Alumna Jessie Edwards
graduated from Berry College in 2009 with a major in English with a Literature
concentration and a minor in Public Relations. We asked her to tell us a little
about her life after Berry and how her English major helped her in the world,
and she had this to say:
What do I do?
I am a Publicist for
HarperCollins Publishers, one of the "Big Six" publishing houses.
More specifically, I work in the Adult division under William Morrow/It Books/Avon/Harper Voyager. William Morrow and It Books
publish commercial fiction and non-fiction, including diet and fitness,
cookbook, celebrity and pop culture titles. Avon
is our romance genre imprint. Harper
Voyager is our Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre imprint. Even more specifically, I work
on a hefty load of the genre titles and head up publicity for our New Adult
titles. Some of our biggest authors include Neil Gaiman, Dennis Lehane, Kim
Harrison, Stephanie Laurens, Ree Drummond and Joe Hill.
What does that mean in terms of the day-to-day
I work with perhaps six
to 10 books a season, and work on a single book and author for about six months
before the book's publication to a month or more after. I write galley letters
and press releases, pitch TV shows, magazines, newspapers, and online media
outlets to garner reviews/interviews/features on the book and author. I plan bookstore
events, arrange travel, organize blog tours, Twitter chats and Facebook
giveaways, and generally help authors put themselves and their books in the
How in the world do you I use my English degree to
do any of this?
A press release about Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
(yes, that's a real book, and yes, it's awesome) bears no resemblance to a
critical essay about The Mill on the
Floss (that's a real book, too, but not quite as awesome). A lively class
discussion about the giddiness of On the
Road versus the tragedy of Big Sur is
nowhere near as nerve wracking as cold calling the book reviewer for the Washington Post to pitch him a book you know
he doesn't care about and would never cover in a million years, but you have to
do it because it's your job. I never processed an invoice or had an author yell
at me or crafted a perfectly coordinated two hour "Twitter Hop" among
three different authors and four influential tweeters as an English major.
So, seriously, how do I use my degree?
I thought about the answer
for a while before writing this, because at first I wasn't sure. I became an
English major because I love to read, and that's about it. I knew what field I
wanted to go into before getting to college, but when I told my advisor, he
advised me to minor in Public Relations, which I did, and that has been
incredibly useful in a practical sense. Majoring in English was purely for
love, and it's not necessarily obvious how it translates to success in the
publishing industry, unless you're an editor, which very few of us are.
But when you look at
the pure essence of my job, my background as an English major is almost
essential to what I do. My job is to make the media understand why a book is
important--in the context of its genre, in the possibility of its introduction
to the (commercial) literary canon, or in its relevance to the state of our
culture today. When I write a pitch to Time
magazine about the type of hero dominating the romance and New Adult market,
I have to tell the editor about the cultural factors that have contributed to
this "type" being the desire of a good majority of modern women, if
not in their lives, at least in their literature. I have to explain why this is
a negative reaction to heroes prevalent in the past few years, and an extension
of heroes from a decade ago. I have to do all of this, write an entire English
essay with quotes and sources, in 250 words or less to convince her that my
books are worth writing a trend article about.
And even when I'm not
talking to book review editors--even when I'm engaging directly with readers
and bloggers via email, Twitter, and Facebook, I have to discuss my books with
a certain degree of veracity. It can't all be, "This book is great because
it's great and you should think it's great, because it's mine and I say so."
I've got to convey to them the beauty of the language, the sharpness of the
dialogue, the depth of the characters to convince them to spend their money
and/or their time to read the book and talk about it with other readers.
It's not enough to love
to read. To persuade them that the books I represent are worthy of their
consideration more so than the 100 other books going on sale the same day, I
have to be able to express my thoughts and ideas intelligently, concisely,
eloquently and convincingly. I have to make people think my books matter. All of
this I learned how to do as an English major.
Photo taken by Ashton Staniszewski (09C)
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