In 2021, Princeton University Press welcomed its inaugural Publishing Fellows. The Publishing Fellowship was created to address a lack of diverse representation across the publishing industry, as part of a Press-wide Equity and Inclusion strategic initiative launched in 2018.
Purposefully designed for individuals with no prior publishing experience, the program supports two fellows annually in full-time, salaried positions where they are supervised and mentored by hosts in their respective departments and offered many meaningful opportunities to engage with colleagues across the Press.
The first-year fellows, Jaden Young (Production Editorial) and Alejandro Perez (Special Sales & Grassroots Marketing), have been at the Press since July of 2021, and they share ideas and reflections on their experiences so far. Jaden and Alejandro will be among the Press team recruiting and selecting next year’s fellows, to be hosted by the acquisitions editorial department and the Ideas online magazine. The application cycle for the 2022–2023 year will be open January 7–31, 2022. Learn more about the two fellowships offered.
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you become interested in the publishing industry?
JY: I graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in Geography in 2020. During undergrad I was actively involved in my school’s first gen student network, as well as sexual wellness education. I also worked as a student journalist as well as working as a research assistant to a film professor. In the latter role I had the opportunity to do a bit of work with the manuscript of a late colleague of my professor, and that sparked an initial interest in how academic books were produced and published.
AP: Prior to joining PUP, I thought about pursuing an MFA in creative writing, as I wanted to be surrounded by creative people who shared a passion for reading and writing. Ultimately, I decided against doing an MFA, but I realized I could still be immersed in literature if I went into the publishing industry.
How did you find out about this fellowship? Why did you think it was a good fit for you?
JY: Pure luck—I stumbled across a posting for this fellowship on Indeed alongside postings for Mellon publishing fellowships at other university presses. When I saw the job description for this fellowship I began to think about how publishing could be a space to put together some of the writing and copyediting skills I had gained as a reporter with my exposure to a wide variety of academic fields and my love of helping other people realize their creative pursuits.
AP: After doing a lot of thinking and talking to my career advisor at college, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing, as it would allow me to use both my creativity and writing skills. I also realized that publishing would be a great industry for me, given my interest in literature. I started searching for “marketing jobs in publishing” and came across this fellowship. After seeing that I would be able to take the lead on a common reading initiative, collaborate with authors, and expand both my marketing skills and knowledge of the publishing industry, I knew that this was the perfect position for me.
Please tell us a little about your role and responsibilities at the Press.
JY: As the Production Editorial fellow I support production editors in their daily duties—things like copyediting indexes or checking page proofs for errors that need correcting. I’ve also been given the chance to take responsibility of a couple of titles and take them through the entire production editorial process—working with other departments and outside freelancers to guide a manuscript through copyediting, formatting, typesetting, and indexing. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get an in-depth look at the daily work of production editors and how it interfaces with so many other departments at the Press.
AP: My main role at the press is to develop a common reading program that targets universities around the country, including community colleges and underrepresented communities. Another important part of my fellowship is collaborating with authors. For example, I worked with Roosevelt Montás and Jennifer Morton to develop course-use documents for the titles Rescuing Socrates and Moving Up Without Losing Your Way. I also worked with them to define our target audience, our branding, and both paid and organic marketing opportunities. Finally, I conduct outreach to university administrators across the country who might be interested in specific titles, and work with them to facilitate bulk purchases and partnerships with PUP.
What are you enjoying most about your work?
JY: I love getting glimpses at all of the fascinating academic work being done by PUP authors. And it’s so exciting seeing the physical, finished books!
AP: I think reading PUP books is probably my favorite part of this fellowship. I enjoy reading the titles that I will be marketing, as well as creating course-use documents with accessible discussion questions that can be used in a classroom environment. I also love collaborating with authors and sharing my own insights on their work.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
JY: One of the goals of my fellowship with the Production Editorial department is to increase the diversity of representation of freelance copyeditors, proofreaders, and indexers. To that end I’ve organized a questionnaire for our freelancers to collect updated contact and demographic information so that we have a clearer picture of the current makeup of our freelancer pool and a current picture of which of the hundreds of freelancers we’ve worked with are currently accepting work. In the future I’ll be looking for new places to post our freelance opportunities so that we can attract freelancers from a wider variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise.
AP: I am currently developing a business plan for the PUP common reading program. Prior to working on this plan, I conducted research for months, uncovering new associations, universities, and programs that we can collaborate with. I also identified the most common themes and titles of existing programs, to develop an understanding of what books we should and shouldn’t be using. After finalizing the business plan, I will begin working on outreach and partnership development to turn our ideas into reality.
What skills would you say are most important in your position?
JY: Organization, time management, and communication skills are all important. Also, some amount of copyediting is required—that’s an area I’ve found that I lack confidence in, and the Press has graciously supported me in taking a copyediting course to strengthen those skills.
AP: I think the ability to do research is essential for my position. Because we are creating a common reading program from scratch, I had to find thousands of contacts before I could even begin thinking about developing a business plan. Sometimes, carrying out this type of research can be tiring, but I think it’s important to realize how crucial it is. Without it, we wouldn’t have administrators or programs to reach out to and we wouldn’t know what titles to market to different universities.
In a few words, how would you describe the culture at Princeton University Press?
JY: Everyone has been so friendly and genuinely eager to collaborate with their colleagues and, in my case, to help orient someone new to the industry. It’s been a bit strange to have many colleagues that I’ve only ever met on Zoom, but I feel like the fact that they’ve been able to maintain that spirit of collegiality and collaboration even over remote connections is really a testament to the strength of those qualities in the PUP culture. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the vigor of the shared commitment to equity and inclusion—so many Press employees are willing to invest their time and energy into trying new processes, as well as engaging in the sort of collective learning and self-reflection needed to create change.
AP: Welcoming, curious, cross-functional, innovative, open-minded.
Do you have any advice for future Princeton University Press fellows?
JY: Make the most of it! People here are so willing to share their knowledge and experience if you take the time to reach out and ask questions.
AP: First of all, read as many PUP books as you can. It is easier to market or advertise titles that you are extremely familiar with. Also, interact with people from outside of your department. For example, if you’re working in marketing, feel free to set up meetings with people on the editorial and advertising teams. Publishing is a very collaborative industry, so understanding the work of every department will make you a much better employee.