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Behind the Scenes: Meet My Publicist at Penguin, Milena Brown!

Continuing in my series of “behind the scenes” of book publishing (or maybe I should call this, “beyond the pages?”), I’m excited to introduce you all to my lovely publicist at Penguin, Milena Brown. I adore her (and not just because she knows how to rock a great scarf!). Milena handles all the details of publicity for my books, and don’t you just love how my latest novel has a face out spot on her bookshelf!? She’s 100 percent gracious about answering all of my sometimes-annoying and needy-author questions, and she handles the big things (talking to bigtime media professionals) and the little things (booking my hotels and flights for upcoming tours) with perfect amounts of patience, savvy and kindness. (Someone give this gal a raise!) I thought you would enjoy reading my recent Q&A with Milena:

Sarah: You are living the dream—working as a book publicist in NYC (a career so many people would die for!). How did you achieve your career goals?

Milena: It is a dream job; especially working with a company as prestigious as Penguin. I really encourage people to try and make a living out of a hobby. My hobby has always been reading since I can remember, and being able to turn my love for books into a career is a joy. Knowing that the book publishing industry was predominately based in New York City, I moved here from California a year out of college. I started as an entertainment publicist because I didn’t know a soul in book publishing and entertainment in Los Angeles was so prevalent. After being completely unhappy in entertainment, I decided to finally pursue book publishing any way I can. I networked like crazy, even taking positions that had nothing to do with publicity just to get my foot in the door. I made the necessary contacts with publicity at various publishing companies, proved myself and now I’m in a career that suits me perfectly.

Sarah: Tell us about a day in the life of a book publicist! All the glamorous (and non-glamorous details, please!)

I am what you would call a cheerleader for my authors.

Sarah: Yes you are. Just the other day you cheered me up! Ha!

Milena: In a nutshell I promote books and authors, but my typical day always consists of 3 things: reading, writing and communicating. I’m constantly drafting letters and publicity materials for various media representatives whether it is for broadcasting, print or online.  I am in constant contact with producers, editors and writers on a daily basis on behalf of books and authors I represent. I handle publicity campaigns from beginning to end: speaking directly to magazine editors to scheduling author book tours (from booking airlines to hotels, which would count as the un-glamorous part). My job is essentially to get people excited about a book and it makes my work that much more fulfilling when someone matches my enthusiasm.

Sarah: What gets you really excited in any given day? I’d love to hear about the things that make you do a happy dance at your desk.

Milena: Writers are the most talented people in the world and it’s such an honor to be able to interact with authors on a regular basis in which I’m also a fan.  Every season there are books that I’m really eager to be working on. However, there are two things that literally make me do the happy dance at my desk: overdose of caffeine and when someone from a very important media outlet calls whether it be the New York Times or TODAY Show—you tend to drop everything your doing when those phone calls come in.

Sarah: Tell us about a few of the campaigns you’re working on right now!

I’m working on a few November/December campaigns that encompasses a wide variety of topics and genres. Of course, I’m working on a beautiful novel for January…The Bungalow.

Sarah: I may be partial, but I hear that’s a pretty good novel! OK, really, what else are you excited about?

Milena: A wonderful holiday book The Puppy That Came for Christmas, which is sure to be stocking stuffer. The World in 2050, a non-fiction book that predicts what will happen if we continue with demographic, climate and global trends…scary stuff! And You’re (Not) The One – a hilarious novel on a woman who thinks she’s found “The One,” but the romance takes a turn for the worse.

Sarah: Ooooh, those sound great! Will be keeping my eyes peeled. OK, so we’ve talked about the fact that we’re both fueled by coffee, so I have to know: What’s your espresso drink of choice and do you have a favorite NYC café where you always start your day?

I think coffee literally flows through my veins.

Sarah: Me too. You’d be at home here in Seattle.

Milena: My favorite coffee is one that isn’t even sold in the states (I know…I go to extremes for good coffee). My mother is from Puerto Rico and lives in California. Her aunt in Puerto Rico ships a box filled with packages of coffee called “Mami” and my mom sends me a good 6 month supply. I make it the “old school” way—in a stove-top espresso pot and warm the milk separately in a saucer.  Despite that, I still have a favorite NYC coffee spot—Café Lalos. Their cappuccino is heaven in a cup. If they had a location near the office, I would be there everyday…until then, Dunkin Donuts it is. Their coffee is on point. I can’t complain.

