Meet the Publicist – Interview with Emily Lighezzolo

We’re turning the tables today. It’s publishers, authors and illustrators normally in the spotlight, but we’re going to find out more about the marketing gurus of the publishing world. The ones who carry creators and their book babies out into the world, holding them high like a little lion king on a cliff top. The publicists. So today, we’re giving attention to one usually behind the scenes, and we’re thrilled that Publicity Coordinator/Editor, Emily Lighezzolo from Wombat Books, is here to discuss her role, its challenges and its perks.

Emily, thanks for speaking with Just Write For Kids about your publicity role at Wombat Books.

What is your background in literature? How did a career in publicity call you?

I studied literature at university, but my passion for it came well before that. Anyone who walks into my bedroom will believe it’s under siege with the piles of books making a paper-fortress. And it’s always been like that. When it came time to choosing the career I wanted to pursue, I knew books had to be involved, and it just so happened that my university experiences led me on the path towards publicity of books. In that, I was very lucky.

What do you like about working with the team at Wombat Books? What are the perks of being at this boutique publishing company?

Having a small team means we personally know all our authors under our publishing brand, get to work with them and see them through their journey – which is always an incredible thing to be a part of, especially when they’re passionate about their story. It also means we can take on passion projects, as we have the flexibility to do so. We’re not a big mechanical machine pushing out books, but every story we create has a lot of hard work, passion and dedication in it from our small team.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

Alas, ‘typical’ doesn’t exist in boutique publishing. Every day holds new surprises in what I’ll be required to do. It keeps it interesting, to say the least! Though copious amounts of coffee and tea are always involved.

What kinds of marketing strategies do you employ to create a successful advertising campaign?

It’s about finding what in the story will connect with readers. What’s the message of the book? Who will benefit from reading this message? Why is this message important? Why should this message be heard/read/seen?

I suppose it’s the same questions we ask as editors, while we look at the manuscript (oh, yes, I am an editor at Wombat Books/Rhiza Edge too – I told you, boutique publishing has many hats!). We pursue manuscripts we’re passionate about and believe need to be read. Once we know what readers will connect with, well, that underpins our entire marketing campaign. I could list all the possible strategies: review copies, media kits, blogs, author trailers, website design, sales calls, author events, hand-to-hand selling, festivals, school story times, giveaways, advertising, email newsletters, media pitching … the list goes on – and we do it all. However, none of it will be successful, if we don’t know why we’re passionate about this book and why the reader will connect with it. I think this is the heart and soul of a good campaign.

Tell us about your desk / office space. Does it reflect your day – organised or chaotic?

Absolutely chaotic usually – post-it notes and papers everywhere. However, I’m unsure if that reflects just me as a person, or my job …

What is the most rewarding aspect or task working as a publicity coordinator? What is the most challenging?

The most rewarding moments are when kids get in contact to let us know they’ve been inspired by the author, or the characters in a book. It’s truly rewarding to hear that what we do touches people. My role is to get books into the hands of readers, and so when I know how much they appreciated reading a certain book we’ve produced—well, it’s an incredible feeling.

As for the most challenging: In such a flooded market of children’s books, it’s challenging to let one speak above the rest. There’s so many great stories out there for kids. It can be disheartening when we can’t share a story as much as we’d like.

What top tips would you suggest for new authors?

A lot of new authors think the journey of publishing has finished when their book is published, but it’s only just begun. My main advice is to really immerse yourself in the industry and get to know others in it. There’s so many great author and illustrator groups out there, which provide a support network for you as a debut author.

What do you love the most about children’s books? Are there one or two books and/or creators you’ve worked with that stick in your mind as most meaningful? Why?

I love the power children’s books hold to inspire the reader, to let them escape reality for a moment, and dive into the inky elements of the imagination. What one child takes from a story can be completely different from another child’s interpretation. And that’s the beauty of children’s books. They each hold an individual message for the reader that only they can uncover. That’s something truly special.

One book that really sticks with me is Harrison’s Song. The amount of emails/calls I get from kids, teacher librarians, reviewers and principals, telling me how the message from Harrison Craig has inspired and educated them.

Another book that truly pulled all my heart strings was Out of the Cages, which hasn’t come out yet with our older reader imprint, Rhiza Edge. It emotionally deals with the rehabilitation of a sixteen-year-old Nepalese girl after years of being a sex worker in the Indian red-light district, the Cages. The message is so profound and the author, Penny Jaye, spent almost fifteen years writing and researching for the book. It’s a book that needs to be read as it gives voice to an issue often overlooked and ignored. It’s those books I’m particularly passionate about getting into the hands of the readers—those silence and overlooked voices that need to be heard. Hopefully I can in my job.

Thanks again for answering our questions, Emily! 🙂

My pleasure 😊

Emily was an idealistic, wannabe novelist, who went over to the dark side—that is, the publisher side. She was introduced to the publishing industry as the recipient of a 2015 Australian Publisher Association internship. She is now the publicity coordinator and chief editor at children’s publisher, Wombat Books.

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