An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘publishing house’

Introducing Bookseller Rising Star Tom Bonnick

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.

Rising Star Tom Bonnick

Rising Star Tom Bonnick

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!

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Introducing Publishing Intern Heather Van Fleet

Today’s People in Publishing interview is with the sweet and lovely Heather Van Fleet, a Twitter friend of mine and intern at BookFish Books. Here she discusses the manuscript submissions process and her experience working on both sides of publishing…

Heather Van Fleet

Heather Van Fleet

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and career.

Thanks so much for wanting to interview little ole’ me. 🙂 I feel so special!

A little about myself, huh? Well, let’s see. I’m a wife, a mom, a YA/NA author represented by the fabulous Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary. I have an obsession (only SLIGHT ones) with coffee creamer, book boyfriends, The Walking Dead and Jamie from Outlander.

I’ve been writing for about six years, been published five times, and after going through the query trenches when trying to find pub houses and agents, I’ve decided I have more patience for behind the scenes action within a publishing house rather than waiting for one of them to tell me they hate (or love) my books. Hence my internship.

Why do you want to work in the publishing industry? What is it that appeals to you?

It all stems around the fact that I absolutely LOVE reading first and foremost (even more than writing some days.) I love the escape of it, the way a reader can pull me out of my daily woes into fictional woes instead, and provide me with a (sometimes) happy ending.

After I finally obtained my ultimate goal of landing an agent, I realized that the waiting game didn’t stop there. (And as much as I like to say I have patience…I don’t.) That got me thinking about the submission process itself, behind the scenes, acquisitions and what goes into it. Not long after that, an opportunity just so happened to come about for me to intern through another pub house. This one was very well know, and I learned a LOT from them. But something didn’t quite feel right under them, either. That was the point where I almost gave up on my behind-the-scenes dream for a while.

Until the day BookFish Books announced that they were seeking interns.

Tell us a little bit about BookFish books and how you came to be working with them.

Like all normal afternoons when my kids are at school and my younger kiddo is happily playing away without me for once, I was strolling through Twitter. That’s when I just so happened to see a tweet that made my eyes pop and my heart flutter. BookFish was looking for interns. And because I really admired their work, their covers, and the way they interacted with their readers, I  knew I had to apply. I’d been actively following them for quite some time, thinking to myself “I really love these guys.” So I sent them a little info on myself and they responded right away, sending me a few questions. I answered and then I waited… And about a week later, Erin Rhew, an author/editor through them, offered me and one other girl a position, immediately assigning me little jobs, and making me feel like a family to this group of ladies. Right away I fell in love with their house even more, their stamina, their ways, their professionalism alone, and said to myself “This feels so right. Don’t mess it up, girl.”

And now I do everything I can NOT to mess it up, lol.

What sorts of tasks and projects do you work on as an intern?

As an intern, I am all over the place, and I LOVE it. I read submissions, weigh in on fulls and partials, giving my opinions on what’s good to go, or what’s not. It makes me feel official, a part of something, you know?

I also do publicity, too. Setting up blog tours for upcoming tours/cover reveals/etc. is a big part of that. It’s something I am familiar with, seeing as how I used to be a publicist for a tour company in the past. I love to get the word out on authors. It gives me so much happiness. (And that sounds so mushy, I know. But it’s the way I am.)

What is your favourite part about interning for a publishing house?

I LOVE reading submissions. I also LOVE knowing what it feels like to find diamonds in the rough. The most exciting thing so far was when I said I loved the book, and said it deserved to be contracted for publication, and then having two of the editors think the same thing and then seeing that it actually happened. *insert giddy squeal*

I cried a little bit over that, don’t laugh. But I mean, I saw this great thing happen right before my eyes, and even though I had no idea what was going on inside the author’s head when she received the offer, I still imagined her being where I was four years ago when I got my first offer for publication. Ecstatic, overwhelmed, feeling blessed beyond belief. That moment is something an author never forgets.

As an intern, I am all over the place, and I LOVE it.

