Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Publishing, with Britanie Wilson & Jeremy Lucyk (Part 2 of 2)

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Jeremy Lucyk

Today we speak with editor Jeremy Lucyk who, together with Britanie Wilson, has written a miniseries of ebooks called Entering the Publishing Industry and created its complementary website, Working in Publishing. The site is maintained by the authors, along with publicist Jude Kahn and publisher Mark Stanski. The first two books in the series, A Very Brief History of Book Publishing Industry and The Editorial Department are now available.

You can also check out the first instalment of this series, with Britanie Wilson, by clicking here.

Open Book:

Tell us about your books and why you decided to write them.

Jeremy Lucyk:

Working in Publishing is an e-book series that helps people enter, and succeed in, today’s publishing industry. On the one hand, it provides an introduction and overview of publishing for people considering the field, and on the other, offers specific suggestions for making the most out of that experience. At the moment, we’ve released two, and intend to release eight or ten more of the smaller e-books, before combining them all into a sort of omnibus edition.

We all saw a need for such a combined approach. While attending the Centennial College Book & Magazine Publishing Program, we discovered the lack of a comprehensive, “introductory” textbook that was up-to-date; we hoped to fill that gap. We also, in initially choosing that program, had little or no idea what we were getting into; Working in Publishing aims to answer the initial questions we had about the industry, and will hopefully encourage people to investigate further.

OB:

What are some of the greatest challenges facing young professionals entering the publishing industry? And what are some of the pleasures?

JL:

It’s a time of profound uncertainty in publishing; the fallout from the digital revolution has profoundly altered the way we make, market, and sell books.

I think the greatest challenge for new professionals is to understand and accept that this is a time of uncertainty and flux; there will likely not be a “right” or “wrong” way to do things, because circumstances are constantly shifting; that fact can be terrifying to some people. In order to succeed, it is perhaps less important to have a very specific skill set, as different companies will be looking for different qualifications for similar positions, and any training you receive might be out of date before you can apply it. In our experience, it is far more important to present yourself as someone flexible and adaptable, willing to learn new tricks as circumstances require, than to assume you know how things should be done.

Strangely, this is also, potentially, the greatest pleasure in working in publishing today. There are vast opportunities for innovation, and freedom for even the most junior employees to stand up and say, “Why don’t we try this?” While your superiors are tearing their hair out over platform compatibility and online retail issues, you can slide in, make your mark and, potentially, save the day.

OB:

Why are ebooks the right format to deliver this information?

JL:

There are practical and symbolic reasons. On the practical side, e-books can be produced more quickly and cheaply than printed works. From a production standpoint, we’ve been able to create these e-books quickly and with a small, very collaborative team. The reduced timeline is very important; we can update and re-release a book within a matter of weeks or months, to best capture the rapid and profound changes publishing is constantly undergoing. We’re also proponents (or, at least, less opponents than many others) of digital and smaller press publishing, so it made sense to engage directly with the format and its distinct readership.

OB:

Is publishing a unique industry, in your opinion? How would you describe the Canadian industry?

JL:

Publishing operates unlike any other business in history, since you’re dealing with both a cultural and commercial product, and one which retains significant loyalty and prestige despite competition from other media. This strange tension is the source of corporate hand-wringing whenever media corporations look at the profit margins of their publishing operations.

Even within this unique industry, Canadian publishing stands out. We’re at a huge competitive disadvantage when compared to American or British publishing, owing to the simple facts of our country: a smaller population, huge shipping distances and competition between two official languages.

On a more positive note, Canada is a highly literate society, with loyal readers, a somewhat disproportionate prestige in particular fields (notably literary fiction and children’s books), and supported by a (decreasingly) robust grant and award system.

I suppose, at the risk of mangling a metaphor, that Canadian publishing is The Little Engine That Could, And Does, Every Day, Despite The Track Running Sharply Uphill.

OB:

Is there a concern that there are too many students graduating from publishing programmes, compared to jobs available in the industry? Or is it a case of the more, the merrier?

JL:

There are still only a handful of publishing programs in Canada, so such an education remains an advantage. Also, the training given is (usually) cross-applicable to other fields, and many graduates will opt for a “safer” career than waiting around for a coveted publishing gig to open up.

That having been said, the Canadian industry is very small (less than 10,000 people), and publishing graduates will face competition from entrants with other backgrounds, notably English Literature and — increasingly, to confront contemporary challenges — from digital technology, design, and marketing students.

Bottom line: the more the merrier, certainly, but be aware that there will be a lot of diverse competition, so be prepared to sell yourself.

OB:

What excites you most about publishing?

JL:

The opportunity to share knowledge and encourage imagination. I’m a lifelong, diehard bibliophile, and take great pride in contributing, even just a little bit, to the creation of books.

I’m also eternally bemused by the notion that books are “dying” when viewed against competing media, since nothing could be further from the case. People are still buying and reading books in huge numbers, and the competition from rival and new media has, in my experience, made dedicated readers just that much more dedicated. The printed word remains a profound influence on our culture, and perhaps even more so than we recognize: next time you go to the movies, take a look at what’s playing, and figure out how many were adapted from printed works. Sure, it’s a difficult and uneasy time for the industry, but I take great pride in helping to address and overcome these challenges, alongside similarly dedicated, and far more brilliant people than myself.

OB:

With the gift-giving season wrapping up, what are some Canadian books you were giving (or hoping to receive)?

JL:

I was crossing my fingers that two of this year’s award season favourites, Will Ferguson’s 419 and Candace Savage’s Geography of Blood would be waiting for me under the tree. I always give people books for Christmas, so Evan Munday’s Dead Kid Detective Agency and several Pierre Berton works changed hands over the holidays.

OB:

What are you working on now?

JL:

We’re still finishing the Working in Publishing series, so I’ll be plotting outlines over the holidays. I’m also working on a couple of nonfiction proposals, and — fulfilling a childhood fantasy — am in the middle of a Canadian spy novel. Which will not be as boring as it sounds, I swear.


Jeremy Lucyk holds a B.A. in History and Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations from the University of Toronto, and is a graduate of Centennial College’s Book and Magazine Publishing program. Jeremy works as a freelance editor, writer and researcher, and divides his time between Toronto and Kingston, Ontario.

For more information about A Very Brief History of the Book Publishing Industry please visit the Centennial College website.

Buy this book online at Amazon.

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