Sydney Jarrard graduated from the MS in Publishing program in 2008. Since then, Sydney has worked at some reputable publishing companies. She first worked at Springer Publishing where she served as a Publications and Marketing Assistant, she was employed by Hachette as a Trade Sales Marketing Coordinator, and is now currently employed by the American Booksellers Association as a Content Writer and Editor.
Professor Denning: Hello, Sydney. Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been doing since graduating from the program?
Sydney: As I approached graduation in 2008, I began interviewing with many publishers for entry-level jobs, and though I wasn’t committed to working with one of the (at the time) Big Six, I was sure that I wanted to explore the world of trade books. I started at Hachette Book Group three weeks after graduating, and I was excited to be working in the sales and marketing department because I was on the front lines of the company, working with bookstores and sales reps and attending industry events. It was amazing to essentially launch my trade books career with such a renowned publisher and in a very mature role, being the point person for a huge team of field and in-house reps, planning regional trade show exhibits, and handling the galleys for the Little, Brown imprint. I learned an amazing amount about the book business at Hachette, and my experiences helped me transition easily to the American Booksellers Association, where I continue to build my skills and knowledge.
Professor Denning: How have you seen the publishing industry change in the six years since you entered the workforce?
Sydney: My internships introduced me to the industry in a hands-on way, but all of it was so new at the time that I didn’t understand how dramatically the industry was changing. Both 2008 and 2009 were rocky for the book world, both with the downsizing of publishing houses and the shuttering of brick-and-mortar bookstores, but I do feel that publishing is an industry that has handled many changes (we are certainly no longer in the time of the daily cocktail-infused business lunches) and it is simply entering a new era. One of the most exiting things I’ve seen in recent years is the way customers actually obtain the books they are looking for. People are inundated with options when it comes to to figuring out what book to buy and where to buy it, and the “buy local” movement has served as a reminder to customers of the benefit of having a hometown bookstore. I have seen the things shift from people wanting easy, online purchases to wanting the experience of shopping for something in a physical store, to meeting business owners and discussing products, and to enjoying reading as a social endeavor.
Professor Denning: Tell us about the ABA. What do they do? What is your role there?
Sydney: The ABA is a not-for-profit trade organization for independent, brick-and-mortar bookstores. It provides advocacy, education, and networking opportunities for member bookstores, and my role at the ABA is in the content department. I primarily write for our newsletter, Bookselling This Week, a role that involves generating story ideas and interviewing and writing about anything related to our independent bookstore members, like profiles of new bookstores, educational pieces about best practices, and coverage of industry events and news, among other items.
Professor Denning: What drew you to your current job as a Content Writer and Editor?
Sydney: Working with independent bookstores at the ABA means that I get to grow the relationships with bookstores that I built while with the sales team at Hachette. I’m at the major industry events, like BookExpo America and Winter Institute, and I’m always in the loop about what is happening in the business; my day is a constant stream of information, and I enjoy that. I get to speak with booksellers one-on-one nearly every day, and I’m continuing to meet new people throughout the industry and at all levels through the course of my daily work. It’s an opportunity to continue growing in the business, which is my ultimate goal.
Professor Denning: What are some unexpected challenges you face in your current position?
Sydney: My work at Hachette and in my internships left me very prepared for my job at ABA. One of my biggest challenges, though I’m aware that it’s totally unfair to complain about this, is that I can never find enough time to be ahead of the curve when reading the next big book. At Hachette, I focused mainly on the Little, Brown list and had the manuscripts months ahead of time so I was always prepared. Now at ABA, I want to read as much as possible so that every meeting I have with a bookseller can start off right — with a discussion of our latest favorite book — and with so many excellent titles coming out each season, it’s impossible to keep up.
Professor Denning: You’ve previously worked in marketing. Do you have any advice for students trying to pursue something similar?
Sydney: The marketing team that I worked on at Hachette was designed specifically to serve the sales team; we handled things like co-op advertising, stock displays, galley mailings, and any fun merchandise that bookstores needed for giveaways or décor. While it didn’t involve some of the traditional aspects of marketing, like developing plans for advertising our titles, it was a critical cog in the machinery as we gave the booksellers their first peek at what was coming up — items we hoped they would then stock their shelves with. I worked with all of the departments in the company, from editorial to production to marketing to advertising, so understanding the whole system of a publishing house was essential. Students looking to get into marketing need to approach it with enthusiasm and creativity and find a way in the door; many jobs in publishing are so entwined with one another that a foot in the door can be the best way to land your dream job in just a few years.
