What is a thesis or capstone project? How long does it have to be? How long do I have to complete it? How and what will I turn in? How will I be graded? Do I need to defend? And there are a dozen more questions students raise when it comes time for their culminating academic event. I refer to it as an event because it is eventful – there are successes and failures, panic attacks and feelings of relief, growth and setbacks, all of these combined together create this wonderful learning experience.
Students may begin their thesis or capstone work once they have completed 18 credits (half of their coursework). Students come to my office and we have “the talk.” Many of them are nervous or overwhelmed with few ideas solid ideas. I ask them one simple question: “What is your dream job?” Most look at me as if I am skipping a few steps, but it is the important question. Ultimately, students should work for a year on a project that interests them, challenges them, and one that will catapult them on a trajectory that will ultimately land them their dream job in the world of publishing.
After the student describes his/her dream job, we work backwards to develop a thesis or capstone topic that will best allow him/her to showcase their skills or knowledge base. The ideas that rise to the surface are nothing but exciting. I have to concede – I have to fight off a few jealous pangs. The thought of diving full-force into a single topic for a year is exciting!
The students work over the course of a calendar year on their chosen topic with a thesis advisor. Their topics range widely in scope, focus, and platform. To give you a flavor, here are just a few of the topics students will be grappling with over the course of the next 10 months: Role of the strong female archetype in children’s literature and the role of editors; How technology and communication raise issues such as libel, privacy, truthfulness, and obscenity in publishing memoir; Societal and cultural impact that banned books have on the individual, the classroom, and the public; Digital technology’s effect on news, magazines, and the children’s segments of the industry; In-depth study of the current state of print books, brick-and-mortar bookstores; and Study of the history, current state, and trajectory of the Christian publishing sector.
I look forward to hearing from the thesis students about their progress as the semester unfolds. There will be excitement as they reveal nuggets of information, disappointment as a source fails to provide the needed support, yet the fortitude to press forward.
So what would you study for an entire year given the opportunity?
Anne Converse Willkomm
Director, Graduate Publishing Programs
While on Twitter today I came across an article on Digital Book World on the top selling ebooks of 2013. As I scanned the list, it brought me back to one of my first Push-to-Publish conferences about 5 years ago. Self-published authors were scarcely considered human. They kept to themselves, and the traditionallypublished authors made little effort to engage. The boundary between these two camps was not nearly as defined a year later, and even less loosely defined the following year. In 2012 and again last fall, no real line existed in the sand.
According to Digital Book World’s article, numbers 7, 10, and 17 in the top 20 of the 2013 bestselling ebook list were self-published. That’s 15% of the list – pretty impressive, given there were no self-published titles on the 2012 list. According to an article written by Jeremy Greenfield on Digital Book World, self-published books took the No. 1 spot on the Amazon ebook list four times in the first quarter of 2013. As the first quarter of 2014 winds down, it will be interesting to see if this pattern holds true. It appears that it will, as Amazon reports an increase in self-published ebook titles. However, it is important to note that from self-published titles in Amazon’s eBook genre best-sellers list, the self-published titles represent only 3% of the total daily revenue.
What does this mean?
Self-published authors are forces to be reckoned with, and the E.L. James and Hugh Howeys of the world are not merely statistical exceptions. It might indicate that self-published authors are putting in the time and effort they were once accused of bypassing, i.e. to write and create the best book possible versus writing and uploading with little to no editing. It also means that self-published authors are becoming savvy. They are learning how to market themselves and their books. Self-published authors are taking advantage of price shifting and manipulation to get their books into the hands of readers and reviewers. During 48-hour ebook giveaways, self-published authors can get their books onto readers’ phones, tablets, and ereaders. Some of those readers will write reviews, which will further promote the book. Traditional publishers do not practice this. They release a book and maintain a consistently higher price than most self-published authors. But are the traditional publishers making lots of money on ebook sales? Not yet.
Trends in Digital Publishing, a panel discussion with Thomas Hartman, Scott Chappell, Don Lafferty, and Calvin Reid, will be help in Rosemont College’s Lawrence Auditorium at 6:00pm on Monday, March 24. The event is freeand open to the public! To register your RSVP, please click here. For any questions or concerns, contact Anne Willkomm at email@example.com.