Alumni Spotlight: Designing for Life

design_christinaquinteroFor our latest “Alumni Spotlight,” we would like to tell you about Christina Quintero, who graduated from NYU’s MS Publishing: Digital & Print Media program in 2010. She was awarded the Oscar Dystel Fellowship for demonstrating a strong command of her academic studies as well as remarkable creativity, inventive ideas, and dedication to a career in book publishing. She currently works as the Executive Art Director of Licensing and Intellectual Property at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Her favorite book as a child was Roald Dahl’s Matilda. MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media student Alysyn Reinhardt spoke with Christina about everything from how the program helped her career to what she does all day on the job:

What drew you to NYU’s MS in Publishing program?

I liked that it provided a broad overview of the industry, including classes on everything from digital media to marketing and finance. As someone with a background in design, I’m not often exposed to those areas in my daily work life, and having that knowledge was very helpful as I’ve transitioned into an art director role. As a designer, you get so involved with making the book. An art director needs to understand the full scope of the business. The finance course in particular was a little tough, but so helpful! I learned how to do a business plan and structure ideas. These are things I otherwise wouldn’t have known because publishing as a business has a lot of quirks unique to the industry.

What was your favorite course while you were in the program and why?

My favorite course was probably the children’s book publishing course. It’s my field, so I was excited about it anyway. That said, there were some great speakers, a look at children’s books from past decades to present, and a trip to the New York Public Library to see the original dolls that inspired Winnie the Pooh (which I worked on when I was an art designer at Penguin) and the underground book shelves. I also learned a lot from the legal, finance, and global publishing-related course, where we had some great conference calls with international publishers to get a feel for the international marketplace. I also appreciated the capstone project [a business plan for a new media venture]; it was wonderful to put everything we learned to use to create a working business model and get feedback from industry experts.

What was your Capstone about?

It was an idea for a book publishing program that expanded on public domain content through the use of augmented reality and enhanced formats. The company name, “Seek,” referenced my goal of looking for new ways of publishing by telling unique stories or classic stories in unique ways.

How did you get your job at Little, Brown?

A friend and former co-worker heard about the position and recommended me. As clichéd as it sounds, in publishing, especially children’s book publishing, it’s very important to network and build relationships as opportunities are often word-of-mouth.

Your title is Executive Art Director of Licensing and Intellectual Property. What exactly does that mean?

I oversee our licensing and IP titles. Licensing is where we are working with an outside company to expand their content in publishing. So, we work with film studios, toy companies, video game producers, etc., creating a variety of formats for all ages. Little, Brown tends to specialize in original fiction such as the Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends trilogy, Monster High Diaries, and the My Little Pony Princess Collection. We also do sticker books and unique formats such as pop-ups and collector box sets. Intellectual Property projects are ideas we develop in house, and then we find writers and artists to help execute those ideas.

What do you do all day? Walk us through that.

One thing I love about my job is that every day is different. I oversee a team of designers working on about 100-120 books a year. One day I’ll spend a lot of time with designers, getting updates on their projects and planning out schedules for the rest of the year. Some days I’m working with illustrators and designing covers and interiors. Recently, I was at Artist Alley at New York Comic Con to check in with some of my current artists and meet new ones, while also seeing what else was being showcased. Other days I’m meeting with licensors or the in-house IP team to discuss new brands or story lines to expand their content and tell stories that fans will love. It’s never boring!

How is Little, Brown Books for Young Readers structured?

We operate as a “boutique publisher” meaning we publish a smaller list to focus our resources, but as a division of Hachette we also have the advantage of being part of a larger company. We recently moved our offices into an open plan which has put an emphasis on collaboration; it’s more fun to bounce ideas around when you’re sitting right next to everybody.

What is the biggest challenge of your role working with children’s licensing and intellectual property?

On the Licensing side, we work hard to tell stories using characters from outside companies. There’s a lot of moving parts and it’s a challenge to expand the story lines but still stay true to the brand. Also, scheduling can always be challenging because so many out-of-house people are involved.

On the IP side, this is content we already own, so it consists more of brainstorming concepts and book ideas. We try to find something unique and fresh, so the challenge is doing something different.

How you go about deciding the format for each particular work of content?

It’s really a collaborative process between editorial, design, the licensor, and sometimes sales determining the best format needed for both the content and the intended reader. If the content is story-driven for a slightly older audience, we’ll likely do a novel or chapter book; if it’s more art-driven for a younger audience, we might do a board book, picture book, reader, or 8×8 book.

What would you say the biggest trend in children’s publishing is right now?

We’re hearing a lot of people talk about graphic novels or non-fiction. Another big trend is young adult versions of adult novels. Original fiction is also picking up, which is my personal favorite as it allows us to be a lot more creative.

What is a project you’re currently working on that you’re excited about?

For licensing, I work with a lot confidential information, so I can’t tell you yet what we’re up to next year, but the more creative projects are always my favorites. The My Little Pony fans are extremely passionate, so it’s always fun to do projects for them, including a really elaborate box set we did for the “Daring Do” character that included three books and an exclusive toy.

On the IP side, we’re just launching our first series: Classroom 13 is a series of chapter books that are super wacky, each chapter about an individual kid. Peter Powers is a super-hero tale which is described as Modern Family meets The Incredibles. And finally I would like to mention the Tales from the Scaremaster series; It’s fun to illustrate the spooky covers.

What is the best advice you would give someone who wishes to enter children’s publishing?

Go explore libraries and bookstores! Decide what you’re most interested in. Whether it’s picture books, middle grade, or young adult, find an imprint or publisher who does what you want to do, then research that company. [In an interview], always display your interest and showcase what you know.

headshotby Alysyn Reinhardt

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