On being an editor and publicist: Sam Eades interview

Editor and Publicist

Sam Eades spent eight years as a publicist working for Transworld, Headline and Pan Macmillan on authors including Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, Jessie Burton and Hercule Poirot (David Suchet). She is now Senior Commissioning Editor & Associate Publicist at Orion Fiction. She is looking for crime fiction, speculative fiction and reading group fiction for commercial and literary/commercial crossover markets. Here Norah Myers interviews Sam about her work as an editor and publicist.

1. How do you organise your time as both an editor and publicist?

It is very much a 50/50 split so each day varies from the next. I might be pitching an author for interviews or setting up their tour one minute, and the next I’m out meeting agents talking through the kind of books I want to commission. No two days are the same (which I love!).

2. How does your work as a publicist inform your work as an editor?

Publicists have a great overall view of the book market. We sound out the competition early for similar titles we are working on, spot trends in publishing which we can use to our advantage to position our own books, we see what books share review space, which ones are getting social media buzz, who we can pair authors up with for events etc etc. Plus journalists will share with us what they are reading. We also (mass generalization) are a generous bunch, and read books from our friends at other publishing houses and hear what they are excited about working on. This knowledge of the market is very useful when it comes to commissioning!

We also have a pretty good idea of an existing author’s fanbase. We get a snapshot of their demographic every time we go to one of their events, which can be useful in terms of positioning and packaging their new books. Knowing the target reader for a book is very useful for an editor.

Finally publicists shape the messaging for a book – through press releases, email pitches and from pitching in person to media/bookshops/other authors etc. Knowing how to shape the message from the book at the very beginning of the process can inform editorial copy, metadata but also the internal and external editorial pitch for a book. And I have to say that practice at pitching is also helpful for me when speaking to agents and prospective authors, and for pitching new business to my colleagues.

3. What’s been your favourite campaign of 2015? Why?

I love what Rebecca Gray has done with The Versions of Us. She put in an enormous amount of work pre-publication with fabulous author Laura Barnett, organising a pre-publication bookshop tour. This led to a groundswell of support with indies and Waterstones which drove first week sales. She combined bookseller engagement with a national and regional press and broadcast campaign that left no stone unturned, and the results speak for themselves. A top ten bestseller and one of the bestselling hardback debuts of 2015! Plus I work with Rebecca and she is ace.

4. What has been the most challenging part of your new job so far?

All my editorial friends warned me that there would be lots of reading, however I never quite believed it until now! And reading back through this interview I have a serious problem with over using exclamation marks. As a publicist I love them!

5. What are you most looking forward to as your position progresses?

Discovering new talent. I can’t wait!

6. What is your top tip for anyone who would like to follow your career path?

Think outside of the box of traditional publishing roles and remember skills are transferable (editors note: Join BookMachine for an event on transferable skills in London this month). Most roles now are really several different jobs in one. I also heartily recommend asking people in the industry for advice and that might be people inside or outside your company. They will appreciate being asked, and in my experience be happy to share their experiences and wisdom.

And a general top tip… be nice! Be nice to those starting out, your peers and those who need your support. Be generous with your time no matter what stage of your career. It is a very small industry!