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Denver Publishing Institute Connects Industry to Community

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Jessica Comola

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Denver Publishing Institute

The Denver Publishing Institute (DPI), now in its 44th year, is emphasizing the voices of booksellers through a scholarship program made possible by DU, Sourcebooks and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc). Kate Kinney, this year’s recipient, is a frontline bookseller at Boulder Bookstore.

After earning her MFA in creative writing at Western Washington University, Kenney sought out what she most loved—working with books. It was at the Boulder Bookstore that Kenney first found out about the Denver Publishing Institute.

“I found a flyer in the breakroom and thought this would be a really great opportunity. I wouldn’t have been able to attend DPI without the scholarship and I’m so grateful to be here. Every time I hear a speaker, I think about how much it’s going to help me as I move forward.”

The Denver Publishing Institute provides opportunities for students, publishers, librarians and young professionals like Kenney to experience a wide range of what the industry entails. This four-week immersive program is centered around workshops, lectures and special sessions led by top professionals drawn from the world of book publishing. As a core part of the program, students make connections, build professional networks, receive career support and get to interact with industry leaders in both formal and informal settings.

Denver Publishing Institute

Jill Smith, the Director of the Denver Publishing Institute, explains the breadth of the program. “Students come to us from all around the country. For the first time this year, I put up a map and had students put a pin where they wanted to find a job. We’ve always had a sense that they come from everywhere and go back everywhere, but where is everywhere?”

“Just by looking at the pins,” Smith continues, “they can see that they are forming a widespread network through DPI. This is one of our strengths.”

What unites these individuals is a shared belief in the power of books to impact people, an idea captured in Sourcebooks’ motto: “Books. Change. Lives.” Sourcebooks is one of the largest independent publishers in the U.S., publishing 400 books a year across most genres.

Todd Stocke, editorial director, explains the company’s investment in the voices of booksellers like Kenney. “We come from roots of both marketing and bookselling. We have a client-focused approach to our publishing model, with ‘client’ encompassing our authors, our readers and our retail partners.”

Bookselling is integral to a full understanding of the publishing world, says Stocke. “A lot of times publishing folks like to stay in their own heads, when where their heads should be is in a bookstore because that’s where people are buying their books. At Sourcebooks, we’ve worked hard to retain that mindset over the years.”

Stocke lectures on “Digital Innovations in Publishing” with a focus on how digital technologies open possibilities across the book industry, including booksellers in a brick-and-mortar store. 

“The core of what I talk about is change positivity—folks being open to what is beyond what they already know. Publishing used to be a linear process, but now we can experiment with the entire process along the way; from its origins to how it takes shape as a finished product.”

Talks like Stocke’s that embrace the full range of the book industry, are a primary strength of what the Denver Publishing Institute offers its students, says Smith.

“What I love is being able to present the entire book publishing ecosystem and having students come and learn about everything. It helps them find where they fit best into the whole system.” Smith continues, “Going through the program, they might realize a career path they never previously considered. It’s a beautiful thing to see students find their path.”

Kenney agrees, noting the broadened perspective she’s gained during her time at DPI. “I was surprised going through the program how much booksellers talk about all of this but we don’t think about it as someone’s job. We’ll be shelving books and say ‘great cover,’ or we’ll comment on someone’s author photo—we see the whole industry as booksellers, but we don’t know it. Here at DPI we get to engage every part of publishing.”