Diploma in Publishing (Applied)
I found the Whitireia Diploma in Publishing (Applied) after spending a year in a go-nowhere job at a food importation business, following the completion of my Bachelor of Arts degree in Auckland. My lightbulb moment was when I made a little booklet of recipes promoting the company’s foodstuffs. I loved the process of researching, writing, collating and editing recipes, deciding on the overall look and feel of the booklet, organising a photoshoot and digitally laying out the recipes and photographs. In my final year of study I had visited the career advisors but publishing had never been mentioned as a possible profession. So one day I came home from my job and googled ‘publishing course’. That’s how I found this publishing course. I sent in my application, had an interview via Skype and next thing I knew I was moving to Wellington. Jump forward a year and I’m nervously walking into Penguin Random House New Zealand for a 6-month internship.
What I enjoyed most about the publishing course is how different it is from a traditional Arts degree. The practicality and hands on learning was refreshing after five years of theoretical study. Don’t worry, there are textbooks, and experts will come and talk to your class. You’ll grow a little notebook of helpful advice and doodles, but before you know it, your tutors will say, ‘okay, now go make some books!’ ‘Wait, what!?’ you’ll say. On this course, you learn in the deep end of the pool. You’ll edit, proofread and typeset. You’ll organise book launches and wrestle with ebooks. It’s a completely collaborative process, so by the end of the year you’ll have made fast friends. My best advice would be to rely and confide in your tutors. They are steeped in the industry they teach and have a passion for passing on their knowledge.
I am now one of the five project editors at Penguin Random House New Zealand. We manage the production of our local list, seeing authors through the production process from raw manuscript to printed book. I’m fortunate as I work on a wonderfully wide array of genres; from children’s books, novels, cookbooks and an astonishing array of non-fiction (from spirit mediums to hilarious hunting stories). I do a little editing and proofreading, have input in the overall design, and ensure the author is kept happy and in the loop. My role is essentially to manage the author, editor, proofreader, and designer, under the guidance of a seasoned publisher, who has commissioned the book. I’m the glue that binds all these separate people together. At times a project editor needs to get lost in the minutiae — the placement of a single comma, for example. At other times, we have to step back and see the book as a whole, checking that all the components fit together and form a harmonious whole. Whitireia gave me the skills needed to work at a publishing company and fostered a sense of the industry not just as a business but as a community. I’m part of a great team of people who are all dedicated and love what they do. This is true not just of Penguin Random but of the whole industry. I feel very fortunate to be working in an industry full of people who are passionate about what they do.
In my honours year at university, I was lucky enough to take a paper called ‘Writing for Publication’. Each student was assigned a Romantic-era woman writer and a chapter to discuss her life, letters and work. Throughout our writing and publishing process, we had several fantastic guest speakers in class. One such visitor came from a local publishing house. I had been enjoying the class so much, I approached her afterwards and asked if she would give me a job once I had graduated. I told her about my grades, how I was learning so much from this paper, but she cut me off. She said, very kindly, 'I don’t hire anyone who hasn’t completed the Whitireia Publishing course.'
I applied a year later and I’m so happy I did – I don’t think I realised how much there was to learn. I’ve re-written this sentence repeatedly but there’s no way it’s not going to sound hippy and ridiculous: the biggest takeaway I learnt from this course is to be open to learning new things about yourself. So many aspects of publishing are skills you won’t have truly had the opportunity to exercise or test until you’re in that environment. I came into the course thinking, and accepting, that my biggest skill lied in marketing and I would be content working in that field if it meant I was contributing to publishing good books. I finished the course and ended up being not so terrible at other things, and enjoyed them far more than I did marketing.
I currently work as the assistant publisher at Gecko Press. My role covers a little bit of everything – book production, sales, digital marketing, publicity, ebook production, design, and a variety of administrative roles. Each of these different responsibilities has to be managed not only for New Zealand, but for our three other markets too: UK, US and Australia. We have designated distributors in each of these markets so often we will simply be supporting their efforts, but meeting deadlines for completely different international markets is certainly one of the hardest aspects of this role. On the Whitireia course you are given a level of responsibility you won’t have encountered on a university degree, not just for one book, but for multiple books that will go to production and ultimately exist in the world. I’m glad I was so swiftly rejected that day during my honours year – I couldn’t manage what I do now if it hadn’t been for this publishing course.
