Preeti Chhibber: How I Got into Publishing
Preeti Chhibber: Senior Editorial Manager for the Teens & BookBeat Scholastic Reading Clubs
I didn’t realize publishing was an actual career until I was a few years into college. Growing up, my mom had been clear that I was the one who would be a doctor (with my brother the lawyer and my sister the accountant*). It should be noted that I’m not good at math or science.
Unfortunately for my mother, when I was fourteen, she gave me a copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. It’s a heavily romanticized version of Michelangelo’s life. Beyond that, it’s about loving your work, and being passionate about what you do. He sacrificed everything to able to create and carve. Agony became a book that I read once a year. (I think we can agree that what comes next is pretty much my mom’s fault.)
Two things happened after my freshman year of college. I’d floundered through one year of pre-med and hadn’t done well (remember? Not good at math or science). Not long after grades were released, I had a conversation with my older brother. He had just met someone who worked at Tor and immediately thought of his nerdy sister who read all the time. He suggested I talk with her. I thought of Agony. I thought about books. I knew that in my life, reading was the thing that excited me most. This was the lead-in to the Big Change: I became an English major.
It’s not carving marble, but telling your Indian parents that you’re not going to be the doctor they spent 19 years expecting to have? Terrifying.
They took solace in the fact that maybe I could still be a lawyer. Ha! It’s a difficult thing, breaking up with your parent’s idea of the future for something new and different.
I did end up talking with my brother’s friend, and after a reading report on the longest sci-fi book of all time and a few interviews, I ended up getting an internship at Tor. I spent the summer before my senior year sitting next to Teresa Nielsen Hayden, sharing one desk with a fellow intern, and reading unsolicited manuscripts. Oh, also, I met ROBERT JORDAN and decided I was going to get into publishing if it killed me. I loved being around books, I loved reading the manuscripts, I loved talking about what I was reading.
Despite having an internship under my belt, it was not an easy move to jump from undergrad in Florida straight into a paying publishing gig in New York. I applied and got into NYU’s Masters in Publishing program, with every intention of using it to get that editor job that had been my dream. I started out as a sales assistant at McGraw-Hill, in their trade publications division. One year later, I accepted a position at Scholastic Reading Club (née Scholastic Book Clubs) as an editorial assistant for their SeeSaw book club.
Working in children’s books changed everything. It was a world where we had conversations about snot and teddy bears and princesses… at work. After a few years of working on picture books and early readers we sold in the catalog, I moved over to marketing chapter books and middle-grade in the school market. While in this position, I pushed for more social and digital marketing for all levels, and started to see that I really enjoyed talking about and recommending books. Who knew that there was a job talking about books and how much you love them??
In my experience, people who work in publishing are inherently passionate about what they do. They are here because they love it. Every position I’ve held has been about having the opportunity to go to work and be excited about what I do. It took me a few years and as many position-moves to realize that my true love in children’s books was YA. After moving to Book Clubs marketing, I got a job in trade and school & library marketing at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and just recently made my way back to Scholastic, seven years after I first started, to be the Teens and Adult book buyer for the Reading Club.
It’s kind of a dream job. And while every day isn’t perfect, and there are always things you have to do that you might not want to do (ahem, P&Ls), I get paid to read… as part of my job. And then I get to tell people to buy and read the books that I love. That is straight-up magical.
*My poor (and now very proud) mom ended up with an actor, a kid in publishing, and a graphic designer.
Preeti Chhibber is currently the Senior Editorial Manager for the Teens & BookBeat Scholastic Reading Clubs in New York, NY. She earned her B.A. in English at the University of Florida and her M.S. in Publishing at New York University. Hailing from West Palm Beach, Fl, she is a contributing writer for Book Riot and Panels.Net as well as a co-host on the Bookrageous and Oh, Comics! podcasts.