Experiential vs. Educational Learning

My friends and family were naturally curious when I shared my plans to start a master’s program in book publishing. Many asked why I needed further education to enter the publishing industry. Is a bachelor’s degree in English literature just a fun way to spend four years and thousands of dollars? So I applied for internships before I dove headfirst into another educational commitment. Microcosm Publishing of Portland, Oregon, was gracious enough to offer me an internship, and my personal experiment began. Would this internship be sufficient to teach me everything I wanted to learn about the industry in order to eventually get a full-time job?

As it turns out, the answer is not a clean yes or no.

This post is about the differences and similarities between experiential learning (e.g., my internship) and educational learning (e.g., the publishing program) within the publishing industry and why both have value and complement each other. It will focus on my experiences as an intern at Microcosm Publishing and a first-term student at Ooligan Press and give examples of how what I’ve learned in my classes has directly transferred to my internship and vice versa.

Expertise vs. Infrastructure:
At Microcosm, I’ve gotten my hands dirty. I’ve proofread two manuscripts, worked on Photoshop projects (with which I have very little prior experience but with which they trust me, amazingly), stuffed envelopes with Microcosm’s “witchy” catalog before sending them to hundreds of book retailers across America, moved many, many boxes of books, and gained some incredible insight into what it means to be a small independent publisher in the big pond of publishing.

But without the expertise I’ve been getting from my classes, I would have very little context in which to understand my experiences. How would I know that Microcosm’s decision to do their own distribution and part ways with Ingram was a bold move for an independent publisher? I spent an entire day unpacking all the books that had been sent back to Microcosm, but I didn’t even know what Ingram was prior to starting the program.

Another pertinent example of the way in which my learning has positively impacted my job is my approach to book descriptions—you know, the summaries that entice readers and get them excited to purchase books and read them.

The instructions from my Microcosm supervisor were to read the back cover, skim the first couple chapters, then write a short description and avoid sounding like an Amazon review. I’ve learned from my marketing class that a book purchase is an emotional investment for the average consumer, and this has directly impacted the way I approach my book descriptions for Microcosm’s online catalog. I now understand that I’m not just regurgitating the back cover; I’m helping people find the right book by detailing not only what the book is about but also why someone would want to read it.

Undergoing both the educational and experiential learning processes has given me the benefit of being able to immediately apply concepts and theories to real-life situations. Further, I am able to filter my experience as an intern and contextualize it within the larger arena of the publishing industry.

So in short, the answer to the question of whether my internship would teach me everything I needed to know for a career in publishing is no—not on its own. However, this internship has been hugely beneficial for applying and contextualizing all the wisdom and expertise that is being taught in the publishing program at PSU.

Are Internships the New Entry-Level Jobs?

The world of book publishing is highly insular, highly competitive, and notoriously difficult to break into. Particularly in New York City, the industry epicenter, job seekers often struggle to stand out from a crowded field of equally qualified candidates. In order to get a foot in the door, many aspiring publishing professionals turn to internships, where they hope to gain hands-on work experience and forge connections with established industry pros.

While gathering information for my research paper (a requirement for graduating from Portland State’s publishing program), I surveyed 187 current and former publishing employees in an effort to understand the challenges facing those who hope to break into the industry. Of the 187 respondents, 72.7 percent worked as interns at some point in their publishing careers. Of the respondents who had worked as interns, 69.1 percent had worked two or more internships; almost 20 percent of respondents reported working four or more internships.

Additional statistics paint a bleaker picture. Even with relevant experience, 50.7 percent of respondents who had worked as interns reported taking more than six months to find a job in the industry; 39 percent of respondents said it took them more than a year.

These numbers raise interesting questions. Are these long-term interns stringing together multiple part-time internships out of necessity? Are they unable to find or secure entry-level jobs? Or are internships the only “jobs” they’re qualified for, with so many entry-level roles requiring a year or more of prior relevant experience? More research is needed to answer these questions.

Another finding revealed a possible relationship between the length of an employee’s career and whether or not they had worked as an intern. In my survey, I asked respondents how long they had worked in publishing, to which 36.9 percent answered three years or less; 28.9 percent said four to six years; 15.5 percent said seven to ten years; 7 percent said eleven to fifteen years; 2.7 percent said sixteen to twenty years; 2.7 percent said twenty to twenty-five years; and 6.4 percent said more than twenty-five years.

