Notes from November Meeting:
Sarah Shaffi: Online Editor and Producer
Tom Tivnan: Features and Insight Editor
Alice O’Keeffe: Books Editor
Anna James: Book News and Media Editor
Katherine Cowdrey: News Reporter
Charlotte Eyre: Children’s Editor
Sarah Shaffi – Online Editor and Producer
A lot of Sarah’s job is behind the scenes stuff – but she’s responsible for making sure the morning briefing and stuff gets out.
In terms of the website she’s looking for fun, intelligent provocative opinion pieces by authors but also industry professionals.
She likes content that’s beyond the news story – interactive stuff is great and strong visuals are a huge plus – there’s nothing more depressing than a sea of publisher logos on a page! She can also feature video, pics from events, author photos, and she would like to do more with audio.
Sarah does occasionally write for the magazine – she currently looks after Behind the Lines, the author focus section, looking at issues that matter to authors. If you have suggestions, either from authors or people in your organisation (perhaps yourself!) please get in touch.
Tom Tivnan – Features and Insight Editor
Tom is in charge of Features, the longer form pieces they do at the magazines, and Insight, which is broadly the data – the charts and information they publish.
Tom strongly recommended that publicists get familiar with the Bookseller publishing calendar which is now on their website – it shows all their recurring features, category previews – getting to know this will help you to tailor your pitches to what Tom’s looking at.
He also likes an overview of lists – if you’re in charge of (say) food and drink at your imprint, it’s really useful to get in touch and talk about your big books coming up, the shape of the list etc.
Tom is also in charge of the book fair daily newshots they do for Bologna and Frankfurt and so on – these feature big news at the fair but also what the industry is talking about. These things have surprisingly long lead times – Bologna is in March and he will be thinking about these dailies after Christmas, so if you know that an author is attending, it’s really handy to get in touch now. The news, by contrast, is predominantly to do with rights deals so is time sensitive and deadlines for this are short as it’s (supposed to be!) breaking news from the fair. He loves quotes, but ideally not too generic and “pre-packaged”. They also love photos (good quality ones) and they really, really like exclusivity – the more exclusivity they have, the bigger a spread they can give it. (This was a theme throughout all the speakers.)
Tom also looks after the industry spotlights – profiles of industry figures, rather than authors.
Alice O’Keefe – Books Editor
Alice is responsible for all the books coverage, apart from Book News, which is Anna. Her role falls into three main areas – the first is author profiles, the second is that she writes the monthly fiction round up, which covers hardback, TPB and PB originals. Some publicity departments submit to her, but mainly she gets information for this via marketing so she didn’t speak at length about this part of her job. The third area is the category spotlights – which are yearly focus previews of categories not covered as much in the monthly previews, eg photography.
The Bookseller runs an author profiles every week (so 4-5 a month, depending) and they run about 3 months ahead of the hardback/tpb edition coming out. The way to pitch is ideally at least 6 months in advance, preferably more – she loves meeting up for a coffee and a chat to get names in her spreadsheet. Right now she is commissioning March, people are pitching April titles which is fine, but she won’t be able to commit on these until next month.
The balance is about 70% fiction, 30% nf. NF pitches are more likely to succeed if its an author whose main career is writing, not celebrities with a one-off book.
She loves debuts, and authors with interesting routes to publication, or a fascinating back story. She also tries to cover midlist authors rather than just the huge names. She tries to do a representative mix of all categories, and runs the gamut from poets, to crime writers, plus genre authors – Alison Flood specialises in sci fi and fantasy and does their fantasy profiles.
They much prefer face to face but will do phoners for the right book. The photo is very important – there’s a minimum file size and they must have one that fits the requirements. She will send you the requirements when they commission a piece and please don’t send smaller photos as it holds up the whole thing
When you are pitching a specific author, please email, send a PR and an AI sheet – many people just send the press release, but the AI has information on it which she needs to make an ultimate decision eg editor and backlist. She will check sales on the back list to see how the author’s career is progressing. She also needs something to read – her preference is a bound proof, but she can read on a kindle – she needs a word doc for this. And she also needs to see a good chunk of the book – if the book is not finished it can be a problem! It really helps if the publicist has read the book and is pitching knowledgeably and from the heart. Bear in mind that if you send a generic press release with no accompanying email, it will be competing against passionate, individual pitches and won’t stand as good a chance.
Alice also stressed that she can fill the slot many times over with suitable candidates, so inevitably not all the authors who could make great pieces can be fitted in – therefore don’t fret if your author doesn’t make the cut, they might next time.
Anna James – Book News and Media Editor
Since the meeting, Anna has announced that she is going freelance in the New Year. However the notes from the meeting are still relevant but please contact Lisa Campbell – firstname.lastname@example.org for online news items and Philip Jones – Philip.email@example.com for print news items. WLTB is still in transition to the upcoming books channel launch as part of the main Bookseller website – Philip is the person to check in with about that.
Anna looked after the consumer facing content – she was formerly We Love This Book but this is being merged more with the Bookseller main site, as the boundary between trade and consumer is getting a bit fuzzy.
This is in flux at the moment so Anna was not able to say too much about it, however for people who are used to working with Anna on WLTB, it will be similar sort of content. It will be launching some time next year…
Anna does pieces about trends, big anniversaries, newsy topics like the Scottish referendum. There’s also space to focus in on specific books and authors who are doing something a bit different, or who have an interesting perspective, or a book that’s being published in an unusual way – something that makes them stand out a bit.
She tends to do about 70% independent publishers but loves innovation from the big publishers too – it might be something like a new imprint, for example.
Catalogues are handy, she also likes press releases, but please do remember their exclusivity issues – if she knows a press release has gone out to the whole world that will limit how much they can do with it, so consider giving them a heads up first before going to the main stream media.
She loves meeting up for coffee and finding out about what’s coming up. Please invite her to everything and she will come to as much as she can!
Email is by far the best way to contact as it gives her time to consider and get back with a reliable answer – phone is best only for emergencies or time sensitive stuff.
Katherine Cowdrey – News Reporter
Katherine is a reporter on the news team but she has specific publishers she covers, Penguin, Pan Mac etc. Her output is amplified over social media and condensed into the morning bulletin – she also contributes to the weekly rights bulletin.
Katherine also reiterated the question of exclusivity. If something is exclusive they can cover it more prominently – so please do flag that!
They’re interested in people changes, new editorial directions, new lists, innovative marketing techniques eg social media techniques that haven’t been tried, special promotional packages for specific books.
She likes PRs (again, please flag exclusives) but she finds it really helpful you can add a short personal note explaining the highlights or what would be of interest to the Bookseller. Email is best, but if it’s very urgent then do give her a heads up with a call, or a follow up if you were expecting a response. Timing wise, for the morning bulletin it needs to be with them the day before as the bulletin is usually set before 10am.
For the rights bulletin, this goes out every Friday and includes the largest deals – for this, they just need details before Friday morning.
Sometimes news announcements can go into the news review, their press date is Weds and they need content by close of play Tuesday at the latest in order for it to make the mag.
If you’re hoping for an announcement or acquisition to go into one of The Booksellers’ dailies at the London or Frankfurt Book Fairs, timing-wise it’s encouraged to flag these with the news team one or two weeks before, specifying the day of the fair you’d like it announced if you have a preference, and if The Bookseller can have it exclusively (again, exclusivity will increase the likelihood of getting your announcement into these daily magazines that are distributed at the fairs, as will advance notice).
Charlotte Eyre: Children’s Editor
Charlotte doesn’t do the children’s books previews, but she covers all the news about children’s and YA publishing – that can be anything from new imprints and book deals to licensing and digital.
Exclusivity is also an issue for her, if something has already been covered elsewhere in the press or in a competing website, she won’t be able to cover it in the magazine. Big stories will still get an article online but the more exclusivity the better!
She also has a two-page spread in the magazine every week for exclusive children’s news. Her deadline is the Monday before the Friday publication – so ideally the week before.
She likes proof copies – she doesn’t review but she likes to keep abreast of everything that’s going on, and she’s interested in press conferences and launch parties although she can’t go to all of them.
She loves email but things can and do get lost so please chase if you feel there’s something you should have had a response on.
She gets a lot of information on YA and picture books, and some on big-name MG, but feels that education, libraries and midlist MG is under represented, so she would love more info on these topics. She also likes guest articles by authors and publishing folk, as long as there’s a newsy angle – eg if there’s a current debate on feminism in YA and you have someone with an interesting take, please get in touch!
In terms of timing she reminded the meeting that they are trade focused – not consumer focused – so please pitch thinking about when the sales team are selling in, not when the book is published.