Since October 2014, I study MA Buchwissenschaft: Verlagspraxis [Book Science: Publishing Practice] at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich. After a practical semester, which I spent working in the PR department of a German publishing company specialised in children’s and YA literature, I started my first semester of classes in April 2015. This feature is a collection of my experiences, impressions, and some interesting tidbits.
All of a sudden, I’m back at university. After not taking any classes for eighteen months and working full-time for half a year, it will take some time getting back into my student mode. And yet, I’ve never been as enthusiastic about university as I am right now. Maybe that will change, but at the moment, I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING and want to take ALL the classes. I’m having moments of almost breaking into tears of joy because it all sounds so awesomely interesting. This is just exactly where I want to be: on my way to finding my place in my favourite industry.
Granted, it’s all a little stressful. I have to get used to the city and the university campus and procedures. I’m feeling overwhelmed with new impressions. Part of it is due to the complications in making my timetable. It took some lenghts to finalising it; first there was a bug in the system, then there were classes overlapping and dates changed so that I had to drop one of my additonal classes. Quite chaotic.
Building My Timetable
Registering for classes at the LMU is a little different from what I’m used to because they have two different enrolment periods: one for seminars and one for everything else. The former starts and ends even before the previous semester’s finished and I almost missed it because it’s that early. Fortunately, I decided to check the dates the day before the enrolment period started, so I was able to design my timetable just in time. Enrolling as soon as possible is vital, even though there’s a priority setting.
Speaking of said timetable: I couldn’t believe my eyes! If everything had worked out the way I originally wanted it to be, I’d have had classes every Tuesday, every second Thursday and once on Friday and two Saturdays throughout the semester. Yes, that’s right. That appears to be next to nothing but it’s still seven classes in total. The clue: most of the classes are only about every other week because most of the training staff has full-time jobs in publishing and does the classes additionally to their jobs (which is awesome in itself – networking, yay!). On the downside: every week, my timetable’s different. I think I don’t have two weeks alike, which is a little frustrating. I’m afraid I made some mistake in transferring the dates and will accidentally miss a session.
Although I don’t know about the work pensum I’ll have to do on the side, I just couldn’t keep it that way. The timetable was just way too empty for a workaholic like me. I currently have a single job: acquiring as much knowledge as possible for my future career. It’s my full-time job and I just need to have a certain pensum. During my BA, I had 24 to 30 hours per week, depending on the semester. That was totally fine and I still had more than enough free time. So, since there are so many other interesting classes in the BA course and the other MA course, I hopelessly overstuffed my timetable – at least, that’s what it looks like at first glance. I added seven(!) more classes, but at the end of the day, I still have only an average of 15 hours per week. Besides, I don’t have to take any exams in these classes and if it turns out I’m not able to keep up, I could just drop one or two of them. I just want it to work, because these are all awesome classes!
I thought I just give you a short overview of my classes this semester so you get a feeling for what this MA course is all about. If you want to browse through the classes yourself or read more about the contents, just check out the course catalogue.
Lecture Strukturwandel im Literaturbetrieb [Structural Change in the Literary Scene] by Rainer Schmitz
Keywords: the book market, the media, reviewers and reviews, bestsellers, censorship, scandals, literary events, media hype, digital revolution
I already had the first couple of sessions and it was amazing! This is the most interesting lecture I ever had and I can’t wait for the sessions to come. Really interesting facts, figures and quotes. The lecture plan also says that there’s going to be discussions with journalists, a publisher and a media rights agent.
