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Friday Five: Kelsie Marsden, Commissioning Editor at Bookouture


Answering the #FridayFive today is Kelsie Marsden, Commissioning Editor at Bookouture


Tell us a bit about your job?

I’m a commissioning editor at Bookouture and I work across all genres of commercial fiction, from gripping crime thrillers and psychological suspense to epic historical novels and emotional, dilemma-driven women’s fiction. I oversee the whole life of the book, from the delivery of the first draft, through production to publication day and beyond. One of my favourite parts of the job is working so closely with so many talented authors. I love digging into the edits and getting down to the nitty gritty, helping authors shape their ideas to nail an absolutely killer hook.


What are the key ingredients for success?

Here at Bookouture we pride ourselves on how nimble and reactive to the data we are, so you really have to be ready and willing to quickly and creatively pivot ideas and priorities. Author care is also top of our list – so always keeping the author at the heart of everything we do and making sure communication is always clear, kind and prompt.


Could you describe a normal day?

Every day starts with a big mug of Yorkshire tea and some sort of exercise. Right now my routine includes strength training, running and yoga. If I don’t workout in the morning my focus for the day is shot – I feel like a puppy nobody has taken out for a walk! And it’s also really important for my mental health. I’m in the office four days a week because I like to be around people, and I really missed that over the past couple of years. The first thing I do when I log on is check the previous day’s sales figures – I like to keep on top of how my books are doing so I can make sure we’re reacting to the data we’re seeing, and I can keep my authors up to date.

From there a typical day would usually be split between whatever edit I’m working on that week, and then writing retailer copy, keeping in touch with my authors, working on pitches to acquire new authors, developing covers with our freelance designers and reading new submissions. Every day is different and that variety is part of why I love this job so much.


For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?

So I actually always wanted to work in fashion, specifically as a fashion editor at a big magazine. But growing up in Sheffield without the financial means to undertake unpaid internships in the magazine industry meant it was really tough to get a foot in the door.

Immediately after graduating from university, I worked for a magazine and independent cook book publisher based in Sheffield as a writer and editor, as