Anna Weir is a publicist at UNP and described herself in her last Christmas card as a “Book Cheerleader.”
Sitting on a neighbor’s couch this past Sunday, I chatted with a few new faces during the slower bits of the Super Bowl (which, let’s be frank, was most of it). Inevitably, my least favorite question was prompted: “What do you do?”
It’s a question that always makes me cringe, not because I don’t love my job as a book publicist at a university press, but because I find myself spending more time explaining what I don’t do.
(No, the authors I work with aren’t only professors at our sponsoring university. No, I don’t edit manuscripts—that’s much earlier in the process. No, you don’t have to be from Nebraska for us to be interested in your work—but, wait, please, I’m not the person who can consider your manuscript for publication.)
So what am I doing at UNP? I get people who love talking about books in touch with other people who love talking about books. Whether that’s an author connecting with a journalist or reviewer, or a news outlet highlighting books on a similar subject, or a professor hoping to introduce an author with a unique perspective to their class, I’m the old-timey phone operator who makes the connection that allows those conversations to begin.
This—despite my best efforts—does not make me a publicity genie. I can make the connection, but sometimes the line is busy. I can send a book to a solid contact at a well-known publication, but I can’t ensure that contact will read the book—or find the time to review it. At times all I hear back is a dial tone, and that can be discouraging.
Although I covet formal reviews and interviews as much as the authors I work with, I’m happy to say publicity isn’t confined to print media or mainstream websites. My job, after all, is to get people talking about books.
That includes you, dear reader.
Amid the endless monsoon of new books being poured into the ocean of titles that already exists, one of the biggest challenges an author faces—aside from getting published in the first place—is having their book noticed by readers. When your novel is just one drop in the sea of ink, it’s hard to make a splash.
So imagine my joy when the ripples begin to form:
Every mention of the book you’re reading, whether that’s on your own social media or personal blog or in casual conversation with a friend, makes a difference. Not only to the author, but to us folks in the publishing house. These things we create—these bundles of carefully-selected paper stock printed with symbols that take months to arrange, rearrange, proof, and package—are silent and unmoving without you. A book without a reader is little more than home décor.
So, what is it I do? I am the Lorax. I speak for the books, since they won’t speak for themselves. And I encourage you to do the same.