Thursday, 11 January 2018


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 


Editorial Director
Bonnier Zaffre

What and when was your first job in publishing?
After a painfully expensive MA in Creative Writing I was very keen to get into publishing (following an aborted attempt a couple of years before) but couldn’t afford to do work experience. I was temping at a recruitment firm when a job came up as a PA to the Sales and Marketing Director at Pan Macmillan. I put myself forward for it, as well as having to find other potential candidates (!) Luckily the interview went well and I got it. A couple of years later, I moved to a role in the editorial department, working for the Mantle imprint. 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?

I joined Bonnier Zaffre as Editorial Director in March last year. Before that I spent ten years at Pan Macmillan (most of which was at Mantle) and six months at Scribner, Simon & Schuster in a maternity cover role. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
I have a very varied list to look after – from thrillers to reading group fiction – which I love. I’ve inherited several fantastic authors from my predecessor Joel Richardson including bestsellers such as James Swallow and T. M. Logan and I’ve brought a few authors to the list now, too. I am super excited to have just acquired Stacey Bartlett’s amazing debut novel The Familiars following a nine publisher auction. My editing pile is teetering at the moment, but among the books I need to attend to are an incredible ghost story I haven’t yet announced (watch this space) and a brilliant and very timely thriller: The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’ Connor. 

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
From the start I was focused on becoming an editor and, while working in the sales and marketing department at Pan Macmillan, persistent in meeting people and offering editors help in reading submissions and tackling their editing backlogs. While of course working hard and learning everything you can about the industry is very important, persistence and confidence in yourself are probably the most important things, particularly when you are an ‘outsider’ – someone without connections. Publishing is incredibly competitive and filled with extremely talented people – finding a new role is as much about being in the right place at the right time as it is your skills and qualifications, so you have to keep pushing and try not to let rejections get you down. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
I have a toddler, so much of my spare time isn’t very relaxing (!) but she is an enormous amount of fun. When she’s asleep (and I’m not reading author deliveries or submissions or answering e-mails) I wind down by watching Corrie or a period drama (currently Alias Grace which is fantastic). At weekends I love to go for walks or bike rides on the Walthamstow marshes, then going for a pub lunch afterwards. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I don’t have as much time for reading for pleasure since having my daughter, but I picked up The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell for my Christmas break.

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
I’m a curator, polisher and champion of great fiction. 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
Winning the auction for The Familiars is definitely up there! I also absolutely loved working with Kate Morton and, all too briefly, the incredible Elizabeth Jane Howard. It’s all about the people in this industry, from the brilliant authors to my fantastic colleagues. 

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
I genuinely can’t think of anything else I’d like to do. I had a brief period freelance editing at home earlier this year and missed the buzz of the publishing world hugely. 

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

Perhaps something like ‘Keep on swimming’! Publishing – just like writing and being published – is a marathon rather than a sprint. There will be very tough times as well as wonderful ones and persistence and a bit of self-belief will get you a long way.

Thanks so much for taking part, Sophie!

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.

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