I last wrote about the Ryerson publishing program when I answered some FAQs from prospective students. But what do other publishing students have to say about their experience?
I found out — and I hope you get as much out of their comments as I did.
Note: all quotes below have been lightly edited for grammar or clarity.
J’s thoughts on the Ryerson publishing program
J is finishing up the Ryerson program this fall, and currently works as an in-house editor with a publisher:
The program and the EAC have both been vital in me furthering my editing career. But I’m not sure how much of that was just the timing of when I entered the industry. I think it will be much harder for current students.
J elaborated on this in another email:
The Ryerson courses, as well as the EAC [Editors’ Association of Canada] courses, improved my editing skills immensely. Not to mention the networking opportunities from both.
However, when I started there were many more in-house opportunities than there are now. Many of those in-house positions have been outsourced off-shore. So there is more competition for the freelance, and in-house, jobs available.
I did do an internship and would recommend it to anyone who wants to be an editor, or be in publishing. Just don’t fall into the trap of moving from one internship to another in the hopes of gaining full-time work: it rarely, if ever, happens.
Lea Kaplan, graphic designer
Lea Kaplan is a writer and graphic designer who now lives in Toronto. After completing the publishing program, she studied graphic design in New York. Here’s what she had to say:
I did graduate from the program, though I know plenty of people who did not. I’m not actually working in publishing right now (though I do still hope to end up in the industry). I went back to school and got another degree, and am now job hunting once again.
Her thoughts on whether the program offers transferable skills:
To be honest… I don’t know if there really were any transferrable skills. At least, not in regards to the direction I’ve gone.
The degree I received was in graphic design, and I am hoping to end up back in the publishing industry as a designer. I suppose that some of the skills learned in the book design course I took were transferable, but otherwise…
I suppose some of the tricks and tips learned in the marketing and/or publicity classes could be transferable, because being able to sell things is an important skill set regardless of what you’re selling. And I’m of the firm belief that everyone should have the skills to be able to copy edit text.
What I loved about the program was that it was specific. It was targeted to books, it gave the student a remarkable overview of all aspects of the publishing industry, and allowed us to connect to professionals who actively worked in that world. For someone trying to break into the publishing industry, that was invaluable. The things learned in the classroom were only half of the strength of the program.
An anonymous editor
This editor and I took classes together at Ryerson, and we reconnected after seeing each other at the 2014 EAC conference. Here’s what she had to say:
I fell into publishing in my third year of my undergraduate degree while fulfilling a voluntary placement. At the time, I was studying to be a teacher and was very unhappy. As a publishing intern, I realized that I could use my best skills – research, editing, and writing – and that teaching wasn’t my only option as a literature student.
I studied publishing at Ryerson in 2009 and then at the graduate level in 2012. I interned in editorial, marketing, and for a literary agency. I currently read for an agency, intern for a magazine publisher, and take on freelance editing projects wherever I can.
I believe that studying publishing is useful for an overview of the industry and to have access to internships and jobs you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get, but I would advise any aspiring publisher to work in the industry rather than studying it. Work in a bookstore, help with a literary festival, assist with digital platforms, freelance, and attend as many conferences and events as possible. If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, it would be to start working in publishing immediately upon finishing my undergraduate degree rather than going on to do graduate work. If I had known then what I know now, things would be very different.
Last spring, I interned for a wonderful company and was under the direction of a woman whose career trajectory I wish I could emulate. She started as a freelancer, worked as an assistant across different publishing sectors, and now – at the age of twenty five – is an assistant editor for a well-respected literary imprint. I would give anything to have what she has and do what she did, but I’m not her and she’s not me (and I didn’t know then what I know now).
I would also advise any aspiring publisher to work across as many sectors as possible. Don’t be picky and don’t limit yourself. You might find something you love that you never thought you would, and you will learn things you never dreamed you could if you step out of your comfort zone and you are open to new possibilities. Also: learn InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and as many other publishing-related systems as you can. Strong administrative skills, attention to detail, efficiency, and a willingness to handle and apply criticism are essential.
A second anonymous editor
This is another person who studied at Ryerson at the same time that I did. She says some pretty strong stuff here — I can’t resist quoting someone who’s stirring the pot. Here are her thoughts:
When anyone asks me about working in publishing, I tell them “don’t do it!” I’ve had at least six friends this year alone lose their job at Random House. And several at other publishers too — or friends in magazines have their company go under. It’s a depressing time. Most internships are keeping things afloat these days. So I’m kinda negative about the whole thing. Ryerson accepts unlimited amounts of people to train for jobs that just don’t exist. The newer courses, such as the one on rights and the eBook production course, are the good ones, though I haven’t taken the digital production one yet, so I can’t really comment on it. I didn’t finish the diploma, mainly because I had a job in publishing and I didn’t think it was really worth it. So maybe I’m not the best person to talk to!
These days, the bigger publishers are more concerned than ever about their bottom lines. This affects the people working in publishing through cutbacks, but it also affects the types or quality of books they’re looking to publish. But maybe this will be a more exciting time for the mid-size or smaller Canadian publishers; they will get those authors usually snapped up by the larger corporations. Still, the point is that people getting into publishing because of a love of books need to choose their passion wisely because the industry has changed a lot.
You start classes and the first thing you hear is that there is NO MONEY in publishing. Well, that’s okay, you think, because I love books! But what you don’t hear (or maybe you do now) is the climate at these larger publishers: what drives them is a need to see return on their investments, not “good books.”
This makes sense, since business is business. But those doing it for a love of books are both out of pocket and lost in the bureaucracy of a larger publisher. And that’s where so many end up because of internships. A job at a smaller/mid-size publisher is really what you want, but those are few and far between.
What are your thoughts?
These are the thoughts of only a few people, and I recognize that far more comprehensive surveys could be made given the right resources. However, I feel it’s a start.
What are your thoughts? Are you a Ryerson publishing graduate who wants to weigh in? Are you a current or prospective student looking for more info? Submit a comment or send me an email.