Three notable graduates of the NYU M.S. in Publishing program recently spoke with current student Seth Harris, a digital business development analyst at Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., about their newest roles within the publishing industry. They also discussed how they are applying aspects of the program to their current jobs, and advice for new and current students.
Till Wirth recently was promoted to manager of digital content and product development at Random House Children’s Books. He began working at Random House as an intern while a graduate student in publishing at NYU, where he received the program’ s Oscar Dystel Fellowship and 2008 Excellence in Achievement Award in Book Publishing. Before coming to New York, Wirth managed his family’s book publishing house in Germany.
Seth Harris: You’ve recently taken on an exciting new role at Random House. Can you tell me about some of the projects you are working on?
Till Wirth: I work on e-books and enhanced e-books and custom software projects such as iPhone and iPad applications. Previously, I was an online marketing manager for the Random House Information Group. What I really took from that was a clear understanding of the online space and how you market things. That has been very helpful in working with digital projects because you can always hire someone to create a product, but you still have to market and sell it.
Harris: What do you find most challenging about your new position?
Wirth: Piecing it all together because you are really creating a new revenue channel or business within Random House. There is no formula for success and only some established workflows for iPhone apps or enhanced e-books because they are still fairly new products. So, creating these processes and coming up with good ideas for apps and enhanced e-books are some of the core challenges.
Harris: What are some aspects of the NYU M.S. in Publishing program that you have found most useful in your career development?
Wirth: The program really created a network for me within the publishing industry. My teachers have great jobs in the biggest book and magazine publishing companies. My classmates also have excelled in their careers. It was just a great way to connect with other people and companies.
Harris: What advice would you give to incoming students who are beginning this fall?
Wirth: Always build a great connection with your fellow students and professors. Frankly, networking will never be as easy as it is in the program. Another key thing is to push yourself to do the best you can on your projects. What publishing companies really value is obviously someone very good at their job, but also someone who understands the bigger picture of the publishing industry. If you want to be a good editor and rise up the ranks and do interesting books and projects, you need to understand what sales does, what marketing and inventory managers do and what print and production does.
Wirth’s colleague at Random House and fellow classmate Jaime de Pablos was recently named director of the Knopf Doubleday Group’s Vintage Español. De Pablos previously was the Spanish-language unit’s publishing manager.
Harris: What brought you to the NYU M.S. in Publishing program?
de Pablos: I went to college at Tufts University and majored in political science and English and then went back to Madrid where I worked with my family for many years. Ultimately, publishing was my vocation and it made sense to come to New York, which is the best place to learn about publishing. While in the program I started at Random House as an intern at Knopf editorial. After I finished the program, I was offered a job at Vintage Español.
Harris: You recently took on a bigger role at Vintage Español. How has your job changed?
de Pablos:The program grew a lot last year through a joint venture with Random House Mondadori in Spain.This year we’ll publish almost 60 books and the biggest challenge is making sure that all the many different components of a book are running smoothly, while at the same time acquiring new books.
Harris: How did the M.S. in Publishing program prepare you to take on this type of leadership role?
De Pablos: As a small Spanish imprint we do almost everything ourselves, from acquiring the book to the editing, selling, marketing and publicity. NYU was great because I got to see every single aspect of the publishing process from the idea of the book until it’s in the reader’s hands.
Harris: What are some interesting projects that you are working on these days?
de Pablos: We just came out with a biography of Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court Justice, that we had been working on since she was confirmed. This summer there is also Paulo Coelho book, “Las Valkirias” that was never published in Spanish.
Harris: What advice would you give to incoming students about how to approach the program?
de Pablos: Intern and meet people in the business. It’s good to learn about different areas of publishing and be open to everything. Also, every book has its own P&L and everybody works with it. You really have to understand the financials to get anywhere.
Harris: How have you maintained the relationships made as a student after graduation?
de Pablos: The NYU alumni program does a really good job. There are many events and I keep in touch with a lot of people. Networking is an important part of any Master’s program.
Harris: Every student that goes through the program has to complete a Capstone [graduate thesis] project in their final semester. What was your project and what advice would you give to students on how to approach the Capstone?
de Pablos: Funny enough, my Capstone was developing a Spanish-language imprint within Random House. The Capstone is quite a lot of work, but you can learn a lot from it. I would suggest finding a topic that you are really interested in so that you will really learn from it.
NYU M.S. in Publishing 2007 graduate Angela Bole is now deputy executive director of The Book Industry Group. The BISG is a U.S. book industry trade association for policy, standards and research. Bole joined the BISG in 2005 and served in several roles including marketing and communications manager and associate director.
Harris: How did you decide on attending the NYU M.S. in Publishing program?
Bole: I was working as a buyer at an independent bookstore in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I thought that I was in this tiny Wyoming town and I’d like to do something bigger in publishing and I can’t do anything else here. I saw a description of the publishing program in Publishers Weekly. I applied and moved to New York for the program. Even though I really did think I was going to move back to Wyoming, I never did.
Harris: What did your career development path look like after you came to the program?
Bole: A year after I started the program I got a job with the Book Industry Study Group. I’ve been with BISG pretty much for the last five years. For me, it’s been an amazing education because BISG really views the whole publishing industry from authors to readers and I get to work with publishers, retailers, distributors and even data aggregators.
Harris: What duties do you have now in your new role at the BISG?
Bole: We’re a small trade association, so I’ve always done a little bit of everything. My role now is being a public speaking voice for the industry. I’m speaking at trade shows like Tools of Change, BEA, and the university presses conference.
Harris: What are some of the most interesting projects you are working on right now?
Bole: One of the research projects is Consumer Attitudes toward e-Book Reading. We ask certain questions over a period of time, including how the reading of e-Books is cannibalizing print book sales and how consumers are reading e-books and which ones, where, and how is the market growing or trending. I am also excited to be working with the M.S. in Publishing program on a student panel at Book Expo America. If you are at BEA, come to our panel, “Millennials in Publishing: What the Next Generation Thinks” on May 27th at 2 p.m. in room 1E02!
Harris: You completed the program part time while also working. How did you manage to balance that?
Bole: You have to be focused. You have to have a social life even though it may seem hard sometimes. You have to find a way to foster friendships and hang out with people other than those you work with. Otherwise, I would have been overwhelmed by the city, which is so different from what I was used to.
Harris: What are some key components of the program that you feel are helpful in your job?
Bole: The students are all generally professionals themselves, so even at that level it is great for networking and understanding what is going on. I got the BISG job through the program’s listserv. The contacts and the connections they have in the industry have been one of the most helpful things for me.
For more information about the M.S. in Publishing program, please visit the website at http://scps.nyu.edu/mspub.