Questions for: James Douglas

25 Jun 2024 -

This article first appeared in BookBrunch

Describe your job
My job is to plan and direct PR campaigns for our clients, many of whom are in publishing, but we also work in film, heritage and other areas of culture and entertainment.

What was your first job in the book industry?
I joined Four Culture (then Four Colman Getty) as a graduate trainee in 2014. I knew very little about publishing and PR, and learned a huge amount from the team there over five years.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?
I’ve worked under some great PRs, but our director, Katy MacMillan-Scott, has been a constant presence. We were colleagues when I started out a decade ago, and she is one of the reasons I’m at Riot today.

How has the industry changed since your first job?
Media titles have come and gone. That’s the nature of things, particularly in the last decade. Despite this, there are more ways than ever to get the word out about a great book.

What’s the biggest challenge in your job?
Accepting that all the experience, passion and desire in the world can’t guarantee success. They are, however, essential qualities, without which you won’t get very far.

What’s the best piece of book-related advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve come to realise that the stakes aren’t always as high as they feel. We’re a conscientious and hard-working bunch in publishing. We want to do the best we can for authors. But not every title finds a massive audience and that is ok. My experience is that books tend to reach the readers who will value them the most, one way or another.

What are the most interesting things you’re seeing at the moment in the industry?
Genuine innovation in audio, with the bar getting higher and higher.

What do you think might be the next big thing?
I hope it’s the influential senior publishers really valuing the instincts of their less experienced (usually younger) employees who have their ear to the ground, particularly online, and coming to see that there are huge opportunities in what are sometimes dismissed as ‘niche’ areas.

Do you work from an office, from home, or a mixture of the two?
We’re all in two days a week, which I think is important, particularly for those starting out. I also gain a lot more energy than I realised from being around the team. But I like to have a couple of days working from home too.

What do you most like doing when you’re not working?
I can (and do) lose hours on YouTube. Besides that, I love film just as much as I love books, and I’ve got a great network of friends local to me in East London.

What is the best book you’ve read in the last year?
Probably The Bee Sting by Paul Murray. Since I heard it described as ‘like Franzen, but Irish’ I knew I was going to love it.

What are you reading now?
I’m rereading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and I’m just as blown away as I was the first time.

How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks?
Mainly paper, with the odd exception for certain kinds of non-fiction.



Photo of James Douglas by Marc Sethi