In this series, we take you behind the scenes to get a glimpse of the glamorous life at Adelaide’s premier publishing house. This week, meet our gung-ho publicist (with a side in sales!) Ayesha Aggarwal.
What made you want to work in publishing – and how did you get your start?
I’ve always been an avid reader with a love of stories. I was the kid that always had to be told to put my book down about five times before I could wrench myself away, much to the annoyance of my mum (who also was 100% responsible for my reading habit in the first place). One of my earliest memories is coming home with every copy of the Mr Men and Little Miss books which I devoured in about a week. When Mum and I went to our local library, the librarians would vacate this bright orange stool so that I could stand on it and watch them check out my latest pile of books. So, really, publishing was always my dream job.
I got my start at Wakefield Press largely thanks to editor extraordinaire Margot Lloyd. We bumped into each other at a friend’s party and drunkenly discussed how much she was enjoying being at Wakefield Press and how I should apply to be an intern there. I dutifully sent in a request for an internship and my timing turned out to be excellent because there was a position as a receptionist opening up. So I applied for the role and had an interview (with three Wakefieldians!!) and I got the job. Whew!
What does your typical day at Wakefield Press involve?
My typical day is a flurry of tasks. I answer the phones and do all kinds of admin-y things as well as looking after various aspects of our marketing and publicity. Most days, I’m halfway through a press release, or adding an event to a newsletter, when the phone rings and I help a customer with a question about our books (quite often this is a budding writer who has questions about the publishing process).
Mainly, though, my job is to liaise with the media about articles, extracts or interviews about our books and to promote all our excellent authors. And I put together all our email campaigns. And flyers.
What’s the most absurd or surprising thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?
I took a phone call once where the caller wanted to speak with someone who was already on the phone so I asked whether they would like to leave a message. As they were midway through the longest message ever, I realised that I could now put them through to the person they wanted to speak with and told them so but got an earful about interrupting them while they gave me their message instead.
What’s the best thing about working in publishing?
I think this is specific to small publishers like Wakefield Press but I really love the broad range of genres that we publish. It means I get to work with so many different types of people and dip into different industries all the time. One day I’ll be looking up food magazines and the next I’ll be trawling for blogs about young adult books. It keeps me on my toes because there’s always something new to discover.
What’s the worst thing about working in publishing?
As a publicist it’s my job to keep our authors abreast of all the publicity surrounding their books. The space for books in the media has continued to shrink and we’re publishing five or six books each month that are all pitched to the same major book journalists. At the end of the day, it comes down to luck and timing but it’s never easy to have to tell an author (who may have spent years writing their book) that they haven’t got an interview with Richard Fidler.
What kinds of things do you love to discover in a book (on the job or as a reader)?
I really enjoy when writers write dialogue as it is spoken so you can really get under the skin of the characters (except in the case of Irvine Welsh where the thick Scottish accents took a million years for my brain to comprehend).
What books are on your bedside table right now?
This my seem like blasphemy but when I’m not at Wakefield, I’m usually elbow deep in clay so I’ve turned to audiobooks to feed my reading habit. I’m such a sucker for a funny, insightful read so at the moment I’m revisiting Terry Pratchett’s Discwold series (I just blew through Good Omens and Small Gods last week). I also have Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist on my to read list as well as Lindy West’s Shrill.
Ayesha moonlights (sunlights, really) as a ceramicist on her days off. Her beautiful pieces can be found on her website, and for a limited time, some seconds pieces are available at Wakefield Press HQ.