Nikki Garcia: How I Got into Publishing
Contributed to CBC Diversity by Nikki Garcia, Assistant Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
To tell you how I got into publishing, I could start by mentioning that my mother always had a book in her hand, and taught me to do the same—or that I spent most of my time lost in books like One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte.
These experiences definitely shaped me to be the kind of person who would find myself in the world of publishing but, honestly, the idea of a publishing career didn’t even pop into my mind until the day I watched Margaret Tate and Andrew Paxton (played by Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds) banter on the silver screen in The Proposal.
I remember that being a particularly difficult time for me. I’d just spent the last year working at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary while taking pre-med classes at night. Although I was proud of the idea of becoming a doctor, I wasn’t eager to go to work and class every day, but I didn’t like the idea of quitting either. Then one weekend, as I watched Margaret and Andrew throw humorous insults at each other, I noticed Margaret’s hardcopy manuscripts sprinkled across her desk. I was fascinated by the part where Andrew was trying to convince her to buy a manuscript that he loved. I remember thinking, Is this a thing? Does this career actually exist?! That night, I looked up the industry guides that my school had available, and ta da, there it was—an industry guide on publishing. Seriously…never doubt the power of media.
Of course, deciding to be an editor was much easier than actually convincing someone to let me be one. Once I was finished with my classes, I hit the pavement and had an informational interview with anyone who’d meet with me. My first informational interview was with Michael Pietsch, the then publisher of Little, Brown and Company. He was kind enough to put me in touch with another editor, and a direct contact in human resources. Even with those new contacts, I knew I was going to have to intern and get some experience, so luckily I found a unique internship at The New Press.
I spent a month in each department: editorial, publicity/marketing, production, and finance. The internship at the New Press made me perfectly qualified for an in-house floater position that opened up at Hachette Book Group at just about the time my internship was ending. Like my internship, I would be available to work on various projects within any department in the company.
While working as a floater, I was lucky enough to receive Alvina Ling as my mentor in the Hachette Mentor Program. I spent the next six months picking her brain about the life of an editor, reading submissions, and drafting jacket copy and declines. Often Alvina would ask me if I still wanted to work in editorial, and every time my answer was the same. Yes!
Once the six months were over, she agreed to keep meeting with me, and this continued for another six months as well, until an editorial assistant position opened up working under her and another editor. I interviewed for the position, and luckily I got the job.
Five years ago I hadn’t even known publishing existed. Now I work for one of the best companies in the industry. Since my start as a floater, I’ve acquired my first book, Lola Levine is Not Mean (November 2015), along with other books in the series, all featuring a spunky biracial and bicultural second grader.
I know what it’s like to feel lost in deciding what you want to do with your life, and I feel very lucky to have found my way to this cool place surrounded by other book lovers. What I’ve learned is that it’s important to keep your eyes open. You never know where you might find the answer, because it might just be in the form of two funny actors in a romantic comedy.
Hey, it could happen.
Nikki Garcia is an assistant editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers where she works on books for all ages. During her time at LBYR, she has had the honor of working with picture book authors such as Peter Brown and Frank Viva, as well as novelists such as Wendy Mass, Matthew Quick, and Holly Black. Born and raised right here in New York City, Nikki graduated from St. John’s University, and thankfully didn’t have to travel very far to make her dreams come true.