Wednesday, 21 March 2018

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Katherine Armstrong

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?
My first job in publishing was at Faber & Faber, which I joined as a temporary pre-press assistant in January 2005. I then moved to a six-month position as editorial assistant for Poetry. I chained myself to my desk and (as we all know, possession is 9/10ths of the law) was eventually made permanent, working across the poetry, fiction and non-fiction lists before specialising in crime fiction. In 2008, I became a project editor and, in 2011, I started to commission crime and thriller fiction. I left Faber in September 2015 – quite possibly the longest ‘temporary’ contract ever! 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I moved to Bonnier Zaffre in June 2016 as a Senior Editor for their growing crime and thriller list. In February 2017, I was promoted to Editorial Director. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
So many good books!! I’m working on a lot of books at the moment, all of which I’m excited about, but I guess to just mention three that are coming up over the summer months: Kiss Me, Kill Me by J. S. Carol – an incredibly tense psychological thriller; The Old Religion by Martyn Waites, which I’m pitching as ‘Peter May meets The Wicker Man’; Killing It by Asia Mackay – a brilliant book about a female assassin who has just had her first child and is now back at work – she puts the ‘sass’ back in ‘assassin’ (attrib. L. S. Hilton). 

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
Networking is crucial in this industry, so if you’re starting out go to everything you can and meet people. You also need perseverance, patience, a sharp eye for detail and a passion for reading. I also have an MPhil in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling where my dissertation was on the influence of female crime fiction writers on the publishing industry in the UK and the US. It was called ‘Deadlier than the Male’! 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
Gym, walking, pub quiz, dinner with friends, movies, rioja, prosecco  . . . 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I’m currently enjoying Star of the North by D. B. John. I know the editor and was lucky enough to beg a proof copy. 

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
Wrangler of words, curator of stories and sounding board for writers. 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
It’s genuinely a wonderful industry to be in and I’ve loved every minute so far – from working with amazing authors to amazing colleagues – but if I had to pick specific highlights then:
  • My first acquisition – the fantastic Safe House by Chris Ewan – went on to sell over 500,000 copies in all editions and was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award.
  • When I did a maternity cover at Sphere (Little, Brown), I was lucky enough to work with a whole host of fantastic authors, but I also found and published a classic crime title, Another Little Christmas Murder (originally published as Another Little Murder) by Lorna Nicholl Morgan – whose identity remains a mystery (in case anyone has info)!
  • At Bonnier Zaffre: I edited and published the fantastic Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear, which was our Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller competition winner and has sold over 200,000 copies across all editions to date.

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
Got to be a spy! I love to travel and am quite nosy – I want to know the ‘why’ of everything – so would love to know what’s really happening behind the scenes, not just what the government chooses to tell us.  Plus, I want the gadgets . . . 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
This job requires a lot of juggling of your time, from edits to submissions reading to author events to networking, so I guess if my publishing life was a book it’d be:
Sleep is for the weak 

Thanks so much for taking part, Katherine!

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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