Publishers seek talent at forum
On Nov. 8, University Press of Mississippi editors offered students insight on entering the publishing industry during a panel discussion held in R.C. Cook Union Room B.
According to panelists Steve Yates, Emily Mandy, Courtney McCrary and Lisa McMurtay, students at The University of Southern Mississippi have an opportunity to intern at Mississippi’s sole university press, which is also the only non-profit publisher in the state.
Yates, associate director and marketing director of UPM, said while graduate school is not always necessary to pursue a career in book publishing, experience is essential and it is never too early to start gaining experience.
“A prerequisite for any publishing field is curiosity,” Yates said. “You have to have a willingness to work every day. That’s really all it takes to work at a university press. We need to see that spark of desire in your eyes.”
McMurtray, editorial assistant of UPM, said she originally planned to use her internship with UPM as a part of her résumé and to pursue living in a large city with a hub for book publishing.
“You deal with people who love what they do, but you also deal with people who are doing innovative things,” McMurtray said. “I knew publishing was something I really wanted to do.”
McMurtray said her plans changed when she accepted a permanent position with UPM last October. She now works with pop culture books and oversees internships the university press offers.
UPM currently offers an editorial internship, a business internship, a McRae publishing internship and a part-time marketing aid position.
McMurtray and Keene, UPM’s associated acquisitions editor, select the most qualified individuals when reviewing each applicant’s’ résumé.
“We want to see that you have interest for University Press of Mississippi in your cover letter,” Mandy said. “Why is this individual applying here? For students, we look at education, grades and classes he or she is enrolled in. Experience isn’t necessary because we understand you’re just starting out.”
McMurtray said she checks for professionalism when looking over résumés.
“One of the most important things I look for is that you follow directions correctly,” McMurtray said. “So applicants need to read the email and include all the information we’re looking for when [they] apply here. If you send me a one-line email, you’re dead to me. Make sure your email is professional and free of spelling errors. This job involves emailing authors.”
Yates said students should think of their résumés as talking points.
“We’re going to ask why you’re here,” Yates said. “We want to know what about UPM interests you. If [the applicant] is true, we’ll see that spark, desire and curiosity. We’ll be able to see ourselves in that person, and that’s what we look for.”
Yates said Mississippi’s eight state universities support UPM. UPM employees publish scholarly books and books that interpret the south, and from its office in Jackson, UPM acquires, edits, distributes and promotes more than eight new books every year, according to its website.
Last year’s sales reached more than $2 million.