In 2014, I interviewed my cousin Kat McKenna who is a Marketing Manager for the 6+ list at Macmillan Children’s Books. I feel like it is about time that I shared this interview again! Here are some of my favourite answers:
What made you pursue a career in marketing and publishing?
I’ve always loved books and reading ever since I was young and when I first took the media course at Solent I knew that I wanted a job in the media but I didn’t know which avenue I was going to go down. Throughout the course I also worked part time at Waterstones on the weekends and knew that I loved books and that seemed like the ideal route to go down. So that is how I ended up pursuing it. The rest was a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work!
What personal qualities are required for working in marketing in the publishing industry?
Being really hard working, having a good strong work ethic is really important in publishing because it is really hard work. In marketing, it’s important to have a creative yet analytic brain because creativity is a huge part of coming up with concepts for campaigns. But also be analytical and being able to look at something when it isn’t right and being okay with pointing it out. Actually, now I am managing people, I have realised that that is a skill you learn over time. Being personable is really important. Loving books really helps because having a passion for it means that you don’t mind working hard because the hours can be long and the work can be hard.
What I could I be doing now if I wanted to achieve this career in the future?
I think work experience is really important; getting yourself out there and into the work environment. I admit I didn’t do any work experience and being dropped straight into a publishing office was really strange and quite scary. This will also help you to understand what you might want to do in the industry. You might go in to do work experience in marketing and then realise it’s not actually for you but there is another avenue that is. I’d also say reading is important which is great because who doesn’t love reading?! Also keeping an eye on what companies are doing – so all the marketing that is going on around you and keeping an eye on that. You need to be considering the marketing that is going on around you because you often need to look at other industries for inspiration.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to working in the publishing industry?
Advantages: Major perks – free books, getting to work with incredible authors and really inspiring people. From my personal point of view, this industry is really female oriented so there are a lot of senior female role models and I feel this is really important because a lot of industries are male-led. It’s always being endlessly creative and getting to work with books every day.
Disadvantages: It is difficult to get into, it is really hard work, it can be very challenging but that is it really. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Talk me through the most exciting day you have had in the industry.
I was thinking about this on the train here. There’s a few. The things that stand out are this year I won an award and that was really, really exciting. It was for a marketing campaign I worked on with a jewellery designer called Tatty Devine and Rainbow Rowell who writes Fangirl.
Even just securing that partnership was really exciting because I love Tatty Devine and I wanted to work with them for a really long time but they had said no on a couple of occasions. When they went for this I was super excited! Me and Rainbow’s editor went to meet with them and that was really exciting. I submitted the campaign for a book marketing society award. Quite a lot of people submit and I thought well if I don’t win it for this one I am never going to win because I thought this was a really great partnership. But I did win and that was really exciting – I wasn’t at all shy about it. I really wanted to win.
But also, the day to day stuff is some of the most exciting. Getting to meet Chris O’Dowd, working with household names, having cocktails with Becca Fitzpatrick and Sophie McKenzie. They’re just the little things. It’s not just about working with the celebrities but the creative people you get to work with is so exciting and I love that part of my job.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Publishing is sometimes forgotten as a media industry but it is such a rewarding industry. It goes so far beyond books, if you love design there’s cover design, there’s jobs for people who like languages there’s sales roles, there’s production, creative, analytical and practical roles. It is such a wonderful industry and I would urge anyone to get involved because it is full of lovely people.
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