Feature · Interview · publishing

Pub Life #4: Getting Creative With A Marketing Graphic Designer

Through our Pub Life posts, Writer’s Block Party will be hosting guests and contributors who talk about their jobs within the publishing industry. There are many more career paths in publishing than a lot of people realize, and we’re so excited to spotlight a few of them for you guys!

Today, we’re excited to share with you our interview with Alex Castellanos, a marketing graphic designer at Bloomsbury!

  1. Okay, marketing graphic designer—what exactly does that position entail?

As part of the marketing team, I design ads, both print and digital, galleys, social media assets, as well as promotional materials for conferences and preorder campaigns, and everything else in between that might need a designer’s eye. A typical day for me starts with an excel spreadsheet of all the things I need to get done in the order they are due. Then I jump from project to project throughout the day—it’s pretty nonstop.

  1. I didn’t even know this kind of position existed until you got it! Can you give us a quick overview of how you came to it?

It’s a little roundabout. I got my degree in Theatre Design and Technology and worked as a scenic artist for a few years in New York City before transitioning into publishing. Being a freelance scenic artist was fun and exciting, but it was starting to get really demanding, both physically and socially, for me. After three years I realized it wasn’t a great long-term option for me. I’m a big fan of Alexandra Bracken, and it was through her blog that I learned about the Columbia Publishing Course. I have always loved books and reading, but I’d never even considered publishing as a career. I happened to have a friend who worked in the industry and picked her brain about how to make myself a good candidate for the course. Luckily, I was able to get an internship at a literary agency and then got into the course for the summer of 2016. It was through the course that I found my job!

  1. Most people assume that you need a degree in English Literature, or something like it, to get a job in publishing. Did you ever get pushback for having a degree in something not so obviously book-related?

One time, I had an interview for an internship with a literary agent, and he spent an hour telling me I would never work in publishing with my degree. He also ranted about how terrible the industry is and how I should try to do something else because I’d just end up hating it. He was probably having a really bad day (or year? or life?), who knows. But, I’d already accomplished and succeeded at one thing that I had once received a lot of derision for (a theater degree), and he wasn’t going to get me down. If NYC couldn’t knock me down while I was working in theater, publishing certainly wasn’t going to break me. I pushed through, and now here I am! And, for the record, I love my job and do not hate the publishing industry, so he was wrong all the way around. So, don’t listen to Debbie Downers and always believe in yourself, you’ll get there.

  1. I know in addition to your job at Bloomsbury, you also create art from your favorite books (exhibit A: this gorgeous poster for Susan Dennard’s TRUTHWITCH). How do you balance your work life and your creative life?

Honestly, the biggest thing for me lately has been focusing on self-care, specifically when it comes to physical health. I mentioned that scenic art is damaging to the body, and what I do now is definitely not as debilitating, but I still sit hunched over a desk working with a mouse or tablet, staring a computer screen for eight hours at work, and then I come home and do the same thing for several more hours working on personal projects. Working like this leads to all kinds of back/neck/wrist/hand problems if you’re not careful. I’ve started doing exercises at my desk to help with this—they are quick and easy, and there are so many resources online to help you find the right one for your body. I wear blue light glasses that protect my eyes from damage from staring at screens all day. It’s easy to forget about your eyes and hands, but it’s so important to listen to your body and to be forward thinking with your care so that you can read/write/draw and fulfill all yours dreams without inconvenient (and painful) interruption!

Also, I am a big proponent of designated spaces. I used to work on my personal art from the couch in my living room, but now my desk is my designated workspace. It helps me focus and increases my productivity because when I sit down at my desk my brain knows it’s time to get stuff done. A desk with a good chair is also a better place to be sitting at for hours than slumped on the couch anyways.  

  1. I think it’s every author’s dream for someone to create fan art of their characters. What is it about certain books that sparks your creativity and makes you want to draw that character or that scene?

Obviously if I love the book, I want to draw the characters and scenes from it! But a really lush or atmospheric world definitely gives me that creative spark. I veer more towards fantasy or historical fiction when creating art because that content is so much fun to play with. I studied historical costume, architecture, and decor, so any time an author is specific about the type of clothing a character wears, I get so excited. I’ve even been known to pull out notes on the Rococo period from college before starting some fanart (THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE made me do it). Fichus! And stomachers! And kirtles! A good ol’ robe à la Française! I absolutely lose it for Byzantine columns and anything Robert Adam.

  1. What’s your favorite thing you’ve worked on at Bloomsbury?

I made a video ad for TOWER OF DAWN that used elements from the cover and brought them into faux 3D life using a parallax effect, which sounds like a lot of nonsense but resulted in what I think was a really cool action-packed video. It had flying and smashing text, fluttering atmospheric debris of some kind, and clouds that crashed my computer a couple times! Totally worth it.

Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us, Alex!

You can follow Alex on Twitter @aalexxsea or on Instagram @_alexcastellanos, and don’t forget to check out her store on Society6!

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