Q&A with Tess Henderson – press officer

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By Jade Craddock

Tess Henderson, press officer at Transworld, explains the importance of good publicity and what authors can do to maximise their exposure. ♥

1. Tell us about your job.

My job is to get maximum exposure for the books using the media (review and broadcast), online social media outlets and through book events/festivals.

2. What books have you worked on?

A wide range! I have been very fortunate working at Transworld (part of Penguin Random House) because of our diverse list in both fiction and non-fiction books. I have my own books that I work on as a press officer ranging from women’s fiction authors, gift books and non-fiction memoirs and sport books, I have also supported my colleagues on brand authors like Bill Bryson and Joanna Trollope.

3. What has been your most memorable experience working in publishing?

There have been so many! One of my favourite events that I worked on was for the author Armistead Maupin when he was doing a final tour for his last book in the Anna Madrigal series. His books have helped so many people and the literary salon he did with Damian Barr was incredible – if I could have bottled the love in that room I would have done! Those are the moments when I think I am so lucky to have my job, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

4. Is it true that all publicity is good publicity?

You could argue either way! It definitely depends who the author is – unlike PR agencies who represent the person, we are always thinking about the book, and if the publicity will help people go and pick it up.

5. What interaction do you have with an author?

A lot! The editor is obviously very close to the author and the creative process which results in the finished book, publicists have a different role in terms of support and reassurance, but we also try to maximise discussion about the book and play to the author’s strengths. For example some authors might be great in front of an audience but aren’t so comfortable on social media, or vice versa.

6. What one thing should authors know about publicity that they probably don’t?

Probably the time we spend pitching their book, sometimes reviews just don’t happen despite us pitching as hard as we can. But authors are often very appreciative of our efforts and know we are championing their work.

7. What makes a successful publicity campaign?

That is a really hard question to answer and I am not sure I have been in the department long enough to answer it! It so depends on genre and type of book. But probably getting publicity that reaches the biggest audience – so broadcast like TV or radio, and reviews in a national broadsheet. Social media is also integral for genres like women’s fiction and crime. Also a flexible author and a little bit of luck!

8. How important are blogs to women’s fiction?

So important! Blogs are integral as a forum where people can talk about, discuss and enjoy women’s fiction, it is a whole community that taps into the core readership. Bloggers are really welcoming to both publicists and authors, and blog posts, Q&As and tours enable the author to interact with core fans and gain new support.

9. Not all authors will get national coverage, what’s one thing authors can do themselves to help their publicity?

It does depend on the genre, but for women’s fiction it is helpful if our authors are online so they can interact with bloggers and talk to their fans. Also to stay positive and always feel proud of their book!


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