Tracy van Straaten, Scholastic’s longtime head of publicity—her official title is v-p, communications, publicity and educational marketing for Scholastic Trade Division—is leaving the company on July 12 after 13 years. After 27 years away, most of that time in New York City, Van Straaten is moving back to her hometown, Chicago, and officially launching on September 3 a boutique public relations and consulting agency: TvS Media Group. Van Straaten is both sole proprietor and sole employee.
Prior to working at Scholastic, van Straaten worked for more than seven years at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in its publicity department, working her way up the ranks from associate director to v-p, executive director. She also spent a year at William Morrow and one at HarperCollins Children’s Books. She launched her career in publishing in 1992 as a publicity and marketing assistant at Little, Brown in its Boston offices, and left Boston for New York City in 1996.
Over the course of her 25+ years in publishing, van Straaten has directed publicity campaigns for a number of bestsellers ranging from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy to Ian Falconer’s Olivia picture books. Van Straaten won a Literary Marketplace Award for the publicity campaign for the re-launch of the Eloise series by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight.
Van Straaten said that she is making the move because she has always considered the Windy City her home, despite so many years spent living elsewhere. “I loved every minute working in-house with the best team of book creators in the world, but I always wanted to move back to Chicago,” she said. “I just had to figure out how. If I was going to do it, now is the time to do it.”
After van Straaten sets up an office in downtown Chicago, TvS Media Group will begin taking on 2020 campaigns after the Labor Day weekend. She has already committed to working with Scholastic on a project that she is “excited about,” but would not disclose further details.
Not only will TvS Media Group undertake large-scale campaigns in collaboration with publishers, it will also consult with authors and publishers on their campaigns. “I can see working with authors and with publishers in a few sessions, refining their messaging and looking over their social media campaigns,” van Straaten said.
Van Straaten said that while TvS Media Group will specialize in projects involving children’s books and authors, she does not rule out expanding beyond that niche. She hopes to perform the kind of promotional work she did at Scholastic: crafting publicity campaigns to draw maximum attention to books, authors, and brands.
“My passion is children’s and YA books and authors,” she said. “I want to introduce new talent, grow authors, and showcase new books. This is the best of both worlds: I get to keep on doing what I do and I get to live in Chicago.”