In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—such as Robin DiAngelo, Cornel West, Anita Hill, and Christopher Emdin—are appearing in the media, their ideas going viral on social media, their voices being heard on so many platforms, we thought it might be good to take a break to focus on some of the staff who work hard to find, shape, edit, produce, and promote those works. Our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books” introduces to you a member of our staff and gives you a behind-the-scenes look, department by department, at what goes on at our office.
This September, meet our associate digital marketing manager, Christian Coleman!
How did you find your way to Beacon, Christian?
Finishing my last year of undergrad, I had the intention of becoming a high school teacher of Spanish and French. The pedagogy courses I took, however, convinced me that I didn’t want to teach after all. On top of that, I had to pay my way through college on my own, and when you’re competing in the Student Debt Olympics, year after year, you reconsider taking on a job that would barely cover rent and the cost of that luxury called food. I had to think of something else.
My first job out of college was in finance. I would’ve left that merciless grind after two years, but the recession thundered onto the scene and spooked us all. There we were, crapping into our Grown-Ass Pampers out of fear of not finding another job if we left. I stayed for another four years until moving on, in every literal sense, to work at two nonprofits in California: one dedicated to environmental issues, the other a support organization for LGBTQ+ South Asians. The marketing, writing, and copyediting jobs I had at these places primed me for the digital marketing associate position that opened at Beacon.
Even though I’ve been a voracious reader and writer since the age of five, I didn’t see myself working this side of publishing, at least not until I looked into working professionally with books. I just took a scenic, jaggedy route to get here.
So what exactly does digital marketing entail?
For some people, the best part of waking up is Starbucks or Dunkins in their cup. (Sorry, Folgers!) For me, it’s social media: posting campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram throughout the day to get word out about Beacon’s books and our authors. At the same time, I’m keeping tabs on our authors and trending news online. Then I update and upload content—book covers, copy, author photos, and bios—on Beacon’s website and vendor websites, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound. Beacon has a SoundCloud account where I upload samples of our audiobooks. Twice a month, I put together and send out e-newsletters. I track weekly and monthly online statistics to see which social media posts are most effective and which ones aren’t. And last, but not least, yours truly edits the very blog you’re reading. That’s the gist of it.
What helps you focus when you’re at work?
A walk along the harbor in the afternoon to clear out the brain when it’s oversaturated. Sometimes I turn to music, but it depends on the task at hand. While working on copy, drafting tweets and Facebook posts, or even writing this Q&A piece, I find music with words distracting. Too much language to juggle and parse. So, I cue up my instrumentals.
You should ask me what I jam to.
But that question is supposed to come toward the end.
That’s OK. You can ask me something else when we get there.
. . . OK. What do you jam to?
Béla Bartók. You can’t go wrong with his String Quartets, Two through Six, though the Third and Fourth are my absolute jam. And they help me stay laser focused. Dense, intricate counterpoint has that effect on you. That also goes for his piano work, like his Piano Sonata, Out of Doors Suite, and First Piano Concerto. Alfred Schnittke’s Piano Quintet keeps me focused, too. And all of Herbie Hancock’s discography. I’ve recently rediscovered Dmitri Shostakovich’s Eight String Quartet, which I performed years ago in a string orchestra arrangement. YouTube offers some new gems I’ve discovered, like Alfa Mist’s Nocturne.
Now, if I’m editing a piece for the blog, I can listen to music with lyrics. Songs give me the mental distance I need from a text. And I can listen to songs when I need to power through all my other tasks. Bring on Chaka Khan, Björk, Grace Jones, The Police, The Doors, Janelle Monáe . . .
What’s one book on our list that has influenced your thinking on a particular issue?
That would be Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Although I was born and raised in the Southwest, I took the presence of Native American history and culture for granted. It was right there, outside my doorstep. A school field trip to Taos Pueblo wasn’t a big deal to me. (My hometown, by the way, is the city made famous formerly because of Bugs Bunny, but now made infamous because of a TV show about that chemistry teacher-turned-meth mogul.) Her book dredged up all my previous knowledge of America’s settler-colonial history and completely rewired it, making connections with other branches of history I hadn’t seen before. Learning how Native American history intersected with that of enslaved Blacks, for example, was eye-opening—and sobering!
What do you wish someone had told you about publishing when you were entering the industry?
That there’s more to a publishing house than the editorial and design departments. It ought to seem obvious when you’re holding a book in your hands. These days, some authors give shout-outs in their acknowledgments to the teams that turn their manuscripts into the bound word sandwiches we bookworms feast on. When you’re in writing workshops, you’re often not thinking about the other departments in publishing, such as marketing, publicity, and production. I sure wasn’t when I was taking writing courses at Grub Street and the Clarion Workshop. Working at Beacon has shown me the entire lifecycle of a book and how all the departments work together.
The longer I live in New England, the more I crave the Mexican and New Mexican grub I ate growing up. The authentic stuff is nonexistent in the Boston area. It’s watered down and spiceless. If you want authentic, the spice must flow. Don’t even tell me you’ve found a good Mexican restaurant here, because you haven’t. Nuh-uh! Where I grew up, restaurant servers ask you “Red or green?” when it comes to choosing the chili pepper you want. The absence of pepper is not only blasphemy but simply not an option.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut short story collection Friday Black. I’m also reading Andy Duncan’s short story collection An Agent of Utopia, Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, and Richard Dawkins’s Unweaving the Rainbow.
You’ve written previously on Beacon’s blog that you read and write speculative fiction. Here’s a thought experiment for you: In an alternate timeline, what career would you have?
In one alternate timeline, I didn’t have a falling out with music and gave the composer-pianist gig a go. I studied music for sixteen years—performance (violin, piano, and voice), theory, composition—but found out that performing on stage and the classical music scene in general weren’t my thing. I have fond memories, though, of performing in chamber groups and composing. I’ve written some chamber pieces, cowritten others with my brother, who’s a cellist and composer, and scored some short indie films. In fact, my fifteen minutes of fame as a composer-pianist are recorded in IMDb.com. You can find me there.
In another alternate timeline, I’d be working as a stop-motion animator. In high school, my brother and I made stop-motion videos, starring our action figures and other toys, with a camcorder. While I love and admire the cell animation of shows like Ren and Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life, stop-motion animation appeals to my fascination with miniatures and detail. Just look at the Wallace and Gromit films. I love seeing the animators’ fingerprints on the plasticine figures, the craft involved in designing and building the figures and the sets. Plus, the nightmares stop-motion animators have sound like a blast! They dream about disembodied tongues, teeth, and lips—all in miniature!
And favorite book ever?
Books, honey. Always plural. Never singular. And who said anything about favorite? These books are canon—my canon, anyway. We don’t play favorites. Here are a few:
- Octavia E. Butler’s Wild Seed
- Roald Dahl’s My Uncle Oswald—though I enjoy rereading this book with the caveat of knowing that Mr. Dahl was an anti-Semite, misogynist, and a consummate asshole when it struck his fancy
- Ray Bradbury’s Death Is a Lonely Business
- Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo
- Margaret Mahy’s The Haunting
About Christian Coleman
Before joining Beacon in 2015, Christian Coleman worked in writing, copy editing, and marketing positions at Sustainable Silicon Valley and Trikone. He graduated from Boston College and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Follow him on Twitter at @coleman_II.