By Kate Hampton
Some save for years to attend the Yale Publishing Course, a week-long continuing education program for mid- and senior-level publishing professionals. Some organizations invest in employee development by paying for employees to attend. After attending this year, and despite the hefty price tag, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It is not just another conference and it is much more than a networking event. Here are the four best aspects of the course, with notes on how to get the most from the experience:
Learn From the Faculty
With decades of publishing experience under her belt, Tina Weiner curates an unbelievable set of speakers, or faculty members, year after year. They are candid and answer questions and discuss sensitive topics they would not discuss in public venues like a conference. The speakers—the best in the industry, as well as financial and management experts—do not speak and leave. They are not in a bubble. With around 70 students and around 30 speakers, the students have ample opportunity for one-on-one time. The speakers answer questions during and after their presentations, stay for meals, and many hold office hours in the mornings. Three speakers—Robert Baensch, President of Baensch International Group Ltd., Liisa McCloy Kelley, Vice President and Director of eBook Development & Innovation at Penguin Random House, and Craig Mod, writer, designer, publishing start-up advisor and investor—stayed all week. They acted as a daily resource of knowledge, as well as stable reference points to work with as the week progressed.
Learn From Your Content
The course’s holistic lens encompasses both the editorial and business aspects of the profession. Faculty represented the whole range of houses, publications and organizations. Speakers from the Big 5 spoke alongside academic, small, niche and art publishers. They address a breadth of topics: sales, design, editing, managing partnerships, organizational psychology, marketing and data analytics. A big take-away from the course was that, to publishing leaders and aspiring publishing leaders, all aspects of publishing are relevant. Editorial professionals should pay extra attention every time data analysis pops up on the screen. People who are comfortable with the numbers, but don’t know as much about the soft stuff, should pay extra attention when a leading editor talks about how she acquires books. Everyone in publishing depends on each other and needs to understand each other’s jobs, goals and outlooks in order to understand the industry.
Learn From Your Classmates
Many speakers commented on how much they learned from participants. The class included six continents, with participants specializing in all areas of publishing. It is a week learning from the best, with the best, about the subject to which we are all dedicated. I got the sense that, if any group had a handle on the future of this industry, it was the people in that conference room. I enjoyed speaking with and learned something from every participant I met. I spend most of my time—personal and professional—with writers, editors and artists. One of the best parts of the course was that, in most discussions, I wasn’t aware of who worked in what industry silo. We bonded a lot in a week, during the day and after-hours. I can’t wait to watch the great things everyone’s doing and will do, how they use what they learned in the course, and who ends up as a YPC faculty member in the years to come.
Learn From Yourself
The faculty repeatedly emphasized the enormous value of having the week to ourselves. In many ways, that is the greatest gift of the course. Unlike most courses, no one told us what we were supposed to get out of it. There were no expectations, except that we would apply ourselves fully. Our job was to figure out what we wanted from the course, using the resources to think about the big picture priorities that are impossible to think about while bogged down by day-to-day operations. Questions like: What should my organization do differently to prepare for the next ten years? How could we improve our office culture? Where is the industry headed? What new practices should I implement? What are my long-term goals for my publishing career? What new project, or even organization, could I start?
Yale Publishing Course is the perfect way to reconnect with the reasons we get into the publishing business in the first place. We left New Haven recharged and ready to take on the future.
Kate Hampton is an editor for Kwani Trust, the leading literary network and publisher in East and Central Africa. She was an associate editor for the first two issues of Jalada, the pan-African writer’s collective. She is a judge for the American Library Association’s Rainbow Booklist, and completed the 2015 Yale Book Publishing Course. You can find her poetry and other scribblings scattered around the world. Tweet her @KateCHampton.