Chicago Professional Development – Day 2

Every year, WUD Publications Committee takes a group of people to Chicago to learn about publishing-related jobs in the real world. This year, we met with two companies, one non-profit organization, and attended two workshops. It’s also tradition  to buy Portillo’s chocolate on our first night cake and stuff our faces without the courtesy of using plates. Other than that, here is a run-down of what we did on our second day.

Creative Chicago Expo

We attended two workshops here. The first was a talk by Paul Natkin, a famous photographer for musicians. His career seemed entirely freelance and semi-accidental, but I enjoyed hearing his stories about artists, photo shoots, and which pictures were famous for what reasons. It was engaging and he gave a lot of helpful tips throughout the talk. While during the talk I didn’t know how to apply what he did to my own career, I did learn a lot about networking and the possibilities that happen if you put yourself out there. Here are some helpful tips I wrote down during the talk:

“If you don’t put yourself in a position to be successful, you’re not going to be.”

“Always study the business you’re in.”

“Get to know people at the bottom so you know them at the top.”

“Be familiar with International Copyright and Intellectual Property laws. And exploit them.”

“There is nothing wrong with shmoozing because it shows you care.”

“Anytime you meet somebody, treat them with respect, because they could own a company one day.”

The second workshop we attended was about building a strong online presence. The presenter reminded me of Julia Roberts, but that’s because the cadence of her speech was so similar to the Julia Roberts movies I’ve seen. In any case, she had a lot to say about building a strong online presence and how to seem legit on the Internet. For instance, if you want to be taken seriously, you should get your own domain name and website. The majority of what she said I already knew, and the same is said about the rest of the group. We were all immersed in social media already, so we were aware of how to build and maintain a strong online presence. (I checked Twitter a few times during the talk, for instance.) Most of the audience were middle-aged or older individuals who probably don’t fully understand Pinterest and Google+, so at least the workshop was helpful to someone.

Alium Press

Alium Publishing is a one-woman publishing house based in Chicago. She specializes in historical fiction and mysteries with a strong Chicago presence. Emily (real name again) is the woman behind the press, and she’s been working since is founding in 2009.

We met Emily at a small bar and grill in the Chicago suburbs and spent a good hour and a half listening to her talk about her experiences as a publisher. She had great tips and stories about how she ran her company, and she had several anecdotes that made me think she was still learning the business. However, her books have gotten great quotes from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, so she must be doing something right. She had several tips on how to save money with the business, such as having a print-on-demand printer that he works through and designing the covers herself.

Emily is a woman to admire. She takes everything a big name publisher does and does it by herself with little help. From going through the slush pile to editing to marketing to graphic design, all the way down to selling the book to bookstores and figuring expenses. The only thing she doesn’t do is printing, and that she does through a printing company somewhere in Tennessee. I couldn’t handle that kind of pressure, so I admire Emily for doing it all herself. She is not to be reckoned with.


Discussion Question: Do you have any questions about the inner workings of a publishing house? Share them below.



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