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Industry Insight: Q&A with Ellie Hughes (Michael Joseph)

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 11th February 2019

Our latest Industry Insight focuses on Ellie Hughes who has had a career that booky people will covet, she is currently a Senior Publicity Manager at Michael Joseph and has previously worked on projects from the Man Booker Prize to the Agatha Christie Estate. Her fun book fact is absolutely fascinating, and I love her favourite place to read, Rocco sounds like a perfect reading companion.

Tell us about your role in the book world. 

I am a Senior Publicity Manager at Michael Joseph, a commercial fiction and non-fiction imprint of Penguin Random House. Like the rest of our fantastic publicity team, I work hard to get the word out, generate interest, and maximise sales of our brilliant list. That might be through securing reviews and interviews, identifying key talking points and feature ideas, running events, or engaging with bloggers and influencers, all while providing advice, support and guidance to our authors as they prepare for their new or first novel to be released in to the wild. No two days are the same!

How did you arrive in the industry?

Although I did a couple of short work experience stints in publishing publicity straight after university, my first job in the world of media relations was in the busy press office at English Heritage, which was a great place to learn the ropes of working with journalists and thinking creatively about how to get people talking about the work of the organisation. After a couple years there I went on to Colman Getty (now Four Colman Getty) where I was lucky enough to work on some incredible projects across the arts and literary world, from the Man Booker Prize and the RHS Flower Shows, to The Sony World Photography Awards and the Agatha Christie Estate, as well as many book campaigns. Having this experience not only gave me a really broad understanding of different areas of the media, but also allowed me to realise that publicising books and authors was what I enjoyed most, meaning I jumped at the chance of moving in-house to Penguin. 

What three words best sum up your job? 

Engaging, thoughtful, busy!

Which fictional character or person from history would you love to read a book by (why is that) and what type of book do you think it would be?

I would love to hear Adrian Mole’s take on the current political landscape...!

Who are your book world inspirations?   

There are so many! The world of publishing is filled with so many creative, brilliant minds, and I feel very lucky to be part of it. The team I work with at Michael Joseph are, well, a bunch of legends - we are friends as well as colleagues and that makes work all the more enjoyable.  

To pull out one name though, based on inspiration, I would have to say Katy Macmillan-Scott, who I worked with for many years at Colman Getty, and who is now at Riot. Not only is Katy a brilliant and hard-working publicist, she has also recently embarked on an incredible challenge in memory of her dear friend Harriet, hiking across Europe and following in the footsteps of Paddy Leigh Fermor’s epic 1933 journey, as written about in A Time of Gifts.  It is a remarkable challenge for a wonderful cause. You can read more about it here

Describe your favourite place to read? 

My honest answer would probably be my bedroom at my parents’ house – quiet, away from distractions, cups of tea brought to me by my mum, and Rocco the dog on hand to provide perfect reading time company. But as I am supposed to be a grown-up now...I’ll say a long train journey or on a sun-lounger on the beach, Pina Colada in hand.

What’s your favourite book from childhood, how did it make you feel? 

The Witches by Roald Dahl stands out because I can still remember the day I read it, in one sitting. I also used to listen to story books a lot as a child. I adored being whisked away to the lands of Narnia, or being entertained by the mischievous ways of Just William and Pippi Longstocking.

Hbk, pbk, ebook, discuss. 

I would say paperback is my preference, though I’d go hardback for keepsakes, favourites, and bookshelf aesthetics, and ebook for convenience on the commute. 

Book Shelfie: could you take a picture of your favourite book shelf please and tell us what it is about this particular shelf that you love. 

This is my own bookshelf – it is fairly ordinary (IKEA’s finest) but we only started putting shelves up recently and before that the books were in piles on the floor, so I have taken enormous pleasure curating these! The selection that have made it so far include some old time favourites (Goodbye to Berlin, Matilda, Bill Bryson) as well as recent highlights (Nine Perfect Strangers by MJ’s own Liane Moriarty, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NG). Plus, of course, the essential books on food, art, London, and the wider world, to subtly indicate how cultured and well-travelled I am...

Any strange book habits? 

Nothing out of the ordinary I’m afraid – of course I’m as partial to a good sniff of the pages as much as the next person.

Fun book fact.

There is an independent book shop in the centre of Bruges (De Reyghere Boehandel) run by the family of the two sisters who were given shelter by my Grandma and her family when they were forced to flee to England during the Second World War. Not long ago, I realised that crime writers Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who I have worked with at Michael Joseph, were heading to Belgium and doing an event at that very shop! I sent them a photograph of my Grandma with Lucienne and Suzanne De Reyghere to explain the connection, and was delighted to see the photo was posted by the bookshop not long afterwards, with a wonderful caption telling the story. It was a real case of this being a small world, and so lovely.

If you enjoyed this article why not check out our other Industry Insight Features?

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