New York and the new world of publishing

By Joanna Wong,
Master of Publishing and Communications student and Faculty of Arts Graduate Student Ambassador.

A trip to New York is always an exciting prospect, but to visit New York as a publishing student to get a taste of the industry as part of your graduate degree is like the perfect icing on the cake. Much like how New York is the mecca of all cities, the city carries the same status inside the publishing world. New York has a long history of being an epicentre of trade English publishing but is also at the forefront of innovation in an ever-changing industry.

When I heard about the International Publishing Project (PUBL90016), I knew it was an experience I could not miss. The subject offers the unique opportunity to experience the industry from a New York perspective via a five-day intensive program at The New School, an American college renowned for its excellence in the arts and creative industries. The annual program, called The New School Publishing Institute, is coordinated by New York publishing veteran John Oakes who carefully designs it to give its participants, which included other students from The New School and individuals interested or already involved in publishing, a quick but thorough overview of the publishing industry.

Visit to New Directions

Students crammed into Barbara Epler's office in New Directions HQ. Source: John Oakes, New Directions.

Over the five days, we heard from a diverse group of guest speakers, coming different roles and areas of the industry. We had speakers from the traditional Big Five publishers, such as HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, to new publishing models like Kickstarter and niche New York start-ups like Instar Books and New Vessel Press. Each guest speaker presented us with a different perspective to take home, openly sharing with us their publishing knowledge and experience. The program’s holistic overview of the industry and its wealth of speakers provided us with a platform to delve into a wide breadth of industry topics such as copyright, the use of social media, editorial practice and the ethics of audience development and insight.

To top it off, we went on excursions to two very different publishing houses – New Directions, a literary fiction publisher (specialising in translated fiction) based in an Art Deco building in Greenwich Village, and commercial trade publisher Simon & Schuster’s headquarters close to Time Square. After an intense five days, I was left mentally exhausted but equally inspired. The experience not only helped cement knowledge that I’ve gained through my course at the University of Melbourne but allowed me to observe the differences in publishing practice between Australian publishing and New York’s fast-paced industry. It was an honour to meet the many industry professionals, to hear their different stories and discuss how we may tackle the challenges of our changing industry.

Taking the subject broadened the publishing horizon for me. I left New York, like many of my fellow Melbourne classmates, digesting the expanse of knowledge we gained in just five days and thinking about how I wanted to mould my future career.

University of Melbourne students enrolled in the following programs, who have completed Editorial English (PUBL90002), are eligible to apply for the International Publishing Project:

To apply, students need to complete an online application form, which includes providing a short summary about why they want to enrol in the course. Because of the limited places available for the subject, successful students will be selected based on average marks and the contents of their application. Students closer towards the completion of their studies will be given preference.

An information session about the subject, usually scheduled at the beginning of the year, provides students with an opportunity to learn more about the application process or ask their questions about the subject. Students are expected to be responsible for their travel expenses to attend their course but are automatically eligible for the Faculty of Arts grant and a Melbourne Mobility Award.

Joanna Wong is a Master of Publishing and Communications student and Faculty of Arts Graduate Student Ambassador. She currently works at Hardie Grant Publishing as an Editorial Assistant.

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