Of the respondents who had worked in publishing for fewer than fifteen years, 80 percent had worked as interns. In contrast, among those who had worked in publishing for more than fifteen years, only 18.2 percent had worked as interns. The difference is most striking among respondents who have worked in publishing for more than twenty-five years; only one of those twelve respondents reported having worked as an intern at some point in their career.

It isn’t hard to guess what could have contributed to the shift. A decade ago, the Great Recession fundamentally altered the landscape of American employment. Although my research did not specifically look into the effect of the recession on the publishing industry, it would be fascinating to explore that topic further—and to try to piece together why the industry continues to rely so heavily on interns.

Marketing for the Future

In our turbulent and intensifying political moment, many might assume that brand construction should veer toward the apolitical, toward the most neutral territory of political representation possible. At first glance, this would make sense; it is obviously not in a company’s best interest to explicitly alienate any demographic on the basis of political ideology. Brands hold substantial credibility in the American consumer psyche, and the ability for individuals to connect to brands of course directly corresponds to sales. In the publishing world, this isn’t any different, and new titles are typically marketed in such a way that allows for maximum appeal across demographics.

Looking outside of the publishing industry, however, we see a different story unfolding and a new marketing technique trending. One of the most visible brands in the world, Nike, shook the world when they presented the face of the thirtieth anniversary of their “Just Do It” campaign to be none other than former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, former player for the San Francisco 49ers, was heavily scrutinized and threatened for his protesting of the playing of the national anthem before games, during which he would take a knee rather than stand. Despite the fact that this protest was rooted in combating police violence against African Americans, the act of kneeling was seen by many as a symbolic attack against American veterans. At first glance, it wouldn’t seem to be in Nike’s best interest to support Kaepernick directly, let alone make him the face of the company throughout its most notable marketing campaign.

As it has turned out, Nike’s support of Kaepernick has paid off. Make no mistake of it: Nike’s move to support Kaepernick was a calculated move toward further brand success, and it is exemplary of how a brand can simultaneously be on the front lines of a social justice movement and increase profitability. Nike recognizes that people do not simply look at brands for products and services, but as something that both influences and reflects their values. In true democratic fashion, The New York Times shows that two-thirds of Nike’s core audience is under the age of thirty-five and is substantially more racially diverse than previous generations, indicating that these social groups are very likely to respond positively to Nike’s support of Kaepernick. Nike also knows that this demographic and political correspondence isn’t going to change. While 78 percent of people expect brands to stand up for social justice issues, 84 percent of millennials expect brands to do so as well, and this is only going to keep trending this way. Nike’s campaign has resulted in high profitability despite an initial stock dip, and perhaps more importantly, Nike’s social media brand visibility has skyrocketed.

For the publishing industry, brand social responsibility is a very real thing, despite the fact that much of branding is not consumer facing. Being socially responsible means that we must look to the future, and we must anticipate not only what our customers are concerned with now, but also the relationship our brands will have with our customers in emerging social climates. Much like Nike gaining appeal and publicity through social media shares and searches, the publishing industry must look to social media and digital marketing tools in order to both analyze the social justice trends of today and forecast the trends of tomorrow. While it is important to respect our consumer base of the past, the consumer base of the future will no doubt be born out of the marriage between brands and social activism. This marriage is inevitable; brand consciousness and the social identities of individuals and groups are concretely intertwined in our digital sphere. Publishers—big and small—are thus left with the choice: jump out in front of this and market your brand for the progressive future, or at some point or another, lose relevance in your market.

