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 October, we introduce you to our production associate, Travis Cohen!
What drew you to publishing, Travis? How did you find your way to Beacon?
My degree is actually in film, but I realized only afterward that it wasn’t what I wanted for myself, so I did what any sensible person would do—I street performed for a little while in Baltimore, playing bucket drums. Wanting something more stable, I luckily got hired on as a manager at a Books-A-Million. The rest is history, I guess. I just fell in love with books, the industry, and the people in it. My first taste of publishing was during an internship at MIT Press where I got to work in a few different departments. That affirmed publishing as the right place for me.
Beacon was always in the foreground. You knew someone was on the right path if you caught them purchasing a Beacon book. Its history and work embody a moral clarity that represents (and actively contributes to) the best of American thought—so I applied!
What’s a typical day in the life of a production associate?
Hard to say. Every day seems so different and poses unique challenges. The short answer: shepherding our paperback conversions and reprints through production, digitally archiving files for our books, and assisting my colleagues in any way that I can. Most of it, though, consists of chasing down printers.
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
What’s your advice to someone interested in entering the publishing field?
Find someone in publishing willing to talk to you and provide a good breakdown of the life. It’s a small world inhabited by genuinely good people. It might not lead to a job, but what does these days?
What skills have you taken from previous jobs to help you do your work at Beacon?
Working in bookstores has probably done more for my development than any institution, and it is all by dint of working with such brilliant and amazing people. That said, customer service might be the one that gets tapped into the most.
Favorite thing about Boston?
Just hear me out: the MBTA. It was the first thing I loved about this city, which probably says a lot about my mental health. I’ll also say the Boston Public Library and our fantastic array of used bookstores.
What are you reading right now?
Shutdown by Adam Tooze. I wasn’t interested in reading a COVID book yet, but I do love Tooze and am enjoying it.
What’s the next queued song on your music player?
Pressure to Party by Julia Jacklin.
Favorite book ever?
The Private Life of Chairman Mao. Unsure if this is my favorite book ever, but it has to be close. It’s magisterial history and memoir rolled into one. We should be thankful every day that Dr. Li decided to chronicle his experience.
Hobbies outside of work?
Playing Stardew Valley with my wife is what you can bet I’m doing right now.
About Travis Cohen
Travis Cohen received his BS in Mass Communication from Frostburg State University in 2014. Before Beacon, he worked at Politics and Prose and Brookline Booksmith, as well as interned for MIT Press. In his spare time, he loves to read/browse books, play video games, and watch anything with beautiful set production.