Everything You Need to Know about Getting into the Publishing World


Curious about the publishing world? Wondering if there’s a place for you in it and how on earth you’ll find it? Good news! Here’s the promised follow-up (aka all the meaty good stuff) to my article introducing publishing programs. So prop your feet up, drink something cold, and enjoy all the research that you don’t have to do.

Here’s a quick background on my experience with this subject:

A month after I graduated from Colorado Christian University with a Bachelor’s in English, I attended NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute (SPI). My last semester of undergrad was a mess of pros and cons lists, applications, and continually-open tabs for the Columbia, NYU, and DU program websites. Two years later, I have dredged up all my notes, comparisons, and paperwork, updated them, and paired them with my personal experience at SPI to equip you with the resources you need to make an informed decision about whether a publishing course is the best route for you and, if so, which one is the best fit.

For those of you in a hurry…

If you want the quick, at-a-glance facts for each program and what positions and companies alumni have entered, pop down to the end of the article.


I wish that I could say that the myth of NYC as the capital of American publishing is a thing of the past, but the reality is that while there are some opportunities in other cities, the heart of the publishing industry is still deeply embedded in New York City.

Trust me, as an introvert who loves everything green (see actual picture of my living room), I tried to find any viable alternative to New York City. But despite book-lovers being notoriously introverted, publishing is an industry of networking and if you’re serious about breaking into the field, it’s worth being in that city in order to make contacts.

This is ultimately why I chose NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute, but let’s look at each program individually.


DU offers a slightly shorter program that focuses solely on the book side of the industry, which was its main appeal for me since I buy more plants than magazines, but networking opportunities were limited by location. I was living in Denver at the time and it would have made much more sense for me to go to DU if convenience and comfort were the only factors, but once more for emphasis– I needed contacts.

DPI’s syllabus also came across as less rigorous than the programs of NYU or Columbia. That being said, if you want to focus on grassroots companies, the library or bookstore side of the field, or publishing in the West, DU is a great option in a fantastic, and smaller, city.


Columbia’s publishing course is the oldest and reputed as the best in the country. It is extremely competitive (averages a 31% acceptance rate), but it certainly gives an extra shine to your resume. It is well organized and covers a large number of the facets of the industry as well as providing workshops, field trips, networking opportunities, and job fairs. 


NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute fits somewhere in between DU and Columbia. It is more competitive than DU, but is easier to get into than Columbia. It has a similar syllabus to Columbia, including high profile lecturers, project judges and workshop facilitators who are currently in the field, outings that provide on-site opportunities to network, and job fairs to cap off the course.

As an alumni of SPI, I can speak to this course in a bit more detail.


Though the material was helpful, the course lacked organization. As expected when bringing in professionals who are experienced in their field but do not have a background in teaching, a number of the lectures and panels were rendered mostly useless by the inexperience of the speaker. Also, it was difficult to work on the large projects steadily over the weeks because the information needed might not be presented until the day before the project was due to be reviewed.


There were lots of networking opportunities and the course did a great job of exposing its students to many facets of the industry. The projects were fantastic simulations of launching new magazines and book imprints– so much so that some students actually made their projects into real publications. In the resources section at the bottom of the article, I’ve listed some of the positions and companies that my classmates, two years down the road, are in.


In order to get the most out of the courses, you must really engage. Invest in the projects. Reach out to speakers after they have visited. Talk to everyone and keep in touch with your classmates– they all will be your contacts. But the most important thing is to be humble. You’ll need to be willing to start as an intern or assistant because this is a trade where even the best work their way up from the bottom.

If you want to take the next step into the publishing industry, I would highly recommend an intensive publishing program. They provide you with the vocabulary, exposure, and contacts needed to break into the industry and save you valuable time. There are also plenty of alumni who are eager to help you get on your feet in their companies, so you aren’t dropped cold when you finish the program. All of the programs also offer career guidance (though not job placement).



If you have any questions or are just interested in chatting about what it’s like to be in a publishing course, email me at thespinningpen@gmail.com and I would love to talk to you!

Abigail, looking forward to opening another bar of chocolate, signing off.



Program Breakdown*

University of Denver

New York University Columbia


$4,700 $5,600



$1,446 $245/wk


Housing Available

Yes Yes


Meal Plan

Yes; $430

No No
Length of Course

4 weeks

6 weeks

6 weeks

Course Dates July-Aug May-June


Covers Book Industry

Yes Yes Yes

Covers Digital Publishing

No Yes


Covers Magazine Industry No Yes


Career Guidance Yes Yes


Credits toward a Publishing Masters Six Quarter Hrs Six Credits


# of Spots 95 100


*All information is based on sources available in the Spring of 2017 


Positions (this list is a sampling and not comprehensive)

  • editorial assistant
  • contributor
  • publicity assistant
  • foreign rights assistant
  • sales coordinator
  • agent assistant
  • account manager
  • production assistant
  • marketing coordinator
  • digital content creator



Companies (this list is a sampling and not comprehensive)

  • Travel + Leisure
  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Food & Wine
  • Time Inc
  • Open Road Integrated Media
  • Scholastic
  • Little Brown
  • Penguin Random House
  • Macmillan
  • Oxford University Press

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