Denver Publishing Institute Alumnus Breaks the Mold at HarperOne
“Raise your hand if you want to go into editorial?” This is the question asked on the first day at the Denver Publishing Institute (DPI), with almost everyone raising their hands. A strong editorial narrative seems to attract people to the publishing industry, something that Sam Tatum (DPI ’18) himself has always been drawn to.
But DPI taught him that there is so much more to learn about the world of publishing that extends beyond editorial. At DPI, aspiring publishing professionals learn about marketing and editing through workshops, as well as listen to lectures by top professionals from the world of book publishing.
“DPI definitely did a great job of acting as the first step in my publishing education. The way the curriculum was structured with editorial meetings, marketing meetings and people from all corners of the business coming to speak, I definitely found myself well prepared. I think there’s a lot of value in that because it’s helped me establish a baseline education that I can use to build my career on,” says Tatum.
Now, Tatum works for HarperOne/Harper Collins in San Francisco as an editorial assistant, a job he credits to DPI.
“To be completely honest, I wouldn’t have my current job if it weren’t for [DPI faculty] Carl Lennertz. He was instrumental in getting my resume in the right pile so to speak, connecting me to the person who ended up hiring me at HarperOne. That really just speaks to the kind of culture of lifting up young professionals at DPI. After I moved to California from Denver, I spent four months finding a job and honestly every interview I did was somehow connected to DPI. I was able to keep up my network, meet people and get my name out there in a way that I definitely wouldn’t have if I didn’t have those connections from DPI,” says Tatum.
Before attending DPI, Tatum played soccer at Knox College, getting his undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in journalism. Although not the ‘typical’ areas of study for those in publishing, Tatum realized that his background could be an advantage.
“A lot of my colleagues now and classmates at DPI fit the typical, traditional publishing narrative with backgrounds in English and creative writing. I used to be in creative writing but changed to psychology, giving me a different perspective about working with people and working on a team organizationally, and I think that’s just as important as the writing piece,” says Tatum.
Not only did DPI teach Tatum that he could use his unique background to make a career in publishing, but it taught him the importance of community and having connections.
“Outside of class it felt very communal and I definitely made a few friendships out of it. I don’t know if other institutes are as community based, but that experience really stood out to me. I am a big fan of the program and it gave me a good foundation for my current career. It’s something I look back on with very fond memories and I’m really grateful I was able to make those connections,” says Tatum.
Tatum started at HarperOne in 2019 as a marketing assistant, doing admin work and general marketing support. In March of this year, he moved to editorial, supporting the editorial director, Gideon Weil. Working in both areas of publishing gave Tatum the experience and confirmation he needed to know that editorial was the right fit for him.
“I think editorial suits me a bit more, but I am super grateful for my time in marketing. I got to see the other side of the business and learn so much. I tell up-and-coming publishing professionals or even other DPI folks, that if I had started in editorial, I don’t think I would have been very good at my job. I needed that time in marketing to get my sea legs and learn what I was interested in,” says Tatum.
Although the industry offers many opportunities for publishing professionals, there is still room for growth.
“I didn’t go to DPI on a scholarship, but I did see that they’ve started a scholarship fund. A lot of my peers in the industry right now are having discussions about how to make the industry more accessible, and I think DPI is taking a step in the right direction,” says Tatum.
On the last day at DPI, the question was asked again; “Raise your hand if you want to go into editorial?” This time the response was much more spread out, with increased interest for marketing, agenting and other areas of publishing. DPI teaches that there are there are many places for aspiring publishing professionals to flourish.
“I think DPI and all publishing institutes can lead the way and change the narrative that publishing isn’t just for English majors or people from ivy league institutions. As someone who didn’t fit that mold at all, I found DPI very uplifting and I just hope that there continues to be more opportunities like that,” says Tatum.