Category Archives: behind the book

Behind the Book: Scout Natasha Farrant

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

Today I’m interviewing a scout and author, Natasha Farrant. Scouts always seem very mysterious to me, and the most likely people to really, secretly be spies….so I’m really excited to learn more about it!

What does your job involve?

The buying and selling of translation rights is a crucial part of the publishing business, and books originating in the English language continue to dominate bestseller lists worldwide. I am employed by overseas publishing companies to keep them up to date with all that is going on in children’s publishing in the UK, and to a lesser extent in the rest of the English speaking world.

On a day to day basis, I am liaising with agents and publishers, face to face, by email or on the phone.  I mainly want to hear about new submissions and books that aren’t published yet, but my clients also need to know about what is selling well (and what isn’t selling) and emerging trends.  They want early access to manuscripts and advice on the big books that are being hyped, but they also want advice on which of the thousands of submissions they receive each year they need to prioritise. I also organise their business trips to London and New York, I help them in negotiations if they need me to, I introduce them to other like-minded professionals wherever I can.  Children’s publishing worldwide is a vibrant, wonderful network. It’s my job to make sure my clients are a part of that conversation.

How did you get started as a scout?

downloadI was the Rights Manager at HarperCollins for about eight years before becoming a scout. Then one of the publishers I used to sell books to – Hachette Livre in France – asked me how I would like to be “their woman in London”.  Over the years I have added clients from different countries, and I now work with publishers all over the world.

You’re also a published author yourself. How does writing fiction affect your work as a scout, and vice versa?

The book market is really tough at the moment all round the world, and my clients are looking for books that will SELL.  So I have to constantly be assessing stories for their commercial rather than their literary merit.  Sometimes the two happily coincide.  Often they don’t, and as an author, I musn’t let this grate. Over the years, I have learned to compartmentalize: a scout’s job is to assess the commercial viability and literary merit of a manuscript.   A writer should write the book that demands to be written, and make it as good as he or she possibly can.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The people I meet – wonderful publishers from around the world, who are all passionate about their work.

Do you get to travel much for your job?

bologna-children-book-fair-logoI go to New York every September to meet with American publishers and agents, to Frankfurt and Bologna book fairs once a year, to Paris regularly to meet with Hachette and  I’ve been to Hamburg a couple of times to meet with my German clients, Carlsen.  It’s a hard life!


What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?

I would like to see a revitalized high street with more specialist booksellers, a fresh injection of cash into schools specifically for the compulsory provision of school libraries. With more outlets for their books, perhaps publishers would be less afraid of taking risks on new writers.

 What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

Journey-to-the-River-Sea-by-Eva-IbbotsonI love everything ever written by Eva Ibbotson and secretly (well, not so secretly anymore!) want to write like her. As a child, I read everything I could lay my hands on, from Blyton to CS Lewis, but I particularly enjoyed American writers like Walter Farley, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mary O’Hara.

 What are you proudest of in your career?

As an author, writing AFTER IRIS. As a scout, building a vibrant network of international publishers.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

imagesWhen I read for pleasure, I almost perversely seek out books that are the opposite of what I do for work and what is being published today.  This summer I read Jane Austen’s EMMA and several historical biographies by Stefan Zweig. I also love PG Wodehouse and French detective novels.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

I would say think very carefully about what you are getting into.  If you are passionate about books, the realities of publishing are sobering.  If like me you can’t imagine yourself working with anything other than books, don’t fixate on editorial:  there are other wonderful jobs – publicity, sales, marketing, rights. Be prepared to do the most mundane tasks at first: publishing is one of those industries where you’re expected to learn on the job, whatever degrees you may hold.  I started as a 5 week temporary secretary . I was a lousy secretary – I lied about every single one of my skills to get the job – but they must have liked me, because they extended it to three months, and then full time.

Natasha is the author of THE THINGS WE DID FOR LOVE and the Bluebell Gadsby books, all published by Faber and Faber.  Visit her website, or follow her on Twitter at @NatashaFarrant1.


Behind the Book: Blogger Lucy Powrie

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

I have an extra special interview today, with the infamous Queen of Contemporary, Lucy “the Reader” Powrie! Lucy is a blogger and vlogger, and is a force to be reckoned with in the UKYA community, having kickstarted many, many incredibly successful campaigns such as Project UKYA, UKYA day and #UKYAChat– she’s definitely earned the title of queen!