Sarah: Now I’m craving coffee! OK, so when you’re not reading a book, what magazine are you reading cover-to-cover these days? (You know, I’m a magazine junkie, as it’s where my career began!)

Milena: I am obsessed with Bon Appétit! I am always in search of new recipes and they also have great ideas for dinner parties and entertaining at home. We subscribe to a good amount of magazines here at the office and I notice that O magazine, PEOPLE, Vanity Fair and New York Magazine tend to linger on my desk longer than they should.

Sarah: You’re from LA (love that we’re both West Coasters!) and I have to know: What do you miss most about life on the Best Coast? :)

Milena: I love LA, but I’ve been there all my life up to 4 years ago. It was time to move on. But I do miss my mom, the weather, In & Out and authentic Mexican food (food is really starting to become a theme in this interview). My mom likes to counteract my snowy pictures after a blizzard with photos of her dog laying in the grass soaking up 80 degree weather. In & Out has THE best burgers!! I may start a twitter trend: #INnOUT2NYC. And don’t even get me started on the Mexican food. But New York City…there’s no place like it.

Sarah: If you could offer one piece of advice to someone interested in breaking into working in publicity for a big publisher, what would you suggest?

Milena: Internships and network, network, network! I also researched the business of book publishing by reading a lot of the trade publications: Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch and Shelf Awareness. If you desire to become a publicist, you can’t be afraid to communicate and be persistent. Once you’ve made contact with one person in the industry, the next step is just making a good impression.

Thank you so much, Milena! Readers, do you have any questions for my lovely publicist? Any curiosities brewing about the behind-the-scenes of book publishing? I’d love to hear!

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11 comments… add one

  • Dancing Branflake >> November 10, 2011, 11:13 pm

    She has such great energy- I even feel perkier just reading this interview and it’s almost my bedtime. I am just drinking in all these interviews. The publishing industry fascinates me to no end.

  • Missy Olive >> November 11, 2011, 3:22 am

    An author cheerleader! I love it!!! I envy anyone who lives in NYC.

    Thanks for sharing Sarah.

  • Renee >> November 11, 2011, 4:49 am

    As a PR professional and freelance writer (and NYC lover), this is 100% my dream job. I envy Milena’s ability to pick up and move across the country to do what she loves to do.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) >> November 11, 2011, 5:20 am

    I loved this! I email with Milena some so it was a real treat to see her lovely face!

  • Laura Kay >> November 11, 2011, 5:27 am

    Thanks for another great interview! I think I missed my calling! Milena has a dream job! How cool! I have to say I will now be keeping my eyes peeled for You’re (Not) The One! Sounds good :D

  • Erika Robuck >> November 11, 2011, 6:57 am

    I loved reading this interview and getting to know Milena! Maybe our paths will cross at some point. ;)

  • Jennifer King >> November 11, 2011, 9:03 am

    A great interview, Sarah! Thank you again, for introducing us to the people behind the scenes of your books. It’s wonderful to meet your cheerleader, Milena!

  • Teresa >> November 11, 2011, 2:15 pm

    Great interview Sarah! I really enjoy working with Milena. It is so nice to put her face with her name. I think the three of us should get together for coffee, at least virtually.

  • Dorothy >> November 11, 2011, 4:03 pm

    I have a question…what would you say to someone who wanted to publish their book themselves only in ebook format. But would be open to a publishing contract for the print version. Is this a turn-off and a no no? I mean, can authors keep their ebook rights and still get a publishing contract with a major publisher?

  • mark jones >> November 17, 2011, 1:25 pm

    Milena! you should interview your cousin on In-N-Out! I hear he is a manager at the company!

  • Auntie >> November 29, 2011, 10:12 pm

    As you know, I rarely read my emails. This was a real treat to see you and read about what a wonderful and fulfilling job you have. Congratulations!!!

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