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A Field Trip Into Publishing

Written by Haley Davis

“Do you want to take the easy way or the curvy way?” Associate Professor Barbara Adams asks us, and then we’re off – on the “easy way” to New York City. There are seven of us squeezed into this van, writing Professor Adams at the wheel and six students behind her. Following us to the city a few hours later is another car with more students, driven by writing professor Catherine Taylor. Taylor is Assistant Professor for the new course that we all share: Editing and Publishing.

Amidst the sounds of the soundtrack to the movie Chicago, we discuss the reason for this jam-packed trip to the city during our fall break. We’re headed to New York to meet with representatives from different publishing companies to get the inside scoop on the industry. Professor Adams and Taylor arranged the meetings in order to complement our class and help orient writing students to possible career choices. With the help of the Department of Writing and an educational grant from the School of Humanities and Sciences, we secured two vehicles and a hotel for students who needed a place to stay. While not all of the class could attend, 9 of us are embarking on the two-day trip.


Photo by Barbara Adams
The class at Penguin Publishing Group

Our busy schedule began early Thursday morning. First stop: Penguin Publishing – a good place to start. After meeting with representatives from the Children Books section, we jumped on the subway to our next destinations. Throughout the two days, we met with representatives from eight publishing companies, ranging from HarperCollins to the small, hand-made, open-community Ugly Duckling Presse. The editors at W.W. Norton welcomed us into a room with an array of Norton anthologies, as well as a different view of publishing: that of a textbook salesperson.
While we all contemplated the modern day traveling salesman, we also learned about the subdivisions of bigger publishers at Hachette Publishing, like smaller publishers for lovers of Sci Fi or Romance. Next we met with two representatives from the Association of American Publishers and reconnected with some IC alumnae, meeting Lauren Hesse ’11 (social media coordinator) at St. Martin’s Press, and Nina Boustakaris ’09 (publicist) at Skyhorse Publishing. Both welcomed questions and resumes!


Photo by Barbara Adams
Lauren Hesse '11 and Haley Davis '12 inside Strand Book Store.

The many editors at each company gave us sound advice – everything from a breakdown of available jobs in publishing, to resume and interview tips. An editor at Hyperion Books first gave us the tip that was most repeated throughout our visit: publishing is “100% about relationships.” Thanks to IC connections, this trip set us up with these relationships that are vital to the industry. Each representative encouraged us to contact them with questions or even to set up informational interviews.


Professor Barbara Adams, Catherine Taylor, and the class outside HarperCollins.

We all left New York with a different view of publishing: some decided that publishing is not something they will be pursuing, but most of us became more affirmed in our goals to work within the industry. Regardless, we left with countless invaluable contacts, notebooks filled with advice, and a whole lot of free books.




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