Apart from that she’s a really lovely, sweet person – I’ve filmed a couple of videos with her and had the best time ever. I’m going to be the guest author in tonight’s #UKYAChat on twitter, starting at 8pm. We’ll be discussing what the definition of YA really is, so don’t miss out on that!

Onto the interview….

How did you get started in blogging?

jjjI was 12 when I first started my blog and the community was a lot smaller then so it was easier to get started: there wasn’t so much pressure to have super high numbers immediately, and it wasn’t too well-known. I sat down, made my blog on Blogger (I now use WordPress), and made a cringe-worthy first post. The rest is history!

 Does vlogging vary from blogging in content and audience? Which do you prefer?

lkjlkjMy enjoyment of both varies from one month to the next. My creative process is pretty similar with both. I’ll have an idea and then I work out if it will work better as a blog post or a video. After that I procrastinate a bit too much, and then I’ll get to work on transferring the idea from my brain to the Internet. I think my audiences are different – some people read my blog but don’t watch my videos, and vice versa. That being said, I’m sure there are people who read and watch both, and some who only follow me on Twitter but don’t read my blog or watch my videos.


A video Lucy filmed with Lauren (click to watch)

 What’s your favourite thing about blogging?

Getting to meet lots of lovely people who then become friends! I’ve met so many people (including you, Lauren!) who I have lots in common with and it’s lovely to get to meet everybody in the flesh at events and gatherings. I’ve been able to get to know some of my favourite people in the world, and also figure out what I want to do later on in life. I’ll forever be grateful for that!

 What causes do you feel most strongly about supporting with your blogging?


Click to watch!

I’ve recently started a new series on my YouTube channel where I talk about topics relating to feminism. I’ve been discussing menstruation, what it means to be a woman on the Internet, and giving feminist book recommendations. Feminism is something that I feel very strongly about, and I like to think I have something different to say from many other people on the Internet, as I’m a teenager. It’s important to me that I speak honestly about the things I’m most passionate about!

You recently did some work experience in a bookshop! How did you find it? How did you go about asking to work there?

I LOVED it! It was amazing to be surrounded by books for the week and I learnt so much. I got to unbox the books each day and put them out on the shelves, speak to a sales rep from a publishing company, and serve the customers. It definitely gave me a greater appreciation of books! I was lucky as they don’t usually take work experience students, but I mentioned my blog and that I would like to work in publishing in the future, and they were happy to take me.

 You’re also a writer yourself, and a very good one, from the tidbits I’ve read! How does this effect your blogging? (And can you give us any details of what you’re working on at the moment?)

 Writing, unfortunately, always comes last in my list of priorities. Whilst I love writing, my blog and YouTube channel need constant work, so I find it hard to find the time to write. I am currently working on a novel that deals with mental health and alcohol abuse, but I’m not very far into it at the moment. Hopefully I’ll finish it one day! Maybe for NaNoWriMo this year?

 What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

430616_homepageI grew up reading the likes of Beatrix Potter and the Brambly Hedge books (which I re-read this year!) – I’m an animal lover, so anything that has amazing illustrations and talking animals is a big hit with me. The first YA books I read were Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series, and recently I read the 11th book and I love them just as much now as I did then.

 Has blogging changed your reading habits? Does engaging more critically with literature increase the enjoyment you get from reading?

I read far more widely now than I ever did before. Before I started blogging, I would re-read the same books over and over again, whereas now I spend more time reading books that are new to me. I don’t think I read particularly critically – in my reviews, I like to touch upon my enjoyment of a book instead of analysing it to death and sucking out each individual thought I had about the book. I like to treat my blog as a journal, so my reviews are my thoughts at the time of writing or filming them.

 You recently made a very interesting video about vlogging called ‘Be the change you want to see’. What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?

 Can I say me in it? 😉 It’s my dream to one day work in publishing! On a more serious note, I’d like to see publishers take more notice of their backlist because there’s a huge potential to use social media to publicise the wealth of books that have been published in previous months and years. This is one of the jobs that bloggers and booktubers do best, so I’d like to see publishers taking notice of this too. There’s also a very big need for children’s books and YA to be featured and reviewed in the media. This is definitely something that needs to be worked on!

As a huge supporter of UKYA, what do you think in particular is unique about the UK publishing industry and UKYA?

