We got to chat with our friend Ellen Whitfield (@spoilerkween) about her job as a book publicist. She shares what a book publicist looks for in an instagram account to work with, the work that goes on behind the scenes, pet peeves, what she wishes bloggers and instagrammers knew, how she got into this field, and what it’s like working with authors. She also has great taste in books, has hilarious IG stories, and is all around a wonderful human to talk to! Without further ado…
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Q: What's your official job title?
A: Simply put, I’m a book publicist.
How did you start working in this field?
I was going back to my job at a newspaper after my maternity leave was over, and realized that working nights and weekends wasn't going to work with having a small child, so I started looking for other jobs. I've always loved to read and wanted to have a job involving books, and my husband reached out to a friend who he knew worked "with books." It happened to be perfect timing as they were looking for someone to fill an open position -- I jumped in not knowing too much about what a publicist does, but luckily it was a perfect fit for me!
What does your typical work day look like?
I usually respond to emails that have come in while I've been away for the first couple hours of my day -- that mostly consists of answering client questions, coordinating interviews and the like, recording new information that's come in for campaigns and working with contacts to set up publicity and events. Then I focus on one campaign for a while, writing pitches and press kits, contacting outlets for reviews or Q&As, gathering info, makings calls, anything like that. When I've finished with the tasks I need to get done for that campaign, I move to another.
What do you love most/hate most about your job?
More like pet peeves or stresses instead of hates, but as you saw, this job kind of fell into my lap, and I feel so lucky because I know that not everyone can say they love what they do, but I really can. I think being a publicist and having to be nice has translated into my daily life and made me a kinder and more compassionate person (I hope). And most of the people I work with are just the coolest. I work with books all day -- what's not to like?! But the biggest part that stresses me out is a lot of times, in the very beginning of the campaign, it feels like you're waiting for all this potential coverage to start to come through, and I always get nervous it won't because I want to get the word out about my amazing authors and the books they've worked so hard on. But usually as the launch date gets closer, coverage picks up and things start to fall into place.
How do you find Instagram accounts to work with/what do you look for in an account?
I think a lot about what books are similar to the book I'm pitching, and try to find accounts that have liked those books so I make sure I'm pitching to the right audience. I also make notes as I'm scrolling through my feed -- "Oh Michaela likes fairy tale retellings, I bet she'd like Slipper!" etc. We try to find accounts that are current and will be enthusiastic about a book they like! We of course don't expect every person to like every book we send them, but I may shy away from accounts that seem unnecessarily harsh.
What do you wish bookstagrammers knew about your job?
We do so much research into choosing what books to pitch to which bloggers and bookstagrammers! We try not to send pitches to people who we don't think would be a good fit for certain books, because we don't want to bug y'all. Oh, and ghosting us is also a pet peeve -- if you say you'd love to take a look at the book and then just disappear when you get it, that's a bummer (but luckily that doesn't happen a lot!).
What's the best thing about working with authors?
Honestly I'd never have the courage to write a book and put it out there for the world to see, so I'm always impressed by authors in general. Most of mine are just really great people that are a lot of fun to hang out with. They trust us to help tell the world about their "babies," and I couldn't be more honored.
What’s your favorite book?
I'll go with the book I return to again and again in all stages of life -- James Herriot's, All Creatures Great and Small. I read them as a small child and fell in love with the English countryside and the simple vet stories about kind people and funny animals. It always manages to make me happy.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS FOR ELLEN?