Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Ana Ban graduated from the M.S. in Publishing program in 2015. Before moving to the U.S. from Brazil in 2013, she worked as a writer and translator for 12 years handling books published by Neil Gaiman, John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf, Meg Cabot, and Jack Kerouac. (She also has experience translating graphic novels and magazines like Rolling Stone and National Geographic into Brazilian Portuguese).
Ban moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing when machine translation programs became more readily available. Pace was her destination of choice because of “all the support the whole staff gave [her] – a foreigner moving to the city – during the whole process of application, enrollment, and adapting to the local culture. After graduation, she started working in contracts and rights management at The Experiment, an independent nonfiction publisher. Founded in 2009, it publishes “highly practical” and “straightforwardly narrative” books, as well as works that “ingeniously combine practical information with narrative gusto.” It’s best-known for its vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free cookbooks such as Forks Over Knives and The No Meat Athlete Cookbook.
What did you study?
I did my BA in Social Communication – Journalism from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil and MS (Publ,ishing) from, Pace University
How would you describe your experience in the publishing program? Do any moments in particular stand out to you?
Studying at Pace was one of the most enjoyable things I ever did in my life. Everything was great from my first class about comic books. Coming from a different culture, this course gave me an encompassing overview of how the publishing industry works in the U.S., allowing me to reconcile what I had learned at home in Brazil with a completely different reality. My favorite classes were the ones covering my favorite subjects. Besides having comic book legend Paul Levitz as a professor for two terms, he also arranged for my idol Karen Berger to teach a class when he was away. Having Manuela Soares, editor of Harry Potter, teach about children’s books was a dream come true.
What sort of work did you do when you first started at The Experiment?
When I first started working at The Experiment, I wore a lot of hats. The position I applied for was part-time, dealing with contracts and helping foreign agents. Then they decided they wanted me to work full-time (and that was the kind of job I needed because of my foreign status), so they combined two part-time positions and I ended up working as an assistant to the Production Manager and taking care of metadata (not to mention office managing).
As The Experiment’s list grew (from about 15 titles per season when I first started to 23 currently), they really needed me to take care of contracts (which was never a big passion of mine, but a natural fit because I’m very organized and had been managing my own company for 15 years). They also needed to take greater care with subrights (which is the area I’m really interested in), which was part of my original job description.
After a year, our foreign rights and licenses income increased quite a bit, in part because now, for the first time, there’s someone dedicated to helping agents and following submissions and pitches closely. I got a new job that I never considered, which was selling audio-book licenses. In 2017, the first full year I did that, income grew 350 per cent in comparison to the previous year.
How would you describe your current position as a Contracts & Rights Manager?
I do all the company’s contracts (publishing agreements, licenses, domestic, and subsidiary rights), help foreign agents, and deal with domestic rights. I’m also responsible for getting translation/publication grants for books, an area I have a bit of knowledge about because I wrote my graduate thesis on international literature in the U.S. (At The Experiment, about 10 per cent of books published are translations, which is quite high for a U.S. publisher.)
The best thing about working here is that you can do more than your job description. I also examine foreign lists/news to look for titles that could be published. One book I suggested last year, Let’s Play Yoga, was recently acquired and will be published in the fall. I was happy to find a great Brazilian title that complemented The Experiment’s list, and I got to translate it into English. It’s the first translation I have published outside of Brazil, so I feel quite accomplished!
How do you interact with people working in other departments?
The Experiment is a small company, and everyone must work together to do what needs to be done. My work is totally dependent of all the other departments, as I have to get the info and discuss the dealings of each publishing agreement with editors. I work closely with production so I can get proofs and final copy to agents and licensors, I get covers and design files from art to send to licensors, and I work closely with publicity and sales to work out licenses for international sales territories.
What advice would you give to students entering the field?
I don’t think anyone should apply to a job they’re not interested in, just for the sake of getting a job. But, if you can do a little bit of what you like in a sea of duties you’re not crazy about, go for it, as you will be able to shine in the area that interests you most, and your employer will want you to do what you’re good at.
When you apply to an agency or publisher, go through their list, find something you’re really passionate about, and bring that up in your cover letter and interview. If you have something to say about one of their titles/authors, it’s a much more interesting conversation, and it shows you have a connection with the company – much better than just reciting their latest titles and/or bestsellers.
Any other thoughts to share?
I’d like to give a shout-out to the foreign students. Don’t think you’re less-than because of your accent – nobody cares about that. New York is welcoming to foreign workers and companies, and even the small ones are aware of visa issues. They will help you.
What are you reading right now?
I’m now reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author, and I’ve been lagging on the title. It’s going to become a TV series next year, so I need to read it before I watch!