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Publicity Director Interview: Jamie Knapp

We are excited to feature Jamie Knapp! Jamie Knapp is the Director of Publicity for Plume and Tiny Reparations Books and the Associate Director of Publicity for Dutton. She also serves as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council Representative for the PPG Division at Penguin Random House.

Since joining Dutton in 2008, she has built buzzworthy and bestselling campaigns for many books including the National Book Award Winner for Fiction Hell of a Book by Jason Mott, the Read with Jenna pick The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, NBA Star Andre Iguodala’s The Sixth Man, and the NYT instant bestseller Portrait of a Thief  by Grace D. Li.

Other authors she has worked with include Trixie Mattel and Katya, Sona Movsesian, Megan Mullaly, Nick Offerman, Bill Russell, Martin Duberman, Craig Ferguson, Kai Harris, Tami Hoag, Jeff Lindsay, Phoebe Robinson, Daniel Stone, David Wright, Drew Barrymore, and many others.

We started this book publishing professionals blog series to spotlight Pacific Islander book publishing professionals for Asian and Pacific Islander month. Our hope is that this series will inspire other Pacific Islanders interested in pursuing a career in traditional publishing. There are only a handful of Pacific Islanders in the publishing industry and we hope to see that number increase.

Could you introduce yourself for our audience?

Hafa Adai! I am Jamie McDonald Knapp, Director of Publicity for Plume and Tiny Reparations Books and the Associate Director of Publicity for Dutton. 

What does a book publicist do? 

A book publicist helps an author reach as many readers as possible through various opportunities ranging from media interviews to reviews, features, and events, and much more. 

Share with us how you became a publicist. What were the steps you took to get to your position?

Growing up, I loved books and reading but didn’t know that working in publishing was a possibility.

In college, I decided to major in English but wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to take. At the time, many English majors went on to law school or became teachers, but I was interested in what I could do in media. 

I interned at a newspaper and a television network. Both jobs were interesting, but it wasn’t until I landed a publicity internship at Penguin that something clicked for me right away. I loved the experience of working on book campaigns – writing pitches, researching media, talking about books all day. I was able to get another publicity internship at Simon & Schuster the following semester, which lead to a full-time position in publicity after I graduated. 

Fast forward to now and I am entering my twentieth year of being in the book industry. Time flies when you’re having fun and reading a lot of books!  

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into book publishing as a career?

It’s an exciting time to be in book publishing. Prior to the pandemic, if you wanted to be in publishing you had to be in New York City, where the major publishers are headquartered. 

That has all changed with hybrid and remote work opportunities as many publishers and agencies have flexible work policies now. I have colleagues who are based on the West Coast and are fully remote, which would have been very unlikely pre-pandemic. 

I also think many still associate publishing with editorial and marketing but there are so many job functions within the industry. For example, if you like graphic design, you might like creating book jackets or being an illustrator. Do you get your book recommendations via booktok? A lot of teams are looking for social media managers. And there are also opportunities outside of publishing houses – literary agencies, booksellers, literacy organizations, etc. – that could also be of interest for someone looking to enter the industry.   

What is your advice for Pacific Islander authors who are looking to be published?  

Last year, Craig Santos Perez won the National Book Award in Poetry. During his acceptance speech he spoke in Chamoru, the native language of Guam and the Mariana Islands. 

To hear the language of my ancestors at one of the most prestigious literary events was so moving, I was brought to tears. For so long I had hoped for books that I could see myself in the stories and characters, and that moment had finally come.  

There are editors, agents, and publishers looking for voices from the Pacific to add to their lists. When Taika Watiti won his Oscar, he said “All the indigenous kids of the world who want to do art and dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers and we can make it here as well.” All this to say, we need your stories!

What is your marketing advice for authors?

No two book campaigns are alike. What might work for one book or author, no matter how similar they are, might not work for another.

I encourage authors to talk to their book team at the beginning of their publishing journey about expectations and goals. 

If your dream is to be reviewed in a specific outlet or to harness interest in your book into a speaking career, talk to your team about it so you can start putting together a publicity and marketing plan and work together to achieve those goals. 

Do you think book festivals are effective in promoting books? If so, do you recommend any in particular?

Festivals can be a great way to promote books and build relationships with other authors and readers, and there are so many great established festivals and new ones popping up all the time. 

There are a lot of established literary festivals that like to highlight local authors and topics. For example, if you live in Texas or are writing a book set there, there’s the Texas Book Festival that happens every fall. 

There are also festivals that are genre based, so if you’re a thriller or mystery writer and you want to network with other writers and readers, I’d recommend looking into festivals like Thrillerfest or Bouchercon. 

How can we get our books into the hands of people from our own communities?

I recently read about a program that the University of Guam Press launched where they donated books to all the mayor’s offices in Guam. I thought it was such a clever idea that could be replicated in different ways. 

Maybe you can donate a book to a Little Free Library, help organize a book drive to benefit your local library or community center, or you can invite an author to speak to your book club.


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