By Elizabeth Oladoyin, Elizabeth Guess, Hannah Devine and Leyla Mehmet
For this issue, we interviewed Tiffany Cook to learn more about her role as a Marketing and Publicity Assistant at Jacaranda Books…
Could you tell us about your journey into publishing?
“I graduated from Manchester Met with a BA in Multimedia Journalism in 2017. It was a
great course but I left knowing that journalism wasn’t the career for me. While doing odd
jobs I researched how I could use the skills I’d gained in my BA in other industries and
publishing was the most interesting to me. Researching the industry revealed it was shifting to become more diverse and inclusive. I decided to apply for an MA at Kingston University, and I was awarded the Worshipful Company of Stationor’s Bursery to help fund the course.
At Kingston, one assignment I had was creating a marketing plan for Jacaranda Books’s
#Twentyin2020 campaign. I didn’t really know much about the press, but when Jazzmine
Breary came to give a talk for the assignment, I found that the company ethos was
exactly what I was looking for in a job. They were the change in the industry that I
wanted to be a part of. After the talk I walked up to Jazz and said “I will do anything you
need me to.” Those were my exact words!
I started an internship a couple weeks later. I was able to get a clear idea about how all the departments connected. After this, I got a position as a Publicity Intern at Hardie Grant UK. It was the department I was most interested in and gave me a good understanding of the workings of a larger company. Unfortunately, it was cut short by the pandemic when lockdown hit. I continued my course at home and had kept in touch with Valerie Brandes at Jacaranda. In June, she offered me a job as a Publishing, Publicity and Marketing Assistant which I started that month. The role has grown into my current one which is Publicity and Marketing Assistant.”
What projects are you working on at the moment that you’re really excited about?
“There are quite a few that I’m really enjoying! The first is definitely our A Quick Ting On
series. The books are so varied in their content which means the possibilities for
campaigns, events, and partnerships are endless. At the same time, the books centre
young Black Britons at their core, which hasn’t been done before in a series like this, so it
feels really special.
Another is Pleasentview by Celeste Mohammed. This is a gorgeously written collection of
short stories that weave into each other like a novel. We’ve planned a week of events
when Celeste comes to the UK with BOCAS Literature Festival in October and I’m very
Could you tell us about the process of organising a publicity campaign for a new book?
“We start with a template of our standard roll out of announcements, cover reveals; and if
it’s a lead title, what we want for the book launch. Soon after we pitch for endorsements
and reviews. As a lot of our authors are debuts, and we’re trying to build up their profile,
pitching to newspapers and broadcasters can be tricky, but they’re always interesting
books so it’s just a case of continuously following up with them. Being a small press
means working with an extremely tight budget, so we really have to think out of the box
when it comes to planning events and working with influencers. Jacaranda has a really supportive community which we cultivate through email marketing and events. As we grow so does our community which is really exciting to see!”
Jacaranda is dedicated to promoting and celebrating diverse literature. What are your thoughts on diversity and representation in publishing – do you think it’s improving and are publishers doing enough?
“I think publishing is going in the right direction, and I’m really proud of the work
Jacaranda has done. Obviously change is slow, but I think when there is improvement
for a while, old habits start to creep back in, and momentum slows down hugely. In 2020
and 2021 diversity was still an active talking point in every industry, whereas in 2022
even I can see old patterns emerging. It seems like publishers and publishing adjacent
businesses aren’t championing diversity like they used to.
It might be because new book trends like BookTok and the 'celebrity author' are
drawing attention away, which is exactly what concerned campaigners when 'diversity'
was on everyone’s lips. They didn’t want it to be treated like a trend. It is a business
choice to be dedicated to promoting and celebrating diverse literature. It isn’t just the
publisher’s responsibility, publishing adjacent businesses; such as bookshops, literary
festivals and media, need to make that business choice too. An excellent example of this
is summed up in a tweet I saw, it just shows that we probably haven’t gone as far as we think.”
Are there any key skills or experiences you feel are beneficial/necessary to have before starting a career in marketing and publicity?
“I think that 90% of the skills you need to be in publicity and marketing can be
taught; general office skills, copywriting, even organisation. They can all be learnt on the
job, but knowledge and interest in current affairs and pop culture will help you so much.
My team always praise the ideas I come up with from listening to the news or things I come across on Twitter and Instagram. Don’t limit yourself to thinking that an idea needs to be fully formed before you pitch it to your team, let them help and guide you to flesh it out and execute it.”
What are you currently reading?
“I’m a mood reader so I always have one to three books on the go. At the moment they
are Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (apparently it’ll break my heart?), and The Final
Strife by Saara El-Arifi.”