I thought the title sounded cool; kind of like Interview With The Vampire. Did I totally fail there? I’m not that crafty.
If you guys are like me, you have a lot of e-mails in your box that are from publicists or to them. I sometimes feel bad, but establishing a good relationship with them is crucial, I think, to having a successful blog. Always be personable, be kind, be patient–their world does not revolve around you!–and always say thank you! 🙂 It goes a long way and you find they’re happy to work with you again. That’s my experience anyway.
But I was curious about what do they really do? You tend to think that they just sit at a desk, waiting for manuscripts to read and bloggers to reach out, right? My curiosity forever gets the best of me and this time, I figured maybe you guys wanted to know too. So, I decided to ask Andrew Gibeley, assistant publicist at Harper Collins, if he’d be down to answer some of my questions. I almost expected him to say no, because I did figure he was busy. However, he was gracious and awesome, answering them. So, without further ado, let me shut up so you can read his answers. ❤
Andrew, thank you again so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer! You rock sir! 😀
I thought it would be a great deal of fun to do a post where I could highlight what a Publicist does. I think as bloggers we have this idea that you sit at your desk all day and answer e-mails and talk on the phone, but I’m sure there is far more to it than that. Will you take us through a typical day?
Indeed there is a lot more to it! While much of the job does involve sending and answering emails with media contacts to pitch, confirm, and follow up on their planned coverage of your books, it also involves frequently communicating with your author and their team, booking travel and hotel reservations for their tour, working with the marketing, editorial and sales departments to streamline your media campaigns and notify each other of big “hits,” monitoring your budget, processing invoices, organizing and updating contact lists, and much more. A typical day could consist of all these tasks and more!
What drew you to this line of work?
In college I served on the Campus Activities Board (CAB) as the comedy coordinator, working with talent agents to book comedians to come to campus and organizing/hosting their shows. In serving in this role, I learned a lot about logistics and negotiation and which tactics work well to persuade people to attend, and I ultimately developed a love for event planning and publicizing. I’ve also always loved books and was a creative writing major, so I thought, what’s a field where I could merge all these skills and interests? Publishing!
How did you come to get your position at HarperCollins? Did you have to get a degree for it?
I went to a liberal arts college that didn’t have a publishing-specific major (most don’t, I believe), so after graduation, I attended the intensive 6-week certificate program, the Summer Publishing Institute (SPI) at NYU, where I learned all the ins and outs of the business, and networked with countless industry professionals, including the woman who then became my first boss in the special markets department—a division of the sales team that sells to non-traditional retailers and wholesalers (clothing stores, art galleries, yoga studios, museum gift shops, etc.). I worked there for about a year before finding an open position upstairs in the publicity department at the William Morrow imprint, where I’ve been since.
How long have you been in this position?
I’m fairly new! I made the lateral move last November, so just about eight months so far. I’m still very much learning, but am definitely fascinated and challenged every day!
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your job?
Other than securing big media hits which obviously makes everyone happy, my favorite days are those when I get to be particularly creative, whether it be designing exciting press releases or galley letters, drafting catchy hooks for my pitches, or coming up with unique plans for my new assignments. That’s when I get to put my writing skills to work and really have fun with it. My least favorite aspect is probably the workload itself; while I love what I do, I never seem to be able to get as much done in a day as I hope to, especially given the large number of books I am working on per season. If only I could give equal attention to each of my authors!
What’s the biggest perk of your job? I would imagine you get a fair amount of free books, which must be amazing!
You said it—books. While I of course support purchasing books (I wouldn’t have a job otherwise), I really never have to buy a HarperCollins one again 🙂 Other perks include meeting some famous people (my boss works on most of our celebrity memoirs) and getting to go to author events for free!
Do you have a favorite author that you’ve gotten to meet?
One of the celebrity authors my boss worked with was actress Chrissy Metz from the NBC show This Is Us. In addition to personally being a big fan of the show, Chrissy was lovely to work with and a lot of fun to be around. It was clear that she lived by the advice of her book and that having her story heard really mattered to her. The book became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller and I highly recommend it!
(Please take note of the fact that I am dying of jealousy at Andrew’s getting to meet and work with Chrissy. LOL!)
What are some traits one should have to succeed in your line of work?
I think the most important trait is willingness—to assist your manager, to try new and creative methods of pitching, to be patient and follow up again and again, etc. In order to have a successful campaign, you really have to care rather than just going through the motions. Another one that goes without saying is organization. As I mentioned, we juggle five, ten, maybe even 15 projects at once, so it is vital for you to have a system in place for managing your time, organizing your publicity memos, updating your itineraries, and checking off your to-do lists (something I’m still working on!). Plus I would say a generally sociable, gregarious nature helps for building relationships with media contacts, especially at the start of your tenure, which may consist of several cold calls and emails.
Can you tell me some of the books that you’re looking forward to?
Of course! I have a really fun, twisty murder mystery out next week (8/7) called UNDER A DARK SKY by Mary Higgins Clark Award-winner Lori Rader-Day, which takes place in the spooky confines of a Michigan dark sky park. Later in the month, my boss has Karin Slaughter’s next big standalone thriller PIECES OF HER which is fantastic and super cringe-worthy! Then, looking ahead to the fall, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ big, highly anticipated memoir DEAR AMERICA: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen (9/18), and on a lighter note, a gifty little photo book BLANKET FORT by husband and wife duo Grackle and Pigeon (10/2), which is basically an illustrated DIY guide to building blanket forts and expressing your inner kid. Certainly a variety of genres on the Morrow list!
This wouldn’t be complete unless I asked you, since, of course, this is a book blog! What are you reading currently?
Naturally! With summer in full swing, I’m reading a fun, fantastically written beach read/thriller, SUNBURN by Laura Lippman, which Morrow published earlier this year and is now out in trade paperback. It is keeping me on my toes for sure! I always have an audiobook going simultaneously, so I’m also in the middle of the Robin Williams biography ROBIN by Dave Itzkoff, which I can’t say enough about—extremely well-researched and paced, I’m learning so much about the comedy legend.
Andrew Gibeley is an assistant publicist at William Morrow and Dey Street Books, imprints of HarperCollins Publishers. He graduated cum laude from Hamilton College in 2016 with honors in creative writing and a minor in theatre. After graduation, he attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI), which led to his previous role in the special markets department at HarperCollins. In his spare time, he enjoys Netflixing, acting, short story writing, and of course, reading. He lives in Brooklyn.