Fiction & Drama
Lisa Rookes on the inspiration behind The Gallows Tree
Answering the #FridayFive today is HQ Commissioning Editor Katie Seaman.
Tell us a bit about your job?
I’m a commissioning editor at HQ, which involves working closely with authors on their manuscripts, liaising with the design team on covers, as well as colleagues in marketing, publicity, sales and audio to oversee campaigns. As well as working with existing authors on my list, I’m constantly on the lookout for new exciting voices to acquire, whether that is from agented submissions or spotting someone who I think would write a great novel.
What are the key ingredients for success?
Publishing is a real team effort so firstly I think great communication skills are key. We’re working on multiple projects all at different stages which feels like spinning lots of plates at once so good organisation skills help too. And finally for editorial specifically, we need to be creative and have close attention to detail in terms of editing a manuscript but also be able to see the bigger picture and think strategically about publication and longer-term plans for our authors.
Describe a normal day?
I’m lucky that it’s been easy to adapt to working from home and my weeks are much the same as they would be in the office. It sounds cheesy I know but one of the many reasons I love my job is because every day is different. I could be reading and editing a manuscript or joining a Zoom meeting with my colleagues to look at cover designs or discuss campaign plans. One of my favourite parts of the job is meeting up with agents normally over a breakfast or lunch to discuss projects we’re currently working on and also hear about projects they’re excited by and might be sending my way soon. I do miss that social side of things but each week I try to have a few of these meetings to stay connected even if my homemade lunches aren’t quite up to the same standards.
For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?
I always knew I wanted to work in trade book publishing but it took me a few moves to get my dream job, working in the right companies but not necessarily in the area or job I wanted after I first moved to London. I’m pleased that many publishers are now offering entry level schemes and also looking to open offices outside of London making it easier than ever before for people from a variety of backgrounds to get into the industry. From colleagues and friends, I know that very few got their dream editorial job assistant straight away so it’s important to persevere. When I was an editorial assistant at Orion I started acquiring my own authors which can be rare for an assistant as you support senior editors on their lists, but I didn’t want to be held back by a job title and any perceived limits associated with it. Acquiring and publishing a few books then led to me joining Ebury as an editor before I ended up in my current (and dream) job at HQ. My advice to anyone looking to break into the industry is not to be afraid to move around in the early years of your career as you’ll learn different things at each company which will be invaluable. Anyone can have good ideas and instincts so don’t be afraid to put yourself forward and go beyond in order to take the next steps – my motto was always fake it until you make it.
What are you reading, watching and listening to now?
I have been devouring anything by Agatha Christie and I’m just about to read The Dutch House for my bookclub. Like everyone, I have been obsessed by Normal People – emotionally devastating but incredible TV. I’ve also been making the most of watching theatre from my sofa! The National Theatre have been streaming brilliant plays every week. On my daily walk, audiobooks have been keeping me company and I’m currently listening to Invisible Women. I also love podcasts – Desert Island Discs is real comfort listening and I’ll immediately listen to any new episodes of Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail which is a firm favourite.