Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview with children's book publicist extraordinaire

Another interview! Don't say I never give you anything. This time we're venturing into the world of publicity, with the ever-wonderful Liz Scott. Now Liz used to be my BOSS, back when I was a baby marketing assistant, new to publishing and new to London. There aren't many bosses I've had that I would consider to be real, proper friends (*scans memory* *fails*). So here she is...

So what do you do then?
I am a freelance book publicist working with various publishers on their PR and marketing for children’s and YA books.

How did you get into the wondrous world of children’s books?
I always knew I wanted to work in publishing but have to admit to sort of falling into children’s books before I realised it was the world for me.

I started my book career in 1998 as an excitable bookseller in Bradford Waterstones where I worked for a year with inspiring, knowledgeable book folk, who cemented my desire to work with books. So I packed up my knotted hankie and headed to London Town where I found my first publishing job as a Sales Assistant at Phaidon Press. From there I moved to a Sales & Marketing Executive job at Usborne where I worked out that the children’s book world is indeed wondrous. So I stayed. I worked at Usborne for 7 years, 4 years as Marketing Manager, before the lure of the North got too much and I left for Manchester and freelance life.

Any exciting books you’re working on at the moment? Please plug away!
I could list all of them as I really am working on some excellent books but will keep it to a couple.

I’m immersed in the world of horror with William Hussey author of Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide – the first in the Witchfinder trilogy. William is an author who is seriously committed to his subject matter and a true horror fan himself so it’s a real joy working with him to promote his first book for children and to learn about his horror influences – reading Tales from the Crypt from the age of 6!

I’m also massively looking forward to being involved with Angel by LA Weatherly with the Usborne team. The buzz is building early and the angel phenomenon looks like being huge.

What would your ideal author do in terms of publicity?
That’s a really tough one because I really appreciate how hard it must be for authors with the weight of expectation heaped on them in terms of publicity ‘these days’. They have to be blogging, tweeting children’s entertainers with a love of long, tedious train journeys – not something that always comes naturally to someone who has chosen the essentially solitary job of writing!

Really I just like working with authors who have a passion for what they do, the audience they do it for and who appreciate the hard work involved by everyone in making it work.

And what would your nightmare author do?

Good answer! If you could work with any author in the world (children’s or grown-ups’) who would it be?
I’m from Yorkshire and that ALWAYS means an all-consuming enthusiasm for all things Yorkshire. I have a long standing admiration (borderline obsession) for poet Simon Armitage so would chose him for his dour wit.

If I could have 2 (please?) my second would be Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Top three children’s books?
Obviously the answer to this question would be different on any given day, but for today:

The BFG by Roald Dahl– especially the whizzpoppers chapter. When is pumping not funny?

Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce – just thinking about it makes me giggle. Pure joy.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – just coz.

I Capture the Castle is one of my very favourite books too!
So... please look into your crystal ball and tell us what the Next Big Thing is in children’s books... preferably 2-3 years down the line, to give us time to write the books and make the big bucks.
Blimey – who knows?!

For the past few years there has very much been the ‘big thing’. Whether its boy wizards, vampires, angels, people have seriously embraced trends. This has definitely been great in raising the profile of children’s and YA books so maybe the next big thing will just be a diverse, quality range. Ahhh!

What’s your favourite trashy reality TV show? I KNOW you’ve got one.
I am a really, really late comer to Come Dine with Me – after months of people (you) telling me that it is must-watch TV I have finally watched it. I love it! Fave moment so far on Celebrity Come Dine with Me – while Darren Day cooks, the background music plays ‘There’s a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna do’!! TV GOLD.

Would you rather have muffins for hands or squirrels for feet?
Whenever I’ve considered this question before (!) I’ve always read it as ‘squirrels’ feet’ which is much easier to answer than ‘squirrels FOR feet’. Whole squirrels for feet? That’s hard.

I’m going to go with muffins for hands which will at least give me a little something sweet to nibble on as my answer to the next question is undisputable...

Chocolate or cheese?
Cheese every time with no exceptions.

Not even a hint of indecision - I like your style.

Now, Liz has kindly agreed to answer any questions you might have. Please leave them in the comments section below.


  1. That interview was very *funny*. You guys have a real camaraderie.
    And btw, I am really looking forward to Angel by LA Weatherley. I am a borderline angel book obsessive LOL. I like people who have author or bookish obsessions. There should be a special club for us folks.

    I'm wondering if authors are now contracted to do all these extra things as part of their book deal: blogging, tweeting, school/ library visits?

    And what is it with this cheese thing? I just *don't* get it.

  2. Thanks Becky!

    I haven't heard of PR/marketing commitments being written into author contracts.

    I think its more a case of it having to be a team effort if a book is going to be noticed amongst the many, many books published each month. The more an author is able to do, the more a publisher is going to be encouraged to provide support and budget for a title.

    I also think that the kind of word of mouth following created by an author genuinely blogging about their books and thoughts is invaluable.

    hmmmm cheese...

  3. Thanks for answering my question Liz.
    A team effort - that makes a lot of sense. Everyone wants it to do well so the more you put in the more you get out I guess.
    I (for one) love author blogs!

  4. I love them too. And also love a vaguely obsessive book reader - we should think about that club!

  5. I love writing and reading books. I love the notion that people can make things up in their mind and then make them real on a page, for the pleasure or utility of someone else. One of my favorite mentor on learning how to write a book is Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.