Monday, February 29, 2016

A Masters in Publishing

It's hard to believe that in November of 2018 Wyatt-MacKenzie will celebrate our 20th anniversary, and now I've added a new goal for that two-year destination — I’m going to Graduate School!

George Washington University has a Master of Professional Studies in Publishing program aimed at professionals who are currently working in the industry. Why do I want to do this, after already having close to two decades of publishing experience?! I asked myself the same question when writing the "Statement of Purpose." I thought I'd share it with you, here, and when classes start in the fall I'll write about my journey.

Statement of Purpose

Watching the factions in publishing—major publishing houses, university presses, indies, self-publishing companies and self-publishers—converge, intersect, and explode over the last 18 years has been fascinating. I’ve been an outlier of the publishing industry since I fell into the fire as a professional graphic designer helping women writers to package their books. Early on I was burned by major distribution, trying to fulfill industry expectations. I was criticized by the industry insiders for my two-pronged (traditional plus consulting) business model only to watch those monoliths follow my dual path a decade and a half later. In the beginning I was chastised by agencies for not meeting their archaic requirements only to, in recent years, be pitched incessantly by the same agents now scrambling to figure out how I do things and if they can replicate it.

I am incredibly curious about what I can learn in GWU's publishing program, and to see what I have to contribute to the quickly-changing conversation about publishing today. I believe I might have a unique perspective on author care, an element I see as the most important, and often overlooked, in any publishing discussion. My warped entrepreneurial sensibility has always put the author first.

I started by publishing the works of the “pillars of the community” to which I belonged—mom entrepreneurs. Bringing the power of publishing to this under-served and much-deserving segment magnetized my brand. I donated time, energy, and creativity to the leaders, helping them publish, present, promote, and build their businesses. Meanwhile, I bounced off professional writing groups that were unsure how to judge “just a mom” or "just a graphic designer" who thinks she can run a publishing company. 

Publishing is hard. It is heart-wrenching, time-consuming, under-appreciated and expensive, yet still the love of my life.

I have been the fortunate observer, hundreds and hundreds of times over, of a writer fulfilling her dream; it’s awesome. I love the thrill: of saying “Yes!” to a proposal and hearing sheer joy in her voice; of an author getting a blurb from her idol she thought was impossible; of sitting in my living room in Deadwood, squealing as I watch my authors do their thing on HBO, PBS, CNN, HLN, Fox, MSN, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and yes, Oprah; of sharing the news with an author that she’s won a book award and seeing her eyes well up with tears over the shiny gold sticker on her cover.

As a single mom I’ve had a long-drawn goal of getting my master’s degree when my kids go to college, and suddenly that time is here. I’m seeking to advance my indie press, and I’ve always secretly aspired to teach at the college level. Finding the program at GWU was exhilarating, especially knowing I can participate from Oregon. In my graduate study I want to challenge what I know, and see what more I can discover about this insane, I mean exciting, industry.

# # #

Then, in January 2016, a headline spurred my decision even further: "Publisher Penguin Random House says job applicants will no longer be required to have a university degree" It infuriated me, and embolden me, and my goal is to challenge a curriculum which potentially embraces archaic ways and leans toward careers within major publishing houses as the end-goal, and use my perspective to perhaps assist in strengthening (and teaching!?) an independent publishing track in higher education.