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MPub student Christina Morden joins Raincoast Books as Publicist
Master of Publishing (MPub) student Christina Morden recently joined Raincoast Books, a division of Raincoast Book Distribution In., an award-winning, Canadian-owned book wholesale and distribution company, as a publicist. Christina sat down with us to discuss her new and exciting professional role, her enduring love and passion for romance novels, her valuable experiences within the MPub program, and more.
Congratulations on your latest accomplishment, Christina! Before we talk about everything that has happened in the last few months, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to the publishing program at SFU?
A quick little about me is that I am a born and bred Vancouverite. I did my minor in Publishing at SFU, and I am currently doing my masters in publishing here as well.
When I was in high school, I was determined to figure out a way to have a career around books, but I knew I couldn't write them to save my life. So, I had to find different ways to be around books. That is when I discovered the pub minor program at SFU. It was recommended to me by someone who worked in a university guidance kind of role. She knew about different programs in the city, so going to SFU and doing the pub minor just felt like a natural choice.
My undergraduate degree is primarily in History, and I’ve always said that I liked History because it is based on storytelling, just like books. I also know that most students doing a pub minor come from a Communications or English background, but funnily enough, I didn’t instead I was a History major and a Political Science minor.
Being an avid reader, I was already reviewing books on my blog when I went into the pub minor. I was able to work on my blog and use it for the PUB 101 class, which was great. That class only helped me make the blog better.
I’ve been blogging for five years now, so I had that insider look at the reviewing and ARC (advanced reader copy) side of the publishing industry before now becoming the person who actually gives people those review copies.
Speaking of the industry and the work that you do, you recently joined Raincoast Books as a publicist. Although it has only been four months, can you talk about your experience so far.
It’s been great. I love everyone at the company, and because of the nature of Raincoast, it’s not just the core team. For instance, I work closely with the sales reps; Ampersand and Hornblower. Together, we work with our US colleagues whose books we’re distributing into Canada. Everybody that I have encountered through that process has been nice.
What’s also awesome about Raincoast is that we have so many different publishers we represent. There’s never a dull moment because I switch between distinct genres and styles of books, and I have the opportunity to really work on some books that, being Canadian, I wouldn't have been able to work with. It would’ve been difficult to go to the US to work for some of these companies but because of Raincoast, you get to work for publishers like Sourcebooks and Macmillan, without having to move to the US.
In terms of my new role, it's felt like a natural transition going from blogger to publicist. I was always promoting books before this job, and now I'm just promoting books to a different group of people, more specifically our media contacts.
Aside from that, I am obviously still doing some work with bloggers, reviewers, TikTokers, Bookstagrammers, including some of Canada’s most influential personalities across different genres.
Anyway, it’s been a great fit overall.
What does a regular day at work look like?
I could be talking to an author and our media contact, to set up an interview, one day, or connecting with a bookstore to organize an event, another. While this is happening, I could also be managing things with the author and their agent. Most times, you function as a middleman. Even though some of the work involves a great deal of email tags, it is incredibly rewarding to see things come to fruition.
I’ve had fun experiencing such a wide range of things. On any given day, I go from a meeting about a TikTok dog author to pitching a cowboy romance to talking to an author who's written a memoir about grief. I am able to work on romance titles that I love deeply from Sourcebooks as well as the cool fantasy books that we get from working with Tor and Entangled over at Macmillan.
We’ve become a part of the Fourth Wing phenomenon, which is crazy. To find myself, during my first summer at Raincoast, in meetings about reprints, events and scheduling was incredible.
You describe yourself as an “unapologetic romance reviewer”. How has your love for romance novels helped you in your new role as a publicist?
I am obviously a publicist for every adult book, and I will put my effort into prodding whatever book it is. But, what’s great is that Raincoast has built an incredibly dynamic and diverse team. Everybody has their own unique interests. If my colleagues need information on a romance title, they can bank on me having read it. So yeah, I think my love for romance novels has been instrumental in helping me get the job.
In the past, I’ve been told that not reading as widely as most people would be detrimental. However, with this new role, I’ve been reminded of how great it is that I have this niche knowledge. It has been extremely useful.
Being able to use your passion and love for romance this way must be fulfilling. How did the opportunity with Raincoast Books come up?
My boss, Jamie Broadhurst, was my professor in my undergrad back in 2019. I wouldn’t have believed, then, that he would go from my professor to my colleague. Thanks to the MPub, we were able to reconnect during the Emerging Leaders Summit, which took place earlier this year.