Making the Incomparable Comparable: How Literary Agents Utilize Comp Titles

I find the process of choosing comparative (comp) titles and authors intrinsically tricky; ultimately, what you are trying to do is tell the world that this book is fresh, it’s unique, and this author has something really special—just look at all these other books and authors that are really similar. It’s a veritable balancing act between contributing something new to an existing market while also filling a hole in that same market.
The truth of the matter is, comp titles and authors are an integral part of the publishing process from start to finish. They come into play before an author’s work is acquired, not just as part of the marketing process. When a prospective author pitches their book to a literary agent, the author should be doing some of the same work that a press would do later when trying to put together a marketing package that will best promote said book.
Andrea Bachofen, who is part of the Digital Publishing Development group for Penguin Random House, wrote an excellent article concerning comp titles. In the article entitled “Comp Titles—An Elevator Pitch for Your Book,” she writes, “While our publishing teams often add additional comp titles during the publishing process, it is immensely valuable for them to understand what comp titles you suggest, so you can align your expectations about framing and positioning early in the process.”
An author should be familiar with current trends as well as tropes and stereotypes that are best avoided when trying to forge a path to the finish line of publication and author stardom. Realistically, most authors who are pitching their book to a literary agent for the first time probably aren’t going to know all there is to know about their respective genre, and that is where the agent comes into play.
Literary agents usually specialize in one or more genres, but they often focus their energies on a field they have a personal interest in. For example, Portland State’s own DongWon Song—who is an instructor and literary agent—specializes in science fiction, YA fantasy, and middle grade fiction (he also accepts nonfiction writing about food). The submission guidelines for literary agents can change, however, so it’s always a good idea to review the website of the agent you are thinking of pitching to before you submit.
So let’s say that your work is accepted by a literary agent, and after a couple rounds of developmental editing, your agent says it’s time to start pitching your work to some publishers. Your agent is going to use every bit of knowledge and know-how to come up with key comp titles and authors to give publishers an idea of what they can expect. This is especially important for first-time authors, as they aren’t likely to be well-known in the industry, and publishers like to have an idea of what they’re getting into before acquiring a project. The research you do before submitting is absolutely integral, as it provides a platform that your agent will add to and perfect.
The use of comps by agents and publishers may seem very similar, but there are some key differences. Literary agents are pitching to prospective publishers; they are hoping to make a sale with the raw material of the book using preliminary research that establishes a current hole in the market and where this work fits within the genre. Publishers, on the other hand, are using comp titles later in the process when it comes time to pitch to potential retailers, blurbers, and other possible reviewers for publicity purposes. Ultimately, comps are fundamental during every stage of the process, from pitch to publication.

Write to Publish, Then and Now

Write to Publish 2017 recently wrapped up, and I’m pleased to have been a part of it as a member of Ooligan Press. Most of my role in Write to Publish consisted of promoting the conference at the last minute and setting up the event, as well as monitoring one of the panels. After the rush to pull everything together in the final days before the conference, it was nice to sit back and listen to panels of authors talk about their experiences in the industry, and it reminded me of a previous Write to Publish experience that I’d had.

While this was the first Write to Publish conference that I helped organize, it was not my first exposure to the annual event.

The first Write to Publish conference that I attended was as an aspiring author way back in 2010. Of course, the premise of the conference to “demystify the publishing process” stands out—even looking back seven years—but I remember the conference having a sort of grand sensibility to it. There were speeches from Ursula K. Le Guin and Chuck Palahniuk! The Smith Memorial Student Union ballroom was filled with chairs facing the stage for these talks, and attendees buzzed with excitement as we packed together to fill the enormous space. Le Guin spoke on the realities of balancing one’s creative vision as a writer against the practical voices of editors and other industry professionals. Apparently, a world-building detail regarding pickle barrels had been cut from one of Le Guin’s Earthsea books at the advising of her editor, who argued that the detail was superfluous to the plot. All of us in the audience laughed along with the starry-eyed thought that someday we would have to leave quirky details of our own stories on the cutting room floor at the behest of our editors. The event felt very much a spectacle, as far as university-organized writing conferences go. The open space and the big-name authors gave the whole ordeal a sort of glitz.

At Write to Publish 2017, I received a vastly different impression of the conference’s tone. It wasn’t just that I was older and participating as a team member rather than an attendee. The 2017 conference was a softer, more intimate affair. The vendor’s hall shared a space with the breakfast table, and those drawn in by the promise of free food looked happy to stop by the tables to chat, while the vendors could be seen conversing with each other and those of us in Write to Publish T-shirts. Sitting in on panels, which were held in much smaller rooms with smaller crowds, I didn’t feel like I was being spoken down to by a grandiose figure in the book world, unlike in 2010. Instead, our guests (including talents such as David F. Walker and Adam O’Connor Rodriguez) were able to speak to their audience at eye level, not just answering one question at a time but having real conversations with them. In the absence of that formal distance between globally famed authors and massive crowds, established writers and those trying to break into the industry were able to have honest discussions about the importance of research, the continuing struggles of underrepresented voices in publishing, and the value (or lack thereof) of reader reactions to one’s work.

Perhaps some of what I felt was the result of having a hand in putting the conference together. Certainly there was a somber element because of the current political climate, which was a topic addressed in many of these panels with unfiltered expressions of anger, fear, and a desire to build meaningful communities together. Whatever the reason, this year’s event felt as much a personal affair as it was a professional one. While this year’s conference may have missed that star-studded element from 2010, this year’s focus on intimate dialogue and community was no less energetic—and perhaps even more valuable to aspiring writers.

