Candlewick Press Publicity Manager Jamie Tan '13MAMS on the Power of the Simmons Network
My experience at Simmons was a dream. Not only was I able to lean into something I deeply loved, but I was surrounded by people who had the same love for children’s literature. I found so many people at Simmons that I deeply cherish. At bookseller conferences, Simmons regularly comes up in conversation and I’ve met so many alumni out in the field.
What led you to the dual degree in Children's Literature + Library Services to Children at Simmons?
I've always loved books and knew I wanted to work with books in some capacity, but like a lot of young people, I had no clue which direction. Did I want to be a librarian, or did I want to work in academics, or in Children's book publishing? I was looking for a graduate program that afforded me a lot of flexibility. I was so glad I was able to experience the full range of possibilities in libraries, literature, and children's publishing at Simmons.
Tell us about your current role as Publicity Manager at Candlewick Press
After graduating from Simmons I was working at Brookline Booksmith as Events Director, doing a lot of marketing and publicity for the store. When the position at Candlewick opened up, I thought I would try it and see what happened. When I came in for my interview I saw a few Simmons classmates I hadn't seen in a while - I think that helped me get the job!
Over the past couple years I've done publicity campaigns for a lot of titles, especially middle grade and graphic novels, which I love. Every day in this job is different. So many things come up and you often need to pivot and turn on a dime. During the pandemic we had to cancel over 90 events across our department within one week, but it was amazing to see how the team handled it. A lot of the job focuses on finding out how to make the best of situations, even if things aren't working out. It's great to be able to share books with people, pitch them to the media and to booksellers. I'm working on at least 15-20 titles a season, and the most fun part is meeting authors and telling them how much I love their work, and having the opportunity to champion books that I love to read. I have a true enthusiasm for good books and I can reach out to my Simmons contacts and bookstore contacts to help my authors.
I handle a lot of marketing, as well as media outreach to get coverage of our books in blogs, newspapers, podcasts - anybody I hope may have an interest in my titles. I set up author events with bookstores and festivals, and sometimes travel with authors to conferences. While I don't book advertising, I work closely with our advertising department about where we should advertise. I also allocate a certain percentage of marketing funds for outlets that are independently owned, and particularly outlets with queer/BIPOC ownership. I also handle a lot of our trade reviewing, meeting with trade reviewers about upcoming titles, overseeing the digital review portal to make sure it is as easy as possible for our trade reviewers to cover our books!
In addition, I like talking about my job to people who are interested in learning about publishing, and to support the community I came from. I've offered mentorships through People of Color in Publishing, and in the past I've visited Adjunct Vicky Smith's History of Children's Book Publishing course!
How did Simmons prepare you to become a leader in your field?
My experience at Simmons was a dream. Not only was I able to lean into something I deeply loved, but I was surrounded by people who had the same love for children's literature. I found so many people at Simmons that I deeply cherish. At bookseller conferences, Simmons regularly comes up in conversation and I've met so many alumni out in the field.
The children's literature community I've found in Boston is wonderful, and I'm in touch with so many people from my past, including booksellers and trade reviewers. It's been so satisfying to know these people over the years. And I'm so happy to work with so many Simmons graduates! My co-worker, Sawako Shirota '13MA is manager of library marketing at Candlewick, and Ally Russell '15MAMS is the consumer and educational outreach manager. Ally and I didn't overlap during our time at Simmons, but discovering that we knew so many of the same people and both deeply admire Cathie was a great shortcut to getting to know each other. Siân Gaetano '13MA is the children's editor at Shelf Awareness, and one of my best friends from Simmons, Brittany Tuttle '13MAMS, was hired at Dedham Public Library. I love having all of these Simmons people in connected industries.
Advice for students?
Make friends! Long after you're done with this class and lost your notes and essays, you're going to be left with some of the loveliest people you've ever met. These are the people you will work with throughout your career. One of the greatest benefits of my degree are all the people and opportunities that have come into my life because of it.
Jamie Tan recommends:
- Tales of a Seventh-Grade Lizard Boy by Jonathan Hill - a graphic novel about fitting in and finding your people
- The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta - romantic, soft, super queer, perfect. In a time when a lot of people's rights are being challenged, this book shows what happiness can look like.
- Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party's Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon - YA nonfiction; an important story about what the Black Panthers did to build community
- All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat - YA nonfiction about an incredible rescue