A few days ago, we published a post on the phenomenon of summer publishing programs, with links to a number of the most prominent of them and to online discussions about whether or not they are worth the steep price tag.
One of our alumni kindly agreed to share her experience in a guest post. Her bottom line? Yes, they’re worth it–if you’re committed to making the most of the experience.
Make Your Own Experience to Find Success at Publishing Certificate Programs
By Morgan Sherlock (English ’15)
I began looking into various publishing institutes when I was researching graduate school options outside of an English MA/PhD. I knew that I wanted to work with books or magazines but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work in production, marketing, sales, editorial…all of those options were of interest to me. So when a professor told me about these publishing certificate programs that would give me hands-on publishing experience and connections, immediately applied and took them head-on. The price absolutely terrified me (at the NYU-Summer Publishing Institute the total bill was $5,500 for the program, $1,380 for the housing, $500 deposit and don’t forget about the extra $500 deposit for housing – all without subsidizing any groceries) but I felt committed to the fact that this was my stepping stone, something that if I didn’t take advantage of, I would always wonder what-if and what-could-have-happened. I wanted to make a career move that would lead me into an industry that I knew I was hopeful and passionate about and start this new post-graduation phase on my strongest foot. So, on June 1, 2015, I started my first class at New York University – SPI.
My six weeks in New York went by as fast as it sounds – and my summer program truly offered everything that they promised. It was immersive in that the projects were intense and mimicked the entire publishing processes, people came in everyday representing the biggest names in publishing (in both books and magazines), and just learning the overall gist of publishing: asking questions and having conversations about the future of the industry, how big a role media played, was Facebook publishing good or bad…etc. In that, this was an incredible, genuine educational experience…but there is a lot more to it than that if you want to get your moneys worth.
Networking is crucial in such a small(ish) industry like publishing, and the biggest reason I went to New York City was to meet the right people in the center of the field. My best advice for these programs is to take advantage of all of the networking opportunities these courses offer; go up and talk to the presenters if they do something you even remotely think is interesting or if they work for a company that you can see yourself at; talk to the alumni – they are the easiest to talk to because they were just in your shoes and they made it, so they probably have the most relatable advice for you; and if you want a job in publishing, put the institute on your resume right away and start applying! I would skip certain classes at times for interviews or to get coffee with people I had met and wanted to get to know more about their careers. It was totally worth it just to make the connections, even though I did end up taking an offer I found through different means back in Chicago (don’t let this dishearten you, future publishing certificate holders!) The best part about the program is making close connections with all of my peers in the program is well – you make so many friends that are just as big of reading and writing nerds as you, and they become valuable professional connections as well when everyone starts to find jobs in and outside of publishing. I am still very close with a lot of my fellow SPIers and the group Facebook page is constantly filled with people posting new job openings within publishing/offering to help get interviews – that is huge!
Are you still debating whether this is something worth trying? Of course you are! It’s a ton of money to blow on four, five or six weeks of a certificate that not a lot of people have heard of before in a very tiny industry – especially when you don’t start out making a lot of money right away. But for those that want to get an invaluable educational and networking experience purely focused on an industry that is rapidly changing, and need to get your foot in the door…this is absolutely for you.
If you would like to reach out to Morgan with additional questions about summer publishing programs, you can find her on LinkedIn or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.