Emily Rivet is a publicist and all-around nice lady at Peachtree Publishers. It was she who invited us to the Peachtree blog tour this year. We thought it would be great to interview her and see what it takes to be a publicist these days.
What qualities make a good publicist? There are several skills/qualities that are needed to succeed as a publicist, but I'd emphasise being attentive and organised. Publicists work on several deadlines at a time, and it's impossible to stay on top of everything if you don't have these qualities. Responding to emails quickly and making sure important information is always at your fingertips (ex: names, contact information, dates, deadlines, etc.) will also go a long way in helping maintain good relationships with your network of reviewers.
A publicist also needs to be familiar with social media and comfortable reaching out to people in order to build up a community. There can be a bit of trial and error -- what works for one company may not work for you, so you have to be willing to try different things and see what readers respond to. I've had a great time jumping in and introducing Peachtree to new readers by adding content to the blog, joining conversations and supporting our reviewers on Twitter and Facebook. (We also recently started a Pintrest page!) Book bloggers are some of the most supportive, gracious people. Even though I haven't met many of our bloggers in person, I definitely count them among my bookish friends!
What is the most important thing you do in your job? Communicate! That's a pretty broad umbrella that covers most of what I do, but it really is the most important thing. I may think our books are great and our authors/illustrators are fabulous, but if I don't effectively communicate that via social media, in conversations at a conference, in phone calls with event organisers looking to book an author, etc., then I haven't done my job.
Moreover, if I haven't made the connection to someone why this specific book or author is a great fit for their bookstore, classroom, or library, then that's a missed opportunity. We market a lot to schools and libraries, so we are always researching curriculum and common core standards and what is being studied in schools at what age so that we can get the right books into students' hands. Knowing your audience/reader is a big part of any publicity/marketing job.
On a day-to-day basis, I respond to media requests and mail out books to our reviewers. If our reviewers don't get the books then (well, I'd rather not think about the end of that sentence!).
What is the hardest part of your job? Right now, the commute! Atlanta traffic doesn't play. When I first started, the hardest part was getting the 'voice' of our social media marketing down. I can't tell you how many versions of our blog posts I went through before the finals were published. It's hard to get out of strict, journalistic writing (which I studied in school) and retrain yourself to write in a different style. I figured it out quickly enough and haven't looked back!
What is the most rewarding part of your job? I love hearing about how much someone enjoyed a book. A book takes on a life of its own once it leaves our office and it's so much fun to see how far it goes. We get letters in the mail from classrooms writing to thank an author for visiting -- I open these before sending them on to the authors and they always make me smile. My favourite was a collection of letters addressed to Larabee because, in the story, he helps deliver the mail but never gets any mail of his own! These kids decided to take matters into their own hands and make his day (and they made mine, too)!
When did you first realise you wanted to be a publicist?
How did you get into this line of work? I'm combining these two questions because they happened simultaneously! When I was in school I was nearing the end of my junior year without a clue as to what I wanted to do for a career. I was a journalism major but I didn't want to go into news writing or broadcast reporting like most of my classmates. I realised (at the suggestion of some close friends who, apparently, knew me better than I knew myself) that I wanted to work in the book industry. (More on that story here.) I quickly began searching for publishers in the southeast and found Peachtree. I loved their catalog and they were conveniently located in Atlanta, just south of my hometown in the suburbs.
What's funny is that I applied for an editorial internship but (thankfully) Melissa Bloomfield intercepted my resume and thought I'd be a better fit for publicity. She was right! Long story short, I had an awesome summer working for her and we kept in touch after I graduated and I started as her assistant at Peachtree in 2011.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to do this for a living? Read a lot and pay attention to what's going on in the industry. Familiarise yourself with how books get publicised -- where do you, as a reader, find new books? How do you hear about what your favourite author is doing? Who is the book reviews editor for your local newspaper? Sign up for newsletters, follow book blogs, and get involved with your local literary community -- you can't go wrong!