Hello beautiful adventurers!
I’m so excited to share a special interview with you today. My twitter friend Nina Douglas, Publicist with Orion Children’s Books, agreed to share the benefit of her experience after working in the industry for over a decade. All this, and she’s lovely, too! You should follow her on twitter – if you love books at all, you want her on your feed. Enough fangirling! Here we go:
Hi Nina, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello! I’m Nina, and I look after the PR for Orion Children’s Books and Indigo. We’re currently a small children’s/ YA list that forms part of the Orion Publishing Group, though from January 2015, we’ll become a part of Hachette Children’s Group; a brand new division that will draw together all of Hachette UK’s Children’s and YA publishing.
I’ve worked for Orion for over 5 years, and in the industry for around 11 – always in Children’s (inspired by my UEA dissertation on Harry Potter and then a postgrad in Publishing) and across various sized lists at different houses. PR isn’t what I thought I’d be doing when I first looked to get into publishing (I wanted to be an editor, though I would have been very unsuited to it), but PR was where I began in a temporary role, and I’ve never left.
What is a day in the life of a publicist like?
If I’m honest there is no typical day at all – it sounds like a cliché but it’s true, we really do have one of the most varied, interesting and exciting roles within the trade. There are of course jobs that need to be completed every day, week and month – after 11 years the annual conferences and festivals, meetings and pitches seem to come round faster than they used to, but each author, book and publishing season is different.
In any one week I can be plotting campaigns for six months ahead (and more) both with the author and with the team in house, writing PR material and creating specific pitches, pitching by phone and email for books that publish in the following months – and not forgetting the very important pitch in person, too. I could be attending a sales pitch, a conference, festival or award, working on an industry initiative such as World Book Day or the YA Lit Con at LFCC, working with a big partner such as the Science Museum Group to create a big promotion or taking some time to create a project or initiative that will work across a number of authors, or part of the list.
Of course there are also the day to day jobs: the budgeting, the management of the PR manager who works for me, and (inevitably) admin. Our job is also about grabbing those unexpected opportunities – the moments where we can see something happening in the news, and pitch to bring an author or a book into the discussion.
Of course we also have to read! Both possible acquisitions, and the books we’re about to publish – we’ll read to help create a pitch to acquire a book to the author and agent, and we’ll read to create our pitches to media (you can’t pitch something you don’t know) and when we have time, of course we’ll read the competition. I’m an English & American Lit graduate – even if it wasn’t part of my job, I’d still be reading all I could.
And then there’s social media. Addictive, compelling and really important for maintaining relationships of all kinds, for occasional pitching, for industry and world news and for being a really important part of our campaigns, for sharing our successes and news and information. Social media is brilliant for the books community – Twitter is the perfect place for people who love words, and when you need a break from them, then Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest provide interesting ways to create worlds and communities around authors, books, and interests with something other than just words, too.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
There are probably a couple of different answers to this dependent on when you ask – when I’m at an event or festival it is always seeing the reaction of a reader to meeting the author and seeing how inspired they are, whatever the age.
I know personally that some of my all-time favourite moments have been when I’ve met one of my heroes – and both the moments where we realised that the first ever YA Lit Con was going to be a success and seeing the incredible Malala and J.K. Rowling on stage this summer at the Edinburgh festival will be experiences I will never forget.
Feeling the buzz of an exciting potential acquisition also ranks very highly – when we all love something and we win the pitch, then the job is brilliant (and heart-breaking when we lose out on something we really want).
Do you think an author platform is important before publication? What do you think are the best ways for writers to market themselves on social media?
I don’t think an established author platform is absolutely necessary on acquisition/ pre-publication. It is nice if the author is a part of an existing community, and a receptive audience is always a good thing, but publicists will have a plan to introduce a new author which will take into account any starting point.
Readers do now expect to find an author online, but there is no one prescribed way of doing that. If one platform doesn’t work for an author there is nothing to say that they have to be there. My advice is always to try out the different options – to lurk for a while and watch other authors you admire, to experiment and see if your personality suits Twitter, Tumblr, or a Facebook page, or perhaps even a host website that draws in feeds, magpie like for lots of different accounts. Some authors feel that they are most suited to start with world building using images on Pinterest or Instagram.
Do what feels natural (though bear in mind it can sometimes take a little while for any of this to feel so) and the important thing is to be yourself. There is not much worse than a barely updated account – play around until you find what fits and then run with it!
What does a publicist expect from their authors?
A publicist expects an author to work with them – it is very much a partnership. Both should always be on the lookout for the best opportunities, and be proactive, open and receptive to any ideas that might suit the book/ campaign – or another purpose such as a specific sales or awards target.
What are your favourite books of the year so far?
This is an impossible question! From the books I have read (and not worked on), I would say one of my most anticipated from 2014 that did not disappoint was Laini Taylor’s DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS. Incredible storytelling, I felt bereft on turning the final page and plan to re-read soon.
Thank you so much for having me!
You can find us/ me here – please do say hello…
Thank you so much for being on our blog, Nina!