On November 8th, 2023, Radius Book Group’s Editorial Director, Mark Fretz, spoke to Pace University MS in Publishing students in a hybrid seminar. In an hour and half lecture, Mr. Fretz combined his personal career trajectory, insight into the nuances of the industry, and guidance on students’ own publishing journey.
Mr. Fretz’s current role at Radius Book Group as Editorial Director involves immense collaboration and passion for the industry. Radius Book Group is a multi-platform publisher that offers its resources to the entrepreneurial author. They publish a range of mediums from online to physical, as well as having their own audio production capabilities. The goal of the company is to nourish the author relationship, publish quality titles, and incorporate a flexible model in various formats. The combination of these elements forges meaningful connections and relationships that Mr. Fretz often referred to fondly throughout the seminar.
Mr. Fretz’s path to Radius Book Group began in an unconventional manner like many that transition to the Publishing sphere. Attending graduate school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he explained his passion and focus in education. During this time, he found himself as a research assistant for the creation of an encyclopedia, beginning his editorial path. After completing his graduate degree and landing a teaching job, he was presented with the opportunity to work as an editor for Knopf Doubleday in New York City. With initial disbelief and slight hesitation, Mr. Fretz took the risk of a major career shift, accepted the position, and moved to New York City. He spoke of his career in Publishing from more rigid, conventional editorial environments, to religious publishing which he named the “wild west,” to his now creative-focused job at Radius. In each of these roles, Mr. Fretz describes the relationships developed throughout departments as the key takeaway.
As Mr. Fretz explored the Publishing landscape to give the students a deeper understanding of the industry, he focused on the big picture before zooming in. The Publishing industry falls under the information sector and, therefore, is influenced by factors outside of its control. These factors include technology, global issues such as COVID-19, and supply chain challenges. Mr. Fretz highlighted the vitality of social media and marketing in the current industry in connection with the larger picture. When engaging with the students, the power of social media and market analysis was discussed, but also the reiteration of understanding the bigger picture when exploring creative routes to sell.
Mr. Fretz explained the industry as an ever-changing landscape that pushes the individual to grow and implement new ideas and developments. He noted the industry as a revolving door syndrome, where employees are consistently being shifted departments and jobs, as well as being let go. From changes in the larger sphere such as the pandemic and AI, Mr. Fretz solidified the vitality of awareness in world events and their impact to better prepare for one’s own future. Even within the industry, changes can come rapidly (though some at a much slower rate, too). From the changes in the bigger conglomerates, such as Simon and Schuster being bought by a private equity company, to in-house department shifts, he focused on the importance of knowledge to fuel an individual’s Publishing career.
Furthermore, Mr. Fretz helped the students create their own understanding and vision for themselves in the intersection of work and personal values. He established the change that would inevitably come in each individual: how one varies in passions, priorities, and excitements. Many changes would come by initiation and agency in the power of deciding one’s course of life. Yet, many changes would also be forced upon the individual because of the morphing industry that flourishes from the ebbs and flows of society.
The many opportunities from Mr. Fretz’s time in the industry showcased his passion, evident surely through his lecture, that gave a sense of thrill for the students as well. He spoke on the opportunities of jobs, networking, and travel. Within jobs, Mr. Fretz encouraged the students to show initiative and bring forth skills outside of the job description. To know one’s value can be exemplified to the employer to stand out in a competitive field through the combination of unique skills. Networking is an important aspect of finding your spot in the industry. Mr. Fretz explained networking as the bedrock that enables growth and opportunity. He also spoke on the potential of travel, that is, not only exciting and fun, but critical to expanding one’s network and understanding the many layers of the industry!
With the various challenges that erupt within the Publishing sphere, from worldly disruptions to corporate expectations versus reality, Mr. Fretz delivered the importance of the individual to be ahead of the curve and passionate.
Wrapping up the seminar, Mr. Fretz answered a variety of questions on his personal work/life balance, juggling multiple passions, and current reading lists. All of which reiterated the zeal Mark Fretz brings to the industry through his lasting creative touch and formative relationships made. Leaving the seminar, the students were able to gain understanding and insight as they enter the field and become, as Mr. Fretz said, “the future of publishing.”