A Day in the Life of … a Press Officer

Posted on January 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

Tell us a little bit about what your job involves.
A publicist has to get a book as much coverage in the media as possible. This can be in the form of reviews, features, round-ups and interviews with the author. Publicists also arrange author appearances at book signings, book tours and literary festivals or literary lunches. A huge part of the job is also creating and maintaining great relations with journalists.

Is working in publicity as glamorous as it sounds? Do you get to meet famous authors and other celebrities?
Well, sometimes it can be. To be entirely honest I’m sitting in the back of a posh Jaguar with Michael McIntyre right now, writing this on my blackberry, BUT we’ve just done a frantic mini tour in not-so-glamorous supermarkets in not-so-glamorous areas of the UK. Publicists get a chance to spend time with authors and this can be exciting when they’re big names but often the author care side of things can be time-consuming and more difficult than you might imagine. Also, it’s worth saying that there aren’t as many long lunches with journalists as people may assume  meetings are usually held over a quick cuppa instead these days.

What about book launches and parties?
Fewer and fewer books have a big launch but some do and they can be great fun. However, if you’re the publicist these nights are usually very stressful  putting on a successful book launch takes a lot of time, preparation and thought.

What does a typical day involve?
An awful lot of emails and phone calls, usually to/from journalists. We have to be thinking about books out next week as well as books out in four months  mailing those out to monthly magazines is really important so you’re always juggling various books at one time. You may be meeting an author for the first time or having a coffee with a journalist to go through your catalogue list. Ultimately keeping on top of all your titles, keeping the authors happy and making sure every publicity avenue is explored and every angle or hook is used to get coverage is paramount.

What attracted you to a career in publishing in general, and publicity in particular?
I did work experience at Penguin whilst doing my MA and really enjoyed myself. Though I found doing a week in editorial interesting I adored my week in Pubicity. I enjoyed writing press releases and liked the buzz in the office. I had always liked the idea of working in the media but didn’t want to be a journalist so publicity seemed the perfect choice!

How did you get where you are today?
Keeping my ears and eyes open when I was doing my work experience and being willing to do anything that needed doing. As well as all the exciting elements to the job there’s always time consuming mail outs and photocopying that needs to be done so work experience people that help out with these are always greatly appreciated. I think the reason I’m where I am is because I was happy to take on all responsibilities of the job and, ultimately, I enjoyed it.

What is the best part of your job?
The pride in securing fantastic coverage, the creativity used in putting together a great campaign and working with interesting authors and journalists.

And the worst?
Publicists have to be very organised and prepared for any eventuality. Remaining unflappable when chaos ensues at an event with a big author can be a little unnerving so keeping your cool, resolving a situation and making sure the author is happy can be tricky.

What would your advice be to someone aspiring to work in publicity?
Pick up on how books are publicised in the media and how coverage can be very creative (a good publicist would never just rely on reviews). Aim to please if you’re lucky enough to get work experience and you’ll stick out and be remembered when the next job comes up. Good luck!

Interview with Jo Wickham, Senior Press Officer at Michael Joseph, Penguin.