Wednesday, 13 June 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 


Eye/Lightning Books
(and other freelance roles elsewhere!)

What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first job was as commercial director at The Friday Project, having joined them from Waterstones.

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I am a freelancer nowadays and have been for a few years. One of my roles is as editor-at-large at Eye & Lightning Books and I have been doing that for 18 months or so. I also acquire books for Unbound and am co-founder of Abandoned Bookshop, a digital imprint that reissues lost and forgotten books from the past.  

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
We have just published Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O'Neill, an award-winning novel from Australia that purports to be a collection of biographies of Australian writers but is all completely made up. I think it is a work of sublime genius and everyone I have foisted a copy onto has loved it. I have this very day been offering feedback on the cover of The Hurtle of Hell by Simon Edge, an atheist comedy in which God himself is a major character. And this week we went to print with The Industry of Human Happiness, the debut novel by Telegraph music critic, James Hall, set in the early days of the gramophone industry.

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
I came to publishing from book retail – I was head of buying at Waterstones for six years or so – so I think I was able to bring a bit of a commercial eye to the publishing jobs I have done, but outside of that my qualifications and experience are not typical for publishing. I didn't go to university and spent the 90s working in record shops and as a buyer at HMV's head office, all of which gave me an interesting perspective but none of which would really be seen as ideal for the career I have ended up with. 
I think my ability to keep things in perspective had helped me quite a lot. Publishing is full of deadlines and minor or near disasters are often on the horizon, so being able to step back and assess the situation objectively – is this really a big deal? - has been good, I think.

How do you relax after a busy working day?
Actually, I think it is important to find time to relax during a busy working day, so I do try to go for walks, or sit outside with a book, most days if at all possible. At the end of the day I like to cook dinner for the family and watch a movie or, predictably, read a bit more.
Also, naps are great.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
Last night I stayed up late to finish Circe by Madeline Miller. It was every bit as good as The Song of Achilles. I am a sucker for anything related to Greek myths but this is particularly fine.

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
I try to help make books a bit better and then hope people buy them.

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
My favourite book as a child was Krabat by Otfried Preussler, so getting the chance to reissue that when I was at HarperCollins was definitely a highlight, something that would have greatly impressed the eleven-year-old me. Having Haruki Murakami write an introduction to The Miner by Natsume Soseki gave me a chance to work with my literary hero, albeit briefly. But, being honest, the next book on the horizon always feels like a highlight. OK, so they don't always turn out to be but potential is a wonderful thing!

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
Restaurant critic. I don't need much of an excuse to try out a new restaurant so might as well get paid for it. I have also reached the point in life where I really do not care about my waistline.

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
Inspired by Douglas Adams, I'd go for 'Don't Panic' because, at the end of the day, most of the problems we face in publishing are minor compared to what many other people have to deal with.

Thanks so much for taking part, Scott!

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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