Answering the #FridayFive today is Lauren Whybrow, Senior Managing Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing.
Tell us a bit about your job?
I’m Senior Managing Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. My team and I manage the editorial production for all the fiction and non-fiction titles that the Adult Consumer division at Bloomsbury publishes, plus a few illustrated ones thrown in for fun. This is a wild and varied job, and you do everything from sitting down with an author and picking images for a book to finding and hiring sensitivity readers, from working with lawyers on any potential legal issues to checking text and covers.
It’s schedules and creativity and communication – and an epic to-do list. I also commission the occasional gift book for our Bloomsbury Lifestyle division, including Feng Shui Modern and Sex Ed: A Guide for Adults. I’m currently working on a thrilling book about the stars… more on that soon.
What are the key ingredients for success?
This is a tricky question, as success is different to everyone. Sure, it is bestselling books (we’re a commercial business, we want books to sell!), but to me, success is defined by the care you bring to both your work and the people around you, and seeing how you can make a difference. So, I’d say, the key ingredients for this are kindness towards your colleagues, authors and freelancers; hard work – but always aiming to leave work at 5.30pm, because the unions didn’t fight for eight-hour working days for nothing; and also, seeing where you can make a difference in the industry and pursuing that, whether that’s through improved systems, fighting for better pay and diversity and inclusion in the industry, or looking at who you are hiring to work on books. But, of course, trying to have fun along the way as well.
Could you describe a normal day?
A normal day for me at the moment starts with tweaking open the curtains to see if it’s still grey… yup! It is! But at work, it depends. There are always a lot of emails, meetings, checking through books, planning text design and images, contacting freelancers, working out schedules, waylaying colleagues in the corridors to discuss either plans for improved processes (really – publishing is more about processes than many people realise) or discussing some celebrity gossip. I love it, I won’t lie.
For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?
I’m Australian, so I got my start in Melbourne. The process is pretty similar there, and just as competitive. I did an undergraduate degree in journalism and history, before working in a bookshop where I read books and had existential thoughts about what to do with my life. One of my co-workers suggested publishing, so I did a Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing, and then applied for every assistant job under the sun. Eventually I got a job at Hardie Grant Melbourne as a Digital Editor, which was thrilling – I got to plan apps, develop websites, write endless copy, go on random tours of caravan factories in order to write said copy – before jumping to Project Editor on books, where I started commissioning. Skip a few moves in-between, including a big one to the UK, and now I’m at Bloomsbury.
What are you reading, watching and listening to right now?
One of my former colleagues is now an Assistant Editor at Hachette, where she commissioned this brilliant book called Fourth Wing. It’s Naomi Novik meets Harry Potter meets Battle Royale, with some hot romance thrown in. I just finished reading it and I’m obsessed. It’s sexy! It’s dangerous! It’s DRAGONS (caveat: the dragons aren’t sexy, or at least, not intentionally so). But I’m also re-reading Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, while listening to The Corrs and Dry Cleaning, and watching Andor and dreaming of getting access to Poker Face starring Natasha Lyonne.