Industry Insights with Kimberley Sheehan
By Georgie Graham, Leyla Mehmet, Karoline Tübben and Aimee Whittle
This week we had the pleasure to talk to Kimberley Sheehan, campaign manager at The Reading Agency…
Could you tell us a bit about The Reading Agency and what drew you to work for them?
I learned about The Reading Agency whist I was completing my MA at Kingston University. Before the degree, I was a primary school teacher and the desire to help and support people is still important to me. I know first-hand the importance of reading for enjoyment and how it is life-changing. The charity supports nearly two million people a year across the UK (of all ages and at all levels of confidence with reading), so I knew I’d be working with publishers and also having an impact on society. I still feel like I’m making a difference, which is rewarding.
What does a typical day look like for you?
What I love about my role is that it’s very varied. One day I could be hosting a focus group with teachers to understand their book-buying behaviours; another day I could be sending a campaign proposal to a book prize or I could be scheduling social media. I would say most of my time is spent on campaign management. I usually have twenty to thirty ongoing campaigns at a time, which are all at different stages of implementation and also with different stakeholders. So, I regularly need to check these campaigns are all on schedule.
What is the most difficult part of your role as campaign manager?
I manage a team of three and we’re all busy so it is important to stay organised otherwise time can run away from you very quickly. I've now been on The Reading Partners team for about five years, so I have lots of strategies in place to help with prioritising, but this work is still difficult. Stakeholder engagement is also a vital aspect of my role, so I need to regularly carve out time to stay up-to-date with the needs and challenges of our library, education and publishing sector partners.
What did you learn from your time as Co-Chair of the London Society of Young Publishers Committee?
So much! You can be part of a committee for three years. In this time you get to hang out with and learn from people at different stages in their career, working in different departments. If you’re in the early stages of your career, like I was when I joined, you can figure out where you want to work by being on the committee and attending all of the events, which helps you figure out your next steps. I was co-chair with the absolutely brilliant Aimee Dewar (BookMachine), and together I felt that we built a supportive and hardworking team. This time made me more confident. I learned that it is important to delegate, as you can’t do everything, and you don’t have to when you have a great committee.
You completed a master's in publishing and creative writing, how useful would you say this has been to your career?
It was useful to me as it resulted in me doing a complete career change! Our lecturers were brilliant and the degree meant I got hands-on experience as well as learning the publishing business models. If you’re someone who is changing careers or wants to develop your understanding before applying for jobs, I’d recommend it.
What has been the biggest achievement of your career so far?
Our first virtual roadshows in 2020 when we pivoted from physical events to virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was very daunting doing this for the first time, but the brilliant Zoe Sadler (now at English Pen) and I were able to create two days’ worth of events where thirty publishers presented to over 1,000 delegates. It was a real success and proved how making this event virtual made it much more accessible. We’ve just done our third year of virtual roadshows, and it just keeps growing.
Can you tell us about an upcoming project you are excited for?
It’s not a project as such, but I’m excited to work with even more publishers and book prizes in 2023! We run a yearly subscription for publishers to work with Reading Partners that kicks off on 1 April. Once the publishers have signed up, I get to hear about their upcoming books and we can plan some great campaigns and projects together. Another thing I am excited for is trying to reach even more librarians, teachers and publishers with our 2023 Reading Partners virtual roadshows in November.