• Natasha Harding Books Columnist email@example.com
• Claire Frost, Fabulous Magazine firstname.lastname@example.org
• Emily Fairbairn – features writer overseeing books coverage and serials – email@example.com
Natasha is books columnist for The Sun and has a column on Friday with an author interview, up to seven book reviews, plus the “My life in books” slot, which is book picks by a celebrity (who can have a new book out or something else to promote).
Natasha also does quite a lot of stuff for the women’s pages in S2, which can take the form of roundups, often topically linked. For example last week there was a stat out that a third of parents struggle with helping kids with home work – they ran a story on this with a roundup of books that could help parents.
She does a lot of books for the health pages and has a personal interest in yoga, and also covers kids books – all ages – so please send her those too. She tries to do regular children’s book coverage, and she also covers a lot of recipe books.
She loves Sun-friendly authors, which in practice tends to mean authors at the more commercial end of the scale. They love crime, eg Lee Child, and good solid women’s fiction, Adele Parks-type writers. They will occasionally do literary books if they’ve been really popular.
Email is the best way to contact her, and she’ll reply as and when she can – even when teaching yoga! However if you send her books PLEASE ensure you use her home address (at the foot of her section of the notes) as anything sent to the office is likely get missed, or go astray.
Natasha finds catalogues are very useful for preparing roundups and getting ideas. PDFs are great, but she also likes to see a physical copy in front of her, and has a shelf ordered by release date so having a book there on the shelf is handy for reminders.
In terms of lead times, they can turn stuff around pretty fast if they need to, but generally Natasha has a plan for about the next 4 weeks although things will get shuffled around.
They share info between departments – for example Emily (who also spoke) deals with serials, so Natasha will pass relevant titles over to her, and they have specialists within the department who review titles co-inciding with their areas of specialism / special interest (like sport or history for example). Natasha is the central contact and in charge of passing stuff out and allocating it, so best to send to her initially.
She likes launch parties and press conferences, although she works from home so has to fit that in.
As above – if you are sending her titles, please ensure you use her home address: Birling House Cottage, 21 Ryarsh Road Birling, Kent, ME19 5JW
Emily is a features writer overseeing books coverage and serial, and generally she is on the lookout for anything that might make a good feature – she loves celebrity biogs / auto biogs, particularly ones with really juicy insights. They are keen to look at material as early as possible for this.
But she also looks for anything that will make a great read – it doesn’t have to be celebrity – historical stuff works well for them as well, especially if there’s an untold story or a really good human angle. For example Emily recently did a piece on dogs in WWII – dogs who were taught to parachute out of planes.
They also like books involving “life hacks” type stuff – clever ideas and tips to make life easier.
Page 8 is a talking point slot, which can sometimes centre on a controversial / discussion point book. For example, recently an American parenting guru did a graphic-based piece illustrating what kids should be able to do at each age which went down really well and was very visual.
They also like humour and quirky pieces – for example they’ve just done a piece about how different animals have sex!
Subject wise features are a really broad church – topics they might cover could include animals, soldiers, psychics, UFOs, true crime… anything apart from fiction really, they don’t do a great deal of that in the main paper unless it’s 50 Shades style massive – so big it’s become a talking point in itself.
She loves catalogues, PDFs and physical copies. She also finds press releases handy and prefers to be contacted by email.
The features dept can turn stuff around quickly but find it hard to guarantee a run date as the issue is not set in stone until the day before. But the earlier they know about stuff, the more chance they have to get it in, so do flag up great stuff well in advance.
Emily is new in the post and keen to get to know people, so please do drop her a line and say hi. She would be happy to meet up for drinks or coffee to talk through lists.
She will feed stuff out to other departments where relevant – for example sport books – but it’s best to go through her as first point of contact.
Claire works at Fabulous Magazine and her role there involves chasing copy, coming up with features ideas – but her remit also covers books. She is keen to expand this and make books coverage a real pillar of the magazine.
Fabulous are part of The Sun but are fairly autonomous in how they work, with a separate team. They have an entertainment page every week but there is only one slot for a book – hence competition is tough!
Claire loves gritty crime, through to beautifully written Richard and Judy type novels. She also reads crossover YA and psychological thrillers eg The Girl on the Train. They also do well with commercial women’s fiction – writers like Lisa Jewell, Jojo Moyes etc. She’s very open to pitches, however her tip is to please try and target as much as you can – a targeted pitch focussing on one or two big pitches for the year has a much better chance than a scatter gun approach covering loads of possibilities.
They have various regular slots which can work for books and authors…
• They have a competition slot – this is probably obvious!
• The Lowdown – this is an interview feature a bit like This Much I Know and can feature a big-name novelist, eg Judy Blume, Joanne Harris
• It Happened to Me – this can work for less well-known authors if they have a hooky, true-life story. The subject they are talking about doesn’t have to be related to their book, for example they recently featured crime writer Marnie Richards who talked about how she went deaf due to dust mites in her house
• Fabulous Does slot
• “Lust list” is their shopping page at the front of the mag which can feature anything readers might want to buy, and is a good place for things like colouring books, or coffee table books
They sometimes do round ups – for example if there were loads of reality stars with books out in a single week they might do them all in a single feature.
They go to press about 10 days before they publish and 2-3 months in advance is the sweet spot in terms of when she’s thinking about what to feature when.
Email is the best way to get hold of her, but if there’s something super important or time sensitive do give her a call.
Events are getting pushed more and more via Sun plus which is a Sun equivalent of Times Plus. Natasha did an event on stage with Lee Child recently. One ongoing strand is their “Fabulous nights in” reader events – they can be themed, for example there is a crime night in coming up with Claire Mackintosh, Colette McBeth and Erin Kelly. Readers come along and buy books and talk to the authors.
She also oversees food coverage – they have 2-3 pages for food and can often feature a quirky, interesting cook book. She works with Kirsty Spence on this. They rarely feature drinks books but sometimes will feature cocktails and drinks around Christmas.
Fabulous does a gift guide every year around Christmas, as well as online books of the year.