Karen Reid, Publicity Director at Penguin Random House, was one of eight people in 2022 who received the George Robertson Award for distinguished service to the publishing industry. We spoke with Karen to learn more about her thirty year career in books.
In 1992 Karen joined Transworld Publishers as a Publicity Assistant working her way up to Senior Publicist until their merger with Random House in 1998. She worked within the publicity and marketing departments and in 2011 became Head of Publicity and Marketing until 2013 when Random House merged with Penguin.
Her time in the industry has seen increased recognition of publicity efforts on outcomes, with Karen saying:
‘When I started in 1992, the industry hadn’t quite embraced the power of publicity and often didn’t recognise or appreciate the hard work and alchemy that is needed to put together a campaign. With new ways of collating and reading data and insights, it’s become clearer that publicity has a measurable impact on sales.’
In addition to her work commitments, Karen was an inaugural member of the Sydney Book Publicity Group which formed in 1993, and has also been involved with the Australian Book Industry Awards committee and the Australian Reading Hour. Her contributions extend to fostering new members of the industry, giving lectures and seminars in book publishing for the APA and Masters of Publishing courses.
But it is the people and the variety that has kept her working in publishing over the years, ‘No two days are the same and I’ve been fortunate to meet and travel with some of the world’s most fascinating people’ she says. Some of the authors she has worked with include E. L. James, Michelle and Barack Obama, and Dan Brown, as well as touring with Jane Fonda, Lee Child, and Terry Pratchett to name a few.
With such a lengthy career behind her, it’s no wonder that it’s hard to choose the most memorable experience. ‘There’s too many to count!,’ she says, but included in her fondest memories are the times she has spent ‘traversing the country with authors such as Julia Gillard, Judy Nunn, and Ray Martin’ as well as ‘touring with Tom Keneally almost every year for the past 25 years’.
Of course, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and while there have been difficult times, she's been fortunate enough to draw on her early experiences being trained by Maggie Hamilton and watching her mother who was a book publicist.
Karen says they were ‘the picture of calm when chaos often rained around them. I learnt that what we do is important but at the end of the day, if a reviewer doesn’t get a book on time or if only five people turn up to an author event, it’s not the end of the world’.
She still lives by the rules she formed learning from their experience. ‘Learn from your mistakes, make sure they don’t happen again and triple check everything’.
Throughout her career, Karen has remained in the publicity and marketing departments, so will there be a change of direction in her future? Karen says, ‘I’m very happy,and consider it a privilege, helping put together top-class publicity and marketing campaigns for Penguin Random House books and authors’.