I’m a publisher-in-training, a book-producer-in-waiting. I moved to Wellington at the beginning of the year to become a student—again.
It took a false career start (I abandoned teaching in the name of books), but I think I’ve gained that wee bit of life experience and developed a solid work ethic that means I no longer start assignments the night before they’re due or stay out late on a ‘school night’ (or any night). Plus, I’ve finally found an outlet for my OCD-like relationship with the written language.
The idea of returning to student-hood was initially less than appealing. While I have never subscribed to the living-on-two-minute-noodles stereotype of the student lifestyle, the thought of having an extremely limited income after several years of full-time work was hardly something I had aspired to. A friend suggested the publishing programme a Whitireia and, several soul searches later, I took the risk.
Interestingly, most people have absolutely no idea what publishing is. I’ve repeatedly had different versions of the following conversation:
“What are you studying?”
“Oh, cool. That’s… different. (Contemplative pause) So, what does that mean?”
To be honest, I didn’t really know what publishing meant either. I imagined publishing to be primarily—solely—editing, but in actual fact (apologies if this isn’t new to you) the role of a publisher varies depending on which stage of the book-making process they enter. From taking a manuscript, commissioned or unsolicited, to editing, designing, typesetting, proofing, marketing, distributing and all the in-betweens I’ve forgotten, publishing is a little more intensive than I first imagined.
Who knew that editing and proofreading are two different things? Not me.
Before the programme, I was merely good with words. After it started, I quickly came to the understanding that a publisher is great with words and has a whole host of other skills. My knowledge of publishing, and even the written word, was very limited. If publishing was a movie, it would be a fantasy, featuring a whole parallel universe filled with complicated characters such as commas, hyphens, dashes, nominalisations and debates about ‘their’ as a singular noun.
There would be complicated settings like book fairs, and an ultimate battle between good (quality) and evil (cost). It would have a plot line about the online book trade and the uncertain future of the industry and, depending on the filmmaker, the all-too-dominant eBook would either be the antagonist or the protagonist.
I’m halfway there—halfway to being a publisher. In the qualification sense, anyway. In reality, this career path I have chosen will demand I keep learning and keep exploring the characters and story arcs I find in the parallel universe of making books. How it will go is anyone’s guess—I’ll keep you posted.
By Keri Trim, publishing student