For years I was uncertain how to turn my love of language and books into a career. First I was going to travel and teach English as a second language and then I decided I would be a high school English teacher. Both options appealed to me, but they didn’t excite me. It wasn't until halfway through my second year at university, when a friend told me about the publishing course at Whitireia, that I knew I’d found what I wanted to do. She told me all about how the course was taught, how everyone went on placements to great publishing houses in the country and how the selection process for entry was really competitive. It sounded perfect. What better course to take than one where you learn everything you need to know by actually publishing books with a select group of people who are just as passionate as you are.
So for two years I worked my butt off to complete my degrees and get accepted into the publishing programme – and boy did it pay off. From hand-making journals on the very first day of class through to working with cover designers and editing a novel about an Assyrian family’s struggles in Iraq, the publishing course has been all I could have hoped for. Not to mention learning from some of the best publishers in the industry and getting paid in books for any voluntary work done!
This year I have gained more practical skills and knowledge than from my four years at university, made life-long friendships and had endless amounts of fun. I’ve also been lucky enough to have a part-time job at Gecko Press, get work experience at Hachette NZ, Penguin NZ and Huia Publishers – and next year I will begin an internship with Huia! The opportunities offered by the course are countless, and I’m so excited to head off into the big, wide world and start my publishing career.
Towards the end of my English honours degree, I had a panicked meeting with the career advisor about my increasingly pressing job options. Working part-time as a librarian and a high school tutor, I knew that I wanted to be involved with books and education, but wasn’t quite ready to return to the classroom as a teacher. When publishing came up in our discussion, I was informed that job opportunities were ‘low’. Yet with my heart already set on the idea, I applied for the Whitireia publishing course and allowed myself to indulge in the fantasy of making books. Now at the end of my diploma, I can safely say that career advice was based on a limited and short-sighted idea of what publishing really is, and that no year of study has ever been more worthwhile.
The Diploma in Publishing (Applied) lifts the curtain on the publishing process to reveal everything it can lead to. A range of industry experts share their experiences and offer firsthand accounts of the varied roles in publishing and the book industry at large. I worked directly with authors and designers to produce real books that I could find in bookstores and show my mum. It was an instantly rewarding way to learn about the intricacies and demands of the publishing process. To top it all off, I was able to build up this multifaceted skill-set in the company of like-minded book nerds.
I was lucky enough to receive one of the publishing internships at the end of the year and will soon begin working at South Pacific Press, an educational publisher in Wellington. The publishing course brought me full circle with my initial desire to work with books and education. It provided the perfect training ground to enter an exciting and ever-evolving career path.
I worked as a broadcast monitor after university and then I taught English in South Korea for a year. I never felt challenged or like what I was doing was really worthwhile, and that started to wear me down. Six months into the teaching contract and after a lot of soul searching I finally found the answer to the question that had kept me up many nights – what do I like enough to dedicate my career to? What would I actually be excited to get out of bed every morning to go and work on? And there it was: books. I like books. Whitireia’s publishing programme was the first step on my way to a career in the best industry in the world.
I’m the kind of person who loses interest quickly – always looking ahead and wanting to skip forward. My year on the publishing course was the first time I’d ever been so completely engaged in something that not only did I not get bored, I didn’t want the experience to end. Every day was different and challenging, and I couldn’t wait to come into class each morning. The work you do on the publishing course is real; it is not just another set of essays and hypothetical arguments like the assignments you wrote in undergrad to keep your tutors busy. I had real books in my hand by the end of the year, books that many people had put a lot of effort into and which were being released into the community to make their way as legitimate commercial products. I can’t think of anything more compelling than that.
The importance of the work placements arranged by Whitireia can’t be underestimated; they are an amazing opportunity to meet key industry people. My work placement led directly to the job I started in one week after the course finished.