Professor Denning: How is the publishing industry different from the two different standpoints as an Editor/Writer and as a Marketer?
Sydney: Working for Hachette gave me a very deep understanding of that publisher as an entity in the industry. I knew the inner workings inside and out, and I knew all the authors and titles for seasons and seasons, as well as how to get our titles into the hands of the ever-important book buyers. I looked at the industry specifically as a means to get Hachette titles into the hands of customers, and to see how to best equip our sales reps to make the most sales. My work at ABA has broadened my perspective in the industry; I look at the publishing houses, the wholesalers and distributors, and the bookstores all at once, and I can see the functions of each in a broader light. I also am coming at the industry with the mindset of a writer looking to tell the whole story, so from my current standpoint, I’m seeing the business in its entirety, rather than from inside a particular house. I wouldn’t say that the industry is different from one perspective to another, but my experiences of it certainly are.
Professor Denning: What did you write your thesis paper on? Do you have any advice for students currently writing their thesis?
Sydney: I wrote my thesis on the emerging and often controversial trends in young adult literature. At the time that I was writing it, many of the now-popular YA books hadn’t even hit the shelves, much less the big screen, and it was interesting to see how dramatically young adult literature had changed from the time of Judy Blume’s Forever to the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar. I interned in the young adult editorial department at HarperCollins for a summer, and that is where I discovered the significance of YA books, beyond my own interest in them. Having worked with troubled teens while earning my undergraduate degree, I knew the special meaning many of these titles could have for them, and I wanted to explore that more deeply — and just how publishers managed to market items with controversial material. Ultimately, I chose a topic that I was incredibly interested in. My advice for students beginning their theses would be to write about something you love. You’re in the publishing program for a reason, so find what intrigues you, investigate it, learn it through and through, and come out the other side with an absolute expertise on a topic. It’s also an excellent opportunity to meet people in different areas of the industry and get your name out there as an eager, new face in the business.
Professor Denning: How do you think the program helped to prepare you for your career? Tell us about your experience at Pace.
Sydney: I completed my undergraduate degree in English with a writing concentration and knew that my heart was in the world of words. Pace was what helped me realize how amazing it could be to see a book come to life, from it being acquired by an editor to seeing galleys printed for bookstores to seeing it on the shelves several months later. To bring a book from a manuscript into a physical object is so exciting, and I learned about the processes, every step of the way, that take a book to completion. Between my classroom learning on everything from accounting to book making and my varied internships (in editorial at HarperCollins, in publicity at Simon & Schuster, and in marketing at Springer), I entered my role at Hachette very well prepared. Moreover, I went into it with established contacts who were eager to help me on my career path, and I had a definite edge over competitors in interviews because I came with both internships under my belt and a degree in the field.
Professor Denning: What advice do you have for those students about to enter the publishing industry?
Sydney: As much as the industry is changing now and will continue to change, it has always been changing. I never had any doubt when I was earning my degree that I was entering the right field, and despite the challenges that the industry faces, I fully believe that that is the nature of all industries; they ebb and flow. I would tell students entering the industry that, if this is what you want to do, be persistent, get your foot in the door, and meet anyone and everyone you can. It’s a small world, but it’s full of people who are excited about what they’re doing, and if they see that enthusiasm in you, they will take you along for the ride.
Professor Denning: Where do you see yourself headed in the future in regards to your career, 5 or 10 years down the line?
Sydney: I don’t imagine myself in a world anyplace other than the book business. It was clear to me from the start, when I was testing the waters in publicity, editorial, and marketing during my internships, that all I wanted to do was be a part of it, in whatever form I was welcomed in. I have loved the industry from the moment I entered it, and though it’s an industry that is always changing, making it impossible to guess where I’ll end up, I know I will continue to move forward and seize the opportunities that are offered to me.
Professor Denning: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Sydney: As I mentioned, get to know everyone you can and maintain those relationships. At the very least, at the industry events you’ll have friends and coworkers to mingle with, but these are envied jobs (let’s face it, working in publishing is really cool) and it’s important to stay in touch with the people you meet at Pace, both teachers and fellow students, at internships, and at your early jobs. Make sure to stay in the loop with industry news by reading Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Bookselling This Week, and Publishers Lunch. And always remember your business cards!
Thank you, Sydney!