The amazing, unique thing about UKYA readers and the UK publishing industry is that we’re all one big, friendly community. We don’t have any ulterior motives; we get along well and talk about the books we love the most. One of the loveliest things is that it’s still growing! I feel very lucky to be a part of it.

Lucy Powrie is the teenage blogger behind Queen of Contemporary, based in Bath, England. Since her blog’s creation in April 2012, she has won the UKYABA Champion of YA award, and spoken at both the Cheltenham Literature Festival and Oxford Literature Festival. She grew up reading the likes of Bob the Builder and Beatrix Potter and has since advanced to reading young adult fiction. Lucy is the creator and host of #ukyachat, which runs weekly on Twitter.

You can find her on youtube, twitter @lucythereader or her website.

Behind the book: Foreign Rights Manager Claudia Medin

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

I’m back today with another interview with a publishing industry professional. Claudia Medin works at my publishers, Walker Books, as a Foreign Rights Manager. English books are often translated into other languages so that they can be read around the world, and Claudia works with international publishers to try and make that happen! She has been doing an amazing job of sharing The Next Together with publishers around the world (more on that soon! 😉 ) and I’m so pleased she’s taken the time to talk to me about her work.

What does your job involve?

As a Foreign Rights Manager, I need to know our list, and I need to know our customers. The goal is to bring them together in order to close a deal and to make everyone happy: the author and illustrator and in-house editor in anticipation of a foreign language edition of their work, the foreign publishing house in adding an exciting title to their list, and a foreign readership to be able to choose exactly that book to read in their language.

fictionWe are constantly working on presentation material to share with our customers and once a customer has expressed sincere interest and we have negotiated the terms, the more bureaucratic process begins; we draft and sign a contract, issue an invoice, send out digital assets, and monitor royalty statements and payments. It can sometimes be a real challenge to find the right book for the right publisher and although the majority of submissions do not result in a sale, it’s rewarding when it happens.

How did you get started in Foreign Rights?

I studied different languages and was always asked where that would lead me to… I had heard about Foreign Rights during my studies, but it was difficult to get an internship, as people advised me to start in editorial and then move on to Foreign Rights – but I didn’t want to “steal” an internship from someone who really wanted to go into editorial.

I was very lucky in 2005 when I got a three months’ internship with a brilliant publisher in Germany. The Foreign Rights team there prepared me for everything coming, and encouraged me to stay on that path. I am still very grateful for that experience. I then got my first job right away with another fantastic German publisher, and even climbed up the ladder 2 years later, being Rights Director for 6 years, dealing with both book and merchandising rights. I joined Walker Books 2 years ago, going back to book rights only – and I couldn’t be happier about it!

 Have you ever wanted to write yourself?

No, never. I will stick to reading and selling rights, and leave the writing part to those who are good at it.

 What’s your favourite part of your job?41-+2lQhJiL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

There are probably three different things: getting an unexpected offer in, especially when you know that the customer fell in love with a particular book, receiving finished foreign language copies, and developing new sales strategies. These can be creative, subtle or bold. And it is so rewarding when it finally works out!

 Do you get to travel much for your job?

bologna-children-book-fair-logoYes, I do. There is not only the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Spring and the Frankfurt Book Fair in Autumn, but also a number of business trips around the year. Book Fairs are hard work, with back-to-back 30-minute-meetings to see up to 50 customers in 3 to 4 days, plus all the preparation and follow-ups, but it is also great to see customers, colleagues and friends.

Visiting our customers in their offices gives us the chance to learn more about how they work, to get to know each other better, and to have more time to discuss the new titles. And it is always helpful to go to book shops in other countries and get a better idea of how the market works.

 What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?

topWell, what we are seeing is the growing interaction between books and digital content. I hope to see mutual support of those two, instead of digital technique taking over completely. If we share the pleasure of reading an actual book with young kids, it will hopefully spark their love for reading as well, no matter what the general reading behaviour will be like in the future.

Apart from this, if I am perfectly honest, I would hope for a reduced amount of new books to be published every year. The amount of new books being published is just rising and rising, and in my opinion it would do the market good if we could slow down a bit, for selected titles to blossom and flourish.

