The Pocket Guide to Publishing

CSUCI students receive real world experience

By Chris O'Neal 05/15/2014


On the day of their final meeting, students enrolled in UNIV 298 — also known as “The Publishing House” — met face to face via Skype with author Neil Connelly, author of The Pocket Guide to Divorce. Unlike most guest speakers, Connelly has been a part of the class since the beginning, when his manuscript was selected for publication by the students.

California State University Channel Island’s “The Publishing House” isn’t your typical English course, but is a course designed to introduce students to the publishing industry via hands-on experience. From the printing process, typesetting and marketing, students establish a firm understanding of what it takes to get a book to press.

“The trick of higher education is that, on the one hand, you need the skills to use in the marketplace; on the other hand, you have to recognize that the marketplace is always fluctuating,” said Assistant Professor Sean Carswell. “If you’re just trying to work toward a skill set it has a very short shelf life.”

In collaboration with Los Angeles-based Gorsky Press, Carswell and his colleagues opened the nationwide Molly Ivors Prize, offering $1,000 and publication to an author for his or her manuscript. After receiving more than 1,000 entries, 10 were selected and from them, four made it to the class, where Connelly’s novel was chosen.

Over the course of the semester, The Pocket Guide to Divorce was typeset by a group of four students, edited by others and marketed in the traditional methods, including across social media, where the fictional protagonist, Mitch, became a “real” person, tweeting celebrities and generally being moody.

“This whole class has been a great experience,” said David Vitullo, who admits that he signed up for the class without realizing what it was. Vitullo equates publishing to getting an oil change. “You really don’t know what goes into it. You pay someone to do it every time, and you have more respect for that person once you do it yourself.”

Around half of the students were English majors, while others came from either biology or business. Student Nicolas de Sena says that the course is important especially for English majors who may not have a clear career path after graduation.

“There’s a lot of writers out there and not very many publishers,” said Sena. “I think it definitely prepared the English majors specifically for what’s coming.”

Carswell will bring the course back to CSU Channel Islands in the fall of 2015. Carswell, who co-founded the punk ‘zine Razorcake as well as Gorsky Press, says that The Publishing House concept is important not only for students but for the publishing industry itself.

For more information on Neil Connelly’s The Pocket Guide to Divorce, visit



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