What makes BookFish books a unique publishing house?

Besides being amazing? lol, I think they are unique in the fact that they all work behind the scenes together. It’s not just one person making decision with minions who do their bidding, it’s a family, a group of diverse individuals who all are at their own stages as far as publishing goes, but all work together to make it work…and work well it does.

I’m not a very lucky person. I’ve had three publishing houses close down on me in the past when it comes to being an author. Losing royalties, no contact whatsover, and editors just being plain cruel to the authors. But BookFish Books made me realize that not all indie publishing houses are bad. In fact, they restored my faith in the indie world. They are a growing house, with some amazing releases coming up, and are DEFINITELY going places in the indie world.

I’m just happy to be here on this amazing journey with them.

Bookfish Books restored my faith in indie publishing houses.

What are three good qualities that a publishing intern should have?

  • Willingness to jump in and just do things. (Treat this as a paying job. It’s just as important, and you’re getting the opportunity to be part of something amazing at the same time. Don’t forget that.)
  • Be available for anything and everything. Take every opportunity given and run with it.
  • Knowledge in all the types of genres they accept. For instance, I’m not middle grade fan, BUT I have to read middle grade books for submission, so I need to know what to look for, even if I don’t read it on my own.   

Tell us a little bit about your work as an author and your books.

Um, let’s see. I’ve written eleven books total. Five published, spanning from YA to NA, contemporary being my favorite, although I do dabble in the occasional paranormal and sci-fi elements as well. RIght now I’m on a self induced authorly hiatus as far as writing goes, though. (Some like to call it writer’s block, while I prefer to say I’ve taken two months off to ponder what I’m passionate about writing next.) Sure it’s frustrating not to voice the crazy little people speaking inside my head, but it is what it is. And for now, I’m perfectly content taking the time off. (Seeing as how I wrote four books last year, I guess I kind of needed this break, too.)

What are the benefits of working in both sides of publishing?

The benefits? Hmm… Would it be bad to say I look at what works and what doesn’t as far as writing goes? I’d say not because that’s normal when reading in general. Always comparing yourself to other authors and such. What I really love though is helping make dreams come true with my opinion alone, and even when I don’t succeed, I feel darn near giddy wanting others to do just that.

And finally, what are you reading at the moment?

Favorite question ever. I just finished reading Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren and HOLY cow am I suffering from a hotness hangover. (I love me some smexy books, FYI.)  

My Website: www.heathervanfleet.com

BookFish Books website: www.bookfishbooks.com

My Twitter:  https://twitter.com/HLVanFleet

BookFish Book’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/BookFishBooks

Introducing Independent Publisher Martin Goodman

Today’s guest on my blog is the Publisher and owner of Barbican Press, the publishing house based in my native city of Hull and the company for which I undertook a social media internship last year. I first met Martin Goodman at a Head In A Book event (run by Head In A Book, Hull, discussing the Tony Hogan book by Kerry Hudson) at Hull Central Library last year. From there we began talking and I secured an internship in which I ran the Twitter and Facebook activity for Barbican Press over the course of a month. Of course, I knew of Martin before this, but I hadn’t had a chance to meet him before then. I’m very grateful that we have a formed a good working and personal friendship and I love seeing Barbican Press go from strength to strength. Here in this interview, Martin talks publishing, teaching creative writing, and Barbican Press.

Martin Goodman: Publisher and Professor

Martin Goodman: Publisher and Professor

Tell me a little bit about your background and career.

I was born in Leicester and determined it was time to become a professional writer aged 12. By the end of my first week I had filled a folder and realized I was overproducing – more than the market could bear – and so determined to bide my time. I felt it would be later in life before my writing started to connect, so I kept writing but kept it to myself or sent it out and had it come back. My first novel came out in 1992 – On Bended Knees, shortlisted for that year’s Whitbread Prize. And I keep on going. I moved into academia in 2007 and am now also Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Hull.

What drove you to start up your own publishing business?

