Angeles, and introduced me to so many people that I may not have met otherwise. I also have several friends and coworkers who are incredibly successful and hold high positions in the industry without an advanced degree in the field.
If you want to work with books (or magazines or digital media), find what works for you, and go for it!