Elizabeth Burton-Phillips: How it felt to read Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? for Audible, and revisit the pain, truth and legacy of my son’s death
Tell us a bit about your job?
I’m an assistant editor in the Pan Macmillan commercial fiction team. I see our books through the process from acquisition to publication, and work on a range of titles from crime and thriller to women’s fiction, including some of our big brand authors. The best part of a job in editorial is that you’re involved at every stage, and it’s amazing to see a book’s transformation from manuscript to finished copy.
What are the key ingredients for success?
An eye for detail is useful in an editorial role, but more important is having a can-do attitude, and being comfortable juggling a large number of projects at once. Ask questions, and find someone you’re comfortable asking for advice. Always be kind and offer to get involved wherever you can. And be analytical too: when you last bought a book, why did you pick up that one, and not another? That question really underpins all decisions in publishing (if only there was a right answer!).
Describe a normal day?
I’m lucky that my days never feel repetitive. A usual day might include discussing jacket designs with the Art, Sales and Comms teams, writing up editorial notes on a manuscript to share with an author, or essential things like improving a book’s metadata so it feeds out properly online. I usually read new submissions at the end of the day.
For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?
I did my undergraduate degree in French, and my first job out of uni was in local government communications. I then went back and did a Masters in Publishing at UCL, which was interesting but it’s not at all essential for a career in publishing. I did a few internships, before finding a temporary role at Pan Mac. While I always wanted to work in editorial, I applied for anything and everything, and eventually a role in Fiction came up. While I’ve been there, I’ve tried to volunteer for everything I can, and as a result have worked on some fairly incredible authors and projects. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t put my hand up. In my experience, people are invariably delighted if you’re interested and willing to help.
What are you reading, watching and listening to now?
In this period of enforced separation, I’ve been turning to stories of human connection. I was blown away by Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, and I really enjoyed Expectation by Anna Hope too. Next on my list is Swing Time by Zadie Smith. TV wise, I’ve gone full escapism and binged Selling Sunset over a weekend. It’s a reality show about impossibly glamorous estate agents selling jaw-dropping properties in Beverly Hills, and has me angling for a career change. And in podcasts, I’m a huge fan of How to Fail with Elizabeth Day – her recent interview with Frankie Bridge is a particularly moving and frank discussion about living with mental health issues.