This week for our Day in the Life series, we hear from Jamie Norman, Cuttings Assistant for Vintage Books, who works remotely from Scotland.
Right, first day on the job, coffee’s brewed, laptop’s on, flatmate’s in a hungover heap on the sofa. Perfect. Time to check the email before I get started – there’s an email from a publisher, chatting about Gutter magazine. The wonders of a massive publishing house – what is a cuttings assistant? they ask. Huh, I think, I should probably explain that.
Well, it’s a central role in supporting our publicity team; making sure that all their work acquiring reviews, features, interviews, all attention for our books in the national media is translated across to the business.
Primarily I do this by circulating the key quotes from the week to our sales team, which will then be shared with our retailers (it’s vital that everyone knows just how much buzz a book is generating) or by selecting and uploading the best quotes to feed out to our online retailers, then sharing these quotes with authors, agents, and across our departments. I work part-time using the databases Biblio and Precise, every weekend I receive new press cuttings of reviews, author articles, extracts, recipes, and mentions. Here’s how my day breaks down:
09:00, Sunday morning – here we go! Precise automatically scans all the papers, blogs, TV and radio for me, looking for Vintage keywords: our author names, book titles and imprint names. I arrange my filters and work through one by one for each imprint – Jonathan Cape, The Bodley Head, Chatto & Windus, Harvill Secker (These are our big four, there can be up to 200 articles between them) Hogarth, Square Peg, Yellow Jersey and Pimlico. Then Vintage and Vintage Classics. I assign a score based on my interpretation of the review: positive, balanced, or the rare negative. Sometimes it’s marked neutral, the reviewer has talked a lot about what the book is about but hasn’t actually commented on the book itself. Why haven’t they? It’s so good! ARGH.
09:30 – Twitter break, that review’s irritated me.
09:32 – Back on it, Six Facets of Light’s got a new review and it’s –amazing– I should make a note to try and nab a copy.
11:30 – Someone’s reviewed something from our backlist, published in 2014. I’ll save this away to send to the author, it’s always really nice to hear people are still discovering and loving books years after they’ve come out.
13:10 – That George foreman has to be our best flat purchase. Toastiessss
13:30 – Back to reading, a few articles on Hogarth’s Shakespeare project – Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler and many more, all rewriting classic plays. Fascinating stuff.
14:30 – Vintage Classics time! This shoots by, invariably authors of this reputation attract a lot of mentions in articles that generally don’t carry much detail about their books, but sometimes there’s a fascinating in-depth review. Or clickbait lists that are fun, but aren’t worth recording for posterity. (TOP 10 REASONS why CHARLOTTE BRONTE is the MOST BADASS NINJA in LITERATURE)
15:00/17:00- Depending on how much coverage we’ve had, I’ll be finishing soon. I’ve taken all the positive quotes from each piece and recorded them.
Monday morning comes, and I send my quote sheet down to London, this sheet keeps track of all coverage we’ve received, highlighting the positive quotes and linking to all the digital articles. Negative reviews, or reviews with no noteable quotes are marked simply as ‘review,’ awards and acquisition articles are marked off and author interviews are linked and ordered. This document is then attached to the Vintage Campaign News and sent internally around Penguin Random House. Once it’s sent, I strip all quotes and upload them to our Biblio database. These reviews then stream out to our online retailers, so it’s important that they’re all correct.
Tuesday evening I share coverage with our authors. As the reviews are sent out my inbox fills back up with replies. Juliet Nicolson, Ann Wroe and Volker Ullrich (to name a few) are always really lovely.
I also perform ad-hoc admin, and at the end of the month I complete a grid that filters all of our reviews for the month, with the option to filter by author or critic, we can analyze where certain types of book are getting the best reception, and try to ascertain a critic’s unconscious preferences.
If I have one complaint about this job it’s that there’s never enough. Every week I’m hoping for more coverage. I want the world to know about upcoming gems like this and this(!!!). Getting into publishing isn’t easy, I’d have made no progress without the SYP mentor scheme, and the willingness of so many people to take a chance on me. But I got here, and it’s better than anyone described it – I’ve never been happier.