Thursday, 26 October 2017

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Phoebe Morgan

Welcome to my latest MY PUBLISHING LIFE feature, an interview with a literary agent, publisher, publicist or editor about their publishing career to date. Some serious questions, and some just for fun!

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


Commissioning Editor

What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first job in publishing was as a Publishing Assistant at Octopus Books, specialising in non-fiction. I was working across children’s and adult, and my job involved editorial and administrative duties as well as some special sales tasks. Octopus is a really lovely company and I remember being so excited on the day I got the job, as I’d had quite a few interviews by that stage and kept losing out! Getting into publishing can be hard but once you have a foot in the door it’s such a rewarding, welcoming industry. 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I’ve been working at HarperCollins for coming up to a year and a half, and I’ve been a Commissioning Editor for the past few months. Prior to that I was an Editor, and I now work across a range of crime, thriller, saga and women’s fiction, buying books from agents and taking them through the editorial process to publication. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
I’m very lucky to have a wonderful list of authors including Sunday Times bestsellers Katerina Diamond, who writes crime, and Kitty Neale who writes saga. I’ve just started working on C.L Taylor’s psychological thrillers too, which get more brilliant with every book. Her latest, The Fear, will be out in 2018. The first book I acquired for HarperCollins was called Obsession by Amanda Robson, which was so much fun to work on, and the second was 99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter which has one of the cleverest plot twists I’ve ever read. 

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
I actually trained as a journalist which gave me a good grounding in the skills needed for publishing, particularly meeting tight deadlines, writing short, snappy copy and liaising with other people. I’ve also done several proof reading courses, and of course, I’m a huge reader – my Kindle is my prized possession and I think you have to read an awful lot in order to get a feel for what will and won’t sell in the competitive commercial market. I’m part of the events team for the Society of Young Publishers and that has been very helpful too; I’ve met so many wonderful, inspiring people through the SYP who have all helped to get me where I am today. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
It can be hard to relax in my job because it does spill over into my home life because I’ve always got submissions to read and several books on the go, but to switch off I love a good drama, something like The Affair or Happy Valley. I’m a writer as well and at times, that can be relaxing – if the book is going well, that is! Otherwise, it’s essentially wine… 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I read and thoroughly enjoyed Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, a more literary novel about relationships, friendship and the confusion of being a young woman. I absolutely loved it from beginning to end and would highly recommend. I also devoured Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir, I Am I Am I Am, which tells the story of her seventeen brushes with death – a really fascinating read with her trademark beautiful writing style. 

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
Getting paid to read and drink lots of tea! 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
Ooh, I think probably getting the job at HarperCollins, as I’d always wanted to make the move into fiction and it was just so exciting to finally do so. And acquiring my first book was a moment I’ll never forget, I went across the road with a colleague afterwards and had a celebratory glass of wine! I’m incredibly proud of all of my authors and their books and it is amazing seeing them fly up the charts and into readers’ hands. I’m also very proud of everything the SYP have achieved – I worked on our London Conference in 2016 and seeing it all come together after months of planning was brilliant. 

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
I’ve always wanted to see what being a lawyer would be like – but I’m essentially too lazy to spend so much time on paperwork! I’d only want to do the exciting parts, like arguing in court in an Ally McBeal-esque outfit…a bit unrealistic, I’m sure, but it always looked so much fun to build a case and convince a jury of the truth. 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?

Hmm, probably something like Fake It Til You Make It – I always felt like such an imposter when I was first starting out in publishing, and it’s only recently that I’ve started to feel more confident and I think that’s a sensation a lot of people deal with too. But it is true – if you keep going at something and pretend you’re confident even when you’re not, eventually, true confidence will come.

Thanks so much for taking part, Phoebe!

Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

Click here to read more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features.

If any literary agents, publishers, publicists or editors would like to take part, please contact me through my blog or Twitter for the full list of questions.


  1. Really enjoyed this interview- am a huge fan of Phoebe Morgan and loved hearing more about her job! Thanks ladies!