Alumni in the Spotlight: November 2012

Tara Hart has worked with the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc. since starting as an intern in May 2008.  She joined the agency full time as the Contracts and Royalties Manager in September of that year.  Her primary responsibilities involve the negotiation of contract and processing of payments, as well as managing our internship program. In addition she has been working to evaluate the various options in the reprint arena and to successfully relaunch various titles into the marketplace.  To this end she has shepherded over eighty titles through the republication process and is looking forward to seeing many of these titles live again.  She earned her BA from Niagara University and her Masters in Publishing from Pace University. 


Prof. Denning:  Hi Tara and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been two years since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program.  What have you been doing professionally and personally since then?
Tara: I have been working at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc as the Contracts and Royalties Manager since the fall of 2008.  I handle the negotiation of all our domestic contracts and work with my colleagues in negotiating film, audio and translation agreements. I also have been working to explore reprint opportunities for our back-list and to date have placed over 80 titles back into the market.



Prof. Denning:  How has the publishing industry changed since you began your career? What was the work environment like then, as opposed to now, in terms of job opportunities?

Tara: I think that the publishing industry is facing more challenges since I began working in 2008, especially with the economic downturn, which led to a spate of layoffs and highly qualified people competing for similar jobs as new entrants to publishing. That said, I also think that this is a time of great opportunity for people who are willing to experiment, take chances, and make a difference and who are passionate about great books and introducing them to readers.  There are new opportunities to reach readers in new ways, to change the way people read and to effect the way the world thinks of books.



Prof. Denning:  How did your educational experience at Pace prepare you for your career in publishing?

Tara:  I strove in my time at Pace to take as many different types of classes as possible, while being aware of the strengths I possessed.  I also tried to make as many connections as possible with my fellow classmates and professors. This industry is one of personal connections, and using Pace as a starting point, I have founded friendships and professional connections that have served me well since leaving the program.



Prof. Denning:  What was the topic of your thesis paper?  What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers?

Tara:  My paper was on the terms of the proposed Google Books Settlement back in 2009. I decided to write on this topic as I was getting inundated with paperwork regarding the proposed settlement and realized that many authors and people in publishing had no idea what the settlement was about. I also wanted to address some of the issues I saw with the way it was worked out.  As for students who are still working on figuring out their topic, I would recommend that they read the industry news, in either Publisher’s Marketplace, Publisher’s Weekly or the New York Times Book Review, and try to identify areas that interest them.



Prof. Denning:  Have you always been interested publishing?  Where did that passion come from?
Tara: I wouldn’t say I’ve always been interested in publishing. I’ve always been interested in books and I tried for several years to foster an interest in being a librarian, including enrolling in a graduate program at the University of Albany- but it never felt like the right fit.  I was trolling through my local B&N and all of a sudden it hit me- where do books come from?! That brain storm led me to explore graduate programs in publishing and to attend the Pace program.


Prof. Denning:  What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?

Tara:  Obviously, my internship with JVNLA was a huge step in the direction of establishing a career in publishing. I worked with Jennifer over the course of a summer in reorganizing several filing systems in the office, and I showed an aptitude for contracts and a desire to learn more. At the end of the summer, I was offered a full time position working on contacts and royalties, as the agent who had been handling these areas moved to another literary agency.  In addition, I was able to connect with Michael Healey, who was the head of the Book Rights Registry at the time, to discuss the Google Books Settlement in detail since he was the David Pecker  Distinguished Visiting Professor of Publishing at Pace at the time. It was invaluable to speak with him and my interview with him gave my thesis an extra level of detail.



Prof. Denning:  How have you been involved in the program since graduating?  How do you feel that the program prepared you to work within a literary agency and with contracts?

Tara: I have spoken in General Interest Books classes for Professor Soares over the last two years, both in class and in online forums. I also try to pay it forward by interviewing and hiring Pace students as interns, when possible.



