Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Book Jobs Not by the Book: Amy Gall, Program Manager at National Book Foundation

Amy Gall writes, creates, and sometimes sleeps in Brooklyn.  Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in PANK, Joyland, Author PhotoThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Lambda Literary Review, among others. She earned her MFA in creative writing from The New School and is currently a Program Manager at The National Book Foundation.

 

What was your first exposure to book business and what were the most important things you gained from it?

 

My first job out of college was working as executive assistant to Denis Kitchen.  He has several literary agencies that represent graphic novelists and comic book artists.  It was my first full-time job so, I learned about discipline and focus there in general, but I also learned a lot how the publishing industry functions.  It was just Denis and I, so I went through the slush pile of agent query letters and selected authors whose work seemed promising and in line with the kind of work Denis was excited about, I gave feedback and edits to authors he represented and I worked with Denis on negotiating book deals and talking to editors at the publishing houses.  It gave me a real understanding of just how long it takes to go from pitch to published book and how important patience and a sense of humor is to that process.

 

How do you explain your current job to people?

 

I’m currently a Program Manager at the National Book Foundation.  My job is twofold.  Each year we put on the National Book Awards, so a few months of the year are dedicated almost exclusively to organizing that and the other events we put on during Awards week, including 5Under35, our award for promising fiction writers under 35.  The other part of my job focuses on expanding our incredible educational programs including BookUp, our national after school reading program for underserved middle-schoolers, and Innovations in Reading, a yearly prize awarded to individuals or organizations who develop creative ways to sustain a lifelong love of reading.

 

In what ways did your previous jobs or internships prepare you for what you do here?

 

I had some sense of the for-profit book industry because of my work with Denis and I had interned at an educational non-profit previous to that, but I started as an intern at the National Book Foundation (NBF) and those first two years of work really helped me to understand the landscape of literary non-profits.  I think you develop a skillset that you take with you to each job you have, but every place has it’s own specific goals and needs and you figure a lot of that out once you’re there.

 

What value has this job brought to the way you think about book business as a whole and your own relationship to books?

 

Working for the NBF has illustrated to me how crucial it is for readers to access books that reflect their lived experiences.  In BookUp, we work with students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to build their own libraries and we empower them to choose the books they want to read.  Studies have shown when reading is fun and when kids have ownership over what they read, they not only stick with it, but they actually end up improving their GPAs, testing better and getting better paying jobs later in life.  The majority of our BookUp students are kids of color and over 70% of the books they choose to read are by authors of color.  BookUp sessions are also taught by published authors of color, many of whom grew up in the same neighborhoods as the students.  And when the kids see themselves in the stories they read, and what they can be in the the authors who teach them, the results are transformative.  Stories help us survive, they give us our humanity.  It is crucial that the book business publish, promote and disseminate books by women, authors of color, LGBTQ authors, and authors with disabilities.

 

Given your time working in both the for-profit and non-profit aspect of the literary world, how would you describe the relationship between the two?

I am much more familiar with the non-profit aspect of the literary world, but I think there is a lot of crossover.  At their best, I think, both the non-profit and for-profit worlds are promoting and supporting a wide variety of authors and making sure their stories reach as many readers as possible.

 

One Comment

  1. Debbie Rosenblum says:

    I am currently a 6th grade English teacher in Montville, NJ. I will be retiring in June and would love to volunteer at National Book Foundation. Please let me know if there are any possibilities of volunteering. Since I love books and am a firm believer in children and adolescents reading, I would love to spend some of my time volunteering at the foundation. Thank you for any information you can provide me.

    Best regards,
    Debbie Rosenblum

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