Since Hamilton is one of the premier writing colleges in the country, I’m often asked for advice from students who want to enter the publishing industry. The overwhelming interest seems to be in writing and editorial positions, but I landed in a pretty unique role within the Special Sales department at Sterling. The most rewarding part of Special Sales is that we’re finding non-traditional ways to get books out there to consumers, which is increasingly important in our digital age.
My love of writing was the reason I chose to pursue a career in publishing, but my path was pretty unconventional. I studied Russian and Art at Hamilton, and I spent my senior spring with the Hamilton in NYC program interning in the Russian Art Department at Christie’s. I enjoyed my work in museums but decided I wanted to explore other opportunities in the art world, and although I loved working with Fabergé and other Russian works of art, I realized I was just as passionate about writing about them. I secured a post-grad internship at Art in America magazine in SoHo, and right away I knew I wanted to pursue opportunities in publishing.
Publishing sales departments are split between Trade Sales (book chains Barnes & Noble, book distributors like Baker & Taylor, indie book stores) and Special Sales (pretty much every other non-book channel). I began my career working with our national retail channel in Special Sales with accounts like Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, stores that carry books but are not traditional bookstores, and I’ve since taken on managing several other channels, including our entire Online, Mail Order and Premium & Custom Publishing business. I also cover our Export market in Asia and travel to international trade shows. My day-to-day is so varied that I’ll go from planning themed flash sales with Zulily, to pitching key authors to QVC, to pricing out a custom edition for exclusive distribution in India. Custom publishing is my favorite part, since it involves so much creativity. I’ve partnered with brands on custom books to use as gifts-with-purchase or free e-book downloads, and I get to work closely with editorial and production to create these editions – something you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a sales role!
A liberal arts education is a gift because it allows you to explore a variety of interests, but can feel overwhelming if you’re nearing senior year without knowing exactly what you want to do next. My advice, if you know you’re interested in publishing, is to learn as much as you can about the publishing process and try out internships in different departments. As a creative person, I didn’t realize I’d find the business side of publishing to be so fulfilling, yet the creative background I cultivated at Hamilton has proven to be my greatest strength in this field.
Alexandra Nasto '13 majored in Russian studies and minored in art. She is a Special Sales manager at Sterling Publishing in New York City, and when she isn’t traveling on business, she’s covering local events as co-founder of @queensofqueensny on Instagram.