 Prof Denning:  Can you tell us a bit about Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc. and what it is like working there?  Do you enjoy working with contracts? 

Tara:  The number one thing I love about working at JVNLA is the books my colleagues work on. We represent authors who write everything, from picture books to serious non-fiction and anything in between. An added bonus is that I work with really amazing people, who each bring their own experience and expertise to the agency. We are a very collaborative office which makes it a pleasure to come to work. I enjoy working with contracts. I like fighting for my clients, to ensure that they get the best contract possible and then being there to explain the terms when authors have concerns or questions. While I didn’t know what I would end up doing when I decided to explore a career in publishing, I think that this job was the best possible one for me as I love creating order out of disorder.



Prof. Denning:  What is something you wish people knew about agents and agencies?   Do you come across many misconceptions? 

Tara:  I think for people outside of the publishing industry, they just don’t know what agents do in general. I find myself saying things like “Well did you ever see Jerry Maguire? Well, its sort of like that….but for authors and books.”  For people in the publishing industry, I think they understand what we do overall but they may not truly understand the breadth of our job. We are the author’s advocate, often their first editor (outside of their critque group) and, at least at JVNLA, we are there through thick and thin. We view ourselves as their partner for their career and take that very seriously.


Prof. Denning:  Tell us a bit about what your job entails and some of your duties? 

Tara:  To be honest, I have a long list of things that I do here. We joke that in literary agencies, and a small office to boot, we all wear many hats! I work with our agents to negotiate contract terms, enter the accepted deals into our database, negotiate contracts, route paperwork, and process payments and royalty statements. I also negotiate permissions for our clients’ work and deal with all of that paperwork. I manage our internship program, from connecting with various schools around the country to interviewing and checking references, and then I oversee our interns when they are in the office.  I have also been working extensively in our back-list program and have placed many titles back into the marketplace, with a long list waiting to be submitted. To date, we have over 80 titles placed with publishers, and I am enjoying the process of working with authors on titles that they think the world has forgotten. Lastly, I also read submissions and client manuscripts for the agents in the office.


Prof. Denning: As the number of book-to-movie adaptations continues to skyrocket, have you seen a change in the way contracts are negotiated? Have you had the opportunity to work on this type of document yet?

Tara:  I have seen that film contracts are still basically the same- but studios are only interested in projects that either touched them personally or made a lot of money already.  I have seen more change in publishing contracts as the increased desire to “enhance” eBooks can lead to consternation in the film industry, especially when the word “multi-media” is used in book contracts. I have worked with the contracts departments of various publishers to ensure that, in the event of conflict with these rights the publisher will work with us and the film company to resolve any problems.



Prof. Denning:  How does technology/social media fit into your current job?  Does the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency use a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to communicate with authors, publishers and readers?

Tara:  We use all forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest. Each of us has our own twitter account, as well as one handled by our VP who tweets for the agency. As for Facebook, we have both a profile and a fan page, which I help manage. We take our social media very seriously and want to manage the way our agency and clients are perceived as much as possible. We also see our own use of social media as an added benefit for our clients, as we are familiar with each of these sites and can help our clients use them to the best possible advantage.



Prof Denning:  What do you think the future holds for book publishers?  Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers, iPads and Kindles have forever changed publishing in a positive or negative way?
Tara: I think that people decrying the death of the book are sorely mistaken. While I have concerns about the way eBook pricing will impact publishing, along with the DOJ case and settlement, I think that the written word has a long life and these new formats can only help get more people into reading. As long as people are reading in some way or form, I’m happy.



Prof. Denning:  Do think that any genre in particular has benefited from the increased use of ebooks/reading devices? 

Tara: Its been pretty clear that genre readers, primarily romance and science fiction/fantasy readers have been the quickest to convert to eBook reading. It’s also slowly moving into most areas of fiction. Non-fiction has been the hardest to convert readers, but I do think that it will happen, though perhaps not to the same extent. I was just reading the most recent Pew Survey, which seems to suggest that we will see a leveling off on eReader and eBook adoption in the next 3-5 years, which will be interesting.



