YAShot interns Katie and Irina interview Little Brown publicist Sophia Walker about bloggers and vloggers and their amazing contribution to the UKYA community, as well as how to get into publishing for those looking for career tips!
Huge thanks to Sophia for her time and Little Brown for sponsoring the Champion of Diversity Award 2019!
We’d like to start off by finding out a bit more about you and what your job entails. Can you tell us how you got into publishing and what your current job involves on a day-to-day basis?
I am a Publicist at Atom books, which is an imprint within Little, Brown Book Group. I studied English at university and completed work experience at Little Brown during my third year. When a job as Publicity Assistant became available, I jumped at the chance to interview and was lucky enough to be offered the job. I’ve been with Little, Brown for almost two years now, and am now a Press Officer. My day to day job involves talking to journalists about what exciting titles are coming up, saving news cuttings, writing press releases and talking to the wonderful bloggers out there, arranging reviews, giveaways or blog tours!
The YAShot interns are all aspiring to a job in the Arts. What particular qualities do you think publishers are looking for in potential employees?
Enthusiasm is the most important thing as everything else can be learnt. Passion and hard work are the most important things Publishers are looking for, especially in entry level roles. Also, a calm head and a methodical approach are always useful to balance the busyness!
Internships and work experience within publishing houses are clearly the most popular ways people gain some experience within this industry when first starting out. What would you suggest are some more unusual places to gain relevant experience for entry-level publishing roles?
If you know what aspect of publishing you’re looking to go into (Marketing, PR, Editorial, Production, Sales) then try to get some experience in other industries. If you wanted to get into PR for example, try to do some work experience in PR agency’s. It’s also worth thinking about what transferable skills you could gain (or already have) in part time jobs.
If you could go back in time, what would you advise your younger self to do more of in order to break into publishing? And what would you counsel yourself against?
I would advise myself to open my mind to what working in Publishing means. There are so many departments to work in, yet everyone tends to initially go for editorial. You may surprise yourself with what you’re actually more suited to.
How important was networking for you? And what networking tips can you give to aspiring publishers?
I didn’t know anyone who worked in publishing when I started – I merely applied for Work experience online and ticked every box on every department! I think Networking is useful for finding friends and gaining support, but there is a brilliant wave in blind recruiting in publishing now, so it’s purely on the strength of your application.
These next five questions focus on book blogging and your views and opinions on how bloggers and publishers work together. Book blogging is an influential area of literary social media, constantly growing and adapting along with the publishing landscape, but it is still a relatively new section of the industry.
In your opinion, what influence do book bloggers and vloggers have on the publishing industry?
I think they have a huge influence on readers and what book they should pick up next. Before I worked in publishing I got all my recommendations from Instagram. Seeing the way the bloggers had crafted such beautiful pictures of the books made me desperate to read them.
Have you ever collaborated with book bloggers and/or vloggers? If so, what did that involve and how did it add to your broader picture of promotions and publicity work?
I have organised several blog tours and constantly work with bloggers to review and spread the word about the new titles I’m working on. It involves me approaching bloggers I admire and seeing if they’d be interested in hearing more about my title. If they like the sound of it, we can then talk about them reviewing or partaking in a blog tour.
Would you say book bloggers are now considered part of a book’s marketing and publicity strategy? If not, do you feel book bloggers are an overlooked resource?
I absolutely factor bloggers into my strategy. For some books, blogger are the main column of the plan, if we know we have a title that will appeal to bloggers and their audiences.
Given the frictions between book bloggers and publishers in the past, how do current publishers approach collaborations? What are the expectations and boundaries?
I’ve only ever had wonderful experiences with bloggers that I hope to continue. It’s all about communication and managing expectations from both sides so everyone is happy. Bloggers and Publishers love books and want to shout about our favourites, so we’re coming from the same place.
What do you think traditional book critics can learn from bloggers? And vice versa?
I love the personality that bloggers put forward in their reviews, and the passionate detailing of what they loved. I also love that they are honest in what didn’t work for them! With traditional space for reviews becoming smaller, it’s brilliant to have the freedom to be more critical and considered.