Growing Collaboration in Publishing

Frances: While siblings are always a disappointment, your friends are not—especially when you get to work with them. And at Ooligan Press, we have been increasing the amount of projects we collaborate on, so being able to successfully work with others is a key part of the program.
There are two publisher’s assistants, so obviously we are partners in a lot of our duties and work very closely together. Although there will never be a definite answer to how to work perfectly with others—because every person is different and has their own work habits—the two of us have managed to find methods to successfully work together.
For Melina and I, communication is key to our workflow. If there is a task that one of us is worried about, we help the other one out. If there is a week where I’m slammed with homework and need help completing my PA tasks, I know I can ask Melina for help, and vice versa. Communication has helped the two of us create an atmosphere of respect. That atmosphere has led to the two of us being more honest with each other about our strengths and weaknesses. When we mail books, I always ask Melina to write the address down because I am self-conscious of my handwriting.
Melina: And I am always happy to do so. Writing out addresses isn’t a big deal for me, but knowing it is an added stress to Frances, I make sure to take care of it for her. For my part, I get overwhelmed by too many customer service–type emails, but responding to those is something Frances excels at. While she manages the two larger email accounts, I manage the two smaller ones and the voicemail system. We have divided up these tasks both to suit our skill sets and to minimize our stress.
But this collaboration is not just between the two of us; we have noticed that collaboration is becoming essential in all departments at Ooligan. There are two PAs, two Write to Publish managers, two acquisitions managers, and two editing managers. Dividing up the work not only takes pressure off of individual managers and helps Ooligan continue to thrive, but it also allows the emergence of new and better ideas. Having a partner means being able to think bigger because there is someone there to tell you if you’re crazy or if you’ve hit gold. You have more time to go over things with a fine-tooth comb, improving the quality of your work. And having a friend by your side simply makes the work more fun.
The most important part of working together is understanding that you do have to work. We have a partnership, and it is important to be reliable and do your work. It is always a concern that working with your best friend can ruin your friendship, but luckily the only con that we have found is that we get easily distracted by other things, like coloring books and tacos. Especially tacos.

What Brexit Means for English-Language Rights

A new revolutionary war could be waged with the United States of America’s greatest ally: the United Kingdom. The battles will not be on the sea nor in the sky, nor will they be fought with firearms. Instead, it will be fought behind closed doors as the American publishing industry fights against the United Kingdom for the English-Language rights to publish manuscripts in continental Europe.

When the UK voted to leave the European Union, the publishing industry held its breath. Overnight, the playing field changed for the UK. No longer did they have justification for the rights to publish in the European Union. The UK had always argued that—being a part of the European Union—they should have the English-Language rights for publications due to the open market of the EU.

But, starting as early as 2018, American publishing companies can fight for those English-Language rights.

Those two years as the UK negotiates its separation from the EU will set the field. Currently, with the sudden drop in value, Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch explains that “their [UK publishers] advances (and royalties) are worthless to trading partners.” This means that UK publishers may find themselves having to pay more to outbid others for manuscripts and the corresponding rights, potentially limiting their reach. With the American publishing industry considered the largest in the world, Brexit is offering a new opportunity to grow globally.

CEO of Penguin Random House UK Tom Weldon said in a note sent to staff the day after the referendum: “This is uncharted territory, and no one knows what the full impact of this change will be—either positive or negative.” Other publishing companies, such as Bonnier Publishing Group, Pan Macmillan, and Alma also took a pragmatic look at Brexit—embodying the British “Keep Calm and Carry On” attitude.

Brexit is casting ripples across the global market causing stock and currency values to plummet, with interest expected to rise and questions of access to the open market building. Contracts that UK publishing houses were negotiating dropped in value overnight, royalties dropped, and incentives are tempting with the turbulent market conditions. As with the other industries, the UK publishing markets will take some time to steady.

American companies, while hesitant to watch their colleagues and friends struggle in an industry they love, will be ready to react once the exit negotiations have been completed. The pound sterling may not recover its value, UK publishing houses simply may not be able to afford to acquire as many titles, and they definitely will find it harder to compete with their neighbors across the pond when it comes to bidding for rights.

While it is unlikely that Ooligan Press will enter the international bidding rings, we will feel the aftershocks of these effects. If the English-Language rights across continental Europe become hotly contested, the financial effects will spread across the industry. New markets will open, trends will change, competition will rise.

