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DePaul Taps Local Press For New Publishing Course

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 16, 2010 8:20PM

Meet Jonathan Messinger and Zach Dodson, small-press gurus and university professors.
Depending on who’s offering their opinion, the Kindle and iPad are either killing the publishing industry or reviving it. But if the curriculum at DePaul University is any evidence, small presses might be able to lead the way in innovation for publishing. This fall, DePaul is offering a new course as part of their continuing and professional education program. The Certificate in Publishing course covers the ins and outs of small-press publishing. Jonathan Messinger and Zach Dodson, who designed and will be teaching the course, know their small-press stuff. They founded local indie press featherproof Books five years ago.

Dodson said he and Messinger had no knowledge of the publishing industry when they started featherproof in 2005. As they muddled their way through the process of figuring out distribution, building an audience and sticking 1,000 stickers on 1,000 book covers, they turned to already established presses such as Akashic Books and Soft Skull Press for guidance. For the DePaul course, they had to retrace their steps and establish the bare bones essentials of what it took to build featherproof. “The first step is creating a quality product. If the book doesn't read well, and doesn't look good, it makes everything else much harder,” Dodson said. It’s also necessary to edit and design a great title and figure out how to get it out there. Lastly, Dodson said the digital component has rapidly advanced to the short list. “The industry is one of the last to embrace the Internet, and there are major upheavals right now. The ability to see where things are going, to understand Web presence and ebooks, will serve anyone who wants to learn about publishing today.”

So the course is divided into three workshops: editorial and production, publicity and marketing, and digital publishing. Throughout each workshop, students will work on different components of publishing of the anthology Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose and Photography for the DePaul Humanities Center. Along the way, students will have to edit and design the anthology, conceptualize and execute a digital publishing component, and design and execute a publicity campaign. The workshops can be taken as stand-alone courses, but students must complete all three to earn the Certificate in Publishing.

Online registration is open up until the first day of class, which is next Monday, August 23. The first workshop, Editorial and Production, meets weekly at the Loop Campus from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.