Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interview with a Publicist: Jason M. Wells (plus a giveaway!)

I've been interviewing a lot of editors lately, so I thought I'd mix things up today and talk to someone in a different field. Please join me in welcoming to the blog Jason M. Wells, executive director of children's marketing and publicity at Abrams Books for Young Readers! Jason has worked on lots of books you've definitely heard of, including the beloved Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, so read on to see how he does all the fantastic things he does. (Jason is also hosting an incredible giveaway--details at the end of this post.)

Jason Wells at the ABRAMS NCTE booth
(Above: Jason hard at work at NCTE in the Abrams booth)

Welcome, Jason! First off, please tell us the full name of your publishing house/imprint, and your official title (just so I don't get it wrong).

I work for ABRAMS, The Art of Books Since 1945. Specifically, the imprints I work on are: Abrams Books for Young Readers, Amulet Books, and the new Abrams Appleseed, which will debut this spring and is dedicated to publishing the best books for readers below age five. My title is Executive Director, Publicity and Marketing.

What is a typical day like for you?

I’m a morning person so I’m usually up at 6 and at my desk by 8. My days are filled with pitching media, planning tours and conferences, working closely with my staff, talking to authors, illustrators, editors, booksellers, librarians, and checking in with my wonderful boss for frequent reality checks, budget questions, and, on more stressful days, she helps me keep my sanity.

Did you always plan to work in marketing and publicity? What was your career path?

I started

in publishing in 1997 at age 16, weekends after high school. It was love at first sight. After college I got an internship, which led to a full time job almost immediately. After some company changes, promotions, and almost 15 years of hard yet fun work, I’m running a department of three at Abrams and we’re leading the market for middle-grade books with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Origami Yoda books, and the NERDS series.

What sorts of books do you typically work on, and how (if at all) does publicizing a middle-grade book differ from publicizing any other type of book?

With the addition of the new Abrams Appleseed imprint, I now work on all types of books, from board and concept books for the youngest readers, to teen novels. Middle-grade books have been a sweet spot for Abrams. The company’s biggest success to date is Dairy of a Wimpy Kid. I believe with middle-grade books it is as much about the format as it is about the marketing. Package a good story and get it out there and the kids will do the rest if they like it.

I know that publicity and marketing campaigns differ vastly from book to book, by sheer necessity, but is there anything you can think of that, in your opinion, NEVER works to successfully promote a book?

If an author is not involved in the promotion in some way, it is harder to get attention, especially for first timers.

What moment in your career thus far are you most proud of?

Working to get the Wimpy Kid giant helium balloon into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. And then walking with it in 2010---and again this year!

What kinds of things, when reading a new title at Abrams, make you sit up in your chair and say, “Now this is going to be a hit!”? (I like to imagine you sitting up in your chair and talking to yourself a lot at work…)

Ah, sometimes you just read something and know it is going to find its home. Nobody can predict success. Sometimes stories I love don’t do what we want them to do. Yes, I do tend to talk to myself at least a few times a day. My staff sits so close to me that it often ends up being a conversation.

What are some of your favorite non-book-related activities?

Biking, traveling, wine, studying new and old cars, going the beach, and seeing my nephews.

What was the book that made you fall in love with reading?

The Tim and Sandy books by Edward Ardizzone, and Coma by Robin Cook. I spotted a paperback copy of it at a garage sale for 10 cents when I was 11. My mother refused to buy it for me. Fortunately, I had a dime in my pocket. I still have it.

Lastly (and most important), if you could be the love-child mash-up of any two superheroes (e.g. SuperBatMan), who would you choose to be and why?

I have no idea. So I’m going to be silly and say WonderHornet.



Jason is giving away five galley copies of ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET by Joanne Rocklin. Here's a snippet from the Amazon description:

When a mysterious man arrives one day on Orange Street, the children who live on the block try to find out who he is and why he’s there. Little do they know that his story—and the story of a very old orange tree—connects to each of their personal worries in ways they never could have imagined.

The book received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Booklist, so snap this giveaway up or I'm going to take all five copies for myself! :)

To be one of the five winners, simply email me at graff [dot] lisa [at] yahoo [dot] com with the subject line "ORANGE STREET." The winners will be chosen at random on November 1st.

The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to our five lucky winners: Kaela, Janet, Jill, Nicole, and Shannon!


  1. Jason's job sounds so cool. Why didn't I think of that when I was younger?

  2. Interesting interview.

  3. Love this blog! And if any winners would like an autograph, I'm happy to send bookplates. Just for the record, my book received stars from Kirkus, and two separate times from School Library Journal...not Booklist, however. Thank you, thank you, Jason. You are so great!

  4. Whoops, that's what I get for trusting Amazon! :) Thanks for offering to send bookplates, Joanne! You are awesome.