Industry Q&A with Publicist Jamie Tan

Candlewick Press Publicist Jamie Tan, with questions provided by summer marketing and publicity intern Melissa Lee:

As someone who’s spent a couple years trying to figure out the right career path, it didn’t dawn on me to consider publishing until I began blogging and reviewing.  What about publishing appealed to you?

My mother says I have been entranced with books as soon as I learned how to hold objects. The idea of getting to work with them was tantalizing – almost a privilege more than an occupation. As a kid I had no idea what kind of publishing jobs were out there, but I knew I wanted to make books and read to my heart’s content…and somehow get paid for it.

Since high school, I have been determined to pick a career that wouldn’t have me ending up in a cubicle feeling miserable. Not everyone is able to do what they love as their career. Though watching you, you seem to love being a publicist. What about being a publicist gets you up and out of bed every morning?

Easily, the people. I actually love working in my cubicle because I’m right next to some of the best people I know – incredibly intelligent people who can talk about everything from critical theories to promo items to the proper care of mint plants. I’m a really social person, and I don’t know what I would do without my co-workers nearby! I also work with some of the most pleasant authors and illustrators I’ve ever met, so not only do I want to keep my job, I want to make sure that these people get their work out there.


Describe what it means to be a book publicist in 5 words.

I could talk about this for hours, so I’m bending the rules and tucking in explanations after them.

  • Organization – This is the cornerstone of everything I do in publicity, as I have so many projects in progress at any given moment. My devotion to Google Drive is legendary, without it I’m not sure if I could survive.
  • Random – The most unexpected things will happen when you’re a publicist. I’ve received Saturday morning calls about travel delays, been in a green room with some old school Power Rangers, and once answered an author’s question about how to use a tire gauge. My child self wouldn’t believe me if I told her this, especially the part about the tire gauge (thanks for making me check my tires repeatedly, Dad).
  • Adaptable – This goes hand in hand with unexpected. Whenever I travel, I always have a Tide pen, Sharpie, Post-its, zip ties, hair pins, and a zillion other little things, just in case. I always try to keep an inventory of things I have on hand because you never know!
  • Well-read – Outside of work, I read anything and everything, from picture books to books about the origins of the universe. I end up using myself as a test case – was there something about this book that made me pick it up? Did I hear about it somewhere? Can I use that same technique on one of my books?
  • Fun – I swear I’ll stop talking about how lovely my authors are, but they are such delights. When you put our energies together, it ends up in a litany of fun things – I end up hanging out by pools, sometimes authors let me drag them to major tourist attractions, and I take way too many photos that sometimes sneak their way in to my tour recaps.

There has been a lot of discussion about bringing more diversity to publishing staff and encouraging accurate representation in books being published. Can you share your thoughts on this topic and what that means to you?

When I was growing up, my parents frequently took me to the Philippines. I love it there because it was always so much fun to go – tons of family members, weekends spent on boats or on remote islands, and marathon shopping in the largest malls I’ve ever seen. I was always so excited to go, and when I’d tell my classmates in school a few of them would wrinkle their noses and wonder why I would go to a third world country and probably stay in a hut with a dirt floor. What did they know of the culture I was raised in, or what the Philippines was like? What kinds of media or stereotypes were they consuming that made them feel like they knew better than me about something I had actually done? I often wonder what it would have been like if there were more diverse children’s books when I was younger. Would my middle-school self have been more proud of her heritage, less combative when my favorite place in the world was challenged?

If you weren’t working in publishing, do you think you’d still be working with books in some way?

I’d easily still be working at a bookstore and hand-selling up a storm.

Not everyone ends up in a career they went to college for. There are times I wish I could go back in time and do college over and pick “the right career.”  What advice would you give your teenage self if you could travel back in time?

Go to your local indie and make friends with the staff or apply for a job. There is no way I would be working at Candlewick today if I hadn’t worked at my hometown indie, Changing Hands Bookstore. I got the chance to learn about the book business, devour galleys as fast as they came in, attend book talks, and make my first bookseller friends. I needed that primer to situate myself in the book business, and I’m so grateful for it.


Jamie Tan is a publicist at Candlewick Press, and is perpetually grateful to make a living doing what she loves most—talking about books. Outside of reading obsessively, Jamie loves swimming, K-dramas, and tending to her growing collection of plants. You can find her on Twitter @thejamietan.


Melissa Lee is currently the Marketing and Publicity intern at Candlewick Press and a bookseller at Blue Bunny Books in Dedham Square, MA. In addition to being an avid reader, she loves watching anime, and might be more than a little bit in love with Matt Smith. You can find her on Twitter @miss_melissalee.

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