No one really knows what the long-term effects will be. The reality of Brexit still being rejected. Those in the publishing industry can only wait, breath held, while forming their strategies.

Surprise! Amazon Opens a Brick-and-Mortar Store

Picture this: You sit down with your morning coffee and routinely check your social media site of choice—in this case Twitter. Lo and behold, the trending topic of that dreary November morning is none other than (surprise!) Amazon’s new brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle, Washington. Your heart sinks, and suddenly that morning coffee doesn’t quite taste the same. For that solitary moment, all your hopes and dreams as an aspiring publishing professional disappear. Not only does Amazon rule the online marketplace for books, but now it is on the path to taking over the cherished place of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Believe it or not, this is a true story. The 5,500-square-foot location at the University Village in Seattle opened in November 2015. Aptly named “Amazon Books,” the former Borders retail space functions similarly to other brick-and-mortar stores, but with its own unique spin. All books are placed face out, in an attempt to give every title equal opportunity. However, this creates less room for inventory to be placed on the shelves. Below each book is a card with a review or rating from Amazon.com. It is like “staff picks,” but uses customer reviews instead. The store uses statistics based on customer ratings to choose its inventory, and it also uses collected data to modify that inventory to appeal to Seattle-based customers. Books are priced the same as the online store.

So what is it that makes our toes cringe at the thought of Amazon making its way into the beloved (independent or not) brick-and-mortar stores? For me, it feels like corporate greediness. I will be the first to admit, although not proudly, that I have purchased books through Amazon. After spending my first term learning the basics of the book publishing industry, I have been enlightened on the effect Amazon has in the book marketplace, and I now make every effort possible to support local independent brick-and-mortar stores. On the one hand, Amazon’s efforts to broaden their selling opportunities are also creating room for readers to purchase more books. On the other hand, they are taking away from the mom-and-pop stores that don’t have the same level of resources or funding. And ultimately Amazon is further affecting the book supply chain. Their brick-and-mortar store has the same principles as their online store: undercutting pricing. This takes a toll not only on the brick-and-mortar store hosting the same book, but also the royalties the author receives and the cut that the publisher gets from the purchase. I’m not saying you must stop making purchases from Amazon right this minute. That would be absurd. I’m only advocating educating yourself as a reader, considering all the options, and making informed decisions.

The Seattle Times indicated that the company hopes to open more stores in other cities. What does this mean for independent bookstores that readers and publishing professionals love so much? The future is unpredictable, especially in the publishing industry. We can only hope that the book purchasing options we have now will still be there in the years to come.

MFA vs NYC: A Debate

On October 23, 2014, the graduate program in Book Publishing and Ooligan Press presented latest installment of the Transmit Culture lecture series, “MFA vs NYC: A Debate.” The crux of the discussion: Chad Harbach, an MFA creative writing graduate, founder of n+1 Literary Magazine and bestselling novelist, claims in a 2010 article that the American literary scene is split into two cultures: one centered around New York publishing and the other around MFA programs. (See below for full video footage of the debate.)

The panelists included:

  • Dan DeWeese—Portland author, founder of Propeller Books, and creative writing instructor in the MFA program at PSU.
  • Eliot Treichel—Eugene author, MFA graduate, and instructor of writing at Lane Community College.
  • Lee Montgomery—Portland author, graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and former editorial director of Tin House Books.
  • Betsy Amster—literary agent, former editor at Pantheon and Vintage, and former editorial director of Globe Pequot Press.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Per Henningsgaard, the Director of Publishing at Portland State University.

Highlights included:

The panel was asked if MFAs are strictly producing literary fiction, as Harbach infers in his article and DeWeese responded, “I think that [. . .] may have to do with just the nature of being in school in general where there’s kind of a cool way to be: Carver-esque. You know, to affect an attitude as if you’d lived pretty hard and seen some stuff. And then the students who want to write about another planet start to feel like maybe they’re not as cool.”

Amster replied, “I think fishbowls in general are dangerous—the kind of fishbowl that you’re talking about. And I think that New York can be a fishbowl. That’s why I think [the MFA vs NYC concept] is a false dichotomy. To me there’s a lot of overlap between New York and MFA programs in the fishbowl department.”

When asked if it is true that literary fiction doesn’t sell, Montgomery answered, “As a publisher, it was very hard to sell literary fiction. It was very discouraging.”

The panel was asked if the goal of an MFA program is not to develop bestselling writers—literary fiction is a genre that often struggles to sell—then what really is the MFA’s aim?

