From spending time in the Blue Peter studios with a trailblazing children’s writer, to spending International Women’s Day with Stacey Dooley, to going on the road for full-on nationwide book tours, it’s true to say that Annabelle Wright’s role as Senior Campaigns Manager for EDPR is nothing but varied and involved, and sees her utterly devoted to finding fresh ways to bring brilliant books to the widest possible audience.
No stranger to professional awards herself, many of the books Annabelle has worked on have become esteemed prize-winners and, thanks to her creativity and dedication, found legions of committed readers.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what book PR involves, or how to get into it, read on to discover Annabelle’s path into the world of publishing, with plenty of mighty fine book recommendations along the way.
What was your route into publishing? Did you always want to work in the world of books?
Like so many others in publishing, I just really loved books as a kid. I would spend Saturday mornings with my mum at our local library browsing books that I was too young for, checking out the maximum number of books I was allowed to. I was always tired at school because I’d stay up until 2am trying to finish my current read.
I studied English and American Literature at Nottingham University and spent my final year there working on the publicity for the student magazine, Impact. After I graduated, I secured a graduate traineeship with an arts PR agency for four months, before landing my first job with Michael O’Mara Books as Office Administrator – aka everyone’s assistant. It was the best introduction to publishing I could have asked for, as I got to see what every department did and how they all fit together, and it cemented my decision to want to pursue publicity.
I joined EDPR as publicity assistant in 2017, working closely with my managing director Emma Draude from the very beginning, and have been part of Team ED ever since.
What drew you to publicity?
I love talking about books, and I’m passionate about helping readers find the best books for them. I’m always looking for book recommendations myself – in magazines, newspapers, on websites, across social media, by listening to the radio and podcasts – and when I realised I could be the person that actually got the author or book into that place to be discovered, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Describe your typical working day.
The beauty of working for an agency is that no day is the same! Some days I’m planning campaigns, writing press releases, brainstorming with the team about how best to reach the audience of a particular book, putting together a mailing list – the next I could be out on tour with an author, accompanying them to interviews, stock signings at bookshops, enjoying evening events.
The campaigns I work on range from adult commercial fiction to picture books, middle-grade to celebrity memoirs, leading industry awards to literary festivals. It is a significant amount of admin behind the scenes including stuffing books into envelopes and a lot of emails, but it’s always balanced with fulfilling our creative campaign strategies and getting the opportunity to meet and speak to so many exciting people; from journalists, to in-house teams, to the authors themselves.
What are your career highlights to date? Which campaigns are you most proud of having worked on?
I’m truly so lucky to have worked on such a range of titles with so many amazing authors. I’m always proud to say I work with the innovative and industry-changing team at inclusive children’s publisher Knights Of – particularly my work with award-winning children’s author Elle McNicoll. A personal highlight has got to be going to Blue Peter with her in 2021 to accept the award for Best Story for her debut A Kind of Spark.
Other somewhat surreal highlights include spending International Women’s Day with Stacey Dooley at BBC Breakfast and eating fish finger sandwiches with Jason Reynolds in Birmingham.
I’ve worked on a number of campaigns that have been shortlisted for the PPC’s Annual Awards, so those I’m always particularly proud of, as it means a lot to be recognised by your peers. This year I’ve been shortlisted for my campaigns for Empress & Aniya, the YA novella by Candice Carty-Williams, What White People Can Do Next by Emma Dabiri alongside Emma Draude and Emma Lubega, and our work with the Jhalak Prize for their 5th anniversary, again with Emma Draude and my other colleague Emma Dowson (so many Emmas!).
Could you share information about the online salons EDPR are launching to demystify the role publicists play within the industry?
My managing director Emma Draude has always been passionate about trying to encourage new applicants from outside the traditional publishing bubble, so the salons have been driven by her as a way of helping people to really understand what we do and how we work as part of the bigger publishing machine.
Our first session was a basic introduction to publicity as a whole, but our future salons will be themed around working on different types of campaigns, like children’s or non-fiction. We want to manage people’s expectations around what the job entails – PR by nature isn’t a 9 – 5, Monday to Friday role as events and breaking news often fall outside of that traditional time frame, and so you have to be prepared for that – but you usually are the person with the closest relationship to the author, which offers incredible opportunities.
Though it’s felt like much more of a desk job during the pandemic, it actually isn’t usually so office or computer based, and I’m hoping we’re getting back to more of that.
What 2022 treats do we have to look forward to? What books are you currently working on?
So many treats! For the first time this year EDPR are working with CILIP on the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards, the longest running and best-loved children’s book prize. We shared the longlist announcement in February, the shortlist just last week and the winners will be announced in June.
Queen Dorothy Koomson’s next book My Other Husband is published in August, and I know that’s going to be a summer read not to miss.
Right now, I’m focused on an incredible debut novel by a US author that you will be hearing about for a long time to come – Memphis by Tara M Stringfellow, published in April by John Murray. She was just here for her UK pre-publication tour, which was so much fun.
Another of my favourites, Milly Johnson is publishing her 20th book in September, and I’m already excited – keep an eye out for the title reveal very soon!
Which authors (living or otherwise) would you invite to your dream literary dinner party?
Toni Morrison, Jodi Picoult, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Which books do you return to most often? Any beloved books from childhood?
I don’t reread very much anymore – it’s difficult when there are so many excellent books published every week, and I have to read everything I work on too. However, I’ve always found Jacqueline Wilson’s books a huge comfort and have read a few of hers’ again as an adult.
I love Little Women – I’m slightly obsessed with the newest film adaptation too – and I now have the beautiful Clothbound Classics edition, so I imagine that will be one I treasure for a long time and return to.
I wrote my dissertation on Toni Morrison’s work, so I’ve been known to pick up one of hers when I’m not sure what to read next. Short stories and poetry I’m more likely to reread, as sometimes the brevity of them means I haven’t absorbed them properly the first or second time.
Who are your all-time favourite authors?
Jodi Picoult is someone whose new book I will always pick up. Taylor Jenkins Reid hasn’t written a book I don’t like. I adored Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson and his BBC National Short Story Award shortlisted story ‘Pray’, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Not mentioning any I’ve worked on (because obviously they were all amazing), I’d have to say Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. Or The Mothers by Brit Bennett. Or The Confession by Jessie Burton. Or Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout. I really only read top tier books…
You wanted my top 7, right?
Tell us a secret about books.
You can’t ever be alone with a book in your hand.
For more from Annabelle and EDPR…
Follow Annabelle on Twitter: @akAnnabelle
Follow EDPR on Twitter: @ed_pr
Explore the EDPR website to discover a host of brilliant books.
And for more news from the experts who bring all those books we love, read the rest of our Industry Insights series.