I’m often asked by my colleagues in New York City, “So, how’s Chicago?” By this they mean, how could anyone leave New York! It’s where the action is, where all the great publishers are, where all the authors are (FYI, every other person on line at a grocery store in Brooklyn is either a published author/illustrator or an editor).
Of course, while NYC is a great place, and it really is where much of the children’s book publishing industry is located, it is not necessary to live there and still be in children’s book publishing. Early on in your career, when you’re likely to change jobs every couple of years in order to gain experience, promotions, and salary increases, it’s a good idea to be in New York. After that, you can really be anywhere. There are wonderful companies all over the country—from right here in Chicago, to San Francisco, Boston and beyond.
So, now that I’m a midwesterner (or as much of one as a Long Island girl can be), “How is Chicago?”
Things that are different:
- Far fewer social/networking events and none of them are children’s- or even book-specific. I find myself walking into cocktail parties filled with editors of poetry journals and art directors from textbook companies. While I enjoy meeting new people, no new project ideas have resulted from any of these events (yet). I am, however, building some nice relationships with the local children’s book publishers. Exhibit A. We’ve also been having lunch and finding each other at these larger events. The downside: fewer events. The upside: we get to create our own. (FYI: The Chicago publishing community is also continuing its efforts to expand programming and has even created a website devoted to publishing in the area.)
- Our warehouse is an hour away. I can drive over there if I really need something today. I don’t think anyone outside of sales/marketing/publicity can truly understand how wonderful this is.
- On a personal note, I can afford to own my own home on a publishing salary. My commute is even shorter than when I rented in Queens!
Things that are the same:
- I still do most of my networking at trade shows and via email/phone. Even in NYC, you don’t drop everything to run uptown to Random House to discuss sharing an author at a trade show…alright, so we do plan meetings for that, but I still go to those. Although sometimes, I’m on speaker phone along with my counterparts in Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, etc.
- Children’s book publishing people work very hard and with what (sometimes) feels like not much reward. Parents, teachers, and librarians get to see the results of our work first hand—we rarely get to see kids jumping up and down, excited about a book. We have to leave our workplaces to do that, and when you’re having a hard day, you can’t just leave in the middle of day to grab a child off the street and read to them—possible criminal repercussions, regardless of good intentions. 🙂
So is there life after NYC publishing? Yes! and while sometimes it can feel that I’m far away from the action, the truth is that the consumers of children’s books are located all over the country. Most of them don’t really know (or care) where my office is…so long as phones and emails are answered and books are shipped. Because in the end, it’s all about putting books into the hands of children and we can do that from practically anywhere (The moon? Perhaps someday…)