Meet the Gatekeepers

Meet the Gatekeepers- Jazz Bartlett Love- Chicken House

The sixth in my series features Jazz Bartlett Love from Chicken House! Thank you for taking the time to answer Jazz!

How did you get your start in publishing?

Whilst I was studying, I emailed every publisher I could think of to try and get some work experience and managed to get a few placements booked in – at Scholastic, Macmillan Children’s Books and Chicken House. I then got my first job at Macmillan in their production department, but publicity was really where I wanted to be. I’d kept in touch with the team at Chicken House – both because I’d loved my week there so much (they were so welcoming) and was keen to be living closer to my family in Bristol – and so when a job came up, I was invited to interview. I felt, and still feel, so lucky to be working at CH.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

There is so much! Because CH has such a small team – there are only 9 of us – we’re all involved in the whole process, right from initial acquisition all the way to publication. It’s really fascinating to see how, sometimes, an idea that someone has at a meeting ends up becoming a book. I also love sitting down with authors for the first time to talk about how we’re going to do their publicity – each campaign is different, and some of the most fun and creative things we’ve done have come out of those initial chats.

What are the challenges of your role?

Hmm … I’d say that time is the main challenge! I often have lots of different campaigns on the go at any one time, so it’s a case of having to be super organised to make sure every book has its time to shine. Publicity is also quite different to departments such as editorial or production – e.g. there comes a point where an editor finishes their edits for a book, and begins to work on something else. Publicity works differently to this – it’s very reactive, and backlist can always be frontlist!

Describe a typical day or are no two days alike?

No two days are alike. I could be in the office wrapping books to mail out, at a school accompanying an author on an event, having coffee with an author or journalist, or reading at home. This is one of my favourite things about working in publicity: there is such a huge amount of variety in the role, and even more so in working for a small publisher at Chicken House.

Tips for Book Bloggers

Bloggers are awesome, and we are so grateful for their support and the amazing community they have created – all through the love of books.

When you’re writing your review, don’t worry too much about making it sound super professional – we just want to hear your enthusiasm, so if you loved it and want to shout about it, that’s great! From a publicity perspective, as well as you guys helping us to spread the word and build buzz around the book, we’re also looking for snappy quotes we can pull out from the review – so really thinking about what it is about this particular book that you enjoyed, why you’d recommend it, and how it made you feel.

Also, always email rather than tweet your requests, if you can – this is 100% the best way to make sure I definitely spot your request! If there’s a specific book you’re hoping to review I’d recommend emailing around 4-6 weeks before publication, as this is when I’m looking to send copies out.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished reading the brand new novel from Kiran Millwood Hargrave, coming in October. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it is an utterly gorgeous story – you are all in for a treat!

Like Jazz mentions, Chicken House is a small but mighty publisher. Mel at Authorfy has a new series on her website entitled Behind the Scenes of Children’s Publishing. The first in this series features Barry Cunningham from Chicken House. It is a fascinating video to watch.

Meet the Gatekeepers

Meet the Gatekeepers- Marie-Louise Patton from Faber!

Marie-Louise kindly answered my questions for my Meet the Gatekeepers feature. I want to keep the answers on my main blog page as they are so brilliant and the diverse answers from each publicist is guiding me on my blogging journey!

How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

I completed an MA in Publishing Media at Oxford Brookes University which
helped me gain a wide understanding of the industry as a whole. I also took
every opportunity I could, be that doing work experience at Penguin Random
House or wearing an Elmer suit for the London Book Fair 2019 as a volunteer. 

What is the most interesting part of your job? 

My job is always interesting! Working with a wide range of people is a highlight; from agents, to authors, journalists and booksellers…I especially love seeing a book I really
adored receiving great press and reviews. It’s really rewarding. 

What are the challenges of your role? 

 A lot of my job is out with my control and changes are happening constantly. We are always kept busy!

Describe a typical day or are no two days alike? 

No two days are the same! Sometimes, I will be at my desk all day answering emails and the following day I could be out with an author at events. This is one of my favourite parts of my job, it’s always varied and exciting.  

Tips for Book Bloggers? 

My tips for Book Bloggers would be to write a great pitch email. We receive countless emails from bloggers on a day-to-day basis. Why should you review this book? I know you love to read, we all do – that’s why we’re in this industry. I’d like to read an email that
makes me excited to send you the book and read your review – not something that
is just copy and pasted.   

