Monday, 5 March 2018

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Josephine Hayes

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 


Literary Agent
The Blair Partnership

What and when was your first job in publishing?
I started out as Editorial Assistant in the editorial department at the British Medical Journal in 2009. Having studied history at university and been very much a humanities student throughout my school years, it was a new dive into the science/medical world for me where I learnt a great deal about proofreading, copyediting and the fast pace of weekly journal publishing.

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I've been at The Blair Partnership for about two years and am looking forward to returning from maternity leave to pick up my role as Agent in early 2018. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
Before going off to have my first baby in spring 2017, I worked on a number of exciting projects, including the hugely inspiring and uplifting memoir The Little Big Things by quadriplegic mouth artist and motivational speaker Henry Fraser, published by Seven Dials in September 2017. The book combines Henry's wisdom and insight into finding the gifts in life's challenges, and his belief that every day is a good day. I also oversaw the exciting publication of a brilliant children's adventure fiction series by Kieran Larwood. The first book in the series 'The Legend of Podkin One-Ear' won the 2017 Blue Peter Book Award. As well as also working on lots of exciting YA and adult commercial fiction with new and existing clients, I also negotiated a deal with Orion for a fantastic debut author, Niki Mackay, for the first books in her crime fiction series featuring a compelling female Private Investigator.

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
I enjoy meeting people and forming the close working relationships that agenting requires. I'm a 'glass half-full' type of person, and combined with passion, perseverance and belief in a project, I hope that I provide clients with a high level of support and encouragement through the highs and lows of getting published and the entire publishing process. I am extremely passionate about reading and love to keep an eye on what's hot in the market - I constantly try and race through books while the baby is sleeping! - and enjoy scrutinising new fiction to spot things that work and those that haven't quite met the mark. I have a perfectionist's eye for detail and the proofreading and editing skills I gained at the BMJ and since then have set me in good stead for analysing unsolicited submissions in the slush pile and preparing work to send to publishers. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
I enjoy a nice glass of wine and catching up with friends after work, and where possible try and make time for yoga and watching great TV dramas and documentaries in the evening. I always have my nose in a book on the train (if no pressing work manuscript is currently commanding my attention) and also love winding down by listening to podcasts, particularly Desert Island Discs - each episode is such an inspiring glimpse into the interviewee's life.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I read Francis Spufford's Golden Hill which is fantastically clever and extremely well-written. It kept me totally engrossed from start to finish and I couldn't see where the story was going until the end, which I love, as I'm always trying to guess the direction of a plot as I read. I also recently read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which I thought was beautifully written and very moving.

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
Creative management, champion of ideas, avid reader, negotiator, counsellor and friend. 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
Highlights of my publishing career so far have to be negotiating deals for authors' first works, such as The It Girl series by debut children's fiction author Katy Birchall at my last agency (Katy is now successfully published around the world and has many brilliant books under her belt) and I, Witness - the first books in the Madison Attalee Private Investigator series by debut crime fiction author Niki Mackay. It gives you such a massive sense of pride working with talented authors, and the process of negotiating a good deal and letting the author know the good news, and that all their hard work has culminated in a well-deserved publishing deal, is massively rewarding.

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
I'd love to be a Red Arrows pilot - seeing them flying in formation blows my mind. It requires so much skill, intense concentration, nerve and precision - it is such an unknown entity to me, where the most dangerous thing that could happen in my working day is getting a paper cut!

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
That's a tough one. I really like the quote 'Comparison is the Thief of Joy', by Teddy Roosevelt. There are so many people trying to make it as writers in the world, and so it's important to remember that not only what individuals write varies so much, but what people want to read is totally different too. There is always space in the market for new well-written, creative work, so have the strength and self-belief to stay focused on your goal and respect others' work, without comparing your experiences too closely to the successes and near-misses of those around you.

Thanks so much for taking part, Josephine!

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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