 What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

schnuepperle-macht-ferien-071937346My mother used to read to me and my brother every evening before bedtime. We grew up with a lot of Astrid Lindgren, but my favourite series was probably “Schnuepperle” by Barbara Bartos-Hoeppner (not translated into English, unfortunately) – I still own those books and read them from time to time. My family also kept our very first books, small format “Pixi” books about a dog and a fairy tale book. We chewed 30 % of the pages and they nearly fell apart, so it’s hardly readable anymore, but they are a family treasure.

 Are there big differences among the territories you work with?

pageYes there are! It starts with the topics of the books, as not all territories will embrace books on what they might consider to be more controversial subjects. We need to be aware of any cultural sensibilities and try to match the right book to the right customer. The international business approach and etiquette can be different too and it’s good to be aware of the various nuances, but ultimately the passion and enthusiasm for children’s books can bring us together and strengthen our global understanding.

 Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

I’ve always been a keen reader and I wouldn’t want to live without books. I can spend hours in a good book shop, looking at new and old titles, carrying a pile of books to the till in the end, anticipating happy hours of reading. However, I have to admit that I only allow myself to read books for pleasure over the summer and at Christmas time, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to cope with the amount of books I need to read for work. Over the years I have become a very fast reader, and I try to slow down again when reading for pleasure.

 What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

What I noticed over the years is that few people know about the different departments in a publishing house – most people know about editorial and marketing departments, but are not so familiar with the work of sales, export, production or foreign rights departments! Think about what strengths you have and what you’d really like to – and then find your path and follow it. It might not always be easy, especially in the beginning, but it is worth it – publishing, especially children’s book publishing is a fantastic area to work in!

Claudia Medin has worked in Foreign Rights in Germany and the UK for over a decade, and is now the Foreign Rights Manager for Walker Books.

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here. 

Behind the book: Cover designer Jack Noel

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

Today’s interview is with a cover designer at Walker Books, Jack Noel. Jack is the genius behind the cover of The Next Together, which I personally believe to be the greatest work of art that humanity has ever created. (But I might be biased.)

This is my favourite interview in the series so far, not only because Jack is very funny, but because he shares some of the abandoned cover designs for The Next Together with us!

What does your job involve? 

I design covers for books. The process is: read, discuss, think, sketch, research, visualise, trial, error, copy, paste, discuss, refine, refine, discuss, refine … and that’s it.

How did you become a designer? 

Before working in publishing I spent a few years as a freelance designer/illustrator doing occasional fun things like album covers but mainly less-fun things like corporate logos.

My dream was to work in children’s books so I wrote to my top two publishers – Walker Books and Nosy Crow – and asked if I could come and meet someone to talk design. Nothing happened for ages but then, about six months later, a junior position came up in the Fiction department at Walker. I applied and somehow ended up getting the job.

Do you have any favourite illustrators/cover designs that you remember from your childhood?

Yes! These ones:


What are your favourite and least favourite things about working in cover design?


How did you go about designing the cover for The Next Together?

I started by reading the manuscript and discussing ideas with the editor, Annalie. We also pulled together relevant book covers and other imagery for reference. This stage is important. Fun too!


I noticed that time-travel themed stories are often represented as layers. (I guess because time is linear and the layers are like different dimensions? I’m not 100% clear on the physics.) I knew I wanted to play on this for The Next Together as it fit well with my reading of the story,  with the characters being consistent through the different time periods.

I started playing around with layers to represent the time-periods from the story.


I created dozens of variations. The whole way through I discussed the progress with Annalie as well as David, the Walker Books fiction art director, and our Sales and Marketing teams. We also occasionally shared it with you, the author!


final coverOne breakthrough (though it seems incredibly obvious now) was switching to the vertical bands. We read images like text – from left to right – and so this arrangement makes a lot more sense. The bands are made up of a mixture of old artwork, textures and stock imagery.

It took many many iterations to get the balance between the high-concept stuff and the romance but I think we got there in the end. I’m definitely pleased with how it all came out. I hope it lives up to the scope and emotion of the book.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

Yes – now I always start by checking the copyright page for credits.

What trends do you predict will become more common in cover design?

Most covers now are encountered online, so I think there’ll be more and more moving and interactive ones. I hope so. I like them.


Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into cover design?

Decide exactly what kind of books you’d like to work with and then make your portfolio as focused and as relevant as possible. Then keep showing it to people and listen to any feedback you can get. Also: good choice! It is fun.

Jack is an illustrator/designer type from London/Brighton. He was the Brighton Cooperative Beautiful Baby winner 1986. He also knows some words in Spanish. 

