Monday, 12 March 2018

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Sam Humphreys

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 


Associate Publisher
Mantle (imprint of Pan Macmillan)

What and when was your first job in publishing?
I actually started as a temporary editorial secretary, at Pan Macmillan, in 2002. I’d done a couple of weeks’ work experience and an editorial assistant left. There was a recruitment freeze at the time, so I was taken on as a temp, working across the commercial fiction and Picador lists, and, at some point, made permanent. When my original boss left, my new boss changed my job title to editorial assistant, as that was essentially the job I’d been doing anyway. 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I’ve been at Mantle, with Maria (Rejt, Publisher) and Josie (Humber, Assistant Editor) since September 2014, and have been gradually building my list since then. I now have about 15 authors. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
I only publish fiction, and have mainly acquired debuts. Last year, I published the paperback of a book called Miss You by Kate Eberlen, which was a Richard & Judy pick. I seem to be publishing lots of books this year, including Only Child by Rhiannon Navin (March) and The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh (June), to name but two (which feels a bit like only mentioning two children when you’ve got a whole houseful!)…  

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
I was a primary school teacher before I worked in publishing and I definitely think the skills I acquired as a teacher have stood me in good stead. I also firmly believe that the only real experience you need to become an editor is being a(n avid) reader: if you read, you can pick the good stories (and story tellers!) and you can edit. I don’t have an English literature degree and I don’t think it’s ever held me back.

How do you relax after a busy working day?
Probably a nice meal and a glass of wine – or two… I tend to spend my evenings reading submissions, but that’s not exactly strenuous. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
Joanna Cannon’s THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE; I loved THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, so was really looking forward to this – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. 

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
I actually have no idea what I do! I publish books – whatever that means – and champion them where-ever and however possible. 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
I was lucky enough to publish Emma Donoghue’s Room, which was an amazing experience, from winning the auction for it, to meeting and working with Emma, to the media response to the book, to the Booker dinner and beyond. It was especially lovely because it wasn’t Emma’s first novel, and it’s always heartening to be reminded that authors can become hugely successful (Emma had been critically successful previously, but not commercially so – or at least, not in comparison to Room) at any stage of their career. But there are many other highlights too. When I was first working at Pan Macmillan (possibly while I was still a temp), I can remember coming into the office one morning, and I had a voicemail message from Don DeLillo, saying he liked the cover for his latest book, which I’d just sent him… That was definitely a high point. As was getting to travel to both India and China for work. (I looked after both Picador India and Picador Asia for a while.) And there’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you read a submission and you absolutely love it… 

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
I always used to say that my plan b, if ever publishing failed, would be dog walking – but perhaps somewhere warm and sunny rather than the UK. Or else teaching in a commune in San Francisco. Failing that, I think I’d make a great receptionist in a GP surgery. 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
The Never-Ending Story – because it’s not over yet, and also, because I’m a fiction editor, my publishing life has been all about stories… 

Thanks so much for taking part, Sam!

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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