Encounters in Publishing #4: 90% of Publishing, by Ami Greko

Pretty much everything about the Columbia Publishing Course was weird to me. I was twenty-four and living in a dorm again. With a meal plan. And giant breaks in the middle of the day where I was expected to sit in the sun and “study,” as opposed to my previous sunny day activity, sitting in a cubicle proofreading articles for the scientific journal Molecular Cell.

The weirdest thing about the Columbia Course, though, was our twice weekly sherry hour. They were, as far as I could tell, mandatory. There was never any sherry around, just red wine from what I suspect was a box, and those little cheese cubes that get a sort of shiny film after about five minutes out of the refrigerator.

A few luminaries from publishing were somehow tricked into attending, and while most of my fellow students would attack them as soon as possible, barely letting them escape the radius of the snack table, I spent my time standing in the corner, competing with my friends to see who could drink as many tiny cups of wine as possible.

So you can imagine my surprise when an editor somehow managed to break away from the snack table and headed our way. He stared us all up and down, and said, “You guys realize this is a class right? You’re supposed to be learning to work a party. That’s basically all you do in publishing is go to parties.”

We all kind of stared at our feet until he walked away. But I did make more of an effort at the next sherry hour, and I can confirm that a good 90% of publishing is attending parties.


Ami Greko is the founder of Book Camp NYC, an unconference for bookish types, and cohost of the Ignite-style lecture series 7x20x21. You can find her online at @ami_with_an_i and in real life anywhere there is crappy red wine and books.