After a season of hibernation, we are excited to reboot our “Beacon Behind the Books” series! In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—including Christopher Emdin, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Robin DiAngelo, James Baldwin, and Gayl Jones—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 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. And not only our staff, but our interns, too!
For the month of September, we introduce you to our sales intern, Ambriah Underwood!
What drew you to publishing, Ambriah? How did you find your way to Beacon?
It took me a long while to figure out that there were entire careers behind every page of the books I was reading. It might sound odd, but it wasn’t until reading about Anastasia Steele working in a publishing house from Fifty Shades of Grey that I put it together (pretty sure that wasn’t the goal of the book, haha). After that, I spent more and more time looking not only at what I was reading, but also which publisher or imprint was producing it. Nearly a decade later (definitely shouldn’t have been reading Fifty Shades that young, sorry mom and dad!), I landed this amazing sales internship at Beacon after applying for the role in conjunction with the We Need Diverse Books grant, which operates every summer.
What’s your advice to someone interested in entering the publishing field?
You’ll often hear that you should apply to all different types of jobs in publishing to get your foot in the door and then later you can switch to another department you’re interested in. While there is certainly some truth to that, particularly when you’re completing internships, I would recommend you primarily apply to the jobs you really want. It’s a huge commitment to spend one or two years in one field with the hope you’ll eventually go to the one you have your heart set on.
What do you wish someone had told you about publishing when you were entering the industry?
It’s funny, because I was certainly warned about this, but I just want to reiterate it just in case you haven’t: it’s totally normal to feel imposter syndrome in your early phase on the job. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, unsure, and worried that you might be in over your head. The great thing is no one expects you to know everything when you first get there, so ease up on yourself as you get acclimated!
What helps you focus when you’re working?
I will zoom in on the screen so I have no distractions and am solely focused on reading the words right in front of me. I essentially turn into the person who has their texting font sized to the max. I also give myself micro checkpoints and deadlines. I’ll tell myself, “Do this for thirty minutes and then you get a break.” Knowing that I have that reprieve coming up gets me even more motivated to finish what I am working on.
What skills have you taken from Beacon to help you with your work at your next job?
I am incredibly fortunate to say that upon wrapping my summer 2021 internship at Beacon, I’ll be working as an editorial assistant at Grand Central Publishing’s Forever imprint at Hachette Book Group. The skills I’m taking from Beacon are undoubtedly rooted in the revision process. Getting feedback on Title Information Sheets (copy, key selling points, author bios, target consumers, etc.) really encouraged me to think deeply about the core message and themes of the books, and what the audience would resonate with most. Understanding these elements will be essential not only to my future fact sheet write-ups, but also when I think about why I am drawn to a specific title.
What are you reading right now?
After reading Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred for my work at Beacon, I’ve been reading a lot of Afro-futuristic books. Right now, I am finishing up Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone and am about to start reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer.
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
For my undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, I majored in multi-platform journalism. In an alternate universe, I’d probably have continued my work in journalism. Likely on the editorial side, doing things like copyediting or fact-checking. Also, reporting really got me out of my shell and helped me figure out how to ask strong follow-up questions (which are always helpful during job interviews!).
What’s the next queued song on your music player?
BeBe & CeCe Winans “Addictive Love”! It always brings a smile to my face not only from the nostalgia of my childhood churchgoing days, but whenever I hear it, I can’t help but giggle thinking about the spot-on parody Kevin Fredericks (@KevOnStage) made reenacting the hearty singing.
Name three things at your workstation you can’t live without.
A notepad with a pen, a full water bottle, and my motivational quote-of-the-day calendar.
Do you still have a commute to work? If not, do you miss it? What do or did you like to do to pass the time?
While I don’t yet have to commute for my role as an editorial assistant, I do look forward to it. I like listening to music, reading, people watching, and stopping by local shops to pick up some lunch or breakfast. As a bonus, my calf muscles always wind up looking super toned after I speed-walk my way to work!