You can follow him on twitter @jackdraws and see his work at his tumblr.

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.

Behind the Book: Typesetter Sorrel Packham

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor 

In the sixth instalment of my interview series, I’m so excited to be talking to Sorrel Packham, who typeset The Next Together. She once told me that because my book has so many different epistolary elements, it ended up containing the most fonts of any book Sorrel had typeset!

If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that she did an absolutely excellent job, and turned the messy word document I wrote into a work of art, so I had to find out how she pulled it off.

What does your job involve?

Taking the final draft electronic manuscripts from authors and creating the file that is sent to the printers. There are a few stages in between, however. Firstly the size of the book has to have been decided, and with the cover designer, the style of the printed page will be decided upon. Any quirky bits in the text will be discussed and how I should approach them with regard to layout. Adobe_InDesign_iconThe programme I currently use to work in is called InDesign but equally you could also use a programme called Quark Express. Both programmes are called layout programmes and are used widely across the publishing and design industry.

Once the text has been ‘laid out’ and styled, it is sent to copy editors and proof-readers to check the content for sense and grammatical errors, and to the author and editor to make sure everyone is happy with the text and how it looks. Any corrections that need to be made are marked on a printed copy of the document and given back to me to make the corrections in the live file. Once all the corrections have been made and everyone is happy with the file, I send to print by ‘packaging’ the file with all its fonts and images into one bundle that can be archived for future use.

How did you get started in typesetting?

I did a degree in Book Arts at the London College of Printing (now Communication) and got interested in book lay out and text design then. I was lucky to get a job as an admin assistant at a local university and so when I saw a publishers assistant job come up at a neighbouring university it made me the best candidate for the role.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Setting up complex documents in a way that means the text and any styling won’t change when any corrections are made to the file – like when you style something in word and then change a bit earlier on, it knocks everything out. I style my documents so everything stays in place regardless of what happens to the text. I also enjoy styling the more unusual aspects of the text – from handwritten letters to setting images within the text in a way that shapes the words around the image, for example.TNTOG_23

How was the experience of typesetting The Next Together? (So many fonts!)

Hard work! But I enjoyed the challenge of it. Some of it was difficult to make the styling consistent but we did our best! I could tell just how much energy and enthusiasm you had when you wrote it and that’s rare to feel so I wanted to support that by doing the best that I could with the complexity of the styling.

And you did a really excellent job of it! 


What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

For me, working in children’s publishing is a bit like working in a sweet shop – it sounds ideal but I’m a bit too immersed in it all to appreciate it all properly. Some of my more favourite books are the more quirky or grown up ones – Salem Brownstone, Rae Earl’s OMG series, and I love Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book.

370493My favourite books when I was a child were the Beatrix Potter collection, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and Masquerade by Kit Williams which is not really a children’s book but I found the images captivating.

What are you proudest of in your career?

2015-08-15+10.29.19I’m proud of the more involved and more technically difficult jobs that I think only I would find interesting, but I’m really happy to have collaborated with the students from First Story in publishing their anthologies. Its always so moving to see a bunch of kids read proudly from work they have written and I have helped publish. They work is so frequently incredible too.

Do you ever work on picture books? How is this different to YA novels?

Occasionally. The text is completely dependent on the visual images and tends to take second place in terms of layout – although obviously not always. The work I do on those books tends to be more or an art-working role where I clean up images or rebuild really old files that we need to reprint.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

Yes – it makes it much harder! I have to push myself to read at home now because I stare at text all day long, it’s hard to want to continue to do that when I get home. But I do try and am always glad of the effort made.

  What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

Unless you really want to live in London for a large part of your life, or another capital city like New York (although New York doesn’t sound that bad does it?!), pick a different career! For me, having most of the jobs available to me being in a city that is incredibly expensive – and is becoming increasingly prohibitively expensive to live in has made me re-evaluate what I want to do with my life to the extent that next year, I’m giving up publishing and will be retraining to be a Landscape Architect!

Sorrel Packham has typeset a variety of publications for Walker Books, such as Trouble by Non Pratt, Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman and More Than This by Patrick Ness. You can find out more at her website, where she offers freelance typesetting:

In other news: Thirteen days to go until The Next Together is published! Today’s behind the scenes extra is sneakily short (but sweet!).