Treichel responded, “If I were going to design an MFA program, it would incorporate aspects of book layout and design and marketing [. . .].”

Dr. Henningsgaard further prompted the panel: “So is it just art for art’s sake? Is that what MFA programs do?”

Montgomery replied, “[. . .] If you’re getting an MFA in creative writing, it’s a good time to write and not worry about the marketplace [. . .]. A writer needs time to write.”

The panel was asked if they think Harbach’s critique is reasonable—that the MFA writer is writing with the hope that their work will stand the test of time whereas the New York City writer is writing strictly for now.

DeWeese replied, “I don’t think it’s the most reasonable critique, no . . . with all due respect. I think it’s kind of odious because it’s at once slandering everyone from some kind of implied position of above-it-ness. Because he both has an MFA and a $650,000 [advance], he has conquered both worlds—and revealed the flaws of each. That is what I find most intolerable.”

Amster responded to the question, “I don’t think [New York publishers] are thinking twenty years down the line, but I don’t blame them for that actually because there’s an immediate need to stay alive as a publisher and a business. I think they end up publishing really fine work [. . .] that will stand the test of time.”

Finally, during the Q&A, the panelists were asked if they feel that MFAs were wasted on the young. Montgomery responded, “[. . .] it depends on how screwed up their childhoods are.”

Full video footage of the debate:

  1. Introduction of the panel
  2. Question One: Is there a stylistic mark of the MFA writer?
  3. Question Two: Is the MFA producing only literary fiction?
  4. Question Three: Is literary fiction selling?
  5. Question Four: What is the aim of the MFA program?
  6. Question Five: Is MFA writing aiming for quality while NYC aims for immediate sales?
  7. Question Six: Is the MFA too white?

To dig deeper into the MFA vs NYC conversation:
Junot Diaz, referred to in the panel discussion, responded to Harbach’s article in an essay published in The New Yorker.

Ooligan Career Seminar A Smashing Success

On April 11th and 12th current Ooligan students were treated to the first ever Ooligan Career Seminar and Alumni Gathering. On Friday night, the press rented out the Jack London Bar in Southwest Portland for some Ooligan-exclusive schmoozing and merrymaking. On Saturday morning we reconvened for a day of informative panels featuring Ooligan graduates who’ve built successful careers, some in the publishing world and some in other fields.
The morning started off with a discussion of life in the big city courtesy of some Ooligan grads seeking their fortunes in the publishing scene of New York. All of them agreed that for those Oolies hoping to get a job in New York, the best thing to do is save up some money, move out there, and then start looking for jobs. “I was applying before I moved, but it wasn’t until after I had a New York address on my résumé that I really started getting interviews,” said Kylie Byrd, who recently got a job as an Assistant Production Editor at Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. For the second panel, a group of Oolies in the realm of digital media and design discussed the future of the print book and just which design program will make you invaluable in any workplace (hint: it’s InDesign). Next, a panel of editors talked about how they moved from freelance editing careers to full time work. Interestingly, two of them chose to pursue careers in technical editing because editing fiction made it too difficult to also follow their passion for writing. “I love to write YA,” said Kristen Svenson, who now works as an editor in the medical information field. “But I couldn’t edit YA all day and then come home and write YA.”
After a short lunch break, we returned to hear a panel of marketers talk about what marketing means to them and why they enjoy it. They all stressed the collaborative nature of the work along with the challenge and satisfaction of coming up with ideas and implementing them. “Marketing is a creative process,” said Aly Hoffman, a publisher’s assistant at IT Revolution Press. “It’s fun.” After the marketing panel, we got a chance to hear from some Ooligan grads who used their press experience to find careers outside the field of publishing. They emphasized the fact that skills taught at Ooligan­—editing, writing, marketing, design, management, and more—are all applicable to any communications-based position, and make Ooligan grads valuable candidates no matter what field they choose to enter. The day finished off with a panel of alums working in non-profits. They reiterated that the Ooligan skillset is of immeasurable value in a wide variety of job situations—and that this skillset, combined with genuine passion for a cause, makes for the ideal candidate for a job at a non-profit.
There was one theme that ran through all the panels: network, network, network. The panelists could not emphasize enough the importance of making contacts, getting informational interviews (even by cold emailing), keeping on good terms with everyone, and viewing the relationships you’ve built as your greatest asset. Given this, we at Ooligan are lucky to have had this chance to meet some very successful people who started out just like us.