By | Alexandra McLaughlin ’16

“We are practicing key aspects of what it means to be a marketing associate, an editor, or a publicist.” —Emily Gustafson ’16

The 17 Literary Publishing students clustered around the classroom, each group writing a pitch letter to various media outlets. “Keep the values of the newspaper or radio station in mind,” advised Professor Anitra Budd. “Show that you’ve done your research and that the manuscript is a good fit.”

Budd runs her classroom like a publishing house. “Not everyone has the resources to do an unpaid internship in publishing,” she said. “I want my students to walk into an interview for an entry-level publishing job and be able to hand over a sample query letter or jacket copy.”

For Emily Gustafson ’16 (Minneapolis), the class reflects her previous internship experiences in the Twin Cities literary scene. “This class is a great preparation for students seeking an internship or to connect more deeply with a part of the cities that they may not have known much about before,” she said. “Anitra has encouraged us to learn more about this ever-changing industry, and, by doing so, exposed us to the thriving literary scene in the Twin Cities,” she said.

As a longtime editor at Coffee House Press, a nonprofit literary press in Minneapolis, Budd has a wealth of experience in editing and publishing and now freelances for a number of clients, including the Loft Literary Center.

Though she has a built a successful career, Budd remembers her undergraduate concerns about the job market. In designing her literary publishing course, she chose to focus on the practical.

Budd used a sample editorial schedule to build classes around each step of the publishing process. Students work with local writers to transform their manuscript into a finished paperback. Along the way, students edit the work, create publicity and marketing plans, design potential covers, and develop a sales and distribution strategy.

“We are practicing key aspects of what it means to be a marketing associate, an editor, or a publicist,” Gustafson said. “As a senior and someone who is interested in publishing as a career, I place an extremely high value on that.”

Publishing a book in class is “a fun experiment that puts students into real contact with an author,” Budd said. “They experience the unpredictability and pushback of that relationship.”

Budd often emphasizes the fast-paced and competitive nature of publishing: “It’s important to be able to make mistakes in a safe space where you won’t be punished and where you can be creative.”

In choosing the course readings, Budd selected books that she continually returns to as an editor. “I use them as work guides,” she said. “These are the manuals that I keep on my desk.” Budd remembers shelling out hundreds of dollars for required course readings in college. She hoped to assign books that students would find interesting and useful in the long term.

McLaughlin, a creative writing major, is also taking the course and says that practicing the art of substantive letters and tip sheets helps demystify the work of editors, literary agents, and publicists and gives a better understanding of what goes into the publishing process.

January 4 2016

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