TOR TOUR: A PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT EXPOSÉ

19 March 2013

By Sophie Portas

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The press officeContinuing our series of blog posts taking Tor blog readers through different Team Tor roles at Pan Macmillan (which Julie kicked off last week), here’s a brief piece about what’s involved in a typical day in the life of a book publicist...

When a book is acquired, I’ll be thinking about the communications strategy, working closely with my marketing counterpart (Hi @robcox85!) so that we have a fully joined-up communications plan from the off. At this stage I have to be a bit nosy about the author and their background and we’ll usually send them a questionnaire to fill in with useful details about how they came to write the book, their backstory, local bookshops who might be interested etc. (We stop at shoe size and their favourite smell). Meeting or speaking to the author (sometimes over lunch or a beverage) is an important stage of that planning. We’ll discuss ideas for features, events, review coverage and tease out publicity angles or 'hooks' that might interest the media.

spphoto-2_1It’s my job to try to generate as much coverage for a book as possible -- whether this takes the form of reviews, features, author interviews or blog posts. I write a press release for each book we publish, which conveys the key messages about that book, its market, its interest points or publicity ‘hooks’ and any useful information about the author -- including their online/social media presence. Literary editors are, as you can probably imagine, inundated with pitches and ideas so it’s often a question of persistence and dogged determination to ensure that your idea gets seen. Space for review coverage in print media is getting smaller and smaller so it is highly competitive -- not only do we compete with all the titles coming out from other publishers, but we're sometimes competing with ourselves!

For the Tor list, genre bloggers and enthusiasts can often make or break a book. And their opinions have grown in importance over the last ten years to the point where they can be just as influential as print reviews. Hence why we started our own blog and social media platforms! The key is being part of the conversation.  

spphoto-3_1Perhaps the least glamorous aspect of the job is the amount of envelope stuffing that’s involved. It’s our job to mail out books to lit editors, broadcast media, bloggers and key influencers. I keep the post room very busy indeed! Events can be another significant part of a publicity campaign in some cases: not only do they drive sales but are also good for raising an author's profile and visibility. We have good relationships with booksellers, libraries and festivals (sometimes forged over a stiff drink!) and it’s our job to get the authors and books out there. We oversee the setting up of these events with the organizer, and help to promote these online and via our social media platforms! The key is being part of the conversation. We will sometimes bring authors over to the UK from another country and I’ll be in charge of the itinerary 

Being a publicist means long hours and hard work, but it’s a brilliant job, especially if you’re someone who enjoys meeting new and interesting people.

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The Tor Tour is part of a series of regular posts covering the varied publishing roles within the Tor imprint and across Pan Macmillan as a whole. 
These are posts so far:

INTRODUCING TEAM TOR by Tor UK Editorial Director Julie Crisp
TOR TOUR: NOT JUST EDITING by Tor UK Editorial Director Julie Crisp 
TOR TOUR: A PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT EXPOSÉ by Publicity Manager Sophie Portas 
TOR TOUR: COMMISSIONING & SOCIAL MEDIA by Senior Commissioning Editor Bella Pagan
TOR TOUR: THE MARKETOR by Senior Marketing Manager Rob Cox
TOR TOUR: THE EDITORIAL ASSISTANT by Editorial Assistant Louise Buckley
TOR TOUR: PRODUCTION CONTROLLER by Production Controller Holly Sheldrake
TOR TOUR: THE DIGITAL ZONE by Analytics Director, James Long
TOR TOUR: THE RIGHTS DEPARTMENT by Rights Assistant, Kerry Lagan
TOR TOUR: HEAD OF WEB DEVELOPMENT by our digital department's James Luscombe 
TOR TOUR: THE AUDIO BOOK DEPARTMENT EXPLAINED by Audio manager Becky Lloyd