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, a fabulous classic that I discovered only quite recently. A tale of a twenty-year-old woman with pink hair on a jaunt through Paris in the 50s. It’s divine. I also just finished reading the incredible Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa which is shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, it’s completely brilliant and
what I feel to be a must read! I loved every second… 

Meet the Gatekeepers

Meet the Gatekeepers- Olivia Horrox- Simon and Schuster

As the main page of Meet the Gatekeeper is updated with another wonder from the world of publicity, the previous publicist will be found in my main blog page.

Olivia Horrox from Simon and Schuster was the second publicist to appear in my new feature. Leilah Skelton from Little Tiger appeared in week one.

  1. How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

It was a long slog! I studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and that’s where I first started thinking I wanted to work in publishing. Back then, I didn’t know much about the different departments so just assumed I wanted to be an Editor.

Foolishly, I didn’t do any summer internships (would recommend doing this if you can!) so when I graduated from university real life smacked me in the face…hard! I worked full-time in retail in various management roles for two years to pay my rent and had to use my paid leave to do work experience. I was lucky to have two friends living in London who both let me sleep on their sofas while I interned and I’m hugely grateful to them, I don’t know how I would have done it otherwise.

I worked in some great departments including the Puffin Editorial team, DK Marketing & Publicity and Vintage Publicity. I loved all my internships, but it became clear to me that my true passion was for Marketing & Publicity, so that’s where I ended up. I did about five short term internships over the space of two years and had a couple of interviews before I landed my first job as Publicity Assistant at Scholastic Children’s Books. I remember taking the call and finding out I had the job while on my lunch break in a café and crying because I was so happy that the struggle was finally over and I’d got in! It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

  1. What is the most interesting part of your job?

I get to meet and work with so many different organisations and interesting people, that’s definitely one of the best bits! I also enjoy getting to visit other cities and see a bit more of the UK. Anyone who knows me knows I’m TERRIBLE at geography and being on the road a lot has definitely helped me with that. Mostly I like the creativity of working in Publicity, always looking for a new angle or a new way to catch people’s eye to make a book stand out.

  1. What are the challenges of your role?

The two biggest challenges are that there’s not enough space in traditional media for children’s books and there’s never enough time to get everything done. I’ll often be juggling several campaigns at once, and a campaign often stretches well beyond the publication month. Currently, I’m working on about 7 or 8 books – some publishing this month, some in 6 months, one that’s publishing NEXT YEAR! There’s never a moment’s rest, that’s for sure. As for the lack of space for children’s books, while it’s a constant struggle, it is also extra rewarding if you land something big and I get super excited every time a book I’m working on gets reviewed. There are some amazing ambassadors and journalists doing great work for children’s books and I’m honoured to work with them.

  1. Describe a typical day or are no two days alike?

Even now, whilst we’re all on lockdown, no two days are the same… and I love it! It’s one of my favourite things about publicity – you’re never likely to get bored. Typical tasks that come up often include writing press releases, arranging interviews, pitching for reviews and arranging events. There’s a lot of organisation involved in Publicity, you have to time and plan everything meticulously whether it’s back-to-back radio interviews or planning a week-long events tour, you need to plan every step and prepare for worst case scenarios when things just go wrong.

  1. Tips for Book Bloggers?

I love it when book bloggers email me with all their info in one place. Let me know what books you like to read, what you don’t like, include your address in the email if you’re asking for a book/to be added to a database, include your stats. I might not come back to you straight away, but I’ll file it away and it’s so much easier if I have all the info there. I might not have time to have a back and forth conversation to get all this info, so you’re more likely to get a response if you’ve already provided everything I need to know.

Also, I much prefer when bloggers follow the professional routes for communication – email and twitter are great, and I don’t really mind if you contact me on Instagram (but the other two would be preferable) but sometimes I get messages on GoodReads and all sorts of random places and it can feel a bit like being bombarded about work from every angle. My GoodReads is for personal use and chances are, if you message me on there, I’m not going to remember that you did when I’m back at work.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed, Simon & Schuster are publishing it in September and I’m hugely excited about it. It’s set in the early 90’s in LA and it’s based on the true events of the Rodney King riots and police brutality in America. Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, it’s shocking, atmospheric and unputdownable… and it’s up on Netgalley now (shameless plug!)

Meet the Gatekeepers

Meet the Gatekeepers- Leilah Skelton

While I add the latest publicist answers for next week, I am leaving Leilah’s answers on my main blog page. Next publicist on Meet the Gatekeepers will go live on Monday.

I first started blogging in November 2018 and it was a completely new experience for me. I had been reviewing books for Armadillo Magazine and knew how to approach publishers for books that I was asked to read. In one of those first emails I remember asking, “Do I send the book back once I am finished?”. I received a lovely response saying that the book was now mine and I could gift it to a school or keep it myself.