Prof: Denning:  What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?  What are the biggest challenges that publishers face as a result of these trends?

Tara: I think that self-publishing is one of the largest challenges to traditional publishing currently, but in the end it may end up being a boon as readers get tired of sifting through thousands upon thousands of books to find that some are so poorly written that they don’t even justify the $2.99 price the customer paid. That said, I do think that publishers should look at ways to justify themselves to their authors, by looking again at escalators for trade paperbacks and for eBook sales and in putting together marketing and publicity plans that involve more than an Author chat on Twitter or a blog tour.



Prof. Denning:  Would you like to speculate on the future ebooks?  Books in general?  What areas to you think will be the most impacted (textbooks, childrens, trade, graphic novels, romance etc.)?
Tara:  I find the idea of all electronic text books to be slightly challenging but it may end up being the wave of the future as school budgets are cut as it may be more cost effective to by a software license as opposed to new physical books.  I do think that childrens picture books, graphic novels and comics have huge potential in the eBook market with the advent of new devices, such as the Kindle Fire and the iPad, allowing for fixed layouts and engagement with image focused content in ways not previously possible in electronic formats. I also feel that Picture books will not necessarily see the same cannibalism as other print sales have seen. Its not as enjoyable to cuddle up with your iPad and read your child a bedtime story- but its awfully handy at a restaurant to hand Little Johnny or Suzy your iPad for them to read Curious George instead of letting them play Angry Birds. 



Prof. Denning:  What do you think the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?
Tara: I think anyone entering the world of publishing at the moment needs to be willing to experiment and take chances. This industry is at a cross roads and needs new ideas and a willingness to fail in order to emerge stronger and more vibrant.



Prof. Denning:  Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?

Tara: Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to a speaker, to ask a question or try something a little different. You never know when you are going to meet someone who is looking for a person just like you to fill a spot in their company. Remember that this industry is one of personalities and personal connections. It’s important to keep that in mind as you never know when you will come across that person again.


Thank you very much for your time and insights!

Alumni in the Spotlight – April 2012

Jessica Napp, a 2000 graduate of the MS in Publishing program, is currently Associate Director of Publicity at Rizzoli New York (, an integral part of its parent company, the Italian communications giant RCS Media Group.  Rizzoli New York is a leader in the fields of art & architecture, interior design, photography, haute couture, gastronomy, performing arts, and gay & alternative lifestyles.  In this interview, Ms. Napp will share with us some of her thoughts on the book publishing industry today and on the role of the publicist in an industry that is constantly impacted and adapting to new technological innovations. 

Prof. Denning:  Hi Jessica and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been 12 years since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program.  Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing and how your career has developed since then?

JN: Hi Jane, thank you for asking me! I can hardly believe it has been 12 years, but during that time I have had the opportunity to work for a variety of publishers and PR firms, and I can honestly say that my career is pretty well-rounded.  I have had the opportunity to work for 2 of the large trade houses (Little, Brown and Simon & Schuster), I have done stints at PR agencies specializing in book publicity (Planned TV Arts (PTA), now called Media-Connect, and McAllRow Communications), but have found my home in the illustrated world having worked for Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Welcome Books, Harry N. Abrams, and for the past 5 years, Rizzoli New York.

Every job in this industry has taught me another piece of the publishing and publicity puzzle. The successes I have had would not have been possible, in my mind, without this rich and diverse background and I am grateful for every opportunity that has come my way over the years.

Prof. Denning:  What does your job as an Associate Director of Publicity entail?  How has the job changed since you first began working at Rizzoli?

JN:  My job is multi-faceted and certainly extends beyond the realm of publicity. The biggest change from when I started is the volume of work. As we grow and become more successful, as we continue to publish the books of cultural heavy-weights, there is always more to do. As Associate Director, my primary job is to assist the Executive Director of Publicity in all aspects of running the department.

