Friday, October 12, 2012

Linette Kim: How I Got into Publishing

Guest post by a NYC transplant from California working in School & Library Marketing at Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Linette Kim
I got into publishing through the back door, so to speak.

Like just about everybody who works in publishing, books were a huge part of my childhood. It amazes me still that my parents, who were not well-to-do at all and had just moved to the States from Korea, somehow managed to mail-order picture books for me before I was even old enough to talk. Even more amazing, English isn’t their first language, so read-alouds weren’t exactly a part of our daily routine. Instead, when I was old enough, I would sit with these books strewn about the room, thumbing through the pages, making up stories based on the pictures.

Not surprisingly, middle grade was the most formative time in my literary life. More specifically, middle school was when I discovered Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club. This series did everything to ignite in me a passion for writing and reading, as well as a love of grammar!, that has only grown since. I am also amazed in retrospect at the diversity of the BSC cast—Look, minorities! On the jackets! As a reader, it didn’t occur to me to even think twice about this, nor did I appreciate it as much as I do now. I mention all this especially because I got to meet Ann M. Martin this very weekend at a Books of Wonder event, where both she, as well as Bloomsbury author and one of my favorite people in the world, Shannon Hale, were panelists. I didn’t think it was possible to get that emotional upon meeting a writer. I was wrong. And when I asked Ann for an autograph, the Newbery Honor winning author wrote, “BSC 4-ever!” Yes. I could have died.

Award Winning Middle Grade Writers Panel
Avi, Linette's writing hero Ann M. Martin, Richard Peck,
Rebecca Stead, and Bloomsbury author Shannon Hale
In college, I dabbled in many a major (ranging in everything from Film, Asian American Studies, and Music, to English and Psychology) and finally settled upon, of all things, Molecular and Cell Biology. I adored my major even while it kicked my butt, but I couldn’t think what to do with it afterwards. I didn’t want to go into medicine and my love for biology was strictly theoretical, so lab work was out. After graduation, life in the real world mirrored my undergraduate experience, trying out different fields in an attempt to figure out where my passions lie. The question eventually came down to this: what would I be most proud of working on? The answer, quite simply, was children’s books.

It took me just a few weeks to make the arrangements for the move from my hometown in California to NYC. The transition was just about seamless—some would say my stars aligned, I would say it was nothing less than the hand of God—as I had a furnished apartment and a (non-publishing) job lined up to get me going. The job fell through right away, and I almost immediately got a job at McGraw-Hill Education, doing production coordinator work. After that, I went to a little-known department at Scholastic (no joke, that company is like the CIA) called Educational Services, to do project management for print and online promotions. Finally, Beth Eller, the director of School and Library (S&L) Marketing at Bloomsbury, and now my boss, decided to take a chance on me and hired me here.

I love everything about the job. Talking to educators who are so very passionate about their students and about literacy. Getting to work so closely with the S&L groups at all the other houses—there isn’t a spirit of competition among us at all. (We are really like one big gang and travel in a huge pack.) Getting to be creative in our marketing promotions and learning from my colleagues—and I still have so much to learn. And of course, working with our amazing, amazing authors.

I am a publishing late-bloomer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look forward to seeing where the field takes me, to the colleagues I will meet. Mostly to work on a book that will inspire someone so much that, years later, he or she will break down into tears when they meet the author at last. To me, this is what publishing is about.


  1. Your many-a-major story, especially loving the major but being unsure what to do with it, sounds just like my own journey to publishing. Sometimes I think that journey of dabbling in majors was the only way I would have been able to figure out exactly what I wanted to do--otherwise, I might not have ever been able to narrow down all the options to the one that was the very best for me.

  2. BSC 4-ever indeed! Naturally, I was always Claudia when my friends and I role played BSC--she really was the best one to be. Side ponytails rock, as do artsy jewelry and oversized t-shirts. My friends all envied me because they would switch up roles, but I always got Claudia, which made me feel quite special. And she wasn't the stereotypical Asian nerd! As a math idiot, I appreciated this.

    And cheers to meeting our author hero! I e-mailed Jerry Spinelli during my first week at Little, Brown about some administrative stuff, and I was out-of-my-mind excited.

  3. I'm beginning to wonder if anyone comes to this job through the "front" door - or if there is one. I love stories like these; it's good to know that people are getting their heart's desire in some surprising ways. "Nothing less than the hand of God," indeed.