In 2012 I had completed a degree in English Literature (which I adored) and a degree in Law (which I felt rather ambivalent about), and I was on my way to becoming a junior solicitor. Whitireia’s publishing course saved me from this terrible fate! I knew on day one of the course that I was right where I belonged. I was surrounded by grammar geeks, punctuation pedants, design dorks and marketing maestros, all of whom quickly became my good friends.
I began the course with a lot of rigid ideas about what sort of career I wanted, but I became much more open-minded as I was introduced to the multifarious tasks a publisher can expect to face. I particularly enjoyed working on my own project throughout the year, taking a book from manuscript to shelf.
Once I finished the course I began working as an editorial assistant at PQ Blackwell, a publishing company that works with globally recognised figures to produce beautiful books. I am excited about the years to come, in terms of my own career and with regard to the New Zealand publishing industry.
Whenever I worried about what I would do after finishing high school, I was always told that if I kept doing what I enjoyed I would end up in the right place. I enjoyed reading and I enjoyed words.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, and considering the next step once again, I heard about the publishing course from a family friend. It sounded very appealing and a little bit scary.
I enrolled for the publishing course in 2012. Over the course of the year, I felt more and more that this was the industry for me. The skills I gained have been invaluable because they are not only specific, but were also learned through experience. By the end of the year I felt fully equipped to enter the workforce, with a wide range of skills to bring to a job.
Shortly after graduating I was offered a job in Publications, Web and Marketing, at the Faculty of Architecture and Design at Victoria University. I administer the Faculty website and coordinate various university publications and events over the academic year. The university is a unique environment to work in, and the role is very varied. Two days are never the same and I am constantly learning new skills.
The publishing course opened up so many doors for me that I previously never knew existed. I will always remember it fondly as the most rewarding and fulfilling year of my study.
After finishing my honours degree in English literature, I had two choices: become a teacher, or do something else. That something else ended up being the 2007 publishing course, which was an excellent decision. Throughout the year, the course offered fantastic exposure to the full scope of the publishing process; this wide range of experience thoroughly prepared me for taking my first steps into the publishing industry.
I was offered one of the PANZ internships at the conclusion of the course, and spent a year working as the publicist (among many other things!) at small, but mighty, Awa Press in Wellington. The internship programme provided an excellent chance to begin my publishing career. I moved to Melbourne, Australia, in 2009 and took up a job at John Wiley and Sons as an editorial assistant. After less than a year I was promoted to development editor on the For Dummies imprint, meaning I was responsible for the structural edit and project management of the 15-20 For Dummies books published in Australia and New Zealand every year. Without the background from the Whitireia course, and my subsequent internship, I have no doubt that I couldn't have made such a large step upwards so early in my career.
Being naturally inquisitive, working as an editor gives me a chance to learn about topics I'd never dream of reading about. But what I most love about publishing is being given a unique chance to make a difference, through producing (or marketing, or selling) books that affect people's lives, in whatever small way.
I vowed to become an editor after getting flummoxed over a simple English grammar question while teaching in Japan.
I signed up for the publishing course, hoping to learn about the finer points of punctuation. What I got instead was a comprehensive A-Z of publishing. During the course I realised that editing was just one part of a much larger process. Being able to study all aspects of publishing helped me to figure out what I wanted to do for a career.
In my first week employed at Wellington educational publisher South Pacific Press, I was handed a major international project to publish. Since then, I have managed the publishing of resources, both hard-copy and digital, for American, British, Australian and New Zealand schools. I am now their publishing manager.
I came to the publishing course in 2005 with a BA in Linguistics and English Language and a background in the public sector, looking for something to develop my love of language and books into a meaningful vocation.
Aside from learning about every aspect involved in making books, one of the best things about the course was meeting and listening to so many of the key people in the publishing industry.
Before the course finished, I was selected from a large number of applicants to be publishing assistant at Te Papa Press. I was then promoted to senior editor where I used my publishing skills and knowledge to help make award-winning, beautiful, literary non-fiction books. The opportunity during the course to actually create a publication gave me invaluable experience in book production, which I am still benefiting from now.
