Andrea St. Aubin graduated from the MS in Publishing Program in December 2014. Originally from South Carolina, Andrea received a BA in English from the University of South Carolina in June 2013. It was always her dream to move to New York City and pursue a career in book publishing, so she wasted no time when applying to grad school. She was very fortunate to be accepted into the Pace Publishing Program and to be chosen as a graduate assistant. Andrea’s favorite fiction author is Haruki Murakami, and she dreams of visiting Japan one day. She is a big kid at heart and will always watch cartoons and Disney movies. More than anything, Andrea loves the magic of words and storytelling.
Breana Swinehart: Hi Andrea! Could please share what your current official job title is and what your work involves?
Andrea St. Aubin: I am an Assistant Production Editor at Penguin Random House, working specifically with the imprints Putnam, Riverhead, Avery, and Blue Rider Press as part of the copyediting team.
Bre: How did you find your current position?
Andrea: I found this position by looking at the Penguin Random House career website. I was very lucky because I actually had no connections in this department. I landed this job with the help of my experience and never giving up.
Bre: Could you explain some of the work you do, such as how your department interacts with others in the company?
Andrea: The production editorial department is essentially the copyediting and proofreading group. We work closely with managing editorial and the production teams to ensure that t’s are crossed, i’s are dotted, and that en- and em-dashes are used correctly… among other things, of course. We’re the team you come to ensure correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style. I also get to check book jacket proofs and am in charge of checking reprint corrections as well as overseeing paperback conversions. I have always valued paperbacks, so this is a very important job to me.
Bre: What was it about this particular field of publishing that made you interested in pursuing it?
Andrea: I knew I wanted to work in a department that would deal more directly with the words themselves. Copyediting and proofreading is a form of protecting the dignity and truth of the content, making sure that the finished product is of expected quality. I know how troubling it can be as a book lover to see a mistake, so I love that I can be a part of catching them.
Bre: Tell us some aspects of your job that you love—what are some things that make your excited about what you’re doing now?
Andrea: I love when I catch a mistake that may have been overlooked the first time around. Normally there are very few mistakes, so it is always a fun surprise to find one and fix it. Looking at book jacket proofs and seeing how their text copy changes is interesting as well. It has to be seen by every department, so you never know who might suggest what. Working with all the different departments and coordinating with them is very fulfilling. I love feeling like I’m part of a larger team. At the end of the day, my favorite thing about my position is, of course, being surrounded by books! Seeing the books you have worked on being sold in book stores? Now that is the ultimate reward.
Bre: You’ve worked in the past with the Women’s National Book Association—can you explain how that helped you with your professional career?
Andrea: Being a part of the WNBA is great because you get to interact with other strong and intelligent women who have worked in the industry. There are many great connections, but it is also a wonderful inspiration to be surrounded by likeminded people.
Bre: Could you share more details about the path you took to get where you are in publishing?
Firstly, remember that everyone’s path is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. I knew I wanted to work in publishing when I was in middle school. At first I wanted to work for a fashion magazine, but after having an encouraging high school English teacher, I decided I wanted to work in book publishing.
In undergrad I majored in English, and I worked for the university press for several months for some experience. I knew I wanted to move to New York right after undergrad, but I wanted a secure way to get my foot in the door. In my junior year of undergrad I applied to several graduate publishing programs. In the end I chose Pace because of its tight-knit program and the opportunity I received to be a graduate assistant.
During my second semester in the program I began interning at a book packager called MTM Publishing. I highly recommend MTM for anyone who would like to start out with an independent company. I continued with MTM even after I graduated in December 2014 and worked there up until I started at Penguin in May of this year. Throughout that time, I continued to look for positions with larger companies, but I was not successful. It took a year and a half from the time I graduated from Pace to land the job I have now. I am very glad I had the dedication and patience to continue searching and interviewing, and that I had a group of people who believed in me never to give up.
Bre: Looking back on your time at Pace, how do you think your educational experiences from the MS Publishing Programs helped you prepare for your current job?
Andrea: The program definitely taught me valuable knowledge about the industry that I may never have been able to learn elsewhere. It is a great feeling to know about how different departments work before jumping into a big company. Knowing the terminology and understanding the hierarchies made me feel more confident when I first began.
Bre: What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?
Andrea: My favorite part of the program was being able to learn all of this wonderful information from these amazing professors who have worked or are working in the industry. I am so thankful I could learn from Professor Soares, Professor Levitz, and Professor Lian. All of the professors were great, but these three in particular were important in my publishing journey. Professor Raskin was a great support as well and always encouraged me to keep going. I also loved working on the blog as a graduate assistant in the computer lab and being able to interact with my classmates as they came in to work on homework and papers. We were a community who all supported one another and strived for similar goals.
Bre: What advice would you give students entering the field to set themselves apart from other applicants?
Andrea: Try to make as many connections as you can. This can be difficult at first, especially for more quiet and shy individuals like myself. However, if you never try to talk to someone, you will never know what could arise from that connection. The program was great for meeting different people in the industry because of the various speakers we had. If you don’t feel like you can introduce yourself to someone personally, grab their business card, and shoot them an email, thanking them for the lecture. That could be the start of a relationship.
I was lucky to have a handful of connections, and a few helped me land interviews. However, I had no connections when I landed my job at Penguin. I truly believe that my experience and my knowledge helped to set me apart from the other applicants—always keep learning and gaining experience. Stick it out as long as you can. Your drive and determination will allow you to prevail.
Lastly, be yourself! You will be working with the person who interviews you, so you want to be honest with both yourself and the interviewer.
Bre: Where do you see yourself professionally in the future, possibly 5 to 10 years into your career?
Andrea: In five to ten years I hope to be in a senior role, whether it be in production editorial, managing editorial, or editorial. I also hope that I will be working with children’s picture books. I love working with adult fiction and nonfiction now, but picture books are my ultimate goal. Even though I did not immediately enter the children’s book field, I know that what I am doing now will be incredibly valuable.
Bre: Thank you so much for your insights! Is there anything else you would like to mention to students reading this?
Andrea: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If this is truly your dream, don’t give up. I know how hard it can be when you don’t achieve what you want at first. But everything you do has meaning, as long as you believe in it. Surround yourself with people who believe in you when you have days when you can’t seem to believe in yourself. However, if you find that what you thought you wanted is no longer what you want, then that is okay. The most important thing you can do is to try. This life is yours, so follow your heart, whenever you can.
Bre: Thank you, Andrea, for your thoughtful and encouraging responses!