Mastering Publishing?

anna1 bw biggerIn our second guest post, Anna Faherty, lecturer at Kingston University, discusses the merits of an MA in Publishing.

BookMachine’s request to contribute some thoughts on studying publishing at masters level came at a timely moment. For not only have I spent the last eight weeks battling through an intensive ‘in at the deep end’ introduction to lecturing MA students, my Kingston University colleagues and I are right in the midst of discussing the value and content of publishing MAs – in the context of our own future course development. And we’ve been asking ourselves a few honest – and challenging – questions, including:

  • What’s the point of an MA in publishing?

  • Will it get you a job?

  • What’s so good about our course?

I’m not sure we know all the answers yet, but I’ll do my best to share our thoughts to date.


So, firstly, What’s the point of an MA in publishing?


 This is probably one of the most common questions posed by those in the industry – myself included – who didn’t take a masters before gaining their first publishing job. Why bother to spend a whole year of time, and a reasonable chunk of cash, when you can just go and get a job anyway? We’ll come on to the job issue in a mo’, but for those willing to spend the time and money, an MA will usually give you an understanding of the entire industry: who’s involved, how it works, what function different roles perform and what the key issues and challenges are. That means you’ll go into a job knowing quite a lot to start off with, and you’ll also have an idea of the type of role, organisation and publishing you’d like to work in.


My colleague, Alison Baverstock , also likes to emphasise the ‘time to think’ aspect of masters’ level study. Once you’re installed in a publishing post, you’re unlikely to be able to spend time researching, considering and debating the future of digital rights management; within an MA this is just the kind of topic you might be able to get your teeth into. And through these in-depth discussions you’ll learn from the experience and knowledge of other students as well as your own research.


Will an MA get you a job?


 There is no direct ticket to the dream job in publishing, but in a hugely competitive job market an MA will more than likely get you an interview. It demonstrates your commitment and interest to potential employers and also means you’ll know the basics when you start. Plus, if you undertake practical work experience as part of your MA, you’ll not only boost your CV credentials, you might also get a foot in the door with someone who’ll employ you after you graduate.


If you don’t believe me about the value of MAs, check out this recent job advert equating an MA to 1-2 years of publishing experience, this Guardian Q&A highlighting the regard for MAs within the industry and Publishing Scotland’s  comment that many new entrants to publishing now have publishing or post-graduate qualifications. 


What’s so good about Kingston’s course?


Well apart from having brilliant lecturers like myself (ahem…).  I’d say:


  • The chance to learn from a range of industry experts, who share their knowledge, expertise and views through lectures, masterclasses and workshops.

  • Opportunities for hands-on experience of real publishing organisations and activities through industry placements and in-company research projects.

Both these factors enhance your knowledge and skills but also your saleability to a potential employer. We’ll provide support to help you find and manage a placement as well as advice on presenting yourself and your CV to employers.


Personally, despite working in publishing for almost two decades, I’ve already learnt a lot at Kingston: about the huge amount of stuff I instinctively do and know, about the latest developments in publishing, about the areas I’ve had limited experience in up to now, about teaching and learning,  and about the challenge of satisfying the aims and aspirations of the next generation of publishers. It’s hard work but very rewarding, and provides a great, future-focused, balance to my own here and now writing and consultancy.

anna1 bw biggerAnna Faherty is a freelance writer, editor and consultant working with major publishers, national museums and charities. She also lectures on the MA in Publishing at Kingston University. Find out more at her Strategic Content website, Mafunyane blog or Kingston Publishing blog.




The Kingston University MA in Publishing runs a number of open days throughout the year. Check for details.

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