The Other Side of Publishing: Alternatives to Corporate Life

Ami Greko, Rebecca Fitting, Lorraine Shanley (back), David Nudo, Sandi Mendelson

As the Summer Publishing Institute wound down and students scrambled to complete projects and find jobs, an esteemed panel of publishing entrepreneurs helped to put everything in perspective. “We are all in this room because we are passionate about communication,” said panelist David Nudo, former publisher of Publishers Weekly and co-founder of Literati-A-Go-Go, validating every student’s desire to go into publishing. By sharing stories of their own career trajectories and advice on how to build a successful career, each of the panelists offered a refreshing look at what it means to be a part of the publishing industry in this new digital age. Led by moderator Lorraine Shanley, principal and co-founder of Market Partners International, the panel consisted of Nudo; Ami Greko, director of business development at the new social network GetGlue; Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn; and Sandi Mendelson, co-founder of the literary public relations firm Hilsinger-Mendelson, Inc. Shanley led the discussion with thoughtful questions for the panelists and audience, starting with observations on the transitions from corporate publishing to more independent ventures.

Speaking of the motivation behind eschewing the traditional publishing route and the choice to do things differently, Nudo (borrowing from Tom Peters) noted: “Workers have to think of themselves as freelancers.” In these unpredictable days of publishing, he said, it is important to always be looking ahead to the next step, and to be prepared for the time when your job becomes obsolete. By the same token, the constant changes in publishing leave much room for opportunity.

Each panelist gave examples of applying new digital opportunities to their business models. In this current climate in which “the one-off book concept is harder to sustain,” Mendelson shifted her business to focus on branding. She works with her authors to build a brand around themselves and their works, in order to “create a place, context, and platform in which they can flourish.”

Greko is expanding on digital opportunities with GetGlue, a cross-vertical social networking platform that offers a new way for consumers to interact with their books and fellow readers. In this way, GetGlue is really an extension of what has always been the driving force in publishing: networking. The power of conferences, cocktail parties, and events is undeniable in publishing, an industry reliant on conversation. Shanley offered students invaluable advice on tapping into these resources. “Offer yourselves as freelance writers to cover conferences and events,” she said, citing the benefits of the networking and writing experience these gatherings offer.

This spirit of community is the maxim behind Nudo’s quarterly networking event Literati-A-Go-Go, as well as the philosophy behind Fitting’s Greenlight Bookstore. Through regular readings and author events, Greenlight fosters a community that contributes to a constantly evolving conversation about books, authors, and literary trends. As the business of communication, this is what publishing is all about.

In his final words of advice about finding our place in the industry, Nudo urged students to stay the course. In publishing, he told us, “There are lots of exciting things going on; it is the place where culture is exchanged and evolves.” Shanley concurred, encouraging students to stick with publishing even when society–and parents– question the industry. Fitting echoed these sentiments, urging us to express our love for what we want to do: “Passion transcends things; it gets you noticed.”

Fellow SPI students, take heart: with a little networking, hard work, and a whole lot of passion, the future may hold bright things.

by Lianne Schmidt

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