Q&A with Hattie Adam-Smith

By   Jantien Abma 3 min read

We spoke to Hattie Adam-Smith, Senior Marketing Manager at Michael Joseph and one of 2016’s Unsung Heroes of Publishing, about how she got her start in publishing, a typical day at her office and her favourite reads.

Image result for Hattie Adam-Smith1. Have you always wanted to work in publishing? What drew you towards the marketing department?

Before I was 26, the thought of working in publishing hadn’t even crossed my mind. I got my first publishing job at Pan Macmillan after a stint doing admin in the children’s books team. I have always loved books, and my dad is an author, but the idea of ‘a publishing house’ was completely new to me – I was a working musician looking for some temp work to tide me over between jobs. But I loved it. 

I don’t have a degree so I was very fortunate in that they let me apply for a permanent role as assistant to the marketing and publicity team. Penguin’s recent decision to drop the degree as a requirement for job applicants makes me very proud to be a part of the company, and I hope more publishers take the same step. 

After my first day in publishing I realised what a creative and exciting job it can be, especially within marketing. The mix of strategic thinking, analytics, design and finding new ways to bring stories to life and connect books with readers was, and still is, very appealing to me.

2. What, in your experience, is the biggest obstacle to overcome when planning and carrying out a marketing campaign for one of your titles?

Time. In book marketing, there is always something else you could be doing. We work on a lot of books at one time so ensuring that everything you are committing time to is going to be effective is really important. When you are so busy, you also have to continue to be creative and challenge yourself – not getting into a rut, and looking for new ideas and new ways to reach people with every single book you work on is very important. Our authors are faced with that every time they start a fresh page so they deserve the same from the team charged with getting the books out there.

3. What has been your favourite project to date? The most challenging?

I have lots of favourites! Since joining Michael Joseph I’ve loved working with Marian Keyes, her writing is consistently brilliant and being able to immerse myself in it has been one of the best things about being at Penguin. 

The same goes for Jojo Moyes, and with the release of the film adaptation of Me Before You this summer, I’ve got a lot of very exciting work ahead of me. Having such a major film adaption, and then a sequel to that story out in paperback a few weeks later, is a dream.

4. What does a normal day at the office look like for you?

Publishing is known for its love of a good meeting, so there are always a good few of those – some days I don’t see my desk until 6pm. Our meetings are often dynamic discussions about our books and involve getting in people from different departments to problem solve and ensure that everyone is on schedule and, from a marketing point of view, that we are doing all we can to support sales and our international teams. Desk time is usually devoted to taming a bubbling inbox and planning campaigns, as well as communicating with editors, authors and agents to ensure that everyone is up to date and happy with everything going on. 

Oh, and shouting at misbehaving printers – that usually happens at least once a day! 

When I get to the end of Friday and look at my many, many to do lists and pages of notes I’m always amazed at just how much work we get done.

5. What are some of the best books you’ve read lately?

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin is a brilliant thriller – I couldn’t put it down and highly recommend it! I’m lucky to working on the campaign for it at the moment. I’m currently reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub which is out this summer and very, very good.

Too many to mention – Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson was wonderful. A colleague sent me When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi which was heartbreaking but very life affirming, and I loved Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. I’m a big Ted Hughes fan.