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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A Q&A with Katie Stileman, Publicist for the VSI series

Katie Stileman works as the UK Publicist for Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introductions series (VSIs). She tells us a bit about what working for OUP looks like.

When did you start working at OUP?

In January 2013, after abandoning my plans of pursuing a Medieval Literature PhD for a more glamorous life in academic publishing.

What is your typical day like at OUP?

My job is split pretty equally between events planning, social media, and liaising with the media to find opportunities for promoting OUP books and products through different channels. At the moment we are building up to the 500th VSI title in October with a year-long Road Show of events across the country, so a lot of my day is spent putting that together! I pitch review and feature ideas to journalists and also send out press copies of VSIs and the other books I cover to the media for review.

Open the book you’re currently reading and turn to page 75. Tell us the title of the book, and the third sentence on that page.

“Karunandhi scripted Manthiri Kumari/The Minister’s Daughter (1950), a ‘folklore’ film that brought the future superstar-politician M. G. Ramachandran his first commercial success.” (Indian Cinema: A Very Short Introduction by Ashish Rajadhyaksha)

What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

Tweet from @OWC_Oxford.

What’s your favourite book?

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. It’s full of #teenangst and there’s a brilliant film adaptation starring a young Patrick Swayze alongside the then practically unknown Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, and  Leif Garrett.

What drew you to work for OUP in the first place? What do you think about that now?

I’m a sucker for a brand and OUP has the best in academic publishing, and one of the best in the industry as a whole. I came to work at OUP as a stepping stone into trade publishing and never left! Our authors are some of the most influential and fascinating people in the world, and the books they write really matter and make a difference to it.

Tell us about one of your proudest moments at work.

Accompanying author Louisa Lim when she was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, Britain’s most prestigious award for political writing, for her incredible book on Tiananmen Square, The People’s Republic of Amnesia.

As well as VSIs Katie Stileman loves Taylor Swift and foxes, both of which are demonstrated in this picture.

What is the strangest thing currently on or in your desk?

Among the mountainous piles of import VSIs which have been delivered from the US office, I have several lego figures of my friends and pictures of baby rabbits, but the strangest thing by far is the long creeping vine which winds its way around my monitor. It grew out of a ‘Flowering Tea Cup’ arrangement that my colleague Anna gave me in March 2015, which bears the label ‘Guaranteed for 2 Weeks’…

Who inspires you most in the publishing industry and why?

I am part of an incredible team at OUP who work on different subjects across our Global Academic Division. Our manager Kate has worked in the industry for many years and has a great network of relationships which benefit OUP and our authors hugely, from festival organizers such as Hay Festival director Peter Florence (who name-drops her as an ‘influencer’ in a recent Bookseller feature) to journalists and radio producers. My predecessor on the VSIs was Chloe Foster who organised the first ever VSI ‘Speed Dating’ evening, and established our VSI Soap Box events across several major festivals. They are all brilliant publicists and great fun to work with – as I write this we are planning a post-work trip out on the OUP punt!

If you didn’t work in publishing, what would you be doing?

PR for T-Swift, obviously.

Featured image credit: VSI series. Image used with permission.

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