Isabelle Panay, Publicity Assistant at Watkins Publishing

We speak to Issy about her collection of beautiful books, working in publicity, and her most anticipated 2021 reads.

My name's Isabelle (or Issy) and I am a Publicity Assistant at Watkins Publishing!


How did you get into the publishing industry?

I got into the publishing industry in a slightly roundabout way - after graduating from university where I studied English Language, I worked in a travel PR agency for over a year. I loved the day-to-day aspects of the work but felt like I was missing the overall passion for the end product, so decided to make the move into publishing. After many months of applying to publishing roles in the strangest year ever, getting as much virtual experience as I could along the way, I accepted my current role in late November and started January 2021!

Issy's bookshelf

Is there a book or project that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of?

The book I've worked that I get the most sentimental about is definitely It Tolls for Thee by Tom Morton. Part of my application process for my role involved writing a press plan for It Tolls for Thee, and then once I started in January I got the chance to actually implement parts of the plan I had written. It was so cool to see my work pay off so soon into my role, securing newspaper coverage for the book around its publication date in February (also, it's a great book!)

'It Tolls for Thee' by tom Morton

Where do you buy or access your books?

I try (and sometimes fail) to avoid Amazon in general, not just when it comes to books! I make a conscious effort to shop at Indie Bookshops mostly, but definitely get sucked in by the membership points at Waterstones. In terms of audiobooks, it can usually take me quite a long time to listen to them, so I pretty much exclusively get them for free via the app my local library provides! I would highly recommend anyone and everyone making the most of the free resources that are available via your library.

What books have you been reading in lockdown? Do these books typify your usual reading taste, or have you found yourself reading other genres and authors?

My reading tastes have been hugely affected by lockdown - I've been branching out so much more! I very much used to stick to literary / contemporary fiction and books I knew that I would like because I had limited time to read, whereas now I feel like I can experiment more. A prime example of this is my newfound love of fantasy - I spent YEARS avoiding it thinking I didn't like it, then was recommended A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and I am thoroughly hooked and converted!

'A Court of Thorns and Roses' by Sarah J. Maas

What is your most beautiful book?

I'm probably not the best person to answer this question as my books tend to end up looking a bit battered - the first thing I do when I start a new book is crack the spine (oops). However, I did get this really lovely copy of Ex Libris by Michiko Kakutani for Christmas and I adore the cover and the illustrations throughout. It's a beautiful roundup of some brilliant books (not that I need encouragement to add to my TBR)

'Ex Libris' by Michiko Kakutani

What are your most anticipated reads for 2021 and do you have any reading goals?

I am really looking forward to reading The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris - I got serious proof envy when I saw people on Twitter with copies of it! Though it is fiction, I think its commentary on the overwhelming whiteness of publishing is going to be such an important part of the conversation that is slowly but surely taking place in the industry. In terms of reading goals, I tend to set the same of 30 each year, but given that I'm 20 books in already and we're in April, I might have to rethink this (though I'm sure once lockdown lifts this will change!)

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What are your ultimate book recommendations?

My ultimate book recommendations would be Rebecca or Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier. After studying English Literature at school I was very much put off the classics for years, being a grumpy teenager who thought old = boring, but I adore Du Maurier's writing style and found her books to be the perfect reintroduction to classics as an adult.

'Rebecca' and 'Jamaica Inn' by Daphne Du Maurier

Where can readers find you online?

You can find me tweeting far too frequently at @IsabellePanay on Twitter!