A Day In The Life Of… Sabah Khan by SJV
I’m SO excited to have Sabah Khan, Head of Publicity (Adult), in the A Day in the Life of… hot seat today! Sabah is one of the newest members here at @TeamBATC, and there’s NOTHING she doesn’t know about getting books into the hands of book lovers, so grab yourself a cuppa, and settle in for a whirlwind tour of the worklife of a Publicity Guru!
What does a Head of Publicity, Adult, Fiction & Non-Fiction do?
It’s a nice sounding job title isn’t it! Essentially it means that I look after the team and the books we publish across each of the UK adult lists at S&S – I’m very lucky because my team are fantastic so everyone tends to just get on with the job! Working in publicity we’re always speaking to journalists and trying to get the book into the hands of everyone we know will love it. We speak to our authors and work with them on every step of their publicity campaigns, from acquisition announcements through to publication – and we do it across the fiction list (where I look after some brilliant authors like Santa Montefiore and Philippa Gregory) and the non-fiction list (I’m currently working with John Nichol and Michael Holding) – so everything is really varied! On any given day we’ll be speaking and pitching to festivals, feeding into pitch documents for editors and sending books out for review, pitching features to journalists, speaking to bookshops… to name just a few things we do. I also do a lot of trade focused stuff, so speaking to the Bookseller and BookBrunch about upcoming profile opportunities for people across the business, their upcoming conferences etc.
Is there such a thing as a typical day, and if so what does it look like?
There’s no such thing as a typical day and that’s part of the fun really. For me, a day normally starts with a workout (yes, I’m that person) and then I’ll get ready and be sat at my desk for 9am..ish. Most days are meeting heavy for me, whether that’s popping into acquisitions or cover art, or catching up with authors, or having media meetings. I also have catch ups with the team dotted in throughout the week so I can make sure everyone is feeling supported, as some times of year are far busier than others! The non-meeting time is spent doing campaign work for my titles, whether that’s following up on broadcast and reviews for a book out in a couple of weeks, or working up a plan for a book publishing later in the year. I only joined S&S in February so I’ve never had a day on the office – and I can’t wait to get in and meet everyone. Until then, I try and finish work by about 6/6.30 and head out for a walk – and now that things are opening up again I’ll be getting out and about as much as possible.
For the record, if I was a budding debut author, faced with the dreaded blank first page, what would be your top tip to bestseller success?
This is going to sound terrible, but just write the book! It’s so scary having a blank page but if you put some words on it, it’s way less scary. Write whichever part you want, whether you have a scene in your head, or you want to write the end first – but once those words start flowing you’ll feel far more relaxed – and you’ll be a step closer to potentially being published.
We’re obsessed with other people’s TBR piles, how high is yours? And do you have 2, one for work books and one for pleasure books?
MEEP. I do have two separate piles, although reading for work is still nicer than the average person’s actual work so it’s not exactly a struggle. I have a lot of reading to catch up on and I like to read everything I work on so it’s a pretty hefty pile – though I have managed to make my way through most of it. My other pile is joyful to look at but I have a terrible habit of asking friends for proofs or buying those books that I just don’t need so it’s going to take some time for me to catch up on it, although I do tend to read a couple of books at the same time (one fiction and one non-fiction) – and there are so many brilliant books always being published that really the piles will never be cleared.
Have you got a best and worst part of the job?
There are so many best parts – helping to make an authors dream come true by getting their book out in the world, seeing a campaign come together, watching my team do incredible work and the books fly off the shelves! The worst part is simply not having enough hours in the day to do everything I want to get done which is frustrating but it’s a good lesson is establishing boundaries.
Is there an author you’d sell a limb to work with?
My favourite author of all time is Cecelia Ahern – I own every single one of her books (even the short story collection!) and when I worked at HarperCollins I got to meet her and fan girl to her face which was amazing – she signed a book for me too! Since I’m selling a limb for it, if we could buy a book from Idris Elba I’d be pretty pleased about it…
What book do you most recommend to others?
I am the person all my friends turn to for recommendations and I always find it really hard because books are subjective – and there are such brilliant ones out there! I adored Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton, and Love In Colour by Bolu Babalola, and one of my other favourite books is The Alchemist, and I also loved Life of Pi… (see what I meant about finding it hard?!) oh and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
And lastly our quick fire trivia round…
Thing you’d never leave home without? My Kindle, the fear of not having a book on me is real.
Favourite place to read? The cosy chair in my home office, with a huge cup of tea.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Anywhere by the water… or New York.
What’s the secret to success? Finding out what makes you happy, and going after it.
What’s on your current reading pile? I Feel Bad About My Neck by Norah Ephron, Catch & Kill by Ronan Farrow, and America Made Me a Black Man by Boyah Farah.
Staying in or Going out? Either, as long as I’m with my favourite people.
What’s your Signature dish? Possibly an aubergine parmigiana (with homemade garlic bread), or a classic Victoria Sponge.
Beach break or city break? Can I have both?
Favourite Literary Hero? Becky Bloomwood, Shopoholic extraordinaire! Also totally fell in love with Nadia from Laura Jane Williams’ Our Stop.
Famous last words? Absolutely, I can definitely fit that meeting in…