A #DayInTheLife – Ann Bissell, Publicity Director

Ann Bissell (002)7.30am: Woken by alarm. Why on earth have I set it this early on a Saturday?? Oh yes! Off to Oxford literary festival with two of Borough’s authors. Extricate self from the claws of a sleeping kitten Jeremy Guscatt and attempt to slip out of bed without waking snoring husband.

8.29am : On the tube to Paddington, check Gorkana for the day’s press cuttings and cast a quick eye over Twitter.

9.15am: Arrive at Paddington with 20 minutes to spare so snaffle a quick coffee and bacon sandwich. It’s all about clean eating in publicity.

9.40am: Meet Lionel Shriver at the platform entrance. Immediately see that we’re wearing matching jackets. Decide to style it out by not mentioning anything and hope she doesn’t notice.

9.45am: First Great Western have excelled themselves and put on the smallest train in the world so standing room only. Manage to find a seat for Lionel then prop myself up against a door and curse the powers that run the rail network.

10.00am: Remember Joanna Cannon has the same jacket. Text to check she’s not wearing hers. She’s not. She also has an entire train carriage to herself – I’m jealous and my feet hurt.

11.00am: Arrive at the festival green room. One of the dark arts of a publicist is the ‘awkward introduction’ – when you grab someone you’ve never met before and introduce them to your author. Make first of the day and take a seat.

11.30am: While Lionel and her event interviewer go through the format, I browse the festival programme. Discover they have USED THE AMERICAN BOOK JACKET. Quickly turn the page, resolve for Lionel not to see a programme during her day here.

11.50am: Casually wonder why no-one has come to pick us up to escort to the event venue. A quick enquiry reveals there is no escort – that would be me. Grab a map and stride off to the lecture theatre with author and chair in tow.

1pm: One sold out and brilliantly executed event later, I leave Lionel and her chair to the book signing and rush back to the green room to meet Joanna. Grab a quick plate of lunch.

1.30pm: Exit the green room with Joanna and wait for a taxi outside – Jo has broken her ankle but is ploughing on with the help of some strong painkillers. Discuss timing of an announcement release – we have big news for Joanna and want to make lots of noise about it.

A large part of my job is to announce news to the book trade and strategic timing is crucial to give stories enough space. This particular press story is complex, involving sales figures which will only be confirmed on Tuesday afternoon. But if we wait until we have the figures we’ll get lost amidst Article 50, which is being triggered on Wednesday. So we decide to go for Tuesday using estimated figures rather than actual.

I make a mental note to redraft my press release first thing on Monday morning and send to the trade press, with a follow up to some key national book contacts. The dream would be to get some good coverage in the trade press, and have Joanna interviewed by a national newspaper…

1.45pm: In the car to Joanna’s event, tell driver I don’t get to go in cars very often. Great chat Bissell.

1.55pm: Meet chair at venue and walk through the beautiful college gardens. Jo is intercepted by agency photographers asking for a picture (and this photo is later used in The Guardian – who interview Joanna about the new book deal – hurrah!).

2pm: Rush author and chair onto stage and take my seat in the audience.

3pm: Another brilliant event! Fantastic chair, great audience questions and a lovely atmosphere. But where has Jo gone?

3.02pm: Run after Jo who is hobbling after author Sarah Winman. It takes a while for my brain to process this, but it transpires Sarah was in the audience and has mysteriously disappeared…

3.10pm: Have a nice chat with someone who has done work experience at HarperCollins and talk about how to get into publishing while Jo signs books for the audience. Recommend a couple of publishers who are currently recruiting. Jo is signing stock for the bookseller when Sarah Winman returns (to much secret relief – it had briefly crossed my mind this was a vision gifted by the Codeine…). Have a quick chat about a future event the two are plotting together, and where that should be.

3.30pm: Back to the green room after dropping Jo at the station. Down a glass of water and a biscuit and rush off to Lionel’s second event.

4pm: A packed house for the sold-out panel on Trump. Lionel is on top form, as are her fellow panellists. It’s a lively discussion and normally I’d attempt to live tweet, but no 3G and no Wi-Fi soon put pay to that.

5pm: The signing queue is good – Lionel’s chair has challenged the audience to buy books! – so I loiter at the side occasionally attempting to be helpful. Have a chat with the festival photographer about her work.

5.30pm: Final trip to the green room to collect our bags. Check with Lionel that she hasn’t forgotten anything then hate myself a little bit for being overly motherly.

6.01pm: On the train home – hurrah! Lionel’s had a good day – as have I. Spending time with authors and their readers is one of the best parts of the job, and now it’s time for a warm wine and a debrief / gossip. Lionel makes a remark about us being dressed as twins. Damn.






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