Two sisters, one book

Beth and Miriam Parker are perhaps the most powerful sisters in publishing. Both have been in the industry for more than two decades: Today, Beth runs her own literary advertising company, Beth Parker PR, and Miriam is Associate Editor at Ecco.

This summer, the Parkers are officially collaborating on Miriam’s latest novel. Accommodation and catering, for which Beth directs public relations. “We were friends — and colleagues — in addition to being sisters throughout our professional careers,” Beth said. “We love talking about books anyway, so it’s great that we can do it in a professional way and really understand the specifics of the joys and struggles of our work.”

Miriam’s room and board, out in August by Dutton, is about Gillian, a prominent publicist who, after her career implodes, is invited back to the boarding school she attended to be a “dorm mom”. In this new role, she rediscovers an old high school crush, mentores some wayward teenagers, and gets embroiled in a minor school scandal. The novel is Miriam’s second after her debut in 2018. The shortest way home, also published by Dutton. (“I’m actually more nervous this time!” she admitted.)

“I don’t want to give anything away, but Gillian’s PR skills are very useful in her new life as well,” said Miriam. “I’ve always loved and respected publicists, and I wanted to focus on one of them in my book because I’m related to one and because I’ve worked with so many talented publicists throughout my career.” In the early stages of the novel, Miriam pleaded Beth even read through the manuscript to make sure the descriptions of her protagonist’s work were accurate.

Beth began her publishing career in 1999 at Houghton Mifflin, where she worked as a summer intern while she was a student – a position Miriam helped her. In 2003 she became an assistant at Random House and joined the Penguin Group two years later. Over the years, she worked in public relations at Dutton, Gotham and Avery, eventually becoming Associate Director of Publicity at Gotham and Avery, where she was employed until going solo in 2014.

The idea of ​​starting her own company had been in the air for a while when Beth went into business for herself. “I liked the idea of ​​working on titles that I really care about,” she said, “and not being limited to an imprint or a publisher.” She described the company as a “one-woman operation,” and provides notes that her small size allows her to “only take on books and clients I know I’m going to love.”

Beth enjoys working across genres and feels that all books face similar challenges due to “the changing nature of review coverage.” With “so little space for reviews these days,” she said, “it’s difficult to make room for emerging writers.”

Beth had worked informally on the advertising team for The shortest way home In 2018, “I just helped where I could,” she said. She and Miriam had also worked briefly together a few times when she was hired as a freelancer to work on Ecco titles. She signed on as the official board and lodging publicist when Miriam’s in-house publicist at Dutton went back to school.

“It was a perfect fit because Beth already knew everything about the project and could jump right in,” said Miriam. It also created “another reason for us to keep in touch. We always talk about books and releases anyway, so it feels natural.”

Many authors whose publishers do self-promotion wonder whether it is worth adding independent publicists to their team. “It doesn’t always make sense for a writer to spend their own money to hire a publicist, but every campaign is unique,” noted Miriam. “However, by hiring a publicist you have a financial investment in the success of your book. If it makes you feel good, do it.”

Beth added that the role of an independent publicist can vary from project to project. “Independent publicists can supplement the in-house team or take over the entire project,” she said. “It depends on the book and the author as well as the range that the publisher has.”

Miriam’s final recommendation: “Get to know your in-house PR team and talk to them before you make any decision either way.”

Miriam began her publishing career in 2000 at what was then Time Warner Trade Publishing (now Hachette Book Group). She was a web producer, wrote newsletters, managed author websites and eventually managed social media accounts for companies. She joined Little, Brown in 2010 as Marketing Director for Mulholland Books and became Marketing Director for Little, Brown in 2015. She then became an associate publisher at Ecco, where she is responsible for marketing and public relations.

It can be difficult at times to negotiate her dual roles of co-editor and author, but it has also given Miriam valuable insight into the behind-the-scenes thinking behind the production and marketing of books. “I’m involved in every process of how books are published at Ecco, so I know very well what they are doing at Dutton to support my book and how hard everyone is working,” she said. “I also know very well what it’s like to be on the publishing side of an author-publisher relationship. I try to be the writer I would like to work with.”

Miriam lamented that while all her book publishing knowledge didn’t necessarily make her a better writer, it did shape her perspective as a writer. “I’ve found that I can only write the books I write, and honestly there is limited control that an author has over how your book comes into the world,” she said. “All you can do is write the best book you can, do what your publisher and publicist tells you, get your friends and family to buy the book, and hope that people who you have never met, buy it too.”

For her part, Beth is excited to help Accommodation and catering out into the world with as much fanfare as possible: “I really enjoy seeing my loved ones thrive and being able to help raise them.”

A version of this article appeared in the 07/11/2022 issue publishers weekly under the heading: Two sisters, one book

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