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Christina Paul shares her experience within the MPub program

January 26, 2024
MPub alumnus Christina Paul holding her Masters degree at SFU's Burnaby campus

Christina Paul received her Master of Publishing degree in May of 2022. During her MPub internship with Heritage Group Distribution, she discovered her love and passion for accessible publishing. Although Christina had already secured an enviable position with Amazon Books in India, she decided to quit her job and move to Vancouver to continue her studies in January of 2021. While the MPub program shaped her interests and enabled her to forge her own path, it also opened doors she never knew existed. Along with feeling an immense sense of pride, Christina shares that she has found her true purpose as a publishing professional. 

PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND

When I finished my undergraduate degree in visual communications, I started interning for a big television channel in India. My parents weren’t happy with the job because I had to work odd hours. So, I chose to pursue a masters in journalism and mass communication. Towards the end of my program, I was offered a position as a project manager for Cengage Learning and Palgrave Macmillan. That was when I was introduced to the world of publishing. 

As a new project manager, I would coordinate with copy editors and authors, make revisions and do proofings. I would also get raw manuscripts and send them to the press. Even though I loved my job and enjoyed it, I quit after a year because I had to relocate to my hometown. At that time, I could not find another role in publishing, so I started working for another IT company. I was paid well, but I wasn’t happy at all. Eight months into being a senior engineer there, I decided I wanted to move back into publishing. 

For the next three years, I worked as a production editor for Oxford University Press (OUP) - Academic Publishing. While I had an amazing team of copy editors, I also gained widespread acknowledgement in books. It was great, but it slowly became mundane. I started looking for a change in career within publishing. After some time, I got a contract based position with Amazon Books in Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Until then, I had only worked with print books, but with this job, I would have the opportunity to work with ebooks. So I thought, “Why not!”. 

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO DO THE MPUB PROGRAM AT SFU? 

I came across SFU’s Master of Publishing program on the internet. When I went over the curriculum, I learned that it was a well-defined and detailed course on publishing. It was exactly what I was looking for. Honestly, there aren’t any degrees in India that are specifically designed for publishing. So when I discovered the MPub, I was immediately drawn to it. I’ve always wanted to say “I have a masters in publishing!”. 

Given my past experience as a professional, I knew everything about books, and I was extremely passionate about publishing. While I took up the opportunity with Amazon, I also applied to the MPub program. In four months, Amazon upgraded my contract, and I became a full-time employee. Then, the pandemic struck. Like most people, I was confused about what to do next. I could either continue working in India, or I could take up the offer to join the MPub program in Canada. Either way, I decided to give it a shot. 

I started the program online in September 2020. Although I’d joined the MPub, I did not give up on my career. Juggling between the two, especially given the time difference, was challenging, to say the least. After I got my visa in December, I quit my job and I left for Canada in January 2021. I don’t know how I was able to take that big step. When I’d informed some of the faculty that I was coming to Vancouver, they were all immensely supportive. In fact, the MPub community and my cohort were there for me throughout my transition. 

HOW HAS THE MPUB HELPED SHAPE YOUR CAREER PATH? 

Since the MPub is a co-op program, I was aware of the doors that it would open for me. I knew that the program would connect me to publishers directly. Beyond that, of course, I discovered an entirely different world of publishing. For the longest time, I’d only known about, and worked with, academic publishers, but I quickly learned about independent Canadian publishers and the infinite possibilities within publishing. 

In fact, I was introduced to inclusive publishing expert Laura Brady through the MPub. She spoke about the importance of accessibility in publishing, and I think that was when I first realized what I really wanted to do. As a result, I was able to create a vision for myself. I worked on the Benetech certification for my MPub placement with Heritage Group Distribution (HGD), and that further helped me narrow down my interests. My work at HGD was primarily focused on the production of accessible ebooks, and it inspired me to become an advocate for print disabled readers, and specialize in accessible publishing. It also led me to my theses, which was the final part of the program. 

This, and many other, opportunities came about due to Suzanne. She would often send us emails about openings, whether it was at Greystone Books or Simon & Schuster or Penguin Random House. In fact, one of the internship opportunities that was presented to me early on was with Heritage House. Although I missed out on that amazing opportunity because of my status, MPub alums Lara and Monica, who had interviewed me for the role, were incredibly encouraging and supportive. They ended up referring me to my current boss at HGD, and that is where it all began.

"I spotted our books as I travelled all over BC in the summer!"
"This this makes me so so happy!"

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS AN MPUB STUDENT? 

Well, the MPub has been special to me, both personally and professionally. It was instrumental in allowing me to become a part of the publishing industry here. 

I remember one of our assignments in the book publishing course was to get a quote from Friesens, which is Canada’s largest printer of hardcover books. It’s interesting that I work with Friesens now, and I’d also attended a manufacturing seminar on behalf on HGD. Anyway, the assignment was, of course, a mock up, but it prepared me for that moment. 

My first MPub term was online, of course, and I think we were in the middle of monsoon in India. Power cuts are a common occurrence where I’m from in Chennai. So this one time, my and my teammates were practicing for the Book Project Presentation, and the power suddenly went off. My professor was concerned and he said, “What if that happened during the actual presentation?”. Despite that, I was determined to do it because I knew it was my big day. I was not going to miss the opportunity, especially since I had worked so hard to contribute towards making these books. Anyway, I booked a hotel room and I decided I was going to complete it anyhow. That, I think, was a funny and memorable experience for me.

The MPub program instills these values in you. It helps you develop the skills that you require and prepares you to work in the industry, you know? We were given hands-on training and in-depth knowledge. From culture to copy editing, you learn just about everything.

AS YOU LOOK BACK TODAY, IS THERE ANYTHING SIGNIFICANT THAT YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF OR THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY? 

I thought it would be different here. Since I am from another country, I definitely felt that way in the initial days. However, the university and more importantly the publishing program has been extremely accepting and welcoming. I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong. 

As for my personal achievement, I am proud that I am no longer a project manager, and that I can call myself a publishing professional. That is what the MPub has given me - the confidence and the pride to call myself a publishing professional. I hope I'll be able to keep this up. I really want to keep this up. After spending time in the MPub, and being with HGD for three years, I‘ve decided I never want to go back to the corporate world. It’s a conscious decision on my part because I enjoy the books we’re publishing. In the past, I was never drawn to academic books, but today, I am happy to be working with diverse books, be it travel diaries, biographies, novels or books on hiking, or culture, or Indigenous peoples. 

When I look back, I realize how grateful I am for the MPub. It truly gave me the direction I needed and that happy place I was seeking, especially in regards to my career. I love what I do, and I feel fulfilled. I wouldn’t change it for anything. 

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR OUR CURRENT MPUB COHORT, RECENT GRADUATES OR ANYONE INTERESTED IN THE MPUB PROGRAM?

The first two terms focus on course work and can be quite intense, so be prepared. Also, time management is key. Read through the curriculum thoroughly. Like I mentioned before, the faculty is here for us. They’re dedicated to providing us with the opportunities we’re seeking. I think the only thing we need to do is be proactive. We live in a very competitive world, right, so make sure you grab every opportunity that you get through the program.

Until you get an internship or co-op, your main focus should be completing your course work on time. You should actively look for something that you will enjoy. At the same time, think about what you want to write your theses on. It is the final stage of the course, so you need to be able to write about what you love. Another thing that I find useful is making a list of things that interest you and then thinking about how you want to proceed and who you want to approach. 

The MPub program is structured. The first two terms are course based, the third term is co-op, and the fourth term is the theses. So, be proactive and organized, and use the guidance that the faculty provides. 

Learn more about the MPub program here. Deadline to apply is February 1.