An Open Letter to New Students

If you’re reading this, you’re probably either a new student or interested in becoming one. Ooligan Press, in conjunction with Portland State University, offers one of the most unique publishing programs in the world, and can provide an unrivaled graduate experiences. Part of what makes this program so great is the phenomenal community atmosphere. Thanks to this network, I’m now applying for graduation and would like to share a few bits of Ooligan wisdom that I wish someone had shared with me.

  • The learning curve is steep. We use industry jargon that’s outside of most people’s current vocabulary. Bookjobs.com offers an in-depth glossary of commonly used terms, and reading up on book publishing blogs and newsletters will really help to ease the transition and get you thinking like a publisher. Some useful ones include Publishers Weekly, The Shatzkin Files, and Shelf Awareness. For a bit of book publishing humor, check out Slush Pile Hell.
  • Classes are a hybrid of academics and vocational studies. Most of your instructors will be professionals from (or closely related to) the book publishing industry. They’re not career teachers, but they are here to share their professional experiences with you. It’s amazing what you can learn from them. If there’s a particular area of publishing that you’re curious about, take advantage of their office hours and ASK. You can read more about them on the program’s faculty page.
  • Expect to read. A LOT. It is a publishing program, so this may seem like a no-brainer, but you really need to make time in your schedule to read. Assigned readings will range from peer-reviewed academic articles to the latest bestsellers and everything in between. Reading new submissions for the Acquisitions department is also beneficial, as it will help you be well-informed for events like title votes and design briefs. It’s also a good idea to stay up to date on industry news by reading industry blogs and newsletters like the ones mentioned earlier.
  • Remember why you joined the program in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up with homework, jobs, internships, and the myriad of other responsibilities we take on. The important thing to remember is why you came here. What drives you? What are your goals? Your passions? Make time for the books that YOU want to read, and your other hobbies and interests as well.
  • Try ALL of the things. You’ll never know what secret publishing superpowers you have until you try them out. If you come into the program with an editing focus, try spending some time in the marketing, digital, and design departments too.
  • Get involved outside of the classroom. Some of my greatest educational experiences have occurred outside of the traditional academic setting. Internships have been career-changing for me. Aside from internships, look into ways to get involved in campus organizations and your community to help build your resume and diversify your experience. You can look for student jobs and internships via PSU’s CareerConnect, and student organizations via SALP.
  • Last but not least: network. You’ll be reminded of this so many times during your career that you’ll more than likely get sick of hearing it, but it’s true. It doesn’t have to be daunting, even if you’re new to Portland. Talking to your professors, attending literary events, and introducing yourself to alumni are great ways to start building your connections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *