The Midas deputy MD contributes to our Q&A series
Describe your job
To run the books team, look after the Midas team, oversee their campaigns, drive my own campaigns, liaise with clients and be available to them, follow up on opportunities for new business, help CEO Jason Bartholomew and the management team drive the business forward, and look at strategies for growth and increased creativity.
What was your first job in the book industry?
I was a bookseller at Dillons in Chiswick, and then I became publicity assistant at Hodder & Stoughton.
Who has been the most influential person in your career?
Martin Neild, who was my MD at Hodder and then at Headline. He always encouraged and supported me, and was the one who believed that at 29 I could go and be the new publicity director at Headline. It was a big step, but he made it all fun and positive. One of those MDs whose door was always open.
How has the industry changed since your first job?
As far as book publicity is concerned, there has been a monumental shift in perception. When I started, a press office was seen as an end of the line service department that could book editors' taxis and make authors happy with a review in the Guardian. The sales team were the kings, the retailers the gatekeepers. Now, in modern publishing, a book publicist will be in most pitch meetings, at the heart of all strategy and creativity, integral to any big success story as the challenges of discoverability have become the biggest factor.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
Not enough time in the day! Right now it is the competition for review space, feature space, and the slowness in the media to respond to pitch emails, even on the most anticipated books. I am hoping everyone has just been overwhelmed by the last year and things will get back to normal!
What's the best piece of book-related advice you've ever been given?
It's PR not ER!
What are the most interesting things you're seeing at the moment in the industry?
The work the industry is doing on showcasing the benefits of reading for pleasure and ensuring the benefits we all know and appreciate are available to everyone. For example, Cressida Cowell's Life-changing Libraries campaign. Also all the work the Reading Agency are doing in their ongoing mission to tackle life's big challenges through the proven power of reading with their upcoming campaigns for Quick Reads and the Summer Reading Challenge.
It's fantastic to see how festivals are playing their part too: for example, the year-round education outreach being done by Cheltenham and their Reading Teachers=Reading Pupils campaign. I have also loved seeing the Indie Champions List announced by Bookshop.org, proof of the great work they have done supporting indie bookshops and the sales this has resulted in. It's 15 years since the BA first ran Independent Bookshop Week and it's fantastic that Indie bookshop numbers have been on the rise since 2015. Coupled with Bookshop.org's work, plus more people shopping locally now they are working from home rather than town centres, bookshops can have a bright future.
What do you think might be the next big thing?
BookTok. We've seen how much the book community on TikTok (aka BookTok) is growing, and I think we've only scratched the surface. Any platform that sells books is exciting to me, and spreading word of mouth just would not be achievable without the passion and dedication of book influencers. We've already seen the effect BookTok can have on sales, so the potential is incredible, which is why BookTok is now an integral part of Midas' campaigns - for example, we recently engaged BookTokers for Normal People actor Sebastian de Souza's debut YA novel KID. But book influencers' support across all social platforms will always be so special. I recently did the PR campaign for The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex, and the way the blogging community got behind that book was extraordinary. I have been so grateful to them in lockdown - the way they buy hardbacks of the books they love, when they have been sent proofs - phenomenal!
How are you coping with working from home?
There are so many advantages, especially if you are a working parent. But I am in the incredibly privileged position of having room to make a dedicated office space and I have outdoor space. For many across the industry, the opposite has been true, and the disparity has to be addressed. I also think it is easier to blur the lines between work and home life, resulting in the expectation of round the clock communication. I miss face to face brainstorming too - and the networking of course!
How do you think the industry will come out of the Covid-19 crisis?
I think the industry has proved how flexible, loyal and creative it can be. I loved the way virtual events sprung up, the spirit of community that developed online, the way bigger authors supported debuts. One of the most heartening things to see has been the way everyone has done what they can to support bookshops and the joy around their return. I hope the industry won't take bookshops for granted again, I know I won't. I'd like to see us hang on to our flexibility, thinking about things in new ways.
What do you most like doing when you're not working?
I live on a houseboat on the river, so kayaking or paddle boarding. Walking Bomber our Border terrier. Reading whenever I can in between taking the kids to matches. I also love shopping and socialising, and am glad they are back. I can't wait to visit our holiday houseboat on the Isle of Wight - it's been too long since I saw the sea.
What is the best book you've read in the last year?
That is so hard as I read a book a week at least. I am lucky enough to be working on Animal by Lisa Taddeo, coming from Bloomsbury in June, and it completely floored me. I love the list and team at W & N and their publishing. Definitely one of the books to look out for this year is Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason coming in June: it captured my heart.
What are you reading now?
I am lucky enough to get a lot of proofs sent in advance due to Twitter. I have just finished the new Hannah Beckerman novel out in October, which I loved, and I am about to start the new Susie Boyt novel Loved And Missed, coming in August from Virago. She is a beautiful writer.
How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks?
Mostly proofs, for which I am so grateful, but I came to rely on Audible during lockdown too, as did my kids, and I discovered many new writers on audio.
Georgina Moore's debut novel, The Garnett Girls, is out on submission from Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown.