LWC talks to top publicist, Joe Pickering

Our speaker for the next LWC event on March 1 is Joe Pickering, the publicity manager for Penguin. Joe is the top dog in book publicity – he won the 2010 Bookseller Industry Award for Publicity Campaign of the Year. More than ever before, writers need to be aware of publicity and how books are really sold – and what makes a bestseller.

Joe Pickering

We were lucky enough to speak to Joe during one of his busy author tours and following are some of his answers to our questions:


1/Please could you give us a brief biog?


Joe Pickering is a Publicity Manager for Penguin, working across fiction and non-fiction on the imprints Hamish Hamilton, Viking, Fig Tree and Penguin Ireland. He handles publicity for authors such as Joshua Ferris, Nick Hornby, Will Self, Catherine O’Flynn, Sathnam Sanghera, David Vann, Ross Raisin and Michael Wood.

He began working part-time for Waterstone’s as a student in 2000, first in Brighton, then London, before starting in the publicity department at Simon & Schuster UK in 2005. He moved to Penguin in 2008. In 2010 he won the Publishers Publicity Circle Award for Paperback Original Fiction Campaign for his work on David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide, and went on to win the Bookseller Industry Award for Publicity Campaign of the Year.


2/Why did you decide to become a publicist? And why publishing?


I worked at Waterstone’s Leadenhall market for a while and we did a lot of events. I got to meet some publicists and it seemed like an enjoyable, multi-faceted job. Most people outside of publishing probably only really know or think about editors and editorial, and I liked the idea of doing something different.


3/What are you working on now?


A book called Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, a cultural history of the elements. As we approach March 1st there will also be a novel called The Collaborator, a debut by Mirza Waheed.


4/What book would you have loved to have worked on?


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, right up to the moment when he discovered there were a couple of typos. Then anything else.


5/What author would you like to have for tea and cake?


I can’t pick just one!


6/How can an unpublished author help themselves get noticed?


It helps to have written for publications, however small, involve yourself on Twitter (although that’s not for everyone and that’s fine). I tend to come in after the acquisition process but if an author knows other writers or has written articles, stories, reviews, etc, that have been published, it can help.


7/How has publicity changed since you’ve been working in publishing?


It sounds stupid to even say it but it’s much more online. When I started at my first company I quickly became ‘the online guy’ for the PR department. No department would last if that was still the case so I’m guessing everyone in the industry is now ‘the online guy/woman’.


8/What trends are there in publicity at the moment?


In the last 6 months it feels like every book publicist in the UK has joined Twitter, and lots of editors. It’s been said at Penguin that everyone in every department is a ‘publisher with a small p’. I think that everyone needs to be a publicist with a small p, too. Everyone has to shout about the books and be advocates for them and Twitter seems to have allowed that to happen in a way it didn’t before.


9/What was a stand out PR campaign for you?


David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide. READ IT, IT’S AMAZING.


10/How can an author endear themselves to you during publication?


Be nice. Be grateful. Write a great book. Not necessarily in that order.


 The next LWC event is on Tuesday, 1st March. All details here.

Book now to get your ticket (£10 in advance and £15 on the door). Members come free.

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