I work on many of the company’s high profiles books and authors, handling roughly 20 books a season. I have had the honor of working with Michael S. Smith (interior designer for the Obama White House); designers Martyn Lawrence-Bullard and Mary McDonald of Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators; New York Times food columnist Florence Fabricant and the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger;  Rihanna; Paula Deen’s former food stylist and culinary  editor, Libbie Summers; legendary architectural photographer Julius Shulman; and artist Will Cotton, the creative vision behind Katy Perry’s California Gurls video.  This upcoming fall I will be working with actress Diane Keaton and music sensation M.I.A. My list could go on and on.

But what I do on a daily basis varies. I design press campaigns, craft press materials, research press contacts, organize author events and tours, and pitch a wide variety of features, stories, and interviews. My publicity team and I also supply our Social Media Manager with a great deal of content for all social media platforms including Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Rizzoli website and blog.  I also write tip sheets/fact sheets for the marketing department to use at sales conference; assist in setting the budget for the department on an annual basis, as well as track all expenses; I mentor junior staff and interns; I negotiate serial rights agreements; clear photo permissions; book advertising space; submit all Rizzoli titles for awards; and oversee all reporting for the publicity department.  I also liaise with our foreign press representatives around the world to make sure they have all of the tools they need to promote Rizzoli books in their markets.

Prof. Denning:  How do you interact with the other members of the publishing team?

JN: It is important that we have good working relationships with the other departments.  I work directly with the Accounting team to make sure publicity’s vendors get paid in a timely fashion, that we are meeting our budgets, and that our bills are coded correctly. The department meets regularly with the Production team to know the status of the books coming off press, when they are due in port/customs (we primarily print overseas), and to arrange for the digital files to be returned to NY so that we may provide press with high resolution images to accompany their coverage.

Our relationship with our Editors is of the utmost importance; they are our primary source for early information on books and authors, for relaying early marketing plans and ideas that came up during the acquisition phase, and ultimately, providing us with the finished product, the book.  Publicity meets with our Editor-in-Chief weekly to update him on our progress, successes, and in some cases, road blocks.

Our relationship with the Marketing team is multi-faceted and the closest of the departmental relationships. Together we promote and sell our books to targeted audiences, giving the sales force all of the tools needed to sell Rizzoli books into the marketplace, and continue to extend the Rizzoli brand wherever possible.  Rizzoli’s sales and fulfillment are handled by Random House Publisher Services division of Random House (RHPS), giving us access to the largest and best sales force in the country, with the most up-to-date fulfillment services to support those efforts. We are in daily contact with the team at RHPS dedicated to servicing distribution clients only including trade, library/academic, and special sales.

Prof Denning:  What are some of your favorite parts of the job?

JN:  I still get a thrill from securing a fabulous media placement!  Flipping through a magazine or a newspaper, reading a blog or turning on the TV and seeing a review/feature that I negotiated is a natural high. I still catch myself grinning from ear-to-ear, eager to share with my friends and colleagues. I love the fact that each season offers something new to learn and on which to become a mini-expert.

Prof. Denning:  How does technology/social media fit into/impact your current job? Tell us a bit about Rizzoli and some of the initiatives they have taken in response to new technological developments.

JN: Technology has made our jobs so much easier and efficient.  Before NetGalley came into use, Rizzoli started to use a system called, similar to a FTP site, but crashes less.  On this site we can upload e-galleys, high res press images, author photos, etc., and easily send links to members of the press.  When you work on illustrated books, having the best technology available to represent the finished product is crucial.  We are still exploring e-books and their technology, but by definition, “coffee table books” are meant to be physically produced and displayed.  When the technology gets to the point where it does justice to our books, I have no doubt that these versions will appeal to a segment of our market, i.e.: art school students with the need to zoom in on details or enhanced videos that complement our cookbooks and floral instructional guides.

In terms of social media, some of our best publicity placements/marketing outreach comes from social media. Author and social media guru Dorie Greenspan is a perfect example. When Dorie reviews a cookbook and offers a giveaway on her blog/Twitter feed, 93,000 people have read about the book, and all are fans of cooking, baking, French cuisine…and they purchase books! We will see more sales from this type of exposure than other types of press mentions, and so more and more we are making online press and marketing key components of our publicity and marketing campaigns.

Prof Denning:  Rizzoli is part of the Italian communications giant RCS Media Group.  Can you tell us what it is like working for such a large international company?

JN: RCS allows us a great deal of autonomy and is supportive of our publishing programs and retail endeavors. The New York office is small, about 50 employees. We publish original books under 4 distinct imprints, and distribute 3 imprints from our RCS family as well as distribute 2 non-RCS affiliated publishers, one from Japan and the other from Australia, in the US marketplace. We have a very global view on publishing.

The Rizzoli Bookstores on 57th Street in NYC and in Milan are world famous. Rizzoli, a marquee of the RCS empire, is associated with quality, luxury, style…and this cachet opens many doors for exciting opportunities and connections. The top names in fashion, art, and design all covet the “R” on the spines of their books. When Eataly – the brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich – was planning their NY opening, they knew they needed a bookstore within its halls to help unify its vendors and purveyors and I am proud to say that Rizzoli was the obvious choice. Other bookstores and retail outlets respect the Rizzoli brand so much that they have asked us to set up boutiques in their spaces, and it is exciting to see Saks Fifth Avenue (NY), Fred Segal (Beverly Hills), Teatro Verde (Toronto), Books & Books (Florida), Book Passage (California) , The Gucci Museum (Florence) and Somerset House (London) aligned with the legendary “R.”

Prof. Denning:  Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.

JN:  The best part of my experience at Pace was being able to learn the basics at night in class, and then apply those lessons to the real world job experience. Conversely, when a subject matter in school was troublesome, I had great resources in the office to rely on for additional guidance and advice.  The book production class was the best example of this. Early on, I never really understood printing schedules, 4 or 5 color printing and color corrections, or how some pages got bound inversely in the finished book. After seeing a book on press over at Watchtower, I had a much clearer understanding of the whole process, which led to a better understanding at the office as to why files are prepped the way that they are, why schedules are set with the buffer dates, etc. Truly a full-circle experience!

Prof. Denning:  Have you always been interested publishing?  Where did that passion come from?

JN:  My love of books started with my parents.  My mom was an English major in college and made it a point to surround me with books growing up.  She enrolled me in the summer reading program at our local library year in and year out, she took me to our local Barnes & Noble at least once a week and never said no to a book purchase, and always indulged my reading habit, from Sweet Valley High to Garfield comics to the infamous school reading lists. No book was off-limits, even those that caused some other parents to panic. We played Scrabble and Mad-Libs together and as I grew older I read books dear to her, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and the great Bard.

My father is an avid stamp collector and in the 1980’s decided to self-publish a book on his collection, going so far as to even create his own publishing company called Grounds for Divorce Publications (family joke – my parents are still together, 38 years and counting). He made me “publisher” and I got to sign all of the checks that came in as he sold them one at a time out of our basement. He was on the self-publishing bandwagon before it was even popular! All of this on the home front led to my participation in high school and college yearbook where I was a photo editor.

But I didn’t know I really wanted a career in publishing until I had an internship in college at Greenwood Press, an academic publisher, in their marketing department. My job was to read through all of the reviews that came in for the hardcover, highlight them, and type them up for the editors to use on the paperback reprints.  After that, I was to go online and research organizations in which to promote the books, and in 1996, this was not as easy as it is today. The office had 1 internet connection, a dial-up modem, and each department had access to that one machine for one hour each day.  I found the process fascinating and began looking into graduate programs that would allow me to learn more about the business and help me get a job. And I found Pace.