Jeremy Sherlock hails from the Coromandel, of Tainui and Ngati Awa descent.
Before publishing, I struggled to find a line of work that matched my interests. But the publishing course at Whitireia solved that problem, and led to 'a strenuous but deeply rewarding period of study.
After graduation, I was offered one of the three places on the publishing intern programme - six months' work at Zenith Publishing. That led to an editorial position at Reed Publishing, then Penguin Group (NZ), where I work today as a commissioning editor.
I still regard my year on the course as one of my most cherished. It led to being employed by one of New Zealand's best publishers - and I formed some lasting friendships.
Anke Reichelt is sales manager for Random House USA, based in Berlin, with responsibility for the Central European market.
With 15 years' experience in the book trade, I took a year off to study for the publishing course in Wellington in 2004. I wanted to learn more about the production side of publishing and get up to date with current technology.
Despite my substantial experience, I had a refreshing year, was impressed with the support given to the course by local publishers, and it generated many new publicity ideas which I use back home in Europe ... . New Zealand has a very lively and sophisticated publishing scene. All the lecturers and publishers are willing to share their knowledge. And, not to forget: New Zealanders are very hospitable people. It is very easy for foreigners to live in this country.
My background was in television production, but in 1998, with a young family at home, I was working part-time in a bank and getting very frustrated with the quality of written material that was being circulated nationwide from so-called 'Communications' divisions. I knew I had the capacity to do better.
I completed the publishing course the next year - the course was a real buzz from beginning to end - then I worked for the New Zealand Book Council and as a technical writer before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I now manage all of the Ministry's publications and its 34 websites, am responsible for standards of use for Ministry identity and copyright, and manage its internal and off-site printing facility.
I've drawn upon and developed everything I learnt on the course in this role. In the early months at MFAT, I referred often to notes taken during the course. If in doubt I sought advice from others in the industry - the relationships I formed during the course were very valuable.
Diploma in Publishing (Online) Graduates
I did the publishing course in 2007. I had been looking to get into publishing for a year or so and everyone in the industry kept telling me to quit pestering them until I had done the course — then they might talk to me, they said!
After being accepted I was fortunate enough to land a part-time entry level role as Marketing Assistant at Auckland University Press and I did the course while working there — which worked well. The course provided a valuable grounding in the industry, I began with my heart set on becoming an editor, but was surprised to find that the marketing module was the one that I enjoyed the most and got the best marks in. I was also thoroughly enjoying my junior marketing role at AUP and this led me to seek marketing roles within publishing.
I went next to a marketing assistant role at Random House NZ for 14 months. I then moved to the UK and worked for Palgrave Macmillan for two years in a senior marketing executive role, and I am now a marketing manager at Eurospan — a London-based marketing, sales and distribution agency which provides European representation for small to medium sized publishers from North America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific (including New Zealand). Most of our clients are either university presses or professional, technical, scientific or medical publishers.
I am responsible for all EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) marketing for 16 American client publishers, the biggest of which are Stanford University Press and the University of Michigan Press.
I love the books industry — ebook technology has meant massive changes even in my relatively short career (Amazon announced the approaching launch of the Kindle while I was doing the Whitireia course) and this makes it an exciting time to be in publishing.
Whitireia opened the doors to the industry — and even now with a fair bit of experience under my belt — it certainly helps to have it on the CV.
Before entering the publishing course in 2008, I was working as a writer and editor at TML Publishing in Christchurch — a small publishing house that produced advertisement-driven travel and lifestyle guides. While working, I found that my heart lay with books, not publications with a short shelf life, and I quit my corporate job to take the online, full-time version of the publishing course while working part-time as a book buyer.
I loved doing this course! It was a huge change of pace from my BA degree — a lot more practical and hands-on. I could see very clearly how each skill could be applied in the real world and, on finishing the course, I felt very well-equipped. I rave about the diploma to anyone who is even vaguely interested. It's the best pathway into the industry available in New Zealand, I think.
