Ebony LaDelle is a December 2010 graduate of the MS in Publishing program. Ebony began her career working at the Howard University bookstore as an undergraduate, before moving to New York to pursue her publishing career. Ebony, initially interested in magazine publishing, interned at Rodale and then as a Marketing Assistant at American Express Publishing before deciding to pursue her passion for working with books. In January of 2012, Ebony began working as a Marketing Associate in the Corporate Marketing department at Simon&Schuster and recently switched roles there to work as a Digital Marketing Associate. Ebony received a full scholarship to the MS in Publishing program at Pace and served as the Graduate Assistant in the multimedia lab while she completed her graduate studies. In this interview, Ebony will tell us a bit about the path she has taken in terms of her publishing career, and share her thoughts about working in this dynamic and ever-changing industry.
Prof. Denning: Hi Ebony, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. You are a recent graduate of the program but you successfully landed a position upon graduating. Can you tell us about how you got to where you are?
Ebony: Thanks for spotlighting me! Well, upon graduation I actually landed a position in digital advertising. Looking back on it, even though the job wasn’t in publishing, it prepared me a lot for my current position. I worked in that role for about 9 months, while still diligently seeking a position in book publishing. Finally I was able to secure an interview with Simon &Schuster and get a job!
Prof. Denning: What does your job as a Digital Marketing Associate entail?
Ebony: Right now I’m still learning the ropes but my duties consist of updating our social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), as well as researching new social media platforms for our top books. Simon & Schuster also submits articles for Yahoo Shine through our verticals (tipsonhealthyliving.com, tipsonlifeandlove.com, tipsonhomeandstyle.com, and tipsoncareerandmoney.com), so I also post articles through Shine. I assist in coding Simon&Schuster’s newsletters, help with researching the success of our social media campaigns, and much more.
Prof. Denning: Can you tell us about the department you work in? Is “digital marketing” a relatively new career in publishing houses?
Ebony: I’d say the term “new” is relative. Digital marketing is by far a much newer department in the industry, but I feel like at this point the shock of digital has died down. Every publishing house recognizes a need for a digital staff and now it’s about learning how to structure departments to incorporate more digital in it. For instance, at Simon&Schuster, there is a realization that not only is a digital group important, but that each imprint should have their own designated online marketing managers to cater to the specific needs of each title.
Prof. Denning: How did you prepare for a career in this area? What skills did you need in order to qualify for this position?
Ebony: For me, my career in digital advertising helped me to transition into this field, and for most of the people in this department they made their start in the digital department in another industry. However, for students interested in working for digital, my advice would be to apply for digital internships and really learn the field. Read websites such as Mashable.com (http://mashable.com/) to find out what’s new in the industry, and learn about as many social media platforms as you can. Many times being a digital intern allows you to be more creative than any other internship because it’s a new field for everyone, so new ideas are always welcome. Getting these types of internships will definitely help you land an entry-level position in that line of work.
Prof. Denning: How do you work with the other members of the publishing team (Editorial, Marketing, Production, Sales)?
Ebony: It’s a collaborative effort. If a book is coming out that is top priority, we sit down with editorial and marketing mostly to discuss opportunities within the digital world and potential partnerships, special promotions, etc. Sometimes the marketing team has something in mind that they want us to implement, and other times we pitch an idea to them and take ownership over the project.
Prof. Denning: What is your favorite social media tool? Do you have an example of a particularly creative or successful campaign using that tool?
Ebony: My favorite tool right now is Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/). I am a very hands on, DIY kind of girl so this is the perfect platform for me. I’m able to get great ideas and organize them. One example of a particularly creative Pinterest board would be West Elm (www.westelm.com/ ). They do a great job of telling a story with their furniture by pinning pictures of their pieces in different settings (small size apartments, experimenting with different color palettes, etc).
Prof. Denning: Can you tell us a bit about Simon&Schuster? What is it like to work there? Where are they in terms of digital publishing? What are some of their most successful initiatives?
Ebony: Simon&Schuster is a phenomenal company to work for. You can tell the people in this company are here because they genuinely love what they do. I’ve met great people who have taken me under their wing and shown me the ropes. In terms of where they are in digital publishing, they are definitely at the forefront. Simon&Schuster is not afraid to try new things when it comes to marketing their books. Currently there is a campaign going on for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book Total Recall where you can find out the front and back cover by tweeting about it using the #totalrecallbook hashtag. Make sure to check it out! http://www.schwarzenegger.com/totalrecallbook/
Prof. Denning: Has social media played a role in the success and growth of eBooks?
Ebony: I think for self-published writers it definitely has played a role. We recently acquired the title Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (http://www.jamiemcguire.com/) who self-published it first as an ebook and used social media to promote it.
