By Edward Nawotka
If there’s a problem your trying to solve for your book publishing business, it has likely been discussed at one of the numerous publishing conferences held throughout the year. The first time you go to such an event, it can be a heady experience. The next dozen times, it can start to feel like you’ve been locked echo chamber of ideas and generalities. By design, conferences cater to hundreds or thousands of people at a time and rarely are participants given sufficient opportunity to address their individual needs. The problem is especially acute when one comes from abroad, where the publishing industry may be at a different stage in its development.
Individual attention is just what the Yale Publishing Course promises.
The Yale Publishing Course was created following the demise of the Stanford Publishing Course in 2009, filling the void in the market for professional level education with its inaugural session held last year. This summer’s event, the second, takes place July 24-29 and offers a focus on leadership, business, technology and international issues.
“The idea is to help people move forward,” says Tina C. Weiner, director of the Yale Publishing Course. “It is is aimed at people who have been in the field from five to 40 years. It’s not a boot camp that teaches you how to acquire, edit and market books, which is what the focus is on at the courses at the [University of] Denver or Columbia [University]. This is much more ‘think-tanky’ and relevant to the current changes in the market. The total enrollment is limited to just 80 people.”
Digital is Not a Specialty, but a Prerequisite
Weiner, who was previously the publishing director at Yale University Press and has more than 40 years of experience in the industry, says that for many years the big question for the industry was, “When is digitization going to happen?” Now, the question is “Now that digitization is here, how are we going to monetize it?”
She adds that, “Digital is not a specialty now, its a prerequisite. There’s a whole rejiggering of this in the industry. Everybody says the older general doesn’t understand about digital and won’t be able to adapt, technically — I can’t code, for example — but there are people who are older than me who understand that is how it is going and where it needs to be headed. They are not nearly as resistant to change as a younger generation might think. Sure, they are not programmers, but they are used to guiding big ideas. There are some Luddites who spend a lot of time lamenting the printed book, but to say it’s not a good thing is unproductive.”
Speakers are drawn from the industry, as well as the Yale community, and this year include several names familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers, such as Robert Baensch – President, Baensch International Group Ltd.; Tom Turvey – Director of Strategic Partnerships, Google; Neil de Young – Executive Director, Digital Media, Hachette Digital, Inc.; and Michael Jacobs – President and CEO of Abrams Books. Yalies include John Donatich – Director, Yale University Press, Richard Foster N. – Senior Faculty Fellow, Yale School of Management, and Managing Partner, the Millbrook Management Group, LLC; Bruce Judson – Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, and former General Manager, Time Inc. New Media; and Amy Wrzesniewski – Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior,Yale University School of Management.
“Each year we make sure that we’re getting on top of what’s going on. Everything has to be timely, or else it’s not relevant,” says Weiner.
International Interaction Adds to Enrichment
Increasingly, this means focusing on international developments. Last year’s course attracted participants from 17 countries, some as far away as Malaysia, Taiwan and South Africa. The largest contingents came from Australia, Brazil and Mexico (which was represented by six individuals).
“The international component inspires Americans to think differently,” says Weiner, who also emphasizes that the social aspect of the course — coffees, dinners, mixers — offers plenty of opportunity for participants and instructors to mingle and share ideas. “The instructors have as much opportunity to learn, as do the participants. It’s a large part of why so many people want to teach at Yale.”
The point is echoed by Akshay Pathak, director of the German Book Office in New Delhi, India, who participated in last year’s course. “Yes, some of the speakers were mind-blowing, and overall, I think it was great. The best outcome was the international network of people we were able to construct out of something like this,” says Pathak.
Others, such as Aradal Powell, CEO and President of the Music Word Media Group, notes that taking the time to do the course offered much needed inspiration: “I found the course immensely stimulating and mind-expanding, made pleasant and valuable connections with faculty and other students, and came away energized and ready to think creatively and outside the box.” Powell added: “I especially valued the cross-fertilization of ideas, and practices, many of which I would never have encountered in everyday life.”
One area that Weiner struggles with is the lack of sponsors willing to commit funds to bringing in publishers who might not otherwise be able to afford the course (which is priced at a not insignificant $4,995). “I’d love to see publishers step up and offer some fellowships for their colleagues from developing nations, particularly Africa,” says Weiner. “People we’ve had from international countries tell us that when they’re here the feel like a sponge and what they learn they take back home to their own publishing houses and the ideas proliferate. Having the publishing community support such fellowships would be a wonderful gesture.”
At the end of the day, though, Weiner notes that the Yale Publishing Course is all about personal enrichment. “You have to go into this thinking ‘this is education for me’ and once you’re on board with the idea, you realize that sharing comes naturally,” she says. “What results is an experience that is intense and cohesive. Ultimately, everyone is enriched by the exchange. That’s what education — and publishing itself — is all about.”
You can learn more about this year’s event, ask questions and register online.