February 10, 2020

NYU Summer Publishing Institute 2019 Alumni: Where Are They Now?

By NYUSPS Center for Publishing Staff

June may feel far away, but here at the NYU Center for Publishing we’re busy planning the 2020 Summer Publishing Institute. Each summer dozens of students join us from across the country and around the world to immerse themselves in the publishing industry. From digital media to book and magazine editing and cover design, social media marketing strategies or content plans across multiple platforms, SPI provides students with a robust introduction to publishing while preparing them for the job market.

To get a sense of what happens after SPI, we interviewed four 2019 Summer Publishing Institute graduates about where they are now, what they learned at SPI, and advice they have for students entering the program. If you’re interested in applying to SPI 2020, it’s not too late! Applications are due March 16th.

Read on to hear from SPI graduates working in editorial, digital marketing, and children’s publishing, and how one of our rising college seniors found an internship post-SPI!

Gaby Paez, Marketing & Publicity Assistant, ABRAMS Kids

Gaby Paez, Marketing & Publicity Assistant, ABRAMS Kids

Did you know you wanted to go into children’s publishing when you arrived at SPI?

I had the littlest of inklings that I would be interested in children’s publishing, but kept an open mind to both magazine and book related roles. The moment the Children’s Books Panel ended in the beginning of the SPI book session, I was sold.

Applying for jobs in any field takes tenacity. How was your experience hunting for jobs, and how did you land your current role?

I feel like I was lucky in my job hunt. However, I also feel like the trick was being both truly prepared for the NYU Center for Publishing Career Fair at SPI and also flexible. I knew exactly what I was looking for and had a super solid and passionate pitch.

When I spoke with representatives at the ABRAMS booth at the Career Fair, it went really well. A week later, when I was back home in Florida, I received an email asking if I was interested in interviewing for my current role. I spoke with my now-boss and I had a strong, positive gut feeling about it. She warned me that she was going on vacation the week we spoke over the phone, and would be picking up the process when she was back. I made sure to consistently follow-up, and reach out to any SPI-ers at ABRAMS to let people know about my genuine interest and dedication. Eventually I was asked to do an in-person interview, and met key members of my team. I felt a "click" with everyone, and knew that it was the right place and position for me.

You were assigned the role of Social Media Director in the book imprint final project during SPI. Has that experience helped you in your current role?

I feel like my role in the final project gave me an opportunity to deep dive into the branding of various houses and imprints. I don’t necessarily do the same tasks outlined for that  role in my current job, but I think it helps me remain in touch and attentive to how our various Children’s imprints (Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers, and Amulet Books) differentiate themselves and are branded.

What was the biggest surprise about your job once you started?

I was surprised with how much my boss gave me the opportunity to do. I thought I might have to wait longer than I did to go and get event experience. She gives me the chance to learn through literal experience. In my short time with ABRAMS, I have represented my house at a Tri-State Book Buzz event, helped plan our Spring 2020 Librarian Preview, and took a day trip down to Philadelphia to help out in our booth at ALA Mid Winter!

Tell us about a book or project you’re most excited about in your current position.

I cannot wait for Raybearer, by YA debut author Jordan Ifueko. As far as children’s books go, I am generally a big picture book lover and if I delve into Middle Grade or YA, I skew contemporary.  So I was shocked by how much Raybearer moved me and stuck with me. It comes out in April, and it is the first fantasy in a really long time that completely hooked me by the first page. It is inspired by West African mythology, and is so worthy of the hype that is building for it!

Courtney Smith, Digital Marketing Associate, Simon & Schuster

Courtney Smith, Digital Marketing Associate, Simon & Schuster

You came to SPI with experience in marketing at a large magazine media corporation. How did you fall in love with book publishing?

I fell in love with reading in elementary school when I read Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons. Since then, I’ve never been without a book in my bag (something I’m sure many SPIers can relate to).

I really enjoyed working in the fast-paced magazine world, but books were never far from my mind. When I realized how easily I could apply the skills I developed in magazines to books, I knew I had to at least explore the book industry.

How would you describe digital marketing to someone?

Digital marketing is meeting consumers where they are (online) and providing them with a solution to challenge they have (i.e. boredom, a need for insight into a new perspective, etc.). Basically, this means utilizing resources like social media, websites, and email to seek out the readers who will find value in your book, magazine, or article. This encompasses everything from creating Facebook ads to writing listicles of your most anticipated book-to-screen adaptations.

Describe a typical day in your role in your office.

I start out by checking that all of the content (books, authors, banners) I programmed for our site is live or scheduled to go live at the correct time. The rest of my day is then creating and curating that content with the help of my coworkers!

I do everything from writing book blurbs for our verticals (Get Literary and Off the Shelf, so check them out!) to help create the landing pages for our bigger campaigns like “New Year New You” and “Most Anticipated Books of 2020.” We also are always looking for ways to improve our site and reach new readers, so I sit in on meetings with our product team to brainstorm and test new features. Overall, my job is to support our wonderful authors and make sure we’re getting their fantastic books into the hands of readers who will love them!

What’s something you didn’t know before SPI that you’re grateful to know now?

Oh goodness, so much! There’s a lot that goes into book publishing that I never knew. From how a book actually gets acquired to how many people work on it before it is even introduced to a reader. All of the knowledge of the ins and outs of book publishing I learned at SPI and have been invaluable to hitting the ground running at my new job.

Outside of that, I think the thing I am most grateful to know now is how big of a community exists behind every book. It’s not just the editor or the imprint championing a book, it’s the entire company that wants to see every book and every author succeed. There is a reader for every book we publish.Collectively, everything we all do as individuals in the company comes together to find that reader and tell them about the book they need to read next.

You moved from Des Moines, IA to NYC for your current job. Any tips about adjusting to life in NY and how to get the most out of it?

Ah yes. The big move! I am a Midwesterner through and through (re: I still smile at strangers on the subway and hold the door open at Starbucks), but I love this city and I think it’s starting to love me back.

I currently live in Brooklyn which, for those of you who haven’t been to NYC before, is vastly different from Manhattan. I would highly suggest taking a weekend to explore Brooklyn neighborhoods before making a decision about whether or not to move here.

New York is full of many amazing people and experiences, but you don’t need to meet everyone or experience everything at once. Take the time to find your favorite park bench, the restaurant that recognizes you the moment you walk in the door, and the museum/bookstore/local establishment that never fails to inspire you. I’ve had some of the best experiences because I said yes to unexpected opportunities in unexpected locations. (Did you know there’s a concert venue in Brooklyn that sells pierogi? You can literally eat pierogi while jamming out.)

Kali Ridley, Editorial Assistant, Wiley

Kali Ridley, Editorial Assistant, Wiley

Tell us about your experience applying for editorial assistant positions. How did you end up in your current role?

I decided to apply only to Editorial and Managing Editorial Assistant positions, because I knew that was ultimately what I wanted. My search involved a lot of research, reading, writing cover letters, and sending out applications with very little response, which can be discouraging, but you just gotta stick it out.

I got my current position from one of the job emails that the NYU Center for Publishing regularly sends out to SPI alumni. I sent an email to the editor that was looking for an assistant and then also applied on Wiley’s career portal. They set up an interview and called me a couple of days before that for a quick screening phone interview. I was given the official offer a few weeks later.

Aside from loving to write and being good at it, what does it take to be a good editorial assistant?

A large portion of the work an editorial assistant (EA) does is administrative, so it’s important to be happy and willing to take on those tasks. An EA is meant to facilitate the editorial process and make the editor’s job easier, so it’s most helpful to learn the process and how to anticipate the needs of your editor(s) as thoroughly as possible.