Ebony: Yes and no. What I have found at Simon&Schuster is that printed titles are still very popular still among children, which makes sense to me because children are very hands on. I think it is a shared market; books are still popular, and studies show that most readers of physical books are also readers of ebook readers/iPads. Now instead of going on vacation and lugging 5 books, you’re able to store 500 on your device. These tablets now just give readers more options.
Prof: Denning: What do you think the biggest trends in publishing are today?
Ebony: I think one trend that everyone should be on the lookout for is enhanced e-books. Now, more than ever, tablets are being incorporated in the classrooms to create an experience where teachers can share information such as notes, videos, article links and much more. Publishers are definitely looking for ways now to enhance a reader’s experience using e-books, which I think it’s a great idea. It gives the reader options.
Prof. Denning: Would you like to speculate on the future of book publishing? What do you think the industry will look like it 20 years? 30? 50?
Ebony: This is never an easy thing to do, but I think the scariest times are over. With the emergence of digital media I believe it shook up a lot of people in the industry because it was unknown. But it’s all about adapting, and I think the industry is doing that. People love publishers because they know when they pick up a book, they will read a well-edited, overall great book. Book publishing will be around for many years to come I suspect.
Prof. Denning: Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.
Ebony: The publishing program at Pace has prepared me by giving me a broad overview of the book and magazine publishing industries. I was able to be in a classroom with industry professionals and got advice and guidance from them on how to enter into the field of publishing. This was was nice because I felt like they didn’t sugarcoat the reality of what is going on in the industry today for me. I was able to ask questions that I might not have been able to ask in a professional setting. Moreover, I was able to network with my peers who are looking to go into the same industry-it becomes easier to find jobs when you have great contacts.
Prof. Denning: Have you always been interested in marketing and publishing? Where did that passion come from?
Ebony: I have always had an interest in publishing, but my interest in marketing didn’t start until I started working at the Howard University bookstore (HUB). At the time I chose to work there because I needed a job, it was on campus, and the position allowed me to work closely in the field I loved. However, I found that even though I enjoy writing, I don’t enjoy editing as much. With marketing, I’m able to be creative, and that was what I found I was able to do working at the HUB. My boss was very supportive of my aspirations and allowed me to come up with ideas for the bookstore. One, which is my proudest accomplishment there, was creating our Howard University Bookstore circular, which has been featured in College Store magazine as being an innovative and cost effective campaign. I love the idea of watching an idea grow and take off.
Prof Denning: Where did you intern when you were in Graduate school? Was it a valuable experience?
Ebony: I secured an internship/temp position at American Express Publishing. Originally, I thought I wanted a career in magazine publishing, so I enjoyed taking this internship because it solidified for me that magazine publishing wasn’t the route I wanted to go. I was a 6-month position, and my responsibilities included doing research for potential advertisers and helping with RFPs. It was an amazing opportunity and an amazing company, but it was then I began to realize I wanted to work in book publishing.
Prof. Denning: What was the topic of your thesis paper? What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers?
Ebony: My thesis topic was The Relevancy of African-American Publications. For me, I’ve always wanted to work in magazines, and with the shift in having an African-American president, and having one of the top media moguls being a black woman, I wanted to research if working for a black magazine has as much importance as it did in the 60s.
My advice on choosing your research topic is one, make sure it’s something you’re extremely interested in. Although I changed fields, this topic has always been interesting to and made doing that research that much easier. Also, I’d say to choose a topic that will help you in your job area of interest. If you’re able to research something cutting-edge, it’s a great conversation starter for an interview. It gives you one up on the competition, with all the changes in this industry everyone is curious to see what someone else can bring to the table. It makes you all the more desirable.
Prof. Denning: What do you think are the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?
Ebony: I think it is important to have an overall sense of the industry, which is what attracted me to the program. It really allows you to decide what area interests you best, and in the professional setting it allows you to understand other departments. It comes in handy when you have a deadline, for example, and someone gives you an excuse. If you have a general idea of how everything works, it will allow you to ask more questions and recognize if you’re being fed the truth or a lie. I also think it’s important to take advantage of any and all digital classes Pace has to offer. This will at least give you a general idea of how the department runs and even if that’s not where you want your career to go, it will definitely help you stand out that you have SOME training. For those of you interested in book publishing, Professor Soares teaches a great General Interest Book class.
Prof. Denning: Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?
Ebony: Be persistent. Publishing is a hard field to get into, but once you’re in the possibilities are endless. Use this time to really intern and figure out what area you want to be in. Once you’ve figured that out, hit the ground running. Make sure to attend events given by the publishing program, and look for events outside of school too. I’ve heard a hiring manager say before they had over 500 applicants for a position, so it’s important to find a way to distinguish yourself from everyone else vying for the same position.
Prof. Denning: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview Ebony!