Inside the Book Club: An Interview with Jocelyn Kelley

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When you hear the name Jocelyn Kelley, you may immediately remember her as a participant on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the book club selections of Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. But Jocelyn Kelley is more than just a book club participant. She is a book publicist and co-partner at the well-known book publicity firm of Kelley & Hall.

I was lucky enough to have a conversation with her about the guidance she provides to the authors with whom she works. Here is a glimpse inside it:

Day: Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got your start in this industry.

Kelley: I majored in journalism in college and pursued a freelance writing career while working in publishing. I found that every article I wrote would somehow relate back to a book I had read. I loved interviewing authors and incorporating them into my articles. Authors are experts in their subject matter, whether they are exploring this through fiction or non-fiction, self-help or memoir. I wanted to find a way to expand my career to focus solely on books.

Day: Is Kelley & Hall a family business?

Kelley: I partnered with my mother, Gloria Kelley, who has a background in advertising and owned a tradeshow exhibit company. She has always been passionate about literature and was the one who instilled in me a love for the written word. We wanted to find a way to put everything we love into a business. Talking about books became our business. Writing about books. Getting people excited about books. Finding ways to make books relevant, even newsworthy, is such a wonderfully inspiring job.

Day: Are there specific genres you represent? Would we know any of your clients?

Kelley: We represent a very wide spectrum of authors in both fiction and non-fiction. We have worked with all genres and under every publishing variation. We have worked with self-published authors like Brunonia Barry (The Lace Reader) and Lisa Genova (Still Alice) and watched as the buzz surrounding their books got so big they were snatched up by mainstream publishing houses for large sums of money. We have worked with New York Times bestselling authors like Michael Palmer, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Lisa Unger.

Day: For our readers that may not be aware, can you tell us about the process, beginning at the point in which an author would want to reach out to you for assistance?

Kelley: Typically we begin a campaign 4-6 months before the publication date, but we have started working with as little time as one month before the book releases and even after the book has already been out and available to book buyers. Ideally, we like to begin publicizing a book when advanced readers copies are available because the minute we start sending out information about a book to potential media, they immediately want a copy in their hands for consideration.

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About Author

Amy Day

Amy Day is the Associate Publisher and a contributing writer for Strategy Magazine. She has an MBA in Marketing Communications and Strategic Leadership from Southern Methodist University and has been on staff with Strategy for nearly a decade. She is an award-winning business executive with customer service credentials from the Disney Institute. In addition to editorial oversight, her regular beat includes business, customer service, publishing, and family/child wellness.

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