Jason Burks, Winner of the 2008 Butterfield Grant

The NCBPMA/Carol C. Butterfield Scholarship Grant was established by Carol Butterfield’s friends and family to honor her memory and to continue her efforts to help individuals develop their careers in book publishing. The Scholarship Grant is administered by the NCBPMA through an endowment managed by the Community Foundation for Monterey County.

The Scholarship Grant can be used to take classes at book publishing programs such as the Stanford Professional Publishing Course, UC Berkeley Extension Publishing Program, or Denver Publishing Institute. It can also be used to finance a book marketing, sales, or publicity internship with a Northern California publisher, distributor, or bookseller; or in other ways that will further a book publishing professional’s career in marketing, sales, or publicity.

The 2008 Grant was awarded to Jason Burks, to support his internship at the Small Press Distribution.

headshot

Last year I interned with Small Press Distribution, a non-profit literary arts organization in Berkeley, California. For the first eight months I performed the usual duties of a marketing intern: I mailed invoices, compiled biweekly newsletters, helped process returns, and did whatever small jobs the staff needed (including painting over graffiti on the warehouse walls). This was a great opportunity to spend time at an organization dedicated to underrepresented literary communities, something very close to my heart.

My internship became more energizing and fulfilling when I was the fortunate recipient of the 2008 Butterfield Scholarship. This award allowed me to spend more time at SPD and less time at my soul-sucking, bill-paying job—tending bar in San Francisco. With the funds I received, I revived a position the organization had dissolved years before during budget cuts: the academic marketing of SPD’s titles. This position was of personal interest to me, because I first learned about SPD through a professor while writing my honors thesis in literature as an undergrad at UC Berkeley. I realized, when using SPD for research, that the warehouse on 7th Avenue in Berkeley was more fully stocked with contemporary fiction and poetry than state university’s library. As an academic marketing person, I wanted to spread the word about this amazing resource.

My main work consisted of revamping an outdated and confusing teachers’ resource page on the SPD website, which had become practically useless for the general public. I contacted and got feedback from creative writing teachers from around the country on how our resource page would better benefit their search for classroom reading. With this information, I realized teachers were having a hard time navigating through the thousands of titles on SPD’s website. Without much spare time for research on their own, I found that I could create a space where teachers could give each other advice.

I compiled a list of syllabi from professors. Most of these professors were glad to give a framework to others that highlighted how independent literature could be integrated into their classes. Along with this information I also put together lists of book titles that work well in the classroom, organized by categories ranging from “Asian-American Poetry” to “Politics and Resistance.” Teachers were then able to go directly to their desired interests, to see what new work was available, and to order books online.

It was exciting to have the opportunity to speak directly with consumers in a niche market and facilitate their ability to find book titles that fit their specific needs. In a world of online databases that make hundreds of thousands of books available to the public, I was able to create and raise awareness of SPD as an accessible and reliable resource for classroom-worthy publications. This was only possible through the Butterfield Grant, which allowed me to reach out directly to customers and use their feedback to make SPD an extremely useful online resource and bookstore.

Advertisements