We spoke to Sophia Blackwell, Head of Marketing at The Bookseller, about her experience of the publishing world thus far, the discipline required in working creatively and her advice for self-publishers.
1.Tell us a little bit about how you got into publishing.
I got my first publishing job because I told the boss I organised music and spoken word gigs in my spare time. Turns out he used to do that too. My only work experience at the time consisted of waitressing and filing papers in an orthopaedic hospital, but I always wanted to work in publishing. It’s a bit of an English graduate cliché, I know. I didn’t want to work in any other industry. I still don’t.
2. How does marketing for The Bookseller differ from handling the marketing of several different titles in a publishing house?
That’s a great question. In a publishing house, you’re always working on promoting several books, probably more, all at various different stages of completion. In many ways, marketing for The Bookseller is a more focused experience. It’s such a great magazine, and it always helps to be working on something you believe in. Sometimes I miss working closely with ‘my’ authors- you get quite protective of them- but I’m still in touch with a lot of them, so I get the best of both worlds.
3. You are a performance poet and author as well as Head of Marketing for the Bookseller. Do you feel like your creative side has had an effect on your work in marketing and vice versa?
I don’t like to waste words. When it comes to poetry and copywriting, less often feels like more. When you do something creative with the rest of your life, some people think you must be flaky or pretentious, but you actually have to be resilient, self-motivated and able to manage your time– all useful attributes in the business world. It’s improved my understanding of authors too. When you’ve also performed to two people in a library, you know some of their pain.
4. What are your thoughts on self-publishing and the growing need for authors to take care of their individual presence in the industry? Any advice for indie authors?
Whether you’re an independent or traditionally published author, my advice would be pretty much the same. Your brand and your community are the biggest assets you have. If you’re going to self-publish, have fun with it. Be inventive. Push yourself to get the best results.
5. What has been your most rewarding marketing project to date?
There are three campaigns for books I’ve worked on that I’m particularly fond of: Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny, The Hidden Light of Objects by Mai al-Nakib and the UK publicity for Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter. I also accompanied three authors from Egypt on a literary tour of the UK in 2011 – that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It reminded me just how important books are, not to mention the people who write them.