I was really quite lucky to interview Tom Bonnick, Business Development Manager at the very successful publishing house Nosy Crow. Tom has recently been named a Bookseller Rising Star, and he describes this experience, as well as his newest projects and developments, in this interview below.
Please introduce yourself to my readers and give an overview of your career so far.
I’m the business development manager at Nosy Crow, where I’ve worked for the past four years. It’s quite a wide-ranging role: I work on all of our digital and audio publishing, web development, digital marketing and social media, event planning, and other kinds of new business.
How did you go about securing the internship that lead to your employment at Nosy Crow?
Largely through luck and good timing! I discovered Nosy Crow through Twitter when they were very small and new – they hadn’t published any books yet at that stage – and sent an email asking if I could meet them. I did a few weeks’ work experience with them in 2011, when I’d come home to London intending to revise for my final exams, and then after I’d sat the exams I came straight back and never left!
How did it feel to be named as a BookSeller Rising Star?
It was a very happy surprise. I was particularly touched by this blogpost that my boss, Kate Wilson, wrote about the news: http://nosycrow.com/blog/tom-bonnick-is-a-rising-star
What are the biggest challenges in organising a real-world publishing event, and equally what’s the most rewarding part?
I am hugely ill-suited to event-planning: I feel constant anxiety in the weeks leading up to an event that one of any number of things will go wrong (not selling enough tickets, a speaker not turning up, technology failing, or worst of all, the wine running out) and so I suppose the biggest challenge is simply coping with the stress. The most rewarding part probably comes afterwards, once the event is over!
Can you tell us a little bit about the culture and working environment at Nosy Crow?
It’s an incredible company to work for: it is filled with people who are immensely creative, intelligent and passionate about what they do.
Nosy Crow has become very popular and successful in recent years. What are some of the factors that you would attribute this to?
I think our size and independence are important: being small means that we’re able to act and make decisions quickly, and being independent not only allows us to experiment with new ideas, but also means that we have to absolutely believe in every book and app that we publish. Most importantly, we work with absolutely amazing authors and illustrators to make incredible books.
Why are digital skills so important in today’s publishing industry?
Well, it depends what kinds of digital skills you mean – that’s quite a broad question! Does using a computer count? Using Twitter? Sending email? Creating eBooks? Learning to code? Some digital skills are certainly more important than others. There are some areas of the industry where we’ve become entirely reliant on digital technology; where none of us could cope without a basic digital awareness, but I don’t think everyone absolutely NEEDS to be able to build an eBook, for instance. That being said, I do think that it’s probably worthwhile to have a shot at using Twitter, particularly if you work at a trade publisher.
On the Book Seller site, you stated that your new role is “about looking at ways to expand your audience outside the usual channels.” Can you give us an example of how doing this has been particularly successful for yourself and Nosy Crow? What new channels are you especially excited about?
For all of the anxiety that they cause, I am still really excited about the potential of the events that we’ve begun holding in the last couple of years, like our conference and masterclasses: they are such a fantastic way of meeting new readers, parents, aspiring authors and other children’s book enthusiasts. We’ve just announced the launch of the Nosy Crow Illustrator Salon (http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nosy-crow-illustrator-salon-steven-lenton-tickets-17392805349), which I’m particularly looking forward to, and our next Masterclasses (most have now sold out, but there are a few tickets left for this one, on Writing Children’s Fiction: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-to-write-childrens-fiction-a-nosy-crow-masterclass-october-2015-tickets-17307342728) are shaping up very well.
Finally, what advice do you have for other interns looking to begin their careers in the publishing industry?
Look for somewhere new, small and interesting! I am biased, of course, but I think that starting a career at somewhere like Nosy Crow is a great way of learning a lot about the industry: you can see what goes on in every part of the company, there’s a lot of potential for career development, and it’s exciting to watch a publishing house grow from something tiny into something formidable.
As always, please post questions or comments below and I will get them answered!