Friday, May 18, 2012

Antonio Gonzalez: How I Got into Publishing

Like many who work in publishing, books have always played a vital role in my life. No matter what stage of my life I’m in  I’ve always been drawn to books.

My publishing journey began at the age of 14. I was hired on as a page for the Dallas Public Library. Every weekday afterschool from 4 to 10 at night I shelved oversize reference books, aerial photographs, yellowing newspaper clippings, old-timey magazines, journals, small-town phone books, and even micro-fiche (!!). This was the dawning of the internet era; in between shelving, I’d teach patrons how to “surf the internet,” how to send email, and how to download Netscape Navigator and AOL.

During my breaks, however, I’d sneak away to the most secluded niches of the building to read my favorite books like Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I learned about the book industry. Up until then all I’d ever wanted was to be a magazine editor like Graydon Carter, David Granger, and Jann Wenner. I dreamt up my own magazines–usually spin-offs and amalgams of the myriad periodicals I devoured as a teen.

But how could I get a job at Esquire or Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone? I didn’t have connections and I didn’t have a journalism degree. (You don’t need one BTW). Online I started to “research” on various magazine blogs like Ed2010, and discussion forums on a then burgeoning

Quickly I learned that I needed internships  like yesterday. Many applicants for highly coveted magazine jobs had interned at established publishers like Vogue and W since their freshmen year of high school  high school!. But I lived in Texas and I lacked the opportunities for these connections.

So I started local. I urge anyone looking for a publishing or media job to start at the local newspaper, magazine, book store — or to start submitting work to online zines, journals, and publishers alike. If you want to work in children’s books, get a job at a local bookseller, in the Children’s department  that experience will be invaluable later. You won’t get paid much  but that’s just a fact you will need to come to grips with for the rest of your publishing career.

Warner Books
I interviewed all over Dallas  but I had no experience and most important no connections. I got rejected each time. Publishing, like many other media industries (film, TV, radio, web) is built on real-life social networks: people who attended the same schools; people who interned at the same magazines; people who just all know each other socially  because they went to the same boarding school. I wish I was joking.

I didn’t have that. I only had the knowledge that if I wanted to work in media, I had to move to New York City. Two years after graduation, I had my own awakening. I applied to and attended the New York University Summer Publishing Institute (known simply as SPI). FYI — Columbia has one too, CPC for Columbia Publishing Course, and there’s one in Denver  See Cheryl Klein’s post).

At SPI I met publishing wannabies just like me – suddenly I was surrounded by people who read as voraciously as I did  people who were even more obsessed with pop-culture and literary fiction than me. SPI gave me an instant network  a publishing incubator  and we all shared a common goal: to get into publishing, no matter what.

I credit the teachers and staff at SPI with introducing New York City in the best possible light. Not only did SPI connect me with major magazine and book publishing giants, I was able to transition more smoothly into New York City life.

Anyone who lives in New York will tell you, "living here is hard." It’s like the city actively wants your life to be as difficult as possible. Everyday is a challenge. From getting to work on trains that don’t run, to surviving on a laughable salary of 28K a year, to sleeping in tenements that would be condemned in any other city in America  New York is no joke. Forget all of the amenities you are accustomed to out there in Ohio or Texas wherever you’re coming from  there’s no central air conditioning in the average New York City rental, there’s no dishwasher or laundry in your fifth-floor, pre-war walk-up (and don’t even ask about elevators or window locks). I digress.

My time at SPI paid off when I landed my first New York City job as a Publicity Assistant at Time Inc’s Warner Books. Working at Time Inc was a dream  it was the home of People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly as well as the publisher of Billy Crystal, Amy Sedaris, David Baldacci, and other New York Times blockbusters.

Scholastic Press
There I learned from the perspective of my publicity directors  we crafted press materials, organized events, and worked with some most awesome celebrity authors around. Soon Warner Books became Grand Central Publishing, and the entire book division moved to a French company called Hachette. I also moved on to Penguin Book Group (USA) where I managed advertising campaigns for some of the top paperback authors in the country.

After Penguin, I took a brief hiatus from publishing, but my work day was still full of books. I was hired as the Editor-In-Chief of the Lambda Literary Review and helped launch a new web initiative for the Lambda Literary Foundation —the most prestigious non-profit organization dedicated to LGBT authors, books and publishing. The transition was splendid.

It was there that I met one of the most influential editors in publishing. This person was hugely instrumental for referring me to my current position at Scholastic where I manage author appearances. Remember what I said about networks and connections? This connection catapulted my return to the books industry.

In my new role, I’m able to take all I’ve learned from the various adult publishing houses, and take all that experience in adverting and publicity and media and channel that into my work in Children’s Book marketing. I couldn’t be happier.

1 comment:

  1. Great post--Quite the journey from Texas to New York!