I’ve rewritten The Next Together……in the form of a haiku. Because I have fifteen days of behind the scenes extras to do here, guys, and they can’t all be entire chapter rewrites from the point of view of a different character. Enjoy!

“Kate, don’t do the thing.”
“I’m doing the thing. Suck it.”
“That’s what she said.”

You can find a rebloggable version of this post here

Behind the Book: Publicity Assistant Charlie Morris

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

We’re already on week five of my Behind the Book series, how did that happen?!  I have some really exciting things coming up over the next month – I’ll be talking to the typesetter, cover designer and copyeditor for The Next Together, as well as many other industry professionals  who will be imparting words of wisdom about publishing.

This week I’m talking to Charlie Morris, who works for Orion as a publicity assistant. Charlie is very active on twitter in the UKYA community, so it’s likely you’ve come across her before. She’s passionate, funny and sweet, and she has lots of great advice for anyone looking to get into publishing, and how to get an internship.

Let’s get on with the questions!

What does your job involve?

I’m a publicity assistant for the Non-Fiction titles at Orion. The start of my day means distributing the daily papers to everyone in publicity so they can check for any press coverage, from review pages to event diarists, short stories and opinion pieces.

I’m the first port of call for any general enquiries and assist my manager in the department administration – maintaining our titles publicist allocation, noting publication date changes, processing invoices, drawing up festival pitch letters and booking hotels and travel.

I submit our titles to The Bookseller for Trade Press every month. (What this really means is that I send a LOT of nagging emails asking the team to complete monthly tasks so we can regularly distribute information about our titles to journalists and the public.)

I also look after the campaigns for some of our Non-Fiction gift books and colouring campaigns, and our paperback publicity campaigns for Non-Fiction, sending out titles for review on their second press outings.

How did you get started in publicity? Did you do any work experience?

fridayI had three internships before I got my first job at Oxford University Press. One was at Headline working alongside Sam Eades – this was the time I got to help out on the The Ocean at the End of the Lane press day which was absolutely amazing.

Another was at Hot Key Books where I got to draw up some readers notes for one of my favourite books, Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield (read it if you haven’t already, it’s unique, dangerous and beautiful.)

The other was at David Fickling Books, where I got to do a little editorial work, looking through the slush pile. thames

Before that I was working at an independent book shop in my home town called The Book House, where I had worked since I was 17 – I really loved talking about books with customers and seeing what choices they made, it was great fun matching the book to the person.

I worked at the shop to put myself through an MA in publishing at Oxford Brookes. Whilst I don’t think an MA in Publishing is necessary to get into the industry, it was a good choice for me as it meant I learnt more about the industry as a whole and where I would fit in. My favourite modules were in Marketing and Publicity.

Have you ever wanted to write yourself?

I like to write short stories, but have always been much more swept up in reading worlds and marvelling at their creation than creating my own. I found travelling was the most inspiring thing.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

25790534Hands on campaign work and seeing a pitch get picked up by the press. I’ve recently been working on a campaign for adult colouring books, the Colour Me Mindful series by Anastasia Catris. These are really beautiful, dinky little books you can easily pop in your purse.

I had loads of fun drawing up a beautiful press release, and making connections in the blogger world to spread the word about the books with interested audience, ready to try new things. It was really exciting to see the books get picked up by Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, as well as in traditional print media with national newspapers and magazines. Check out the hashtag #ColourMeMindful to see everyone’s stunning works in progress.

What do you hope to see happen in publishing in the future?

I’m hugely passionate about increasing the inclusion of diverse perspectives, both in the workforce and in stories themselves. I think it’s vital that different backgrounds, be that race, disability, social class, gender and sexuality be allowed a voice in our literature.

logoI’d love to work more on fiction in the future and particularly help promote LGBTQ* YA. There’s been some really great projects recently such as Rainbow Boxes, We Need Diverse Books, Letterbox Library and Inclusive Minds’ A Place At The Table.

25259482I’d love to see some UKYA successes with diverse casts of characters and think that this year has seen some really brilliant national attention, such as the recent Newsnight interviews with James Dawson and Julie Mayhew about the rise of LGBTQ* YA (excellent work, Hot Key Books *high fives*) and the campaign for I Am Malala which encourages young girls to cherish their education whilst making it possible for those less lucky to attend schools.

What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

I was absolutely a complete Harry Potter fan and that will never change. When I went through my room I discovered old notebooks in which I’d imagined Harry and Voldemort’s final battle…barely legible childhood handwriting makes for the best fanfic.