In his class, I was able to write about romance and my love for it. This was before it kind of started to blow up. There was no TikTok yet, and we hadn't gone through the pandemic, which is what pushed the genre to a whole new level that we are now seeing.
When you join the publishing program, as a pub minor or as an MPub student, you never know who you might come across. Our faculty members work in the industry or know people who do, and something you write, for instance, an essay or even a question you asked, might end up leaving an impact on an industry person. So, every opportunity to showcase your knowledge or passion, even when you are an undergraduate student, is relevant.
SFU Publishing allowed me to be around industry leaders or professionals who saw value in what I brought to the table.
A regular day at work, for Christina. (Photo Credit: Abby Smeath)
There are, of course, many distinct jobs and areas within publishing. What attracted you to this particular job?
I always envisioned going into the marketing and publicity sphere. Just like I mentioned earlier about not wanting to write books, I also found that I couldn’t edit. I wasn’t very strong in those areas as much, and I don’t have great design skills, either, but I always was the kind of person who could recommend a book to anyone.
Since I was blogging and reviewing, I was already in that publicity space. Once I learned about how integral the publicist is to the event side of things in this industry, I became even more interested. As a reader, the moments that meant the most to me was when an author I loved came to Vancouver, and I was able to go to their signings and experience a sense of community.
To the younger Christina, the avid reader Christina, being able to make friends and connect with readers online meant the absolute world. And so now, I'm extremely happy to be working behind the scenes and setting up events that I loved and looked forward to, as a young girl.
As someone who used to be on the receiving end of it all, it is fun to now be the person who sends the advanced reader copies to clients. I’ve started to cultivate good relationships, not just with our main media contacts, but also with key influencers. For instance, Elsie Silver’s Flawless just released and we hosted a book-signing event for her fans recently. I did a dedicated mailing to 25 different influencers on TikTok. One of them hit a hundred thousand followers, the day she opened up and showed off the book.
So, moments like that, where I’m helping get the books out there, feels truly rewarding.
That must feel surreal. While you are making these amazing things happen, you are also nearing the completion of your masters. What has been your most memorable or cherished takeaway from the MPub program?
I felt really close to my cohort, and I think I'll be tied to them for the rest of my life. It's hard not to feel that way, especially when you spend every day with the same people. When you are part of an intensive program like the MPub, no one can understand your experience more than the people you are going through it with.
Being in the MPub gave me the opportunity to form closer bonds with my professors as well. I knew some of them from my undergrad, but because we had to suddenly shift to online schooling during the pandemic, it wasn’t the same.
I think my publishing minor set me up extremely well. It gave me the foundational knowledge that I needed, and then the MPub enhanced it and nurtured it further.
What’s incredibly rewarding about the MPub is that you get to be around a group of people who truly understand your passion and why you want to work in this industry.
How amazing is it to be living your dreams! Given your personal experience in the program and now the industry, at large, do you have any advice for our new cohort and for publishing students, in general?
My key advice is based on something that I wasn't so good at myself, especially in the beginning. I am much more introverted, and so I kept to myself a lot during my undergrad. Even when I had something to say, I wouldn’t speak up. I was lucky that I joined the MPub because being in a smaller cohort forced me to use my voice. It enabled me to showcase my knowledge and allowed my professors to learn more about what I had to offer.
Actually, it was Jamie's marketing class, PUB 350, where I became more vocal. I might’ve just been lucky too - maybe students in that particular class did not have an answer to a specific question. To fill in the dead air, I would often raise my hand and share my thoughts, and he actually remembered some of what I said back then. In fact, he mentioned it during my interview with him this past year. He told me he trusted me enough to bring me into the company. I think it was due to my work as an undergrad student.
So, yeah. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You never know how important what you are going to say is or will be.
I was the second youngest in my cohort (MPub), and I felt that very much in the early months. I would often think about how my peers had so much more experience than me, especially in terms of professional work and life. The imposter syndrome was very real, and I felt it in my early days at Raincoast as well.
Sure I was bringing this a niche perspective or experience of reading and reviewing romance, but I sometimes disregarded it. Eventually, I learned that your niche holds value and that you are in the MPub for a reason.
So my other advice is that even if you're the youngest person or you feel like the person sitting next to you has more experience, remember that you have something unique to offer. Use your voice and use every opportunity to showcase why you deserve to be not just in the classroom, but in the industry.