Career Workshop Day at the Fresh Air Fund

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On October 28th, The Fresh Air Fund and YPG Cares got together to organize a career workshop for middle-schoolers. Miriam Tuliao from Penguin Random House, Erin Flaaen from Simon and Schuster, Keilin Huang from Lee and Low Books, Sharon Watson from Penguin Random House and me, Shiva Ramachandran from Apress, Springer Nature, all volunteered to speak to the students about our jobs in publishing.

Erin discussed her work in Marketing at Simon and Schuster. For her presentation, she set up a table full of books, which the students were immediately excited about. They were separated into groups, given an activity sheet, and told to select a book from the table. The goal was to have them place the book into a genre, and come back with a list of similar books within that genre. It was a marketing lesson created to teach the students to identify what genre a book fits in and how we market it to different audiences. Some students worked on the YA fantasy, Zeroes. They had already read extensively in the genre and were able to list dystopian novel after dystopian novel to fill up the list. More interestingly, it led to a larger list of dystopian themed media, including video games and movies. We launched into a lively discussion about why dystopia was such a big theme for young adults.

I talked to them about how I acquire books as an editor at Apress, a tech publisher. I acquire and commission books in my subject area. I also brainstorm with authors about topics where books need to be written. I divided the students up into subject area groups: Fashion, Tech, Current Events, Cookbooks. I asked them to pitch a book idea within their topics and find a person who could write it, and then come up to the front of the room to present. All the students came up great ideas for books and authors who could potentially write for them. The Current Affairs team proposed a book on DACA and spoke passionately about why that book needed to be published. The Fashion team found two Instagram influencers who they recognized as having a significant following. All teams were engaged and very insightful.

Miriam, who is a Library Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House, talked the students about how she sold into the library market. As an example, she talked about the book Portraits of Courage, a collection of George W. Bush’s paintings. Miriam told us about how part of her marketing efforts included connecting with libraries in the hometowns of each of the veterans featured in the book. For her activity, Miriam distributed pages from the PRH book Women in Sports which chronicled different athletes. She asked each team to identify libraries that would want a copy of the book. The teams had a great time picking an athlete from the pages and finding cities, towns, and countries where each of the athletes had made an impact.

I hope we were able to give the students an overview and represent different kinds of work within the industry. As a student lamented to me that she “couldn’t take all the books” on the table, I told her she should start blogging/vlogging, so that she could collect free books from authors and publishers to review. She even seemed to seriously consider it!

I was also grateful to have had the chance to interact with fellow publishing folks and learn more about things I didn’t know. All in all, it was a fabulous event, and I’m grateful to YPG and The Fresh Air Fund for organizing it and allowing me to be a part of it.


This article was contributed by YPG member Shiva Ramachandran. For more information, visit our Contributing Writers page.


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