Meet the Gatekeepers- Charlie Morris from Little Tiger Press

How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

I was incredibly lucky as my first ever job was a complete dream, working as a Saturday girl at my local home town independent bookshop, The Book House, where I eventually became manager of the children’s and YA sections. In working there I learned lots of invaluable skills, spotting market trends, understanding customer requests and how to sell a book in an elevator pitch – I loved finding the hook that would make a customer realise a book was worth their time. I also helped staff a lot of author events, both in shop signings and at festival and school visits. This meant meeting a lot of authors and their publicists – however publishing itself still felt a little too nebulous and hard to understand – I didn’t really know what roles were available, or where I’d fit. I was lucky to be able to work to support myself to enrol in an MA in publishing at Oxford Brookes, where I got a great overview of how publishing at large works – like a giant puzzle with individual teams piecing together a books journey from start to finish. In studying, I realised by bookseller and events background, and love of a zingy pitch, meant I was well suited to PR& marketing. Sam Eades offered me a publicity internship at Headline when I asked her about getting into the industry during an Eowyn Ivey tour for The Snow Child which stopped at The Book House. After finishing my MA, I applied for roles and landed my first publishing job at OUP children’s publicity department.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

As a former book blogger myself, I love working with reviewers – bloggers, bookstagrammers and booktubers on books they are particularly passionate about, coming up with collaborative ideas to share special content, and finding what makes an author tick in their responses. Putting together newsletters and arranging blog tours, and finding ways to make a book stand out from the crowd online is all a particularly interesting challenge, especially when there’s so much competition. It’s so satisfying to work on sending a package out into the world and seeing what the reactions are to it. Particularly last year working on the anthology PROUD, which was personally a very important book to me, and spending a year and a half on the campaign from start to finish – seeing librarians display rainbow posters, bunting and reading discussions with LGBTQ+ teens and hearing what the book meant to the young readers was incredible, and exactly why I got into the industry (my MA dissertation was on the challenges and opportunities marketing LGBTQ+ inclusive YA in the UK). Arranging the stunt cover reveal at YALC with Juno Dawson revealing the cover as it ‘came out of the closet’ – building an actual closet door onto our stand, was a particular highlight.

What are the challenges of your role?

There are always many things happening at once, so you have to juggle a campaign of a book about to be published, with looking ahead two or three months down the line to your next campaign, and even years ahead as we look at books which are sent in for acquisition, so keeping timelines in your head is always an interesting exercise. We normally have seven or eight titles per month we’re working on simultaneously, but lots more in the pipeline.

Media space for children’s books is always a bit of a challenge, and I’m very much with the campaign to #CoverKidsBooks in the wider press. It’s been wonderful however to see grass roots spaces flourish, such as child friendly review sites like Toppsta and author platforms to connect with readers and on the ground gateekeepers like teachers and librarians such as ReadingZone, Authorfy, and the excellent Primary School Book Club. Plus Booktrust are doing wonderful work coordinating digital content and making sure books still reach homes. At the moment, we’re taking digital even further at Little Tiger, and I’m working on video editing and graphic design, as well as arranging virtual book launches and panels.

Describe a typical day or are no two days alike?

There’s definitely a case of no two days are alike, however there are some routines, communicating in house with the team (usually over a desk, but now over Skype calls and whatsapp) updating each other about opportunities to share books – be that awards submissions, commissioning point of sale material such as posters, book marks, activity sheets and digital assets like videos and social media graphics. Responding to author queries, and working with festival organisers, librarians and bookshops as they look at digital options. Sending out newsletters and compiling book orders based on requests, then tracking social media responses online and sharing these as much as possible. It’s a mix of admin, communications, creative planning and pitching.

Tips for Book Bloggers?

I’m definitely echoing what Leilah said, in making your content personal to you – don’t feel like you have to follow a format because that’s what everyone else is doing, the more personal it is to what makes you happy, the more you stand out! My other tip however is a practical one – when you read back over your review, if it is a positive review and one you’d especially wish publishers to refer to in their promotional activity, make sure you have a single sentence which summarises your emotional response and what you love about the book, and make sure this sentence is easily quotable without the rest of your review. We call this a pull quote (as we’ve pulled it from your longer review, and as it functions to pull in new readers!) Short, sweet and snappy, these are great for social media cards, press releases and even book internals when it goes to print. Try and avoid having this sentence lead into a longer clause, or a description of the plot, as it needs to work on its own.

E.G. ‘Pure magic, this book made me laugh and cry!’

What are you currently reading?

I’m doing a reread of The Rules by Tracy Darnton ahead of publication in July, which is about a girl called Amber who is on the run from her father who is a prepper. It’s a gripping thriller with a brilliantly prickly protagonist.

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