Alumni in the Spotlight: April 2014

Alum_Spotlight3Adynah Johnson is a Brooklyn, NY native, raised in an Afro-Latin, Caribbean and American household. She has always had a passion for stories, culture and the how lives intertwine. Adynah graduated with honors from Long Island University holding a Bachelors of Arts degree in Creative Writing and is a recent graduate of the MS Publishing program with Pace University. She currently works with Tor Books an imprint with MacMillan as an Associate Publicist.

Professor Denning: What have you been doing professionally since graduating from the MS in Publishing Program?

picture of AdynahAdynah: Since graduating from the MS in Publishing Program in 2012 I have dabbled in a quite a few different areas of publishing. I worked within the publicity department of a fashion magazine for a number of months while building a used bookselling platform called Ink and Vine and now I’m currently Associate Publicist with Tor/Forge Books the Sci-fi, fantasy and mystery imprint within MacMillan Publishers.

Professor Denning:  How did you end up at MacMillan? What is unique about the company?

Adynah: I love books; they are not only the repositories of human knowledge by also gateways into the varied perspectives of human beings. Books allow you to travel into the depths of your own imagination through words; which is an extraordinary thing! Working within a science-fiction and fantasy imprint, the books we publish are the epitome of the combined realities of the conscious, subconscious and the unconscious mind(s) which makes for great fiction! The choice was clear!

Professor Denning: What is a typical work day like for you? What does your job entail?

Adynah: As an Associate Publicist I am responsible for publicizing the assigned book through varied mediums. I typically receive galley copies of a book also known as Advance Reader Copies (ARC’s) and disseminate them to a well groomed media list of long lead publications. After that, I strategize and plan other ways to gain publicity for the book. I work closely with editorial and the author(s) and plan for a possible book trailer (now that we are very much in the digital transition period of publishing), blog tours, traveling book tours, conventions like Comic Con, et al…. Shortly after, I disseminate finished books which are the hard copy of the book 2-3 weeks before publication date (also known as the “release date”) to a diverse number of publications including radio and TV. Throughout this time a lot of what us publicists like to call “pitching” takes place, we pitch the book to any relevant outlet. Then there is a bounty of following-up with media where we receive review confirmations, pending’s or the inevitable no response; this is where the pushy publicist reputation was born. Once the book has been reviewed in the choice publication(s), I share with my team at Tor and we bask in our accomplishments!

Professor Denning: What are some of the things that a publicist does that many people may not know about?

Adynah: Publicists are actually quite level headed, there are strange stereotypes about publicists being very talkative, aggressive and constantly inundated with tasks and while yes this career can be quite hectic; publicists must remain calm, clear minded and focused—which has been my experience. What many people don’t know is that literary publicists are some of the most important people in the process of bookselling, next to the editors. If publishing was a plant, the editor would be the sun, and the publicist would be the water, working together to help it grow but have two very separate and essential functions.

artemisProfessor Denning:  Do you work on “blog tours”? Can you explain what those are?

Adynah: Yes! Blog tours are great because they are a new way to gain visibility for a book most particularly if a book has a very niche readership. A blog tour is simply one type of online publicity. One difference between a blog tour and online publicity in general is timing. Blog tours start and end on designated dates.

Professor Denning: What do you think the biggest trends are in book publishing today? How do they impact the role of the publicist?

Adynah: There are quite a few emerging trends in publishing and the way readers are choosing books. The biggest would of course be through digital means. Purchasing books online through the leviathan that is Amazon and other online book sellers, Goodreads is a fantastic innovative tool for readers to communicate with each other and for authors to gain publicity through giveaways, and there are countless others, but I figured I’d give big well known platforms as examples. The digital shift impacts the publicist is various ways; one way is now instead of being lambasted because of constant phone calls to media, our primary source of communication is email and now the use of Twitter and Facebook gives us greater insight into what is current, and who the power players are in book reviewing.

Professor Denning: Were you always interested in publishing? What led you in that direction? When and why did you decide to pursue your Master’s Degree in Publishing?

Adynah: I was always interested in books, reading, creative writing and literature and had no idea that there was a way for these interests to coalesce into a tangible gainful career. I thought my only options were as a writer or a teacher, but after diligent research and the unquestionable desire to get my Master’s degree, I landed in publishing with enthusiasm and curiosity.

Professor Denning:  How did your publishing education and degree help prepare you for your career?  What were some of the highlights of your time at Pace?

Adynah: The question should be, how has it not helped prepare me!  Each class, teacher and project has pushed me towards greater understanding of the industry all while in an intimate setting. Some highlights would be my supportive classmates who I am still friends with today, as well as my Ethics in Publishing course with Professor Soares—great class environment, brilliant educator and applicable lessons.

california bonesProfessor Denning: What advice do you have for those trying to break into the business?

Adynah: Never stop learning, don’t be afraid to ask questions and network. Follow your favorite writers on Twitter, Facebook, read Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Publishers Lunch, really immerse yourself. Most importantly, not every working or internship experience is going to be the same; you’re allowed to try new things until you find the right place for you.

Professor Denning:  How important do you think networking is?  Do you still keep in touch with your Pace classmates?

Adynah: Networking is imperative, the job I have now is because of my predecessor from a past employment opportunity. I reached out, told her of my interest in the company she was working for, a few weeks later I had a successful interview and landed the job, and all it took was a kind email to ignite my future! I definitely still keep in touch with my amazing classmates from Pace. Each is hardworking, talented and passionate about books.

Professor Denning: What was the topic of your thesis paper? Do you have any words of wisdom for those students who still need to write theirs?

Adynah: My thesis topic was The Future of Art Book Publishing. My word of advice is to start early! And ask for help! Be innovative, be that student that starts the forum for thesis questions, there are many tools at your disposal, use them and make them work for you!

Professor Denning: What skills do you think are essential to have in order to be successful in publishing today?

Adynah: There are various essential tools for success in publishing, but the most important are: stay current with what is happening in the industry, make time to get to know the heavy hitters and the influencers, read, read and read some more, never stop learning.

Professor Denning: Any other advice you’d like to offer to our students?

Adynah: Make the most out of your classes and talk to your teachers. The class sizes are small enough for you to develop a relationship with your instructors, ask questions and make friends. The industry is small and you want to make sure you shine your whole way through!

Thank you Adynah!