Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
I am Junior Marketing Officer at Walker Books. My job is primarily looking after the print side of our marketing campaigns, though I do have responsibilities on the digital side too. My main responsibilities can range from designing paid for ads in Children’s and Parenting magazines, to briefing trailers and animations, or creating beautiful and unique POS. (For people who might not know POS stands for Point of Sale, and this means things like, posters, stickers, bookmarks and giveaway promotions.) My favourite items I’ve worked on this year include a wooden bookmark for a Cassie Clare pre-order campaign, and most recently, a tampon-shaped bookmark with actual string attached!
Would you be able to offer an overview of your publishing career so far? What position did you start in?
To take things back to the beginning, well first the dinosaurs roamed the earth… just kidding. Whilst I was studying at University (Law of all things) I worked at Waterstones Piccadilly, on the ground floor; as you can imagine, a real baptism by fire in the world of books. I helped out at as many events as I could, bettering my event management, author care, and consumer care skills wherever possible. I then moved to their High Street Kensington branch where I became a Lead Bookseller (essentially assistant manager) with a particular focus on the kids’ floor. After temporarily running T2 Tottenham Court Road (a publishing person who loves tea… groundbreaking, I know!) I was hired at Walker as Publicity and Marketing Assistant by the amazing Rosi Crawley (@BookEatingGirl) and Jill Kidson, having tried only two weeks’ work experience the year before. I worked in this role for 18 months, learning all kinds of skills and having THE MOST fun you could have in the best team. Then a role came up in our Marketing team, which I couldn’t refuse. I left PR with a very heavy heart, but so glad I still get to sit just a few feet away from them. They are incomparable.
What does an average day look like for you (if there is such a thing in your role)?
Well first, we of course start the day with a cuppa and a debriefing of our evenings, what tv shows we watched, who went out on RuPaul’s Drag Race etc. I typically start my day by checking on our Facebook and Instagram ads, just to make sure things are running smoothly. Then, depending on the day of the week, I may have a catch up with my boss, Jill, or a full team catch up where we either discuss current campaigns or plan future ones – our brainstorms are always HILARIOUS! I tend to work very quickly in the morning, fuelled by the caffeine, and then leave my afternoons for the more creative tasks like designing social assets or doodling the next bookmark I want to make. I am currently OBSESSED with die-cut bookmarks (ones that are not just rectangle) with bits that stick out the top of the book, think I’ve made four in the past six months! As it’s publishing, it is usually someone’s birthday any given week, so there are lots of breaks for cakes and snacks too!
As someone who has worked in both PR and Marketing, could you give us an overview of the differences between them?
One real simple difference, at least in my view, is money. Typically, Consumer Marketing is where things are paid for, we spend the big bucks on things like: social advertising, print advertising, outdoor advertising like on tubes and trains, trailers, print items, pin badges, or partnerships with other brands. Whereas in PR, they typically have to work their butts off with a much smaller portion of a budget, reserved for school events, mailings, and launch parties. A lot of their time is spent pitching their books to journalists, reviewers and the like which might not cost money, but is supremely hard work. It shocks me every day how little space is given in print for children’s books. It is a real fight to get your titles included, and PR teams all across publishing work so hard to do so.
Another difference, I have noticed, is time in the office. When you’re in PR, you spend a good amount of time out at school events accompanying your authors/illustrators, or at launch parties, or at literary festivals e.g. Edinburgh Book Festival, which I love! Whereas I spend more of my time in the office now at my desk, but where possible, try to go to launch parties and panel events both for our books and those of other publishers as it’s important to remain sociable and in the loop.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
Easiest answer ever, the people. Walker is truly one huge happy family. I can honestly say that there has never been a day that I’ve not wanted to go into work. As someone with quite bad anxiety, I avoid certain situations in fear of making things worse, but work has always been a safe space for me, and a place I am guaranteed to be cheered up. Each and every member of my team makes me laugh daily, and make it the best job in the world. Also, there is not one person in the building that I would fear walking up to and asking for help; everyone is so kind and accepting and I think that’s what makes Walker so special.
What is the hardest thing about your job?
Keeping your TBR (to be read) pile down. I am a huge reader outside work, and when you work in publishing you constantly have manuscripts sent to your inbox for books as far as 18 months, and sometimes it’s hard to make sure you’re on track work wise but also still reading for pleasure. Too many books to read… there are worse things in life!
What has surprised you the most about your role?
Specifically, in my marketing role, how creative it is. I spend a lot of my time doodling in my notebook, designing all kinds of assets both for digital and print. I always saw PR as the role full of creativity, but they are equally full of it, in my opinion. One reason I never went into law as a career, even after finishing my degree, was the fear of losing my creativity. I never have to worry about that at Walker.
If someone was looking for a role in marketing, what would you suggest they do outside of work experience to improve their CV?
Read. It’s the obvious answer, but it’s the best one. Try to read across different genres and age groups, and focus on the books of publishers you’d like to work for too. I knew Walker’s front and backlist really well before my interview, and although it doesn’t always come up, they can tell if you know the company well, and the best way is through their books.
Pay attention to advertising. This does not mean go out and buy Advertising For Dummies, I’m more suggesting that you keep aware of all the manners and places in which you are being advertised to. This will help you think of target markets for books you are working on, and how to target those markets effectively.
Learn the basics of social media. I’m sure most young people know Facebook, Instagram and Twitter intimately just by using them on a daily basis, but it doesn’t hurt to know the differences in how the apps are used, when they are used, and by whom? Also take note of social assets or media campaigns that appeal to you and think why they did, and how you could learn from it.
How would you pitch your job in a sentence?
Making sure that the people who should know about a specific book, get to know about it, and are shown it is the book for them, through creative teamwork, and a passion for reading.
Originally from Falkirk, Scotland, John moved to London in 2014 to attend university. John went from studying Law and Languages at Kings College London, to Lead Bookseller in Waterstones Piccadilly and later High Street Kensington. Then, after a brief stint managing a T2Tea shop, he landed his dream role as PR and Marketing Assistant at Walker Books. John lives in South London with his partner David, and is an avid gamer, reader, linguist, and overall nerd! His favourite novel is The Secret History by Donna Tartt.