The Many Faces of the Publishing Industry

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This article was contributed by YPG member Richelle Zakrzewski. If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Tara Powers at tpowers@wwnorton.com.

What I love most about publishing is how diverse and creative the people in the industry are. No two people are alike and no two people have quite the same background. When I made the move to publishing myself a little over a year ago, I was worried I would be the only person without a traditional background or an internship in publishing. What I discovered, much to my delight, was how that notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

My own background is completely unlike what one would expect to find in an industry built upon writing, editing, and the production and marketing of books. Before coming to Pearson, I worked in the U.S. Senate for nearly four years, specializing in Department of State and U.S. Immigration cases. My undergraduate experiences were also geared toward politics and government- I studied British politics at Oxford University and interned in the U.S. House of Representatives. Nevertheless, I decided to switch gears and pursue a career in publishing, something that I eventually discovered was more akin to my real passions.

What really attracted me to publishing, though, (aside from my love for books, books, and more books) was the diversity of its workforce. In my office alone, I had colleagues with backgrounds in opera, art, comic-book writing, education, social work, fashion, and finance. To better illustrate the sheer diversity of the publishing industry, meet five other YPG members who have backgrounds as creative and colorful as they come.

Lauren Felsenstein: From the Weinstein Company to the World of Books

Lauren Felsenstein, an Emory University graduate with a background in creative writing and film, worked in film PR for five years before deciding to try something different. She worked with the Weinstein Company and Dimension Films, first as an assistant and then as manager of publicity, handling East Coast national publicity for Dimension. “After doing quite a bit of research, I realized book publicity might be a great move. I’d still be doing something I was passionate about,” Lauren said. She now works at Scholastic Books as a publicist, collaborating with the media to get the word out about Scholastic books and authors.

Karl Jones: Inside the World of Non-Profits and Museums

The creative breadth of Karl Jones, now an editorial assistant at Penguin, is really intriguing. “In DC, I worked for a non-profit grant-making organization that specialized in raising money for organizations addressing solutions to ending hunger and malnutrition. While there, I also threw some fun performance-based parties that featured queer musicians, performance artists and DJs, which is how I got my job at the art museum where I was hired to manage their public programming calendar and bring new audiences into the museum,” Karl wrote. When asked what led him to a career in publishing, Karl explained, “I wanted to be in New York and on the creative side of the literary world.”

Lara Wygle: From Prague to Pearson

It makes sense that Lara Wygle would work in educational publishing. Before joining Pearson’s faculty and field services department, Lara spent a year abroad in the Czech Republic after earning her TOEFL certificate. She had also been an early childhood education major at Miami University of Ohio and an education grad student at The Ohio State University. “I thought I could use these degrees in a creative way. I love art history, museums, and academia,” Lara explained. Her mother, who is a college professor, also encouraged her to think about publishing as a way to combine her passions.

Daniel Schwartz: Publishing Combined with an Economic Sense of Mind

Daniel Schwartz had an accomplished background in finance before deciding to make the leap to publishing. He received an MBA from the Columbia Business School and spent several years working in a strategy consulting firm. Despite this professional success, he was looking to work in a media/ entertainment company since that was where his interests were. “I’m currently the VP of digital product services for Macmillan. In that role, I’m in charge of our e-book business as well as some other digital efforts,” Daniel summarized.

Tara Abaring: The Madame Curie of Publishing

Tara Abaring, a Wesleyan graduate with a background in neuroscience and biochemistry, is not someone you’d expect to encounter in publishing. As an undergraduate, Tara worked in labs as a technician, conducting research, running reactions, and rodent testing. In her current role with Wiley as an editorial assistant of clinical content and global clinical solutions, she perfectly marries her advanced knowledge of science and medicine with her talent for writing by working on a Website for doctors akin to Web MD. “There are many ways to be innovative,” Tara explained, also noting that this is “an exciting time to be in publishing.”

The diversity of publishing never ceases to amaze, and these are only a handful of stories about just how unique this profession really is. The common thread among those profiled here? We all wish we would have come to publishing earlier in our careers!

Richelle Zakrzewski currently works with Pearson as a representative for the humanities and social sciences based in Ohio. Aside from publishing, she is most passionate about world travel. Her favorite cities are London, Warsaw, Rome, and Barcelona. She and her sister are traveling to Korea and Japan this fall. Since coming to Pearson in April 2011, Richelle has never been happier.

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