I then began to think about how I incorporate this into my blog and I slowly began to build my own network of bloggers to follow. I reached out to Jo Cummins of Library Girl and Book Boy fame and she advised me to find the publicists of the different publishers. She called them the Gatekeepers and that term has stuck with me since then. I have long wanted to get to know these gatekeepers better and over time an idea formed. I had a set of 6 questions I thought would help me to know more about them and this incredible job they have. One that I covet but could not imagine being able to do so well!

I sent a few emails and had such a positive response that I now have a new page on my blog all about The Gatekeepers. Several publicists, who I have had the honour of meeting, emailing or bothering have answered these questions in unique ways. I am sure you will find them as fascinating as I do.

The first to feature is the lovely Leilah Skelton from Little Tiger!

  1. How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

I’d been part of the wider book industry for over a decade in my role as a bookseller at Waterstones in Doncaster. I joined Twitter reluctantly to try to win a book, but found that it was the perfect platform for me to shout about the books that I loved, to share creative ways to sell them, and to join in with conversations about the industry at large with other booksellers, librarians, creators, publishers, literary agents, media figures… the list goes on. My current boss knew me a little from visits to Doncaster with authors, but mostly through Twitter. She approached me at the London Book Fair on one of the rare occasions that I’d made it down to London, and asked me if I’d like to apply for a role in marketing and publicity. It did feel like a huge leap in the dark, and I had to turn my life upside down to move to London on a shoestring. She had faith in me that I could adapt to the role from bookselling, as she had… I hope every day that I’m proving that I can. There’s so much I’m learning all the time!

  1. What is the most interesting part of your job?

Oooh, that’s hard to answer! I’d say seeing a book develop from early concept right through to finished product, then working out the best way to share it with the world. I’m lucky at Little Tiger that the team is small enough that there’s lots of crossover when it comes to many of aspects of publishing. We all get asked our opinions on submissions, titles, covers, etc. regardless of whether we’re working in design, editorial or accounts, as new starters or seasoned pros, and I feel that those opinions are valued.

  1.  What are the challenges of your role?

Bookselling required Octopus Arms, and publicity and marketing requires Octopus Brain. It’s 4D chess on a travellator. There are always new things to take on board and several timelines to consider. I’m a list-maker, and thank goodness I am. I’d have lost the plot a long time ago without a solid ‘To Do’ list!

  1. Describe a typical day?  Or are no two days alike?

The beauty of this role is definitely the variety. Some days are admin-focused; submitting for book prizes, collating reviews, writing press releases. Some are more physical; making props, standees, packing reviewer copies, etc. Some days are planning for physical tours or blog tours, and some days (the best days) are out on the road meeting booksellers and teachers and festival organisers and librarians and hundreds of young, excited, book-loving faces.

  1. Tips for book bloggers?

Tip 1: To thine own self be true. Blogs are wonderful spaces, and the absolute best ones reflect the tastes, personality, and passions of their curators.

Tip 2: (And this is something I’ve come to notice in a publishing role more than I ever did as a bookseller…) When reviewing, concentrate how the book made you feel, and who you’d recommend it to rather than describing the plot. Publishers are looking for those reactions and opinions over everything else.

Tip 3: Post reviews and make noise as early as you want. I think it’s a bit of a myth that publishers want you to hold fire for publication day to share your reviews. Early reviews help to create a buzz and encourage pre-orders. Quotes from early reviews are really helpful. There’s nothing to stop you re-sharing on publication day! In fact, please do!

I’ve so much respect for bloggers. Blogs require a lot of time and energy. I’m in awe of anyone that successfully carves out time to keep the plates spinning in their own spare time. It reflects such a level of commitment to the art of promoting books and reading. Heroes, all of you.

  1. What are you currently reading?

My lockdown brain isn’t really letting me relax into reading properly, and I’m trying not to beat myself up about that. Before the news became so stressful and relentless, I was thoroughly enjoying Things In Jars by Jess Kidd, which has merefolk, mystery, and the most wonderful pipe-smoking, no-nonsense female protagonist in sturdy boots, so I’m holding off finishing it until I can give it the attention it deserves. When a world is so enveloping, and such an enjoyable place to spend your time, it’s worth waiting for. I’m so envious of those who manage to keep reading through times of great stress. I think it’s important to recognise that this isn’t the case for everyone, and that’s OK. I have to say it to myself enough, so I’ll say it again here: Be kind to yourself.