CBC Diversity — Ann Dye: How I Got into Publishing
Associate Director, Brand Marketing at Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Many times over the years I’ve been asked this question – what’s the one book in your life that turned you into a reader? Not just a casual reader, but a SERIOUS reader. An obsessive, might-miss-my-subway-stop-to-read-this-last-chapter READER. I could say Jane Eyre (because Jane is absolutely my literary personality match), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (fellow Cornell alum!), or Wuthering Heights (I’m a Bronte girl – what can I say?). But my answer is always the same. Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight.
Growing up, Eloise was my hero, and I forced my mother to read the book to me every night from the age of six until the binding wore all the way through. Always recited to me with a sigh (because, come on, for a picture book its length is EPIC), I loved hearing my mother recite the story nightly of this eccentric little girl and her life in the Plaza, imaging all the while just how much I wanted to step inside her shoes (personality, lifestyle and all).
There’s a reason that to this day, Eloise in particular still resonates with me, along with so many other amazing children’s books. The imagination, the heart, and spirit that Knight and Thompson have funneled into this character is something so tremendously special. Eloise, and so many like her (Madeline, Babar, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh) shaped my imagination and spirit from such a young age and set a passion that’s made me a reader for life. So it was inevitable to me that this love would naturally translate into my adult career.
For years I was convinced I would become a children’s author, but I was never interested in the creation of a story so much as a desire to work day in and day out in a world where books were celebrated. I wanted to work where they made Miss Nelson is Missing! (Miss Swamp gives me nightmares to this day); see behind the scenes how Rain Makes Applesauce was born. The books that inspired me and made me who I am the most were children’s books, and I wanted to fit into a career that gave me a place to continue that cycle for the next generation of kids.
The marketing field wasn’t a given entry point for me. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, went to college in Ithaca, NY at Cornell, and took a chance attending the NYU Publishing Institute the summer after graduation in 2005. With little in my savings account and no real game plan in place, I hoped at NYU I would be able to make the right networking contact to get my foot into the publishing door. Like many graduates in the field, I assumed editorial would be the best entry point. I had naïve visions of sitting in a secluded office all day, reading amazing manuscripts and getting paid for it.
Reality soon set in that while the publishing community is certainly a warm and inspiring one, it’s not the easiest to get into right off the bat. The first real bite I received was a marketing assistant job at DK Publishing. While my access to the children’s books of my dreams weren’t quite realized there, what I did discover in my first job was a sincere appreciation, and love, for marketing in the publishing realm.
From that first job to my second jump, working as an Associate Marketing Manager at Disney-Hyperion, I learned why marketing is (in my opinion) one of the often overlooked gems of the publishing industry and a natural fit for me. It was clear from the start that marketing offered everything the Eloise-loving girl in me could want. At Disney I was regularly gifted with beautiful books from our very talented editors, tasked to creatively position them to the best of my ability to be discovered out in the world. I had the opportunity to devour incredible manuscripts, and then devise and compose creative copy and promotional campaigns, working hands-on at consumer trade shows and events to connect with real parents and young readers to help them discover new books and create REAL readers.
I worked at Disney-Hyperion for five amazing years, with the pleasure of working with some incredible authors and even more incredible colleagues, before I made a shift to my current position at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I now oversee all consumer marketing efforts for LBYR’s picture book and middle grade list, where I have had the honor of working on books by Julie Andrews, Lemony Snicket, Andrea Davis Pinkney, James Patterson and many more.
Of course, as with every job, there are stressful days and long weeks, with tight budgets, challenging deadlines, and fierce competition. But I look back on that little girl who could recite by heart Eloise and Nana’s trips through the Plaza at the age of six, and I feel a special sense of privilege that I now get to play a small part in putting characters like that out in the world. The bookstore landscape may be changing day by day, but I know I’ll never lose the passion I have for this business, and the very talented people within it.