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MET launches book and magazine program

Industry experts teach business of publishing

Program director Richard Cravatts.

It’s not easy to break into publishing. Competition for positions is intense, and inexperienced job seekers are at a distinct disadvantage. That’s where a new Boston University certificate program comes in, providing hands-on instruction from experienced professionals from the top publishing houses in the Boston area.

Metropolitan College’s Certificate Program in Book and Magazine Publishing, offered by the Center for Professional Education, is designed not only for those seeking to enter the industry, but also for those already in publishing who want to move up the corporate ladder by mastering other areas of expertise.

“If you have no background in publishing, you can get a taste of different areas by selecting custom course work,” says program director Richard Cravatts. “If you’re in an entry-level position, the course work can help you broaden your professional responsibilities by giving you new skills.”

Students complete a minimum of seven evening courses, for a total of 147 hours of instruction, in different aspects of the publishing industry, including design and print production, custom publishing, book marketing, and academic and textbook publishing. After completing core courses in design, editing, and the business aspects of the publishing industry, students follow separate course tracks in either book or magazine publishing.

“I have a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern and for the last six years I’ve been working as a professional writer and editor with no concept of what happens behind the scenes in terms of marketing, positioning a product, and thinking of a publication as a consumer item,” says Chhavi Sachdev, an editor and writer at the College of Engineering, who is enrolled in The Business of Publishing, one of the program’s courses. “I’m hoping to learn more in case this is something I want to pursue later.”

MET’s goal “wasn’t to create a program for people to learn how to write,” says Cravatts, who has served for more than two decades as publisher at the Boston Classical Network, a firm that helps major cultural institutions heighten their visibility through customized publishing. “What we do is offer a firm grounding in all the basic components of the business of publishing: what it takes to turn ideas and content into something that’s marketable to the outside world. Typically, when folks start careers in publishing, they usually know the area they’re involved in, but not the big picture.”

“We have seasoned professionals teaching the courses,” he says, including Charles River Media president and founder David Pallai, who also held key positions with Addison-Wesley and Academic Press; Lissa Warren, senior director of publicity at Da Capo Press and author of The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity; and Body & Soul magazine associate editor Terri Trespicio.

While the abundance of publishing houses in Boston contributed to the program’s establishment, according to MET Dean Jay Halfond, the growth in print and online publications across an array of industries makes familiarity with the publishing process important for area corporations and nonprofits.

“Boston is a major hub for so many sectors — such as higher education, health care, financial and legal services, biotechnology, and information technology — where publishing routinely occurs,” he says, “and many find themselves asked to publish or work with publishers on behalf of their organizations. This program will provide the creative, business, and technical dimensions of producing quality publications.”

As for the pessimistic view that the publishing field is precarious because literacy is experiencing a downward spiral, Cravatts bristles at the notion. “It’s a viable and vibrant industry,” he says, pointing out that in 2003, book sales in the United States totaled $23.4 billion, a 4.6 percent increase over 2002. “More than 17,000 magazines were published last year. Magazine titles have been exploding.”