I know what sort of publishing house I need as a writer – one inclined toward quality and risk – and so choose to provide such a house for others. I was external examiner for D.D.Johnston’s The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub when it was up for its PhD. D.D. had determined to write a novel that would be unpublishable by the industry, and I knew it was too brilliant not to share – and so kickstarted the company then.

Do you focus on a particular kind of literature, or publish a wide range?

Our slogan is ‘writing from the discomfort zone’ – ours are the sort of books Picador used to bring out in the 70s. One of our writers sees our books as being ‘dark with a sense of humour’. There’s also some regional focus on great writing coming from Hull.

Mainstream publishers can’t generally risk the sorts of books we bring out because they don’t tick all the mainstream boxes; they don’t come with a sure return.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced with starting your own publishing company?

Getting anybody to notice. After four trips to an independent bookstore they agreed to take an individual copy of two titles. Getting a book shortlisted for Scottish Fist Book of the Year resulted in three copies being bought in for Scottish stores. So bookstores need to know and support us, as do reviewers. We target and send out scores of copies for reviews, then watch them come up for sale on ebay.

Previously, huge publishing conglomerates have dominated the industry. With the publishing industry changing and evolving at a rapid rate, what do you think the independent publisher needs to do in order to stay in the race?

Don’t join in. We can’t win that race. The trick is to keep independent virtues – have faith in the offbeat and determine that other readers are out there and in fact longing for the sort of books with a difference we can bring out. Mainstream publishers can’t generally risk the sorts of books we bring out because they don’t tick all the mainstream boxes; they don’t come with a sure return.

When looking for an outstanding piece of writing, do you have a set, firm criteria that the manuscript must meet? What do you look for? Or do you generally let your gut feeling decide how you feel about a manuscript?

The writing is immediately clear, and opens up a striking and alternative world view. Beautiful prose plus a striking intelligence.

What are your short and long-term goals for Barbican Press?

We have to make a profit in 2015. We need to see our books in bookstores, picked up by overseas agents and customers, and achieve reviews and prizes. All accomplishable. Long-term the goal is to have readers seek us out as their choice brand.

What is your proudest moment for your company?

Honestly it’s each time an author trusts us with their book and we bring it into the world. And they are happy. That’s the crux of what we are about: releasing genius works that might otherwise have languished.

What is your biggest personal achievement?

In Barbican Press terms, where I am very much a hands-on editor, it’s probably supporting Hana Sklenkva on her translation of Martin Vopenka’s THE FIFTH DIMENSION, a book destined to become known as a modern classic which would have stayed obscure otherwise.

Are there any general or universal misconceptions about writing and publishing that creative writing students tend to bring with them into the classroom?

Students generally aim to write better, which is the proper focus. As a long-time published writer, starting a publishing house showed me all the misconceptions I had had. I had never appreciated all the steps and costs and work that go into bringing out a book. I had never given full credit to the extent of a publisher’s commitment.  Writers always deliver books that are special to them, but don’t necessarily give thought to what will make those books stand out in a preposterously crowded market.

How do you find managing your workload as a writer, publisher, and lecturer?

Full-on. I keep the writing side going by starting at 5am. 5-8 became my creative slot. Then I let the day hit me with whatever it wants until it’s time for bed.

Who do you see as a big influencer in the industry? Anyone you feel people should be keeping their eye on as the next big success?

I honestly believe any of our writers could break through in a big way. Such blazing optimism comes in handy. Creative writing departments are going to have an increased say. Most writing of note coming out of the US has some creative writing school allegiance, and that will happen increasingly here. And deservedly so, since so many writers are sacrificing so much and working so hard on their writing with expert tuition over many years. The best ones are using the opportunity, freed from commercial pressures, to break bounds and come up with books that are vibrant and unique.

The Fifth Dimension, one of Martin's proudest achievements.

The Fifth Dimension, one of Martin’s proudest achievements.

Follow @MartinGoodman2 and @BarbicanPress1 on Twitter

Find out more about Barbican Press here.

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