Getting published

The publicist: Alison Barrow on the role of publicity in the publishing process

Alison Barrow
Alison Barrow

1.  You’re a Director of Media Relations. Tell us what that means in one sentence?

I'm responsible for publicising new books and writers across national media, on and offline, for arranging events and creating a promotional strategy which drives book sales.

2.   What is a typical day like for you?

Ha!  There is no typical day!  I could be writing a press release, meeting journalists, creating a pitch for a new book, travelling to literary festivals with writers, setting up an events tour, media training with an author... It is nothing if not varied!

3.  How do you work with authors to make their book a success? 

My involvement can start even before we acquire a book. I am part of a team which determines if a prospective book is promotable, how it will sit within the market or disrupt it, what the pitch would be, evaluating the strengths of a writer and what kind of publicity we will be able to create around a book. My involvement with the writers we publish is personal and bespoke to each one and lasts throughout the publishing process - on acquisition, pre-publication, on launch, afterwards, through to next book and beyond. My day is filled with lively, creative and stimulating conversations with writers.

4.  What’s the most exciting part of your job?

The variety. The privilege of working on the publication journey with a writer and enjoying the success alongside them. That can range from a terrific review in a national paper, through to a successful event, through to major global sales and acclaim - all of it!  I love my job. 

5.  The Girl on the Train gained a huge amount of attention on Twitter. How important is it for new author to be on social media?

Well here's the thing. It's not for everybody. But social media has become a live and immediate way of sharing recommendations, celebrating the good, provoking debate, posting opinion. It took me a long while myself to get to grips with it and I'm still learning, but it has become a vital part of my PR toolbox and I would be always delighted to help any writer navigate their way around it.

6.  What advice would you give to debut authors hoping to spark a lot of interest around their book?

Work out your pitch. What is unique, different about your book? How does it sit within the world of what is selling right now. What is your expertise? Start conversations online. I write this book because... Ask questions. Be curious. Be generous and always, always be kind.

7.  What does the future of publicity look like?

Crikey if I had the definitive answer to that do you think I would tell you?! Well, one of the developments and pleasures for publishers over recent years has been the ability to have direct conversations with readers - not just at live events but via blogs, online, social media and via growing communities of like-minder consumers. We are learning so much about what people want to read, and when, where and how, so we’re able to help our authors find and better understand their audience. This knowledge is hugely significant in enabling us to be more nimble and effective in alerting people to the books they will want to read - and to selling our authors’ books to them.

Thanks for asking.

Alison Barrow is Director of Media Relations at Transworld. 

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