Prof Denning:  What do you think the future holds for book publishers? Specifically the Publicist…how has technology changed the role of the publicist?

JN:  The publicist has always done more than the job title suggests, but in this social media age, I think a publicist needs to be a web marketer and a voice for those unsure of how to navigate the ever-changing media landscape. A Facebook review by an influencer is just as key as a review in the New York Times these days. With so many competing outlets, the big hit is no longer all it takes to make a book, you need critical mass. The web makes niche marketing and publicity that much easier than in years past, and having a specialty, while always appreciated and valuable, is even more critical in my mind.

Prof. Denning:  What initiatives has Rizzoli taken in terms of eBooks?

JN:  We have experimented some and have 5 books on the iTunes bookstore, but we are waiting for technology to improve even more before we take a larger step into this area.

Prof. Denning:  Would you like to speculate on the future of eBooks? Books in general?

JN:  I think e-books will appeal to a certain audience always, and some genres lend themselves more to the format than others. I applaud the ways in which children’s books can be adapted for this new platform, especially in their use for the children with learning disabilities, including Autism. E-Books can engage disabled children, help them learn and communicate in ways that mainstream children do, hence closing some of the gap of misunderstanding and isolation that can exist.  For all the advantages an e-book allows, it still cannot replace the feel, the smell, of a printed book, the free advertising the book jacket affords.  A book can get wet poolside and still be useful, an e-book reader or tablet cannot.  I grew up with rotary phones, TVs with rabbit ears, typewriters, and microfilm. I did not have a cell phone or email until I was in college.  I will always love the printed book, but do look forward to the advancements on the horizon.

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? For those looking to survive and thrive in this industry?

JN: Be a professional student, and I do not mean that with its usual negative connotations. The more you are willing to learn and practice new things, the better the publishing professional you will become. Take a professional development class, offer to work on a project outside of your comfort zone – the more you are willing to understand the bigger picture and help with all aspects of the creative and selling process, the more in demand you will be. But, do have a concentration, an area of expertise will never fail you, as long as you admit it may have to be modified in 2, 5, or 10 years.

Prof. Denning:  What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?

JN: My internship while at Pace was in the special sales department of Oxford University Press. Back in 1998, Amazon was a special sales account…oh, how times have changed! It was my first corporate job, complete with workplace politics, expectations.  Being a sales rep for 8 months was an invaluable experience; I had to work closely with the warehouse and customer service, all valuable skills that I still use today. But I wasn’t a fan of chasing the purchase order and when I realized that a sales rep basically has the same conversation as a publicist, but asks for time and talent instead, I knew I needed to change my focus and get a job in publicity!

Prof. Denning:  What advice would you give to students who still have to write their graduate thesis papers?

JN: This could be the very last paper you ever write in an academic setting, so go out with a bang! You have chosen a career in publishing, so in many ways this should be the easiest paper you have ever written.  Hopefully you will have had some real world experience to bring to the pages, and let your voice be heard.  Since the invention of moveable type, the world has been shaped by those with a voice and the willingness to use that voice. While the landscape may continue to migrate from paper to screen, people still want a voice educating them, entertaining them, and informing them. The world may be smaller and faster these days, but human nature is still the same.  We are curious and the written word, in whatever format, is still the great equalizer. Be eager, be willing to learn, be willing to go the extra step, be willing to make a mistake, but always be yourself.

Prof Denning: What can students entering the field do to set themselves apart from other applicants?  Do you look for anything specific on a resume or in an interview?

JN: As for what I look for in potential intern candidates and new hires, I like to see well-roundedness, natural curiosity, a love of books, and someone who is not afraid to put in their dues.

Prof. Denning:  How have you been involved in the program since graduating?

JN: In 2005 I had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer in Melissa Rosati’s marketing class.  Dating back to my days at  Abrams, I have always been in charge of hiring interns and since then have always reached out to Pace, my way of giving back to the program that gave me my start.  Over the years I think I have had 6-8 Pace interns.