The people behind the books - Q&A

Welcome to a new monthly feature that will see me interviewing all those people who work in close contact with authors to make their books known and successful.

First up is Emily Burns, who you can also follow on Twitter.

Q: Hello Emily! First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions! You look after Constable and Robinson’s fiction imprint, Corsair, whose first titles – if I’m not mistaken - were published in 2010. Were you there to see the first steps in the life of the imprint or did you join the team at a later time?

A: Hello and thank you for asking me! That’s right; I look after the fiction list Corsair at Constable and Robinson, which launched in April 2010 with just four titles. I joined Constable and Robinson in August 2010, so was introduced to the list through books such as The Privileges by Jonathan Dee and The Seas by Samantha Hunt. It was such a new imprint that it was thrilling to help it to grow.

After the success of the literary fiction imprint, Corsair, we have recently announced the launch of our commercial fiction imprint, Canvas in December 2011. I have been involved with Canvas since the very beginning, in everything from logo design to new acquisitions.

Q: I read a short outline of what your job entails and was massively impressed. You must be a good multi-tasker! Would you mind describing to our readers what you do on a typical day? Is there a particular activity that you especially look forward to?

A: You have to be a great multi-tasker to do this job! Day to day, my role is heavily focused on author management, media relations and devising, implementing and managing traditional, digital and e-PR campaigns. I also generate and foster review and feature coverage, plan publicity tours and launches, negotiate serial rights and manage embargoes as well as developing the reputation and visibility of the Corsair and Canvas imprints.

Other day to day responsibilities include writing press material, maintaining databases, overseeing events and helping to develop junior members of the publicity team.

Q: What kind of journey led you to being a fiction publicist? As a book-lover, your job sounds absolutely perfect. What kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue the same career?

A: I didn’t always work in publishing. When I started out in public relations it was in the world of consumer PR; I worked with fashion and lifestyle brands - everything from Levi’s to Nike. I did however do a lot of unpaid work experience during all university holidays and would certainly recommend getting as much experience as you can at a publishing house. Try to attend as many book launches/literary events and festivals as you can, most local libraries have author talks and signings!

It seems obvious, but a love of reading is essential, you have no idea how much you will read. Consume as many books, magazines and newspapers as you can! If you’re thinking about working in publishing you will need to be extremely organized, have good copy writing and team interaction skills as well as the ability to work independently. You’ll need to be able to multitask, work to tight deadlines and remain calm under pressure - publishing is a very competitive industry so a thick skin and determination helps. And most importantly, don’t give up!

Q: Going to festivals and literary events around the country sounds more like a treat than a work demand… lucky you! What is your favourite festival and why?

A: It is a treat and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to attend so many festivals already, I haven’t been to all of the literary festivals so I couldn’t name my favourite (yet!) but so far Edinburgh Festival has an incredibly exciting line up and is always such fun. I also really love the alternative literary events like the Shoreditch House Literary Salon and 5x15- they’re a really great night out!

Q: I still remember my first embarrassing encounter with my favourite author. And I still can’t quite believe that writers, who in my world are almost god-like figures, would accept to be interviewed or reviewed by me… So, I wonder: do you ever get star-struck? Is there any author that you’d love to work with?

A: I got a little bit star struck when I met Howard Jacobson; I had just started working in publishing and had admired his work from afar so I was a bit bashful when he turned up at my launch!

There are too many authors to name but a few that I would love to work with include Karen Russell (author of Swamplandia), Andrea Levy, Joanne Harris (Five Quarters of the Orange is one of my favourite books!), Khaled Hosseini, Ian McEwan and Louis de Bernières.

Q: What is the fondest memory of your career in publishing so far?

A: I think my fondest memory so far is of the office toasting Jennifer Egan when she won the Pulitzer Prize and again when she was chosen for the Channel 4 TV Book Club! It’s wonderful to see a book that the entire office is behind thrive and become a phenomenal success.

Q: And lastly, what should the great reading public be getting excited about in 2012?

A: There are so many great books being published in 2012, for me, the two I’m most excited about working on having recently read them are Galore by Michael Crummey and Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz. They are both incredibly beautiful and entirely different from one another and anything else I’ve read in a long time. With all things Dickens looking set to reign in 2012, I am also excited about Tom-All-Alone’s by Lynn Shepherd, it’s an incredible reimagining of the Dickens classic Bleak House...but better!


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