I was reading an article in the New York Times about the Columbia Publishing Course, a program that bills itself as the shortest graduate school in the country. Over the course of six-weeks 100 lucky people have the privilege of paying $6990 to be taught everything someone would learn over a year in an entry level job in publishing.
Personally, I feel they paid too much.
I learned everything about publishing for next to $0.
That’s right $0.
How did I learn so much about publishing? I studied the industry by reading books on my own, reading articles in magazines and online and reading blogs like Miss Snark (defunct) Kristen Johnson, The Rejectionist and Writer Beware.
I studied editing by reading books like Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Bedford English Handbook, and Webster’s Dictionary. Still not a great editor, but I’m getting there.
I studied graphic design and art on the internet. Studying packages in the Supermarket and DVD cases at Best Buy. I’m not a perfect graphic designer, but my books have their own distinct look to them.
I studied how to write a press release by reading up on it online.
I learned how to get a book reviews by doing a google search.
I learned how to do book promotion by going out to bookstores, and using social media like twitter and Facebook.
And outside of bus fare and some postage, I spent next to no money to learn any of this.
What I did learn by studying on my own is that the information is out there, and has been out there since the early days of the internet. All anyone has to do is go look for it. A Google search of a variety of topics can turn an average Joe into a publishing pro in a couple of months for little to no money at all.
On the technical side, I taught myself how to do cover design using Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. It’s a program that costs under $100 and has most of the features of the $1000 Adobe Photoshop. There’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but YouTube Videos all will teach someone how to finesse layers, clean up pictures and text to put together a very marketable cover for their books and eBooks.
I taught myself how to do page layouts using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. Both programs came installed with my laptop.
With just Word, Photoshop Elements, and Acrobat, an individual can put together .pdfs for their cover and text and publish a book or eBook that can compete with any title on Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Yeah, it’s that easy.
And over the course of my time studying publishing I’ve used what I’ve learned to publish, blogs, articles, paperback books, and eBooks and taught myself to publish on a schedule, on a budget and within a deadline. All the stuff the Columbia Publishing Course teaches people with Bachelor’s degrees to do for $6990 tuition, room and board.
So if I learned the same skills on my own, I have to wonder: Do I have a Master’s level education in publishing? Do I have a set of marketable skills?
All I know is that almost ten years since I published my first book with a POD publisher I’m now about to self-publish my fifth book with my own imprint. And currently I’m helping other writers put their books and eBooks together and helping them get them on the market.
Sure I don’t have the Columbia degree, and I didn’t spend the $6,990. But I’d like to think the skills I’ve learned about publishing on my own over the years could compete with anyone from the Columbia Publishing Course. Could I qualify for one of those jobs in publishing?
I’d like to think I could if given the chance.