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

Attached at the Hip: New York, Publishing, and (it turns out) Me

Let me start by saying that I never wanted to live in New York City. My parents are both native New Jerseyites who deliberately left the New York metro area so that they wouldn’t have to raise children there. I grew up in suburban Northern Virginia, and my earliest impressions of New York were that it was a dirty, loud, crowded city where everyone wore black and was rude all the time. I didn’t actually visit New York until I was ten, and though I was impressed by the tall buildings and bright lights, I knew that I would never live in such a busy place.

Then I discovered publishing.

I was in seventh grade when I decided that I would become an editor, and I spent the rest of my education working up to that goal. At Dickinson College, I majored in English, got a job in the Writing Center, and even got to proofread a professor’s book. Yet, despite my dedication to publishing, I still had no intention of moving to New York. While many of my fellow students were eagerly awaiting their chance to find fortune in the Big Apple, I had convinced myself that I was not “a city person.” This conviction, combined with my inbred distrust of New York, kept me from looking forward to a future in the heart of the American publishing industry.

Over time I learned that there were other options. During my sophomore year, I met an alumna who had gone on to work for the University Press of New England in a small town in New Hampshire. I had a revelation: University presses! There are plenty of universities in small towns or suburbs, and their presses are small companies that often publish highly specialized books. Yes, I thought, There could be my salvation. I felt even more relief after I attended the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver and learned that there are several publishers in Colorado, and that there is a surprisingly large publishing culture in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Boston. Publishing, it turns out, happens everywhere.

When I left the Denver Publishing Institute, I was eager to get started. I was still leaning towards academic publishing and university presses, but I was also interested in educational publishing and, of course, trade. To be safe, I applied for jobs everywhere, including New York, although I hoped that I would be able to find a position with a small press in a smaller town. Guess where I ended up?

My family loves to remind me of the irony of my situation: how I wanted to work for an intimate university press in a small town and ended up working for one of the world’s largest educational publishers in the heart of Manhattan. It

Another day at the old grind

was daunting at first, but after two years I’ve learned that I’m much more of “a city person” than I gave myself credit for, and I couldn’t be happier with where I am.

Though I tried so hard to deny it, New York really was the perfect place for me to start my career. It is, after all, the center of the American publishing universe. Denver or Minneapolis might have been viable alternatives, but I was almost as skeptical of moving out West as I was of moving to New York; I’m an East Coast girl through and through, and I didn’t want to be so far away from my family. My parents might have left the area, but the rest of my extended family still lives nearby, so I had a wonderful support network when I got here. For my first month on the job, I was able to live with my grandmother in New Jersey before I found an apartment in the city. Eventually I moved to Washington Heights, at the very top of Manhattan—a quiet, pretty neighborhood that is a pleasure to come home to at the end of a long day at the office. Since most of the streets in Manhattan are on a grid, it didn’t take me long to learn to navigate them, and I even figured out the Subway system without too much stress (I come from D.C., where one color equals one line, so I consider this quite an accomplishment.).

I had certainly underestimated the allure of the city, as well as my ability to adapt to new situations. Since moving to New York, I’ve browsed through the Strand, watched Broadway shows, picnicked in Central Park, and fangirled at movie premieres. Every day when I exit the Subway, I glance up at the Empire State Building, walk past the Flatiron Building, and go to work under the golden dome of the historic New York Life Insurance Building. And, of course, I work in publishing, just like I always dreamed of doing. Maybe it’s not the intimate indie publisher I had envisioned, but the experience and professional network will come in handy when I decided that it’s time to move on.

Moving to New York was not my first choice, but it was the right one. The more I do, the better acquainted with the city I become, and the more I grow to love it. I don’t know if I’ll stay here forever, but since moving here, I can hardly imagine living anywhere else.

I’m curious to hear your opinions on the trials of moving to the big city. If you’re in New York, did you move here to look for a job in publishing or to start one? For those of you working in publishing outside of New York, how did you end up there? How do you like it?  And what’s your take on the “NYCentricity” of the American book industry?

One Comment

  1. Nicole says:

    It’s kind of dirty in many parts of the city and it’s really busy, but that’s New York. it does have some good places and of course the one and only Statue of Liberty, which is amazing to take the whole family to go see it as a day trip. But the overall price to live in New York is outrageous. I think it’s way too expensive and is not worth it. Besides, I’m not much of a people person 🙂 )(Just Kidding)

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