The Marketeers Club: A Year of Publicity

Anna Weir is a publicist a little surprised at how quickly time flies when she spends all her time talking about books.

Seems odd to think that a year ago I officially signed on as a full-time publicist with UNP. I was working as a student for nearly a year before that, a sort of peripheral helper doing whatever needed to be done, and had the chance to move to the center of the action. It’s a move that has helped me learn a lot about publishing as a whole, about university presses specifically, and about myself.

With about two and a half seasons under my belt now (about 160 books divided between the other publicist and I), I’ve helped to get dozens of copies of eighty different books into the hands of readers and reviewers across the nation. Though a lot of the process of publicizing a book can be repetitive, each book had something new to teach me. Looking back over the past year, with all its twists and turns both in and out of the office, two important points come to mind:

1. Publicity is timeless. Unlike other areas of publishing—with acquisitions always looking ahead to The Next Big Thing and editorial neck-deep in current projects and approaching deadlines—marketing’s efforts really only end when the book is out of print. A lot of effort goes into the front list (the hot-off-the-press books) in hopes that it’ll get the most attention possible, but we’re also simultaneously making plans for the books further down the pipeline, and the backlist is always ready and waiting for a publicity push. More and more in casual conversation, whether the conversation is about politics or writing or our ailing environment, I find myself thinking of older books that still have important things to say. As long as there are interested readers, I will always have an interesting book to pitch them.

2. While writing is solitary, publishing is a team effort. All through college I was (and still am) in love with the craft of writing. But I’ve grown to love the marketplace of writing, too—the space where people in all aspects of publishing meet, collaborate, and celebrate books. Every book, most would agree, is somebody’s “baby”—the project an author has carried for months, sometimes years, before it’s ready to see the light of day. But there comes a point where the author isn’t the only one who cares for the book. The acquiring editor, copy editor, typesetter, designer, and, yes, the publicist, all want to see the book succeed.

It’s been fascinating and rewarding to see each employee’s talents and passion poured into these eighty books. Each of us can take a UNP book off the shelf and enjoy it simply for the story (or research) it holds, but we also hold in our hands the hours spent in meetings, the endless email chains, the versions and reversions and bottomless cups of coffee that hold the pages together as much as the binding. That’s what I love most about my job, and that’s what I’m glad to spend another year doing.