It's not the kind of course you can coast through — which is a really good thing! Every assignment was a challenge, and I felt like each one had a purpose and taught me something really valuable. There was no 'busy work,' which I really liked. If you decide to take on the Diploma, be prepared to work. Hard. I particularly enjoyed learning about the production process, and I learned to appreciate the design and marketing aspects, with which I had never really been involved.
I met so many wonderful people — even while doing the course online. The tutors Paula Wagemaker and Coral Atkinson, in particular, inspired me, and Coral remains a friend and mentor to this day. The online option is a really excellent one if your family, work or financial commitments make it impossible for you to be on campus, and I highly recommend it.
On completing the diploma, I took a slightly unconventional route. For me, the course solidified my desire to take a chance on my dream and enter the industry as an author, armed with my better knowledge of how the whole system worked. I completed a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury and wrote the novel that became my first published work as an adult. The Whitireia course gave me an excellent grounding in the practicalities and processes of the book world, which proved invaluable when I signed with my agent and publisher. I felt like I had a much better handle on the concrete aspects of the industry.
So far, two of my novels have been released in the UK and around the world: The Cry of the Go-Away Bird and The White Shadow, both published by Harvill Secker, a division of Random House. I am currently working on a third.
On completing an MA (Hons) in English, I, like many arts graduates, flirted (rather hopelessly) with the idea of being either a lawyer or a primary school teacher.
In the meantime, my love of books led to a job in an independent bookshop. There I heard about the publishing course and everything fell into place for me. Of course I should have a future working with books and words.
I chose to study online while working as the manager of the bookshop. Keeping that connection with the book trade was invaluable, and I was impressed with the online programme's coverage and flexibility: I could work on weekends and after work. I found the content so interesting and varied that it was never a chore.
On graduation, I took up a publishing internship at Gecko Press, which went so well it led to a permanent position, confirming that children's publishing is the place for me.
Louisa Kasza graduated from the publishing course in 2013, having completed the course online while working part-time at Time Out Bookstore in Auckland. She is now working as editorial assistant at Auckland University Press.
My first year in the ‘real’ world, after completing a BA with vague ideas of becoming an editor or climbing the academia ladder, was a shock. I was fortunate to secure a job at the wonderful Time Out Bookstore, where I gained a wealth of knowledge about the book trade. People often ask if working in a bookstore means reading all day, but aside from how busy with customers Time Out gets, there are always publishers’ sales representatives coming and going, shipments of books to process and boxes of unsold books to return to publishers, and lots of to-ing and fro-ing with publishers and distributors over specific customer orders.
I considered enrolling in the publishing course in Wellington but the trouble was, I had moved up to Auckland from Wellington and it was now my home. Eventually I decided on the online course. I knew that studying online wouldn't be easy, particularly as I had elected to take all four modules in one year, and that my chances of gaining an editorial position in a shrinking and competitive market were slim. However, I also knew from my work at the bookstore that small-press publishers were opening even as larger companies closed their doors, and that publishing needs people who care about its future now more than ever. Studying online was sometimes isolating, but the course content is strong, the structure is practical and my tutors were always helpful.
Finishing the course felt very déjà vu. I emailed publishers offering to work for nothing and applied for jobs I wasn’t particularly interested in, to no avail. I was feeling dispirited when the senior editor at my old university’s press, whom I knew through the bookstore and had regularly pestered for an internship, emailed to ask if I was interested in helping out with editorial work. I was ecstatic – Auckland University Press was the best fit I could have hoped for and editorial positions are rare. Now, it’s my dream job: my bosses are inspiring, the books we produce are beautiful and thought-provoking, and the relatively small team makes for valuable learning opportunities.
Time Out Bookstore has been a second family and has always supported me, giving me part-time work while I was studying, full-time while I was job-hunting, and now twenty hours a week as book buyer which, together with my job at the Press, keeps me in red pens. However, Time Out has also provided me with contacts in the publishing industry and knowledge about the book trade I couldn’t have got anywhere else. In production meetings I am often asked to chime in on decisions relating to upcoming books – such as print runs, book size and format, scope, and cover design – from a bookseller’s perspective, and it brings me great satisfaction that I can offer that little extra bit of insight.