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Q&A with Sara Dayton, Senior Product Manager, Penguin Young Readers | August 25, 2017

By Amalia Frick (Penguin Young Readers)


Tell us a little about your role at Penguin Young Readers.
My department manages the Penguin Young Readers apps, experiments with new technologies, and finds innovative ways, digital or otherwise, to use our content outside of books. Recent projects include updates to our Mad Libs app; working with Amazon and Google to release Mad Libs as a voice application on their respective platforms; and launching Penguin Print House, a new partnership with Framebridge to sell prints from PYR picture books. As the product manager, I’m responsible for coordinating everyone involved (publishers, authors, designers, development agencies, partners, etc.) to keep all of this experimentation on track. A lot of our projects represent the first time our division or company is trying something, so a big part of what I do is figuring out how exactly to make an idea or product happen. The problem solving and teamwork that results are my favorite parts of my job.

Was this your first job in publishing? How did you end up doing what you do now?
Yes, this was my first job in publishing. Prior to PYR, I worked at the Museum of Modern Art on their digital media team, which oversees the museum’s websites and apps. I also did freelance ebook production work on the side, for clients like Workman and NBC. One of those clients connected me to my current boss, and that’s how I ended up at PYR.

You recently launched Penguin Print House, a new collaboration with PYR and Framebridge to sell limited edition framed art prints. Where did that idea come from?
Last year I participated in a three-month pilot program of a PRH incubator that’s designed to develop new ways to drive reach and revenue for our books and authors. My initial pitch was to sell prints of illustrations from our picture books, and the pilot program helped me to refine the idea into a venture that would work within the constraints of our business. Once the program ended, I was very fortunate that my boss and division wanted to experiment and run a test of the idea. It took a lot of time and work to figure out all the details, and I am so happy and grateful that we had the freedom to experiment and make the idea a reality.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterward.” This is actually from Tina Fey, but for me it sums up a lot of the best advice I’ve been given throughout my career. Being open to ideas or projects or opportunities that may seem crazy, or that don’t fit your job description, or that you don’t feel ready for, has been so valuable for me. Many of the most exciting and rewarding things I’ve worked on came about because I was open to something new. I find it a little jarring when I run up against someone who’s unwilling or uninterested in going outside the norm, especially in a creative industry like publishing. And being open and saying yes makes work much more fun, which is a bonus for everyone.

What are you reading now?
I just finished Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green which was addictive and fascinating and scary all at the same time. And I’m about to start a re-read of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy to get ready for the release of The Book of Dust in October!

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