As college students, we read novels, short stories, textbooks, even perhaps poems or memoirs. We write essays, lab reports, Blackboard discussion posts. We read and write every single day, yet how much do we know about how a book goes from a manuscript to a product in Barnes & Noble? How many people are a part of the process? Who is behind that book description on Amazon?
Students had the opportunity to get answers to those questions with the recent “How to Get Published” panel, featuring Olivia Valcarce ’15, assistant editor at Scholastic Books, Zoë Bodzas ’16, assistant literary agent at McIntosh & Otis, Andrew Gibeley ’16, assistant publicist at Harper Collins, and Kyandreia Jones ’19, a published author through Chooseco.
The panelists shared their individual paths following graduation to their current jobs. Gibeley interned with Danielle Burby ’12 at Hannigan Salky Getzler (HSG) Agency the summer before his senior year at Hamilton; after graduating as a creative writing major, he attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. He ended up as an assistant in the sales department at William Morrow, an imprint at Harper Collins.
“I did that for about a year, but I kind of knew I wanted publicity, even when I was here,” Gibeley said. “I was on the CAB e-board and was really into event planning and that side of things. I saw there was an opening at a William Morrow imprint for an assistant publicist, so I did make that internal lateral move.”
Jones shared how she became a published author while balancing the work of being a college student. It began with her POSSE mentor Katheryn Doran, who knew Jones was passionate about writing. Doran saw a Facebook post from someone who had a friend looking for aspiring writers and sent it to Jones.
“I have always been a writer, since like I was three,” Jones said. “I sent [the associate editor] some of my writing samples … She called me and said, ‘I’m a part of this company called Chooseco, have you ever heard of choose your own adventure?’”
She hadn’t, really. But a versatile and enthusiastic writer, Jones decided to pursue it. She wrote her first draft of the interactive children’s book in December of 2017 and finished the bulk of the story in Paris on Hamilton’s study abroad program.
“I was in a new country, I had to speak French every day, so this book was the one thing that was familiar. That played a huge role in my ability to get it done,” Jones said. “I will say that Hamilton did gear me toward writing this, because I’ve written for A&E [on The Spectator], Red Weather, Green Apple. So when it came time to be flexible with this children’s book, although it was terrifying, I still had that trust that I built here, and I knew that my community supported me. I could come here and be taken care of.”
The panelists shared their day-to-day tasks and detailed the process from writing a book, acquiring it – whether it be through a literary agent or from the writer, editing and designing the product, and then publicizing and selling it.
“Editors generally are selecting books from agents that we want to publish, so part of what I do is reading submissions from agents,” Valcarce said. “Editors also write the copy that goes on websites like Amazon, so I write drafts of those.”
Panelists left the students with advice for entering the publishing industry and/or working to get a story published. “Look through the books you like and take a look at the publishing house or the copyright page. Notice what imprints are creating the stories you enjoy,” Bodzas said.
Valcarce’s advice was simple but was heavily echoed by the other panelists: “Read a lot!”