Meet the Gatekeepers- Olivia Horrox- Simon and Schuster

As the main page of Meet the Gatekeeper is updated with another wonder from the world of publicity, the previous publicist will be found in my main blog page.

Olivia Horrox from Simon and Schuster was the second publicist to appear in my new feature. Leilah Skelton from Little Tiger appeared in week one.

  1. How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

It was a long slog! I studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and that’s where I first started thinking I wanted to work in publishing. Back then, I didn’t know much about the different departments so just assumed I wanted to be an Editor.

Foolishly, I didn’t do any summer internships (would recommend doing this if you can!) so when I graduated from university real life smacked me in the face…hard! I worked full-time in retail in various management roles for two years to pay my rent and had to use my paid leave to do work experience. I was lucky to have two friends living in London who both let me sleep on their sofas while I interned and I’m hugely grateful to them, I don’t know how I would have done it otherwise.

I worked in some great departments including the Puffin Editorial team, DK Marketing & Publicity and Vintage Publicity. I loved all my internships, but it became clear to me that my true passion was for Marketing & Publicity, so that’s where I ended up. I did about five short term internships over the space of two years and had a couple of interviews before I landed my first job as Publicity Assistant at Scholastic Children’s Books. I remember taking the call and finding out I had the job while on my lunch break in a café and crying because I was so happy that the struggle was finally over and I’d got in! It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

  1. What is the most interesting part of your job?

I get to meet and work with so many different organisations and interesting people, that’s definitely one of the best bits! I also enjoy getting to visit other cities and see a bit more of the UK. Anyone who knows me knows I’m TERRIBLE at geography and being on the road a lot has definitely helped me with that. Mostly I like the creativity of working in Publicity, always looking for a new angle or a new way to catch people’s eye to make a book stand out.

  1. What are the challenges of your role?

The two biggest challenges are that there’s not enough space in traditional media for children’s books and there’s never enough time to get everything done. I’ll often be juggling several campaigns at once, and a campaign often stretches well beyond the publication month. Currently, I’m working on about 7 or 8 books – some publishing this month, some in 6 months, one that’s publishing NEXT YEAR! There’s never a moment’s rest, that’s for sure. As for the lack of space for children’s books, while it’s a constant struggle, it is also extra rewarding if you land something big and I get super excited every time a book I’m working on gets reviewed. There are some amazing ambassadors and journalists doing great work for children’s books and I’m honoured to work with them.

  1. Describe a typical day or are no two days alike?

Even now, whilst we’re all on lockdown, no two days are the same… and I love it! It’s one of my favourite things about publicity – you’re never likely to get bored. Typical tasks that come up often include writing press releases, arranging interviews, pitching for reviews and arranging events. There’s a lot of organisation involved in Publicity, you have to time and plan everything meticulously whether it’s back-to-back radio interviews or planning a week-long events tour, you need to plan every step and prepare for worst case scenarios when things just go wrong.

  1. Tips for Book Bloggers?

I love it when book bloggers email me with all their info in one place. Let me know what books you like to read, what you don’t like, include your address in the email if you’re asking for a book/to be added to a database, include your stats. I might not come back to you straight away, but I’ll file it away and it’s so much easier if I have all the info there. I might not have time to have a back and forth conversation to get all this info, so you’re more likely to get a response if you’ve already provided everything I need to know.

Also, I much prefer when bloggers follow the professional routes for communication – email and twitter are great, and I don’t really mind if you contact me on Instagram (but the other two would be preferable) but sometimes I get messages on GoodReads and all sorts of random places and it can feel a bit like being bombarded about work from every angle. My GoodReads is for personal use and chances are, if you message me on there, I’m not going to remember that you did when I’m back at work.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed, Simon & Schuster are publishing it in September and I’m hugely excited about it. It’s set in the early 90’s in LA and it’s based on the true events of the Rodney King riots and police brutality in America. Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, it’s shocking, atmospheric and unputdownable… and it’s up on Netgalley now (shameless plug!)

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