Hello, friends! Thank you so much for your incredible welcome. I feel so lucky and privileged to officially be joining the PubCrawl family after lurking for so long! I can’t wait to chat with you guys and get to know you all–and, hopefully, answer some of your more pressing questions about this crazy biz.
Like Susan mentioned in her intro post, I actually pull double duty in children’s book publishing. (For real, sometimes my day feels like one Life in Publishing post after another.) My present day job is in children’s marketing for one of the “Big Six” publishers. My first gig out of school, though, was an awesome children’s editorial assistant position for a different Big Six publisher. I’ll get to all of that in just a bit. First, I want to float an idea by you guys.
Over the past three, almost four, years, I’ve gotten hundreds of emails, tweets, Tumblr asks, and LinkedIn messages from recent grads and high school seniors wondering how I was able to get a job in what’s considered to be a very competitive and small marketplace. And, unfortunately, it is a smaller industry compared to others… and path more often than not can feel pretty treacherous. Trust me, I was right there, too–waiting for job listings to pop up online, sending my resume into the black holes that serve as most companies’ recruiting pages, going in for informational interview after informational interview to sniff out leads… And what I’ve found is that there are so many more ways of getting your foot into publishing if you’re willing to fight for it.
I’m thinking a number of you are probably in that same position now, or are considering publishing and wondering how to start preparing before you hit the job market, right? If that is the case, I’d like to propose a kind of “Ask Alex” series. Every month, I’m happy to take your questions on anything related to what it’s like to work in publishing, how to get one of those elusive jobs/internships, and all of the different departments you’re curious about. Please go ahead and leave any questions in the comments, and I’ll be back next month with some answers and real talk for you. In the past, I’ve answered everything from What should I major in? to Should I attend a publishing course? to What does Sub Rights actually do? to What’s the deal with the Masters in Publishing programs? All are totally valid questions, and I’m more than happy to cover them again!
Until then, though, I thought I would talk a little bit about my day job, since it’s considered one of the “hidden” jobs in the industry: school and library marketing.
If you were to ask yourself right now how many departments you could name in a publishing house, I’m sure you’d hit all of the big ones: Editorial, Publicity, Marketing, Design, and Sales. But would you believe a lot of those departments are actually made up of smaller groups? Now, a lot of this depends on how the publishing house is set up–and trust me, there can be major differences between the way Penguin organizes its divisions and the methods, say, Scholastic uses–but to use the example of marketing, there are generally four marketing groups within the marketing department: trade marketing, brand marketing, school and library marketing, and digital marketing/new media.
One of the reasons why S&L marketing is considered a bit of a secret to people outside of the industry is because we have a very focused group that we target. You guessed it: educators and librarians. We’re not creating subway ads, or book trailers, or repping the company at Comic Con. We are, however, the ones that are putting together educator guides, kits for teachers and librarians to use to create lesson plans and classroom events, and we are hitting up every major educator and librarian conference. In fact, this is how I would actually break my responsibilities down:
Advertising/Giveaway materials: I write both print and ad copy for ads requested by wholesalers like Baker & Taylor and Ingram, and route them through Design so they can beautify them. (No Photoshop skills required!) Our department also creates the aforementioned educator guides, event kits, postcards, posters, and other promo items.
Awards: I submit all of our titles–and I mean all of our titles–to ALA (think Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Morris…) and state awards they qualify for, as well as keep track of nominations and wins. I also get to arrange author travel when they win, which is always really exciting.
Website: Our group has our own website to house our specific materials for teachers and educators to come and download. I do the monthly update and write the newsletter copy.
Conferences: This is really the most unique part about working in school and library marketing–we travel! I attend the American Library Association’s Midwinter (January) and Annual (June) meetings, as well as the Texas Library Association conference, the International Reading Association conference, and NCTE in the fall. We’re usually there for about five days, and the trip always starts with setting the actual booth up. It’s a lot of boxes to unpack and ARCs to stack, but the results are awesome. Here are a few pictures from a reference conference so you can see what these booths actually look like:
We spend these conferences arranging author signings (and getting them to any panels they might be on), book talking our upcoming and current releases, distributing the materials we’ve created (such as posters, guides, and bookmarks), and–everyone’s favorite–giving out galleys. We almost always host a dinner or two as well. It’s really fun, but exhausting! And because all of the S&L departments tend to be small and we all go to the same shows, it sometimes feels like a sorority of sorts.
Mailings: We have different mailing lists of educator and librarian “big mouths,” and depending on the list, they either get advanced copies months ahead of release, or I send them a finished book mailing every month. (Sometimes you have to get the books in the right hands and let them market themselves.)
There are some things we have in common with the other marketing departments, of course. We’ll share materials or ads we’ve created, and we all get to participate in big brainstorming sessions to create our marketing plans for upcoming releases. Really, it’s an incredible job and so much fun.
Thanks again for the big welcome, guys! Don’t forget to leave your questions in the comments!
Alex lives in New York City, where she works in children’s publishing, writes like a fiend, and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. Her two novels, Brightly Woven and The Darkest Minds, are both available now. You can visit her online at her website, Twitter, or Tumblr.