Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nancy Mercado: How I Got into Publishing

Everyone always thinks that you need to know someone to get into publishing, but I knew no one when I moved back to New York after college. I like to think that I got into publishing through bookselling. In college I worked in a small chain bookstore called Lauriat’s and my favorite part of the job was talking to customers about books and recommending the perfect title for them. I discovered that I had a very good memory for book titles and author’s names, and once I saw the cover of a book, I would always remember it. I was especially drawn to the children’s book section of the store, and I found myself making elaborate displays for the end caps, organizing and re-organizing the shelves so that the section was perfect.

Once I graduated from the University at Albany, I moved back to New York City. I had no clue what exactly I would do, but I knew that I wanted to work with books, and that I wanted to use my degree in Spanish in some way. I applied for numerous jobs both in publishing and in Spanish translation work, but I wasn’t getting any call backs, so I worked at Barnes and Noble so that I would have some income while job searching. It wasn’t much, but it paid for part of my rent. The rest, I’m appalled to say, I paid for on my credit card. (Not advisable. I feel like I’m probably still paying for that 13 years later!) I went on several informational interviews at the time, interviewing with the adult and children’s divisions of every major publishing house. I even went to a headhunter who promised to get me a job in publishing but then kept sending me to interviews at pharmaceutical companies. I didn’t know anyone in publishing, and so I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing.

Finally, one of my informational interviews paid off. Six months after an informational interview with Scholastic, they called and offered me a job in their book club division. My boss at the time told me it was my continuous bookstore experience that had most impressed him. I was happy to have a job with a paycheck that (almost) covered my rent, happy to work in a place where books towered precariously above my head, and I was on my way to a life-long career of working with children’s books.


  1. Okay, quick survey--

    Nancy Mercado: Great editor? Or BEST editor?

    I don't want to skew the results with my own opinion here, but I think the choice is obvious.

  2. Nan,

    So great to get a bit of your personal and professional history. Knowing someone has never much helped me either. I just kept/keep plugging away in a bookish direction. You know what your story reminded me of? A book, of course. How Patti Smith writes in the wonderful "Just Kids" about working to support herself (and everyone else) in all those bookstores.

    Really enjoying working with you,

    Clay Carmichael