Mentor Corner: Jenny Choy
Associate Director, School & Library Marketing
What was your first job in publishing?
After a summer marketing internship at Candlewick, I was hired as the sales, marketing, and publicity assistant at Charlesbridge. Because of the small size of the company, I really got a bird’s eye view into all the different facets of publishing and was able to experience things that are probably quite rare at the assistant level – like sitting in on cover meetings. I remember my boss inviting me to join her at the New England Independent Bookseller Association’s fall conference and I was probably just a few weeks on the job at that point! I feel lucky to start my career there as it laid a good foundation for me.
What was your career path like getting to your current role?
I once said in all seriousness to my freshman year college roommate, “You read FOR FUN?!” Clearly, books and publishing were not on my radar as viable job options. Flash forward to 2020 and I’ve been marketing children’s books for 15 years! I am currently the Associate Director of School and Library Marketing for ABRAMS Children’s Books where I’ve been for about 3 years now. My career path has been pretty traditional, slowly working my way up the ladder at 4 different houses. After Charlesbridge, I joined the school & library marketing team at Candlewick. A few months after I started there, the book Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! won the Newbery Medal! So I was able to see what happens after you win a big award like that. Over the course of my 6 years at The ‘Wick, I really delved into this market, gaining a better understanding of the institutional conferences (like how you get an author on a program) and the importance of these gatekeepers. When I moved over to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, my boss challenged me to think more critically about the work and how we can reach with teachers and librarians in non-traditional ways. My time at LBYR was especially memorable because I got to work closely with 3 Caldecott Medalists – Dan Santat (The Adventures of Beekle), Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie), and Javaka Steptoe (Radiant Child).
What advice would you give to those who are either just starting out or are in their first few years in publishing?
I feel like I probably spent the first half of my career just trying to figure out the basics. So my first piece of advice is ask all the questions! There’s so much jargon and acronyms that sometimes it feels like people are speaking a totally different language. It even varies from house to house. Asking questions shows those around you that you’re engaged with your work and helps you connect the dots – how what you’re doing fits into the bigger picture.
My second piece of advice is to prioritize your own well-being. Our jobs do not define us. You can and should clock out at 5PM. The work will be there tomorrow, I promise. I know it’s easier said than done. I’m working on taking my own advice here, too.
What have been some highlights of your career so far?
The librarians and teachers I’ve built relationships over the years are easily the best part of my job. These folks have been the constant presence in my work life no matter what publisher happens to employ me at the time. It’s wild to think that in the time I’ve known many of these people their children have grown up and gone off to college! I’m really missing the in-person interactions from conferences. Because even though conferences are a lot of work, I always leave them feeling rejuvenated.
How would you say School and Library Marketing has changed over the course of your career?
The main change in my approach to School and Library Marketing is who I’m consciously centering: BIPOC creators, librarians, and teachers. It’s only been in the last 5 years or so that I’ve even felt equipped with the language to properly express my experiences and world view as a person of color. Librarians like Ariana Hussain and teachers like Kim Parker play a huge role in my education. This newfound vocabulary and knowledge are empowering, and it motivates me to always try to be a better advocate for authors, illustrators, educators, and colleagues.