Last Monday, publisher Navah Wolfe and literary agent DongWon Song visited MSU's campus to share with students the details of their careers in New York City. Wolfe is a Hugo Award-nominated editor at Saga Press, and Song is an agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency representing science fiction and fantasy for adults. Together they shared invaluable advice for MSU students interested in joining the publishing industry.
It was very easy to notice that both Wolfe and Song love storytelling, which is essential for their work. For every book and author they work with, they become deeply invested in the stories. Once invested, they do everything they can to work with the author to get the story in the best shape. Both Wolfe and Song discussed how they seek stories that are diverse and unique; stories they feel haven't been told before. For authors seeking to get published, Wolfe and Song suggested they read as many different genres as possible to explore new forms of storytelling.
With new trends in popular stories and new technology that changes the way we read them, the publishing industry is very hard to predict. When asked about e-readers, digital publishing platforms, and audiobooks, Wolfe and Song admitted that a few years ago publishing professionals believed printed books to be falling out of popularity. Today, that's not the case. To survive and thrive in such an unpredictable industry, Wolfe and Song say you must be flexible and adapt to changes. A positive impact of the growth in different channels of publishing is an increase in independent artists and authors to collaborate with, which gives more authors the chance to be read.
Many assume that publishing professionals like Wolfe and Song read books all day, but they say that's not the case. They got into the industry as book lovers, but it takes much more than loving to read to make a successful book. You must also be able to work with a large team of people. Wolfe and Song must work with partners in marketing, cover art, and the author(s) themselves to properly develop a book. It can be challenging to split control of the direction of a book with so many people, but it's essential to the job.
Wolfe and Song also touched on the topic of social media and online branding. Because society is technology-driven, it's essential for writers to create a strong and honest digital identity; not only is social media a way to reflect who you are, but it is also a powerful networking tool. Song expressed that social media is a valuable resource for meeting clients and editors, with Wolfe even mentioning that the first books she bought as an editorial assistant were friends from Twitter.
In addition to the importance of online branding, the speakers shared valuable pieces of advice for PW students and aspiring authors. They both stressed that what students can begin now is practicing on their own—learning how to think critically about books, working on specific marketing skills, and overcoming fears of meeting and interacting with others. Essentially, Wolfe and Song emphasized that networking is key; in the publishing industry, it's about who you know. And another piece of advice that will be incredibly easy for PW majors to follow? Read plenty of books! Expand your horizons by reading many genres to discover new angles and perspectives.
Keep up with Navah Wolfe and DongWon Song by following them on Twitter, @dongwon and @navahw. And stay tuned for a WRAC interview with both of the speakers next week!
Written by Reyna Hurand and Lauren Utykanski