I thought I'd try to get a temporary job in bookselling. I was an obsessive reader, and I really liked the idea of a discount.
So I went to work for Books Etc in the Charing Cross Road, then got a job with Penguin, as children's educational marketing officer. I dealt with libraries and suppliers, and I looked at setting up information resources for schools. Also, I was looking after individual authors,so there was a bit of publicity, too.
But the shock of moving to marketing was more than I could handle at the time, so I got involved in an interiors business with my ex-husband for a year. Then, four-and-a-half months pregnant, I went back into bookselling, at Waterstone's. I worked in four branches, and managed one of them.
There were things I really wanted to see the company doing. I wanted us to do much more talking to arts organisations, and doing things in the world of books that weren't just about marketing in-store. So I came to head office three years ago.
I manage our PR agency, Colman Getty. A lot of what I do is long-term relationships: we're talking to the Arts Council, to the Tate about the Turner Prize - areas of general arts interest. Also, I run our charitable relationship, which is one of my favourite bits of the job.
Sometimes, I have to brief branch managers about issues of censorship. Every week, there is a book that someone wants us to censor, and we have to respond quickly. Our policy is that we don't censor books, but that's not necessarily helpful for a branch: they want to feel comfortable about doing interviews if the media has decided to make an issue of a particular book. We've had branches door-stopped, managers threatened; I've been invited to meet God on several occasions.
But mostly it's fab, and I'm given immense freedom. For example, I was passionate about the idea of reading groups - which, in the States, are huge - and wanted us to put in a lottery bid to do some research on them. The paperwork was a nightmare, but in the end we got just under pounds 70,000 for research.
Other high points have been getting a letter from Ted Hughes, organising a money-raising event at the Hackney Empire on behalf of the Terrence Higgins Trust with Dodgy, Suggs, Irvine Welsh, Douglas Adams and Louis de Bernieres, and an evening with Stephen Hawking at the Albert Hall. That was a great success - but scary as hell.
I'm also involved in the marketing. I'm on the "Recommends" panel, which discusses what books Waterstone's is going to promote, so I may have 60 books to look at in just a few weeks. We hope that the choices we make encourage new audiences for new writers.
I firmly believe - and am regularly told - that I've got one of the best jobs in the industry. But I'm not in it for PR; I'm in it for what I'm PR-ing. It's worth doing because it's books - something I care about.Reuse content