346952I also loved anarchic storybooks like Babette Cole’s Princess Smartypants and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. This definitely lent to my later love of Angela Carter’s fairytale retellings. My childhood heroes were Matilda, Hermione and any girl who dressed up in disguise and set off to be a pirate.

What are you proudest of in your career?

I met some really wonderful people that became my closest friends when arranging a blogger evening with Oxford University Press. That was pretty special.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

I never realised how much my reading would increase when I got into publishing, but it definitely has. I’m way more aware of recent releases and actively searching for books that will appeal. I think my appreciation of genre has grown.

However I’m still a die hard YA and Kids Lit fan, which means people always look at me in disbelief when I say I work on adult non-fiction. But that’s all part of the fun and the challenge.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publicity or publishing in general?

Follow online chats like Lucy Powrie’s brilliant #UKYAchat on twitter, and share your opinions. Shout about books you love. Follow publicists, they have all the best scoop. And don’t be afraid to ask people for work experience. (I approached David Fickling Books via Twitter and happened to hit on a quiet spell for them during January.) Read The Bookseller and Guardian Online. Have a look at what different publishers are doing. Go to author signings if they are near you, and chat to the staff.

CMCharlie Morris works as Publicity Assistant for Orion and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, focusing on Non-Fiction trade, Audiobooks and Non-Fiction paperbacks. Favourite all time book (changes daily) are Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith and Oscar Wilde’s  The Picture of Dorian Gray, Abigail Tarttelin’s jawdropping Golden Boy and Anna Freeman’s The Fair Fight. Charlie reviews for MuggleNet and coordinates the monthly Author Takeover spots. She occasionally reviews for Inclusive Minds.

You can find her on twitter @charlieinabook or

In other news: There’s one day left on my giveaway for a signed copy of The Next Together. I was interviewed by Rachel at YA-beering Booklover (who is also holding a giveaway of a TNT proof!) and The Sweet Sixteens.

Behind the Book: Library assistant Sarah Barnard + #YAShot blog tour

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

I’m really excited to say that I’m going to be appearing at YA Shot on 28th October in Uxbridge, London. I will be chairing a panel about Hopeless Romantic: Doomed lovers and ideals of romance with Lucy Saxon and Catherine Doyle. You can check out the rest of the programme here, and I really suggest you do – there are nearly 70 authors running a variety of YA and MG events, and it’s going to be an incredible day!23524522

YA Shot is an event organised by author Alexia Casale (whose new book House of Windows just came out, hurray!) in conjunction with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge.

The event is specifically aimed at bringing access to library events for disadvantaged schools, to encourage a passion for reading, creative writing and libraries.cropped-yashot6small It will also show attending students how a love of reading can actually turn into a career.

As I’m running my Behind the Book interview series to highlight the different professions related to publishing, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about YA Shot for their blog tour. There was no better person to discuss why libraries and outreach is so important than someone who works in one, so today I’m interviewing Sarah Barnard.

Sarah is not only an old school friend and valued beta reader, but she’s also a Library Assistant at Coventry Libraries. She runs a really excellent and diverse review blog as well, where she articulately discusses all manner of UKYA related issues. Her interview here is no exception!

What does your job involve?

My job title is “library and information assistant”, so primarily, I assist. I’m out on the floor, interacting with the public and very often putting books into hands. I also get to do displays, outreach work, and the great joy of modern libraries that is rhymetime. Things my job does not involve: shushing people!

How did you get started as a library assistant? Did you do any work experience?

My English degree is relevant, but enthusiasm and good people skills have been more important to success in my role. Being a passionate reader helps as well. When I joined the relief register (a list of people who can be called in to cover short term absences) it was my first ever ‘proper’ job, and having that foot in the door was crucial for getting a permanent contract.

Why are libraries so important?

Books. All the time, books.

But apart from that… A library is a safe, welcoming community space where you can find information and entertainment, and all you need is a library card, not a credit card. Something like three in ten UK children own no books, making libraries a lifeline when literacy levels are such vital indicators of future success. booktrust_logoWe work with wonderful organisations like Booktrust and The Reading Agency to promote reading for pleasure at all ages and stages of life.