You also learn a lot more about all the different elements that go into publishing a book by working as an editorial assistant. Most job postings ask for people who can multitask, know how to prioritize, are detail-oriented, and can work in an often fast-paced environment. So far I have found those traits to be absolutely necessary in my role at Wiley.

What session or experience at SPI had the biggest impact on you?

We had so many amazing speakers throughout SPI, but I think Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle’s keynote address for the book session was the most significant to me.  It was great to hear from someone so positive and excited about the future of the book publishing industry with the numbers to back up what he was saying.

Do you keep in touch with others from SPI? What has that been like?

Honestly, we’re everywhere. I live with someone I met at SPI, and we live just down the block from someone from our magazine final project group. I also work at the same company as someone from my book session final project group. Between that, the alumni events, and meeting for coffee/lunch with friends, I’ve remained in contact with many of the people from my class. As someone who moved here from out of town, it’s great to already have a community in a new place.

Any advice for prospective SPIers who want to expand their writing skills and editorial assistant skills before starting the program?

I think it’s an interesting exercise to write about what you’re reading, even if it’s just in a personal journal.It gets you in the practice of being able to articulate your thoughts = about what you’ve just read.

On top of that, try to read as widely as possible so that you remain aware of the trends that are dominating different genres and exposed to more writing styles. The most helpful thing for me in my EA position is that I was an office assistant for three years.  think working in some kind of admin role or office environment is really the best way to build those EA skills.

Monique Martinez, George Washington University Class of 2020 & Intern, Georgetown University Press

Monique Martinez, George Washington University Class of 2020 & Intern, Georgetown University Press

What interested you about attending SPI as a rising college senior?

As an English major and writing center tutor, I knew I wanted a career in books and writing. I had always had a vague idea of the publishing industry, but was not quite sure how I could find my place in the industry or the exact role I could apply my skills to.

Attending SPI as a rising senior was a way for me to make sure that publishing was what I wanted. The program went beyond my expectations, not only demystifying the industry for me but also giving me all the tools necessary to prepare for a career in publishing.

You had the role of video producer for your magazine media final project. How did that impact you?

At the time I was assigned the role, I had experience recording dance and making small projects for fun on iMovie, but I had never worked with Adobe PremierPro to create a brand video. I learned a lot from the professional video producers who gave workshops and shared tips with us, which made the idea of a brand video far less intimidating.

I had a great time filming in New York City and curating a look and theme for my video. While filming my teammates, I learned not to be afraid to ask for what I need in order to get my project to the desired caliber. Before SPI I had not realized how big a part of my life video has been, but by the end of the magazine section, I had an original brand video filmed, edited, and produced by myself that I could add to my personal portfolio and a new skill that I really enjoy doing!

You have landed a great internship while still in school. Any advice on how to do that?

Shortly after SPI, when I got back to campus, I was able to get coffee with the director of Georgetown University Press (GUP), thanks to one of his former colleagues from Princeton University Press, who I had met at the NYU Center for Publishing Career Fair at SPI.

Although I still had one year of school left, I used my time at the career fair to learn more about the companies and ask about remote or summer internships they offered. Most of them were very helpful in reviewing my resume, sharing advice, and in this case, putting me in contact with one of their colleagues!

When reaching out to the director of GUP for an informational interview, I used all of the tips I learned at SPI regarding email etiquette. During our meeting, he brought up the possibility of taking me on as an intern and about two weeks later, I was able to start.

My experience at SPI and at GUP has taught me that people in the publishing industry are passionate about what they do and are always happy to share their experience and expertise.

You’ll be graduating from George Washington University in May (congratulations!) What do you hope to do after graduation?

I hope to stay in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area after graduation and begin working in publishing whether it’s through a university press or an organization that publishes its own content. I also hope to get my master’s in English or Linguistics in the near future to supplement me in my publishing career.

Ready to apply for SPI 2020? Visit our website for our complete brochure, including scholarship opportunities, lists of sample workshops and classes, and more. Applications are due March 16, 2020.

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