Five reasons to (still) do a Publishing MA

Laura B

Laura Bisericanu freelances as a proofreader and book reviewer. She aims to join a trade editorial team by the end of the year.

Publishing graduate studies have been struggling to justify their necessity in an industry that is famous for ad-libbing its practices throughout time. And while in the nineties, having an MA in Publishing was something out of the ordinary, and showcased a definite interest in advancing the field and its framework, lately the degrees have become a commodity, and subsequently a staple in the industry. On a separate note, people  may be inclined to think that a Publishing degree would  help them build an online brand, most of them being seduced by the new Icarian business of digital influencers. Here are five reasons why it is much more than that.

1 The history

How did books come to be? What makes or breaks a book, and what ‘trends’ have left their mark on the industry? How did people come to learn the written word, instead of shunning it as the downfall of oral tradition? And how did that eventually lead to the gentlemen’s agreement business model of the 19th century? By studying the origins of the field from an anthropological standpoint, we were able to analyse how it had organically developed.

2 Publishing models then and now

As the first cohort to undertake the Derby Publishing postgraduate programme, we were fortunate enough to be able to visit both the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the London Book Fair. Both enhanced our romantic ideas about the industry, but while one was serene and beautiful in its dormant bliss, the other was lively and filled with a buoyant hustle and bustle. Both were places where best sellers have been fashioned (in wildly different circumstances), proving that publishing has been powered by competition and female entrepreneurship for a long time. 

3 The value of transferable skills

I am a first-generation immigrant, thus the publishing experience I have amassed at home does not help too much in my new state of affairs. During my MA, I was able to become one of the co-founders of the Derby US Publishing Society, and eventually make use of my magazine publishing experience when we published our own quarterly periodical, Writer’s Block. Colleagues of mine have produced and published The Derby Yearbook via our in-house imprint, Peregrine Publishing. Joining the job hunt with these deeds to our names has certainly made a difference.

4 The mores and mannerisms

Joining a new crowd is always difficult, especially if you’re striving for excellence, and the environment is literally and figuratively foreign to you. Our English for Editors and Legal Frameworks for Publishers modules were excellent in introducing us to the publishing world, its jargon and procedures. Matters were analysed from a global perspective (with a fifth of the class being composed of international students), and inclusivity was deemed to be synonymous with the future of publishing. From Cockney rhyming slang to Clark’s Publishing Agreements, we learned the tricks of the trade; special shout-out to the Charlesworth printing press that kindly facilitated a ‘behind the scenes’ visit for us!

5 Managing expectations

In the course of a year, we have received a comprehensive and complete overview of the business. We did not dwell on many specific subjects – the purpose of the course was to give us an inkling of the industry as a whole,  allowing us to focus our final project on the area that attracted us the most. This eventually gave us the confidence to approach a large array of entry-level roles (as it is known that you might not be to able to join your desired department right away). When you have an idea of how things should go, it is much easier to adapt yourself to the particularities of a specific publisher. This has been proven by the assortment of roles filled by the Derby class of 2017 in both trade and academic publishing.

So will a degree make me an expert on all publishing matters? ? No. It will present your chosen industry in a realistic light, giving you the historical context and insider tips needed to get ahead. Is it (still) worth it? Absolutely.

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