It’s not just about books, either. In 2014, 84% of households had internet access – but where does that leave the 16% without, when everything from bills to shopping to job searches to visa applications needs to be done online these days? For a lot of people, library computers are the only computers they can access.

Libraries are community hubs. They’re inclusive spaces and aid community cohesion. Whoever you are, whatever your situation, when you walk in, you’re guaranteed to find a friendly person who wants to help you. (That’s me!) For some, going to the library might be the only social interaction they have that day. Google is no substitute for the human touch.

What did libraries meant to you growing up?


I was (obviously) a very bookish kid, so the library was heaven. The excitement of progressing from the children’s section to the teenage section… and then, eventually, the impossibly vast adult fiction section… I’ve never lost that sense of wonder over packed bookshelves. I also did my fair share of homework in my local library, which was a five minute walk from my house. The alien glories of the microfiche and the clunkiness of early internet are things I never would have had access to without the library.

What do you think libraries can do in the future to ensure they reach people who need them? And how can people support their local libraries?

We have to do more outreach work. We need to reach out to young people – there’s a real lack of programmes for 12 – 25 year olds, which I’ve spoken about with other people in other UK libraries. If we’re talking about improving prospects through promoting literacy, that’s such an important age and I really don’t think we’re doing enough. YA Shot is an amazing step in the right direction, and I hope it blazes a trail for others to follow.

To support your local library, pay it a visit. Talk to your librarian. Borrow books, CDs, DVDs. If they don’t have a book you want, request it. If you haven’t already, go to your local library with proof of your address, sign up for a library card, and use it!

nld-logoNational Libraries Day was 7th February this year – make sure you celebrate it next year. Be loud about it if you’re passionate about library advocacy, through social media, or writing to your local newspaper or MP.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

13249650The best thing is when someone walks in and asks me to recommend a book. Have you ever seen a small boy’s face light up when you hand him a Doctor Who book? I’ve had so many great conversations about books I love. There are loads of littler things I love about my job (is there anything more therapeutic than tidying?) but there’s something incredibly potent about being able to hand someone a book that could change their life.

Is there anything you feel particularly strongly about working towards with your career?

I’ve become obsessed with literacy advocacy. Being able to read and write well is an invaluable skill that improves not only your job prospects but your quality of life and facility of self expression and understanding. I really want to find a way to harness the energy around the UKYA movement and translate it into more young people reading for pleasure. I’m also interested to see libraries moving into social media and the ways that can work for us, which is again about reaching that demographic of young digital natives.

KbIsAL1rI try on a personal level to promote diverse books, and I would love the opportunity to work towards the goals of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in the further stages of my career.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

I read far, far more now than I did before. Of course, this is partly because I’m no longer an English literature student! I’m more likely to be aware of the current big releases, which doesn’t always lead to me reading them (you should see the length of these reservation queues) but means I know what issues well, what’s got everybody talking. Surprisingly, I think I buy more books than I used to. I suppose I’m constantly engaged with them.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to work in a library?

Remember that it’s as much about the people as it is the books, if not more. You won’t actually have any time to sit around reading!

See if your local library is taking on volunteers. A lot of libraries are volunteer-run now, so if you volunteer you’ll be getting valuable experience at the same time as helping keep a resource open for your community.

There are courses offered at universities across the country in Library Studies, at undergraduate and postgraduate level, which are worth considering if you want to be a qualified librarian. CILIP (Charted Institute of Library and Information Professionals) has a thorough jobs and careers section on its website, with a list of accredited qualifications.

21805717What are your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence is close to my heart, a magisterial and beautiful fantasy series that I always, always return to. Harry Potter and His Dark Materials are no-brainers, and Animorphs is also very important. I’ve somehow become entangled in UKYA, and read a lot of fantastic books-for-teens which are just plain fantastic books, like The Accident Season and Only Ever Yours.

Sarah Barnard is a writer and library assistant who lives about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to get in the United Kingdom. When she’s not reading, she likes to gaze adoringly at her succulent plants or practise the ten or so ukulele chords she knows.

You can follow her on twitter @slouisebarnard

Occasionally she even writes for her blog: Sarah Likes Books

Tickets for YA Shot will be on sale from August 19th at 4pm here for £20 (adults) and £15 (students) or £30 for a family ticket. All proceeds will go to YA Shot and its Year-Long Legacy Programme, which will provide the Borough’s libraries with free events like writing workshops or author talks for disadvantaged schools in the area.