Louise France, Magazine
Jack Malvern, News Reporter
Robbie Millen, Literary Editor
Robbie Millen, Literary Editor
The Saturday Times circulation is now at 490,000 copies. The Times is the only paper that’s circulation is on the up and has risen by 4.8% in the past year.
The books pages are review focused. This month so far this is what reviews have appeared:
29 non-fiction, 23 fiction, 16 paperback, 4 kids’ books, 4 classics
They cover a lot of ground on the reviews pages so there is a lot of opportunity. The Guardian is probably the only paper with more reviews.
Robbie likes publicists! Once a year he tends to have some sort of row with one of you but the good news is that it happened in March so the coast is clear…
Please phone him! He does do email but doesn’t mind being chased by phone. Communication is good and the more you talk the more he’ll get to know you and trust you. Debut novelists can be tricky, it needs to be the right type of novel, by a writer a with a proven track record, to grab his attention. He loves proofs and press releases — without a proof a book is much less likely to gain coverage.
The Times and The Sunday Times Books Bulletin – appears in 16,000 inboxes every Friday and they have a very good open rate of 50%. The contacts are Robbie, Fiona Wilson or Andrew Holgate. It goes out to Times subscribers and is growing all the time. There is also a monthly crime bulletin between the Times and Sunday Times and Karen Robinson is the contact for this.
What kind of books does he like – not interested in memoirs about swimming. Doesn’t cover excessively academic titles. He likes history, biogs, misery memoirs, nature books, loves animals, anything with a good story. Can’t be too theoretical. Like books with provocative titles – ‘Death of Europe’ or ‘The End of Globalisation’ – this is how they’ll cover current affairs and business books. In terms of space they are cover roughly 2/3 non-fic vs 1/3 fic.
Marcel Berlins looks after the crime reviews. Antonia Senior covers historical fiction. Robbie has thought about doing an SF round up for a while – still hasn’t actually done it though…
The Times and The Sunday Times are the headline sponsors of Cheltenham Literature Festival and work closely with the team there. There are all sorts of ways of getting more PR for authors appearing at the festival so do pitch your authors to the programming team.
Interviews: Robbie may interview a mid-list or bigger debut author on the arts pages if appropriate.
Robbie’s perfect book is the Adrian Tinniswood recent book The Long Weekend about stately homes. Makes a perfect review. It has horses, property p*rn, posh people and war = PERFECT.
Catalogues – (for all speakers actually) – prefer physical not digital and like them to be regularly updated drawing attention to the biggest/most interesting books.
Louise France, Times Magazine, T2 and Weekend
Lots of copy related to books. They tend to do big serials and then first interview off the back of that.
Visuals are really important for these as it is a double page spread so good pictures are vital. They can also look at illustrating pieces with strong visuals to kick off a feature.
Alex Renton’s expose on public schools – magazine but also in T2 on Monday
The story must have a strong personal hook to make it into the magazine – heart-wrenching, traumatic, triumph over adversity – all works well along with personal narrative.
One off pieces by authors work well as well as extracts and interviews.
Strong hook – recently did an interview with a US author whose book was ‘How Not to Hate Your
Husband After Kids’ – the husband was interviewed alongside the author thus bringing a new hook to the publicity.
Ask authors what they are up for and be clear with them before pitching that this will likely involve an at-home interview so they must be happy with that.
Coming up – look for stories with a difference. Soon there will be a piece about a personal trainer who is a size 18 – a new story with a great hook.
They don’t do historical fiction or political books.
Do do infertility, divorce, teenagers, authors who have written a book based on their life, post-natal depression. There is always scope for an author to write a piece that isn’t linked to their book but still a great personal story – and the book will be credited at the end.
They work roughly 2 weeks in advance to they have got space to move things around. Cover is secured about a month in advance. So lead time wise they do operate more like a newspaper than a magazine.
Please do send emails, call, send catalogues, send proofs and press releases. Include good photos of the author where possible.
Mostly the same as above except a much shorter lead time as it appears each day. Visuals, again, are important.
Given the frequency they have a lot more space to fill and they do get things passed on from the magazine. All features staff share pitches.
Again, good visuals needed to kick off the section. They cover lifestyle, fitness, family related subjects. Always looking for something no-one’s said before. A good headline is key!
Jack Malvern, News Reporter
News Reporter (was Arts Reporter until a short while ago)
What they are looking for (4 categories):
Controversies: something that ‘annoys’ their readers or make them look twice. For example, the piece Jack wrote about Mark Haddon releasing a special illustrated edition of his book for bookshops only and not letting Amazon get their mitts on it – as protest.
Another example is the piece about when Ian McEwan’s ex-wife heckled him during his event at Cheltenham Literature Festival and was subsequently chased out of the tent by security.
Discoveries: something new. For example, the new authoritative edition of Shakespeare for Oxford which gives a new date for Hamlet which changes the scope of it.
The more familiar a topic, the less interesting it has to be (e.g. anything on Shakespeare, people will read the piece) and the less familiar a topic the more interesting it has to be – to grab and keep people’s attention. Overturn the expectation of the readership.
Trends: for example, a recent piece about how the use of swear words in book titles has tripled in the last 3 years. If you are pitching a trend piece must have a demonstrable trend and then an interesting reason as to why it is occurring.
Human Interest: for example, an unknown author in China had sold more books than JK Rowling as their book had been made part of the curriculum. Also the book about tree climbing – quirky.
Lead time – 3 months to 2 days (If the story is really good). Brief Jack the previous day for the conference at 10am the next morning. Condense the story down into the one/two line pitch. Know by noon as to how the pitch has gone.
Jack likes embargoes and will stick to them – as then everyone knows where they stand. He likes exclusives if a really good story.
Sunday and Monday are the easiest days to get a story in on as these are the hardest days for material. Fridays are the busiest news days as the dailies want to get in before the weekends. If you can get a story in the week before for a Monday it’s more likely to get in.
He doesn’t do launch parties. He does do press conferences but there don’t seem to be many around these days.
Phone or email are preferred – please write good emails! He blacklists publicists who don’t pitch well or don’t pitch the right stories.