Mentor Corner: Erinn Pascal
Senior Children’s Editor, Andrews McMeel Publishing
What was your first job in publishing?
My very first job in publishing was an internship at Barefoot Books in Cambridge, MA. I was originally hired as the Marketing Intern, but I think it was pretty clear early on that editorial is where I wanted to be.
What was your career path like getting to your current role?
I always wanted to be a kids’ book editor. I decided this when I was 8 (there’s “I want to be an editor when I grow up” essay evidence—just ask my mom!). My joke is that I decided this when I was 8, so it makes sense I edit middle-grade. You know. For eight-year-olds.
I went to Emerson in Boston, MA for Writing, Literature & Publishing, with a big focus on the “publishing” part. During college, I interned for Barefoot Books, a vegetarian food truck (which is kind of funny, because I was absolutely not vegetarian back then but am a full-blown vegan now), a now-defunct travel website, and David R. Godine. I was very blessed to receive tutelage from David himself, who looked at 21-year-old Erinn and said, “do you just . . . want to be in charge of our kids’ list for a bit?” Along with former intern (and now an agent at Ayesha Pande) Serene Hakim, we ended up putting on a kids’ event for Children’s Book Week that year where we made individual books for kids who submitted stories in a contest. It was featured in PW, and we gave some kids’ books on the Godine list to attendees.
I was pretty sure I’d get a job in publishing immediately after graduating, but that wasn’t the case. I interviewed time and time again, but I kept being told “not quite.” I was on the train back and forth between Boston and NYC a lot that summer. Everyone told me that getting interviews was good, but it didn’t feel good. What was good? My Amtrak and Megabus reward points.
Eventually, I landed another internship at HarperCollins in their early childhood group. I moved to NYC and was so sure I’d get an editorial assistant job after that position, but I still didn’t. At one point, I made it quite far for a position as an assistant at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but another candidate was chosen. The team liked me, however, and decided to bring me in as their editorial intern. So, I moved back to Boston!
A few months later, I interviewed for an editorial assistant role at S&S. When I interviewed there, I just knew it felt different. I hold so much fondness for that whole team and everything they did for me. I ended up moving back to NYC (that was a fun year) and worked at S&S for almost three years working on brands like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, PJ Masks, Voltron Legendary Defender, and developing middle-grade IP projects like Sprinkle Sundays. After three years, I wanted to focus a bit more on licensing and franchises, so I went over to Disney where I took on a role as Associate Editor. That was an interesting time because, in my first week, Disney bought Fox. The role I thought I was going to have, changed quite a bit. Not to mention, I ended up getting mono (beware of NYC bars, that’s all I’ll say). I learned a lot at Disney and love the company’s work, but reached a moment of “I’m not sure I’m the right fit here anymore.” At the same time, a former coworker of mine from S&S had moved on to Scholastic. A position was open on her new team and she recommended me.
I went over to Scholastic, where I was an editor for almost four years. I absolutely loved Scholastic. I was honored to work on brands like Peppa Pig, LEGO, and Ricky Zoom, and that’s when I saw that Andrews McMeel was hiring a senior editor.
In my former roles, I learned a lot about building a brand, making books, what works, what doesn’t, and how to help creators best tell their stories. But I also wanted to acquire my own list, manage a team, and expand at a house that had room for creativity. Andrews McMeel was kind of like if someone had looked into my brain and said, “this is the natural next step for her.” I cried a lot when I left Scholastic, but I’m really thrilled to be at AMU now.
Today, I manage a staff of two, acquire and edit licensed books as well as original projects, and run the company’s IP Task Force, all rooted in our creator-first approach to publishing. It’s a dream come true. I wish I could go back in time and tell 8-year-old Erinn that we did it, and also 21-year-old Erinn that it would all be worth it.
What advice would you give to those who are either just starting out or are in their first few years in publishing?
Be tenacious. Be annoying—but professionally annoying. When I was hired for my first role at S&S, things definitely felt different in my interview. But also, I should mention—I had interviewed with a different S&S team months before and was the runner-up. Occasionally I’d email the last person I interviewed with and say things like, “Happy Thanksgiving! I just picked up [this book you worked on] and [here’s what I loved about it] Congratulations!” I never once got a response, but I did hear that the hiring manager recommended me for the role I ended up getting. I wouldn’t recommend sending an email every day to past people you’ve interviewed with, but the occasional 2-3 emails a year is great.
I’d also say that things won’t work out how you pictured or imagined them. But when you find your fit, you’ll know, and it’ll all make sense.
Last, if you made a mistake and are at a job you don’t like or aren’t the best fit for, it’s OK to move on. Nobody is out there advertising their mistakes. Every LinkedIn post, every tweet, every announcement—it’s all a highlight reel.
What have been some highlights of your career so far?
This is going to sound so “Miss America” of me, but truthfully, every time I get on an author/creator kickoff call, my heart bursts.
In terms of specifics, I’d add:
- Working on the Voltron: The Legendary Defender tie-in books. Voltron was an awesome Netflix show, and I loved combing through tumblr (ah, dating myself here) and twitter looking at all the memes our books inspired.
- Developing the reader Linus Gets Glasses—a Ready-to-Read book at S&S where Linus (from the Peanuts gang) gets glasses, but he isn’t afraid of them, and everyone (Snoopy especially) thinks they’re cool. There are a lot of reviews online about how this is one of very few books that shows glasses in a positive light and without worry for kids.
- Going to the movie premieres of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
- Visiting the Marvel office and meeting a bunch of comic creators I’ve always loved. No photos, of course, but that office is awesome.
- Editing The Official Neopets Cookbook, which comes out from Andrews McMeel next summer. I’ve been an active player since 2001 (I never lost my password and my Neopets have not been hungry!), so this has been a big moment.
Have you seen book sales change over your career? The past year? What do you think the future is?
Absolutely! Book sales are ever-changing. It’s nice to see licensing and graphic novels come into their own. In the past, I’d have water cooler conversations with other editors who didn’t get licensing or graphic novels as a whole. And what I’ll always say is this: Kids aren’t choosing between a Batman book or The Merchant of Venice. They’re choosing between a Batman book or video game. And I like that now the industry is seeing that the Batman book can teach lessons and have a place on bookshelves even if it’s not as literary as William Shakespeare. BTW, video games are great too—alongside books
I also love all the licensed cookbooks and craft books that are coming out. These books are highly gift-able and compendiums for fans about their chosen fandom.
How do you infuse your own interests and passions into your work?
Ha-ha, if you can tell, I work on a lot of passion projects. I think when you’re interested and passionate about something, it’s good to explore. And if you have a more niche hobby, what is the root of that, and is it universal?