I saw an article last week in the Mediabistro Newsletter about a British University offering an MA in self-publishing (http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/british-university-launches-ma-program-for-self-publishing_b82469) and I decided to engage in a little shameless self-promotion.
Beginning this fall, Belmont University in Nashville, TN will offer a major in publishing. Here is a link to the catalog page for details on the courses: http://www.belmont.edu/catalog/undergrad2013jun/arts_science/arts_soc/publishing/index.html
I am especially proud of this development because I played an integral part in making it a reality. It all started when I was a fledgling editor at what was then Time Warner Book Group. I had finished my MA in English at Belmont and took every opportunity I could to encourage my former professors to consider offering courses in publishing because I recognized a void in the field. A few years later I was approached by an agent friend named Bucky Rosenbaum who asked me what I thought about a degree in publishing. I told him I had been trying to get someone to listen to me on that subject for some time. Luckily, he had the ear of the president of Belmont and was planning to pitch the idea, so he brought me in to create the presentation/proposal.
Our pitch boiled down to answering three questions:
1) Why is a degree in publishing necessary?
2) Why should it be in Nashville?
3) Why should it be at Belmont?
The first question I was most equipped to answer because of my personal experience. As I worked through my first few years in the editorial department it occurred to me that book publishing is one of the few careers where you have no formal training or dedicated course of study–particularly in editing. It was a trade that was traditionally apprenticed and has never shifted out of that model. The closest you will get is a degree in English for your editors, and because the style manual is so distinctly different from what you use in academia, there is a lot of on-the-job learning that has to happen. Even in periodicals you can get a degree in journalism that equips you for what you will encounter in the workplace.
There are many certificate courses in various aspects of publishing for continuing education and there are a couple of universities offering masters degrees in publishing that are largely superfluous. Having been one of those who came late to the party, I can tell you that if you wait to get in on the ground floor until after you finish undergrad, the likelihood of getting in at all is slim to none. And, going back later for the advanced degree does not significantly improve your chances for advancement.
As for why it should be in Nashville, there is one simple reason. Nashville is the second largest publishing hub in the country, yet the market is not saturated with the industry. There is a solid infrastructure within the professional community for supporting this program and cross-over industries will also create greater opportunities.
The last question is one that could be debated vigorously, but one thing is clear: Belmont caught the vision and ran with it. Between their new law school, their stellar English and Communications departments, and the strength of their business school, they are poised to bring great credibility to this program.
When we started this journey, our goal was to establish a system of educating those interested in the industry, laying the foundation through coursework and internships that would equip those at entry-level with the lexicon, the understanding of the process, and the passion for keeping this industry thriving so they could hit the ground running to move book publishing forward into the new century. The dream is to create a place where innovation is encouraged–a think tank that will allow an industry that has been hard hit by advances in technology to figure out how to do more than just keep their heads above water; to create room for them to discover how they can be on the leading edge and keep book publishing relevant and vital.
I am very excited about the potential this program holds. If you have ever been interested in the field or know someone who is, direct them to the Belmont University website for information on how to apply.