Seminar Materialität des Buchs [Materiality of the Book] by Dr. Johannes Frimmel
Keywords: material aspects of book culture, historical developments, culture-historical meaning, paratext, printing methods, illustrations, paper, binding and jacket, typography, ebooks
I also had the first couple of session of this seminar. In the first, we only allocated the presentation topics. Since we’re also going to write our paper on this topic, I really wanted my first choice and I got lucky: binding and jacket it is. I don’t know yet how the paper thesis is supposed to look like; if we have to write about the historical discourse or can pick a different topic. There’s just so much that popped into my mind: decorative coinages, two layered cover designs, cover whitewashing or deneutralisation (making neutral covers distinctly feminine, for example), or a comparison between international covers and their associations. No idea whether there’s secondary literature on these kinds of topics, but a girl likes to dream. In the second session, we talked about Gutenberg, the beginning of print culture and the first incunabula (=first printed works before 1501). We also went on a “field trip” (well, it just happens to be right across the road) to the Bavarian State Library, which has the largest collection of incunabula in the world, and got to see beautiful works.
Practice Redaktion und Lektorat für Masterstudierende [Editing for MA students] by Dr. Johanna Büchel
Keywords: editing, manuscript assessment and evaluation, networking, knowledge of the trade
The first session was really interesting! Besides learning how to assess and evaluate a manuscript, we’re going on four(!) field trips! We’re going to visit the publishing companies arsEdition and Droemer Knaur as well as the literary agency Lianne Kolf and the editorial department for fantasy of the publishing company Piper. This just sounds too good to be true!
Practice Herstellung [Manufacturing] by Robert Gigler
Keywords: manufacturing, work flow, printing methods, technologies, resources, materials, production, layout
So far, this is really interesting. We’re going to discuss the whole process of turning a manuscript into a book: project planning and implementation, prepress, processing, and materials and printing methods. There’s also supposed to be a field trip to a printery.
Practice Urheber- Verlags- und Medienrecht für Buchwissenschaftler [Copyright, Right of Publication, and Media Law for Bibliographers] by Dr. Wolfgang Lent & Dr. Konstantin Wegner
Keywords: copyright, right of publication, media law, contracts, image rights, exploitation rights, press law, right of publicity
Law can be pretty dull but this class really isn’t. It’s pretty neat to have lecturers who have a background in both law and publishing. It’s even more fun to listen to anecdotes and work ‘real’ cases (they are adapted but based on the real thing). Especially copyright is a huge thing concerning all of us and it is so often breached on the Internet. I’m really looking forward to learn more about the dos and don’ts.
Practice Projektmanagement: Ausstellung ‘Das schöne Buch als Ereignis und Inszenierung: 30 Jahre Die Andere Bibliothek’ [Project Management: Exhibition ‘The Beautiful Book as Event and Enactment: 30 Years of Die Andere Bibliothek’] by PD Dr. Wilhelm Haefs
Keywords: project management, organisation and implementation, exhibition, Die Andere Bibliothek, advertising, exhibit preparation
This is the only class of which I didn’t get my first choice, but alas, this seminar also sounds very interesting but proved to be really stressful and chaotic. The problem: we’re supposed to organise an exhibition about the books of Die Andere Bibliothek which is supposed to open at the end of May! This will be a challenge on so many levels. (If you haven’t heard about this publisher, don’t fret. I hadn’t either but now I want to have all the books. They’re just gorgeous!)
Practice Buch-/Medienprojekt: Digitale Produkte entwickeln – Lösungen für Medienunternehmen im digitalen Zeitalter [Book/Media Project: Developing Digital Products – Solutions for Media Companies in the Digital Era] by Dr. Harald Henzler
Keywords: idea development: apps, imprints, websites, portals; elevator pitch, use case, targeting, product details, USP & CVP, marketing & distribution, prototype, partners, costs
I’m already done with this class since it was a weekend seminar. It was super interesting and very practice-oriented but also exhausting due to the constant creative process, the brainstorming, the discussing and coming up with constructive criticism – which is all awesome but not if you have to do it for eight hours straight with just one break in-between. We were divided into small groups and every group had to develop an idea for a digital product related to books. We had a great variety of ideas, some of which I’d totally use.
Seminar Messekurs [Bookfair Course] by Katharina Osterauer
Keywords: Frankfurt Bookfair, planning and organisation of the exhibition appearance of the LMU: accommodation, journey, tickets, communication with other universities, financing, events, advertising material
I wasn’t sure whether I should take that class because this year’s bookfair might be the last one I’d attend privately. In the end, I decided to go for it. It’s a great experience and looks really nice on the CV. Besides, we’re going to have more than enough free time. We’re seven amazing girls who will tell you all about our study programmes if you stop by at our booth. Plus, we’re going to have a super fun event (that has yet to be planned, but hey).
Practice Internationales Geschäft im Fachverlag: Kooperationen und Lizenzen [International Business in Specialist Publishers: Cooperation and Licences] by Clara Fernández López
Keywords: planning and expansion of pbulishing business on international markets, strategic tools for analysing potentials, implementation of positioning, programme strategies, cooperation and partnerships, licence models, epublishing
I already had the first sessions and although I already had most of the stuff during my bachelor, this seems like a pretty good way to refresh my memory and learn something about applying this to the book industry. Plus, there will be a couple of topics I haven’t heard about yet.
Practice Buchmarkt-, Lese- und Marktforschung: Produktmanagement im Fachverlag [Book Market, Reading, and Market Research: Product Management in the Specialist Publisher] by Stephan Kilian
Keywords: specialist publishers in the digital era: success factors; employees requirements; reimagination of the value chain; product development; optimisation of products, manufacturing and techiques; distribution; marketing
I also had the first two classes of this seminar. Although it’s not quite what I’d expected, I’m really enjoying it. We’re such a small class that we’re properly discussing the aspects. It’s a constant dialogue and even I’m actively participating.
Weekend Practice Internationale Verlagslandschaft: Ratgeberpolitik im deutschsprachigen und europäischen Vergleich [International Publishing Landscape: German-speaking and European Guidebook Politics in Comparison] by Georg Alexander Kessler
Keywords: guidebooks, economical significance, demand, national and international characteristics, influencing factors
I’m not particular into guidebooks but I take whatever info I can get, especially since I find it very interesting to take a look at international markets. There will be a field trip to the market leader Gräfe und Unzer with a lecture on licencing, too.
Weekend Practice Spezialmärkte der Buch- und Medienbranche: Aktuelle Entwicklungen und Trends in der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur [Speciality Markets of the Book and Media Industry: Current Developments and Trends in Children’s and YA Literature] by Birgit Arteaga
Keywords: basics of the children’s and YA sector; programme planning; role of literary agencies, authors, and illustratiors; changes and trends in recent years; challenges and problems; special topic: violence in YA
When I read the title, there was no way I was not going to take this seminar! Do I really have to explain my motivation to take this class? I don’t think so.
Weekend Practice Marketing und Vertrieb im Buchhandel II [Marketing and Distribution in the Book Trade II] by Bernhard Fetsch
Keywords: social media marketing: aspects, uses, product developments for print products
I haven’t heard part 1 since I wasn’t here last semester but I’m really interested in social media, duh. That’s what’s blogging all about: playing the social media game. Plus, that’s also what I’d like to work in one day. I’d love to be the one planning and implementing social media actions, and looking after blogger contacts.
Weekend Practice Digitalisierungstechniken und ihr Einsatz [Digitalisation Methods and Their Application] by Johannes Monse & Tom van Endert
Keywords: digital production, products, distribution, and marketing: developments, outlook, stakeholders
Since everything’s going digital, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of what’s going on at the moment. Naturally, changes come quickly but to be able to be truly innovative, you have to know where we are at the moment.
So, that’s it. These are my classes. I think the semester’ll be over in a heartbeat. Time flies by so quickly at uni. So far, I’m exactly where I want to be, doing what I want to do. It’s fun, my fellow students are great, and I’ve got a lot of interesting classes to keep me busy.
I don’t know yet how often I will write a post on my studies. I’m not really sure what would be interesting to you, so if you’d like to know more about a certain topic or have any questions, feel free to suggest topics and ask away. I’m going to answer as best I can.