Brady McReynolds grew up near Atlanta, GA and Asheville, NC, and he is the son of two high school teachers. Brady grew up reading and before long enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2010, he joined Penguin’s Ace/Roc publicity department and has been working there ever since!
Alex C. Telander: How did you first get started in publishing?
Brady McReynolds: Well my first gig in publishing was as an intern at Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill, NC. During my junior year at the University of North Carolina I knew that I should start looking for opportunities outside of academics and a friend who knew of my love of books recommended I start there. It was only a couple of hours a week (and consisted mostly of filing and mailing) but I thought it was fascinating to be a part of the book creation process.
Alex: Did you always want to work in publicity?
Brady: Well since I started working in publishing all I’ve ever known is the publicity side of things. It wasn’t until I landed my current job with Penguin that I began to see the other types of work (editing, marketing, agent-ing [?]) that people do. However, now that I am doing publicity there isn’t any other job I’d want to do. I really enjoy working with authors to promote their books once the editorial and promotion processes are finished.
Alex: Who are some of your favorite authors you’ve gotten meet and/or work with?
Brady: Well my auto-generated reply as a publicist is to say that “all my authors are my favorites!” but I feel like it wouldn’t make for interesting or enlightening reading. As someone who grew up reading science-fiction and fantasy, I’ve now had the privilege of working with a lot of the genre’s great contemporary authors. Charles Stross, Harry Turtledove, and Jim Butcher immediately come to mind. I also had a blast at last year’s New York Comic-Con working side by side with Taylor Anderson, Jack Campbell, and Myke Cole (all great guys) whose books I can’t recommend often enough.
Alex: Author book tours: are they lots of fun, lots of hard work, or a combination of the two?
Brady: Definitely a combination of the two. There are so many details to arrange (and triple check) that go into putting together an author tour that it can be exhausting. However when you go to a well attended event or convention (or hear from an author that they had a great time interacting with their fans) it always makes the effort worthwhile.
Alex: Any enlightening stories you’d like to share about a particular author or author tour?
Brady: Last year I did a lot of coordinating for San Diego Comic-Con and out of the blue I get an email from none other than George R.R. Martin. I am a big fan of his Song of Ice and Fire series and for the rest of that day I could not stop smiling.
Alex: What does an ordinary day entail for you?
Brady: Email, email, email! All day long I am glued to my Outlook inbox and it is how I conduct the majority of my business. Every morning I read and reply to messages that came in overnight and it’s a nice way to ease into the workday. Then (depending on where I am in the publicity cycle) I try to write my pitches, galleys letters, and press releases for my upcoming books. That way by the afternoon I have all the necessary materials to my many book mailings. My days don’t always follow that exact order but I find that having a routine (and a rigidly ordered calendar!) helps to keep me organized when I am in the process of working on fifty to seventy titles, each with its own publicity plan, all coming out at different times ranging from next week to six months from now.
Alex: What’s your favorite part of the job?
Brady: By far and away, my favorite (and I think the coolest) part of being a publicity assistant is talking to and working with authors. I can’t think of many other professions where one gets to interact daily with artists to help make them more famous!
Alex: Do you get lots of free books as a publicist?
Brady: Definitely! I think last year I had to buy exactly one book, though I’ve found that I have to be careful with the free books that I decide take home because I can already see my apartment slowly transforming into a library. My family likes to poke fun at me every Christmas because they all know that they are going to be getting at least one book from me as a present.
Alex: Like anyone who works at a bookstore, it’s said that everyone working in publishing is an aspiring writer; is this true for you?
Brady: Well I suppose that might make me an exception then. I have always loved reading and I think that installed a permanent sense of awe in me. I can’t help but look up to any authors who have managed to write a book (published or not) and it just isn’t something I feel like I’m personally capable of doing.
Alex: What do you think about ebooks?
Brady: Well e-books are here and they are here to stay, and I think that they are only going to become more important as they continue making up a larger portion of overall book sales. I believe that e-books are one facet of an overall trend towards digitization. People want what they want in one place, to be able to carry it with them, and to have access to it at any time; whether it is their friends, the news, or The Help.
From my day-to-day work as someone in publicity, I think e-books are great. In the past if a book was only released in the US then anyone living abroad would be up a creek if they were looking for the next Harry Dresden novel. Nowadays, if you have access to the internet there is nothing you can’t find, including lots of Penguin titles!
Alex: How long do you think printed books will last, or will they never disappear?
Brady: Well I’ve have yet to read a book digitally and I don’t own an e-reader or an iPad. Do I want one? Perhaps. But for me there is an emotional tactility to holding a book in my hands, turning its pages, and then proudly displaying it on my bookshelf once I’ve finished the story. And I don’t know if there is a way to derive that same satisfaction with an e-book (perhaps some of BookBanter’s commenters will disagree and I look forward to hearing their perspectives both as a publicist and as an avid reader).
I do know that whenever I visit someone’s house for the first time, I never fail to check out what books they have laying around (or the lack thereof). So my prediction is that, as long as there are people like myself out there, who form emotional connections with books-as-objects, then there will always be a market for the good ‘ole fashioned printed book.
Alex: For someone interested in working in publishing, what’s the best way to get started?
Brady: I might not be the best person to ask for advice on this subject because in many ways I feel like I serendipitously fell into my position, but I also believe that there isn’t a single best way to get started other than having a love of books. That sounds obvious but more than anything else you need to like what you do.
For those who are still in school, I would recommend that they start a book review blog and update it regularly. They are free and easy to create and if you are already reading (and talking about what you just read) then why not make your opinions public? The phrase “author blog tour” didn’t exist five years ago but it is certainly a part of the industry’s lexicon now.
I also had a good experience with my internship at Algonquin Books and would encourage anyone, who can afford to work for free, to apply for one. They are great for your résumé, help you learn the necessary skills, and will let you make contacts that can help you get your foot in the door. That was certainly what happened for me!
Alex: What do you like to read?
Brady: In addition to science fiction/fantasy, I also like non-fiction history books (usually about war) and I enjoy reading books about science-fact (especially those about contemporary physics and cosmology). If you haven’t read The Dancing Wu Li Masters I would recommend that you give it a try!
Alex: Who’s your favorite author?
Brady: So again my publicity auto-response would be to say that “all of my authors are my favorite author.” To answer truthfully (and I can say this because he doesn’t write for Penguin) my favorite book was written by Orson Scott Card. I read his collection of short stories, called Maps in a Mirror, during my “formative years” and it continues to affect me in different ways each time I decide to re-read it.
Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Brady: Well to pass the time I play rugby in a city-wide league, I occasionally compete in air-guitar competitions (which are exactly as fun and ridiculous as they sound), and I compulsively watch every UNC basketball game. Go Tarheels!