Elizabeth Day paid tribute to the “dazzling” Transworld senior publicity manager Sophie Christopher, in her keynote speech for The Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity Conference.
The writer and podcaster's ‘How to Fail’ speech closed the conference at Milton Court at London’s Barbican on Thursday (28th June), with the author discussing how her various failures, including the criticism of her debut novel, how she was grateful for “every single one of them”. Day was one of the various event speakers to mark Christopher’s legacy, following the publicist’s sudden death earlier this month aged 28.
Day, whose first two novels were published in 2011 and 2013 by Bloomsbury where Christopher also worked before moving on to Transworld, said: “I can’t imagine what it must be like for her friends, her family, her boyfriend and her colleagues, many of whom I know are here today. She was utterly brilliant at her job – she was a senior publicity manager at Transworld and she was a dazzling, lovely person.”
Speaking to 300 delegates, Day said: “I want to pay tribute to her – I want to pay tribute to her life, I want to pay tribute to her kindness and I want to pay tribute to her brilliant statement earrings. I want to tell you that life is short, life is certainly too short to live it in fear, life is too short to feel shame over failure, life is too short to be scared and I implore you, when you go out of this auditorium today and you go back out into the big, wide world, I implore you to live life to the hilt, live life to the truest expression of who you are because perfection is not some projected notion of what the future might be, that future might never exist, perfection is right here, right now, if you choose to make it so.”
She also spoke of her early publication struggle, when her debut novel was subjected to criticism on national TV. Day’s debut Scissors, Paper, Stone (Bloomsbury) was savaged by two critics live on television, despite going on to win a Betty Trask award.
“One of them said that my novel committed ‘every error a first-time novelist could make’ while the other piled in and added ‘I just feel sorry for her’. Trust me, that is never what an author wants to hear. Gushing admiration, yes. Comparisons to Martin Amis, maybe. Pity, not so much.”
Day went on to map out the five principles she has developed on failure, since beginning her popular podcast on the subject ‘How to Fail with Elizabeth Day’. She said that “Failure just is, it’s a fact, “We are not our worst thoughts,” spoke of how one’s are a morass of difficulties as well as framing failure as “data acquisition” for future success. She also emphasised the important of honesty about vulnerability and how it helps find a person’s strengths. Day's first non-fiction book, How to Fail: The Art of Succeeding Better was published by 4th Estate earlier this year, following the success of her podcast.
Meanwhile Christopher’s legacy was also discussed in an earlier session ‘Reclaiming Your Work Life Balance’, which was presented by The FLIP (Female Leadership in Publishing), digital platform and newsletter, which she helped launch last year.
Publishing recruitment consultancy Inspired Selection tweeted of the session: “This is such a vital panel by @_TheFlip discussing the issue of reclaiming your work life balance. The Flip is @sophiechristoph’s legacy after her tragic passing and they are continuing the good work showcasing brilliant women working in the industry.”
Journalist Anita Sethi chaired the talk with contributions including Polly Osborn, director of marketing and publicity at Simon & Schuster, Penguin senior campaigns manager Rose Poole and Zoe Puckering, client relationship manager at Mental Health First Aid.
Following the conference, Sethi told The Bookseller: “I would like to pay tribute to the brilliant and inspirational Sophie Christopher who programmed the FLIP panel and asked me to chair it. I know how excited she was about the panel and the important topic explored of work-life balance. Her activist spirit in making a positive change shone through as co-founder of The FLIP, the monthly newsletter and digital platform that aims to inspire and empower the brilliant women in the publishing industry - Sophie herself was a brilliant and empowering young woman. The FLIP had a hugely successful launch in January, gaining 2,000 subscribers in the first 48 hours, and continued to grow from strength to strength, and it will be Sophie's legacy going forwards.”
The journalist explained how she first met the Transworld publicist when Christopher asked her to chair an interview with on-stage interview with The Book Thief author Markus Zusak at Waterstones Piccadilly in November 2018. “It was the bleakest winter day when a piece of magic and joy slipped through my letterbox after the event, sent by the wonderful Sophie," Sethi said. "Sophie’s lovely card, ‘A Little Card Full of Magic and Joy’ lifted the heart - a note in her beautiful handwriting thanking me for the on-stage interview and a suggestion of breakfast… that card is forever perched on my bookshelf bringing a little bit of magic and joy to each day.”
Sethi added: “Qualities about a person also live on and endure; those qualities are embodied in the card Sophie sent me - Sophie herself was a person filled with magic and joy in abundance. She was excellent to work with, and very soon became a good friend too as we bonded over breakfast. Sophie's passion for books and life shone though everything she did and will live on through The FLIP.”
During The FLIP session (pictured below), Osborn warned against perfectionism while Poole urged people to expand their network. “Widen your community, whether that’s your team, other colleagues or a mentor. Use this community to have open conversations and feel less alone.”
There were 40 speakers who shared insights throughout the day with the morning keynote sessions including ‘Inspring Change with your Campaigns’ from keynote speaker Kajal Odedra’ while Splendid Communications’ creative strategy director Alex Clough discussed the importance of ‘People-first Creativity in a Data-first World’,
Meanwhile ‘Navigating the Rising Tide of Influencers, Communities and Events’ featured speakers such as Julie Danskin, manager of Gloden Hare Books and Midas PR director Tory Lyne-Pirkis discussing issues such as the importance of targeting “micro-influencers” while Picador’s senior marketing manager Katie Bowden revealed insights for one of the year’s biggest debut novels for ‘Pre-orders to Peak Sales with The Doll Factory’, emphasising that her key take-away was the importance of “advocacy” throughout a campaign.
Granta’s senior marketing manager Simon Heafield and publicity director Pru Rowlandson shared their thoughts for ‘Creating an Indie Retail Sensation with Convenience Store Woman’ in one of the last sessions of the day. A huge hit for the indie from its now defunct imprint Portabello Books, Rowlandson revealed that Heathfield’s plan for the literary novel by Japanese author Sayaka Murata helped win him the role at Granta. On hardback publication the indie publisher sent out individualised lanyards to receipients to mimic the book’s cover and later sent out cardboard vending machine-style displays for bookshops for the paperback, which had three available cover designs.
Heathfield said: “In the first efforts for the book we focused on one retailer [Waterstones]… so we really opened the floodgates when it came to POS [Point of Sale] for the paperback. It makes a really visible display in the bookshops, it’s cute and it means the bookshops have to order quite a lot of stock to fill it. Hopefully we’ll see them floating them bookshops in years to come as they’ll be loathe to get rid of them.”
For more information on The FLIP, visit this website.
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