Pulling Double Duty

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:

So you start with something that looks like this...

So you start with something that looks like this…


… and you can end up with something like this!

Or this!

Or this!

Or this...

Or this…

Or, even this!

Or even this!

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!


22 Responses to Pulling Double Duty

  1. Brooke Feb 12 2013 at 9:45 am #

    Awesome stuff! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Kacey Feb 12 2013 at 10:43 am #

    I love the idea for this series SO MUCH. I’m a college freshman who wants to work in publishing made of nothing but questions. My most pressing ones are all the ones you listed haha. I always assumed I ought to and wanted to major in English, but now that I’m actually in college I realize I’m a lot more interested in my school’s Greek and Roman Studies department. Should I suck it up and major in English anyway, or does that even matter?

    I also think it’s really cool how you’re both a published author and work in publishing (and I love your books by the way!). Which came first? Did one affect the other or was it a completely independent process? I feel like I often hear people saying that writers shouldn’t go into publishing bc it saps your own energy to write, would you say there’s any truth to that or is it just crap?

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head, although I’m sure I have many more. Thanks for a great post, so cool to get a glimpse into your job!

    • Alex Feb 12 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Kacey!

      I sold my first book my senior year of college, and while that wasn’t directly responsible for landing me a job, I think it helped greatly I was already familiar with the industry. I think I’ll probably cover this topic a bit more next month, but I wouldn’t say it saps my energy to write–but there are some drawbacks.

      Covering majors next month along with the internship questions below. Thanks for sending in so many great questions!

  3. G Feb 12 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Thank you very much for your article. I would love it if you went on with your series Ask Alex. I want to get into the publishing industry as I’ve just graduated this January. I have a question though: Is it possible for someone who had mostly editorial internships to work in a different department, such as marketing? Also, how many internships do you have to complete before publishing companies consider your resume?

    Thanks again for your great post and giving us a inside look at a different department in publishing!

    • Alex Feb 12 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Hey G!

      Short answer is: Yes! Totally possible to work in a different section of publishing than what you interned in. Publishing is what’s considered an “apprenticeship” industry, meaning you don’t need to necessarily come into a position with specific knowledge (unless, of course, you’re going into the legal or financial side of the business). I’m going to cover internships more broadly next month, but to give you a preview… I had zero internships in publishing before I started!

  4. Rowenna Feb 12 2013 at 11:42 am #

    That sounds so interesting–I love the idea of working to get books and teaching materials into the hands of educators! Plus I love your before/after show pics–I used to do trade shows for a stationery company, and the process of watching the booths sort of blossom all around you is a weird geeky kind of enchanting!

    And welcome 🙂 Missed saying so before–really excited to read your perspective!

    • Alex Feb 12 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      Rowenna, that’s so cool! I have a feeling the stationery trade shows probably looked A LOT like our trade shows. The best feeling is walking into the exhibit hall after they’ve cleaned away the trash and put down the aisle carpeting–it looks like a completely different building!

  5. Sondra Johnson Feb 12 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Hi Alex- Welcome and thank you for your post.

    I’d be interested in the famous unpaid internship. Can they be internet-only, or must one be on site?

    I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum- in my fifties. I do online proofreading and editing via Elance, and I love books and writing. My wish list would include doing an unpaid internship, perhaps doing a first-read of submitted manuscripts, etc.

    Does anything like this exist? I’d love to know….

    Thank you for your sharing!


    • Alex Feb 12 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      Hey Sondra! I definitely have some ideas for you. I think internships win this round, so I’ll talking about them more next month.

  6. Amy Feb 12 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    I’m really looking forward to Ask Alex! This blog is great for getting some insight into the publishing world. I’d love some advice about getting an internship. Would it be ok to ask a question via email? 🙂

    • Alex Feb 12 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Of course! You can send it to be directly at alex(at)alexandrabracken.com if you’d like!

  7. Claudia McCarron Feb 12 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    I think this would be a great idea for a series! While I’m not as serious as others, I’m interested in learning more about this business and possibly seeking a job there.

  8. stephanie garber Feb 12 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    I don’t have any questions right now, but like a lot of the other commenters I think this is a great idea for a series! I feel like a know a lot more about publishing than when I first started writing, but so much of the publishing world is still a huge mystery to me. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, Alex!

  9. Kirsty in London Feb 13 2013 at 4:11 am #

    Hi Alex – great idea for a series! My question possibly relates more to the publicity department, but with your connection to schools there may be some overlap — do publishers expect YA/MG authors to do school visits as an obligatory part of marketing, or is this something authors can opt out of?

    *flashes back to memories of having to do presentations in high school and breaks out in cold sweats at the very thought*

    Thanks for any thoughts!

    • Alex Feb 14 2013 at 11:22 am #

      Hey Kirsty! This is definitely not something that we require of our authors, but it’s definitely a plus to get out there and engage with readers. Speaking as Author Alex, I was terrified to do school visits, but my experiences have only been super positive and super fun because the kids were so excited and engaged. (Really, it felt more like a conversation than a presentation, though everyone has their own style!) Most authors who do end up doing school visits ultimately have scheduled/coordinated themselves.

      • Kirsty in London Feb 15 2013 at 5:25 am #

        Thank you for the reassurance! 🙂

  10. Kristina Feb 13 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    Hi Alex! I’m super excited to read all your posts. I’m currently a junior in high school and definitely want to work in publishing after I graduate, so the “Ask Alex” series sounds basically perfect to me. I’ve done a lot of research so far, but still have questions, and I’m sure more will come up! If you could talk about getting internships and transitioning from there into paid jobs, I would be SUPER grateful.

    • Alex Feb 14 2013 at 11:19 am #

      Awesome! I’m so beyond happy to help–and I’m impressed you’re already doing research. (A girl after my own heart!) I’m definitely going to cover internships next month, so be sure to check back!

  11. Daphne @ Winged Revi Feb 21 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Hey Alex, it’s great that you’re doing this series! You know how much I love to hear about your shannegans in the publishing world. So glad you’re on the blog 🙂

  12. Alexa Y. Feb 26 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    I’m super excited that you’ve joined the Pub Crawl team! I can’t wait to see how you answer everyone’s questions about publishing and the industry. Truth be told, I’ve been attempting to get into the industry for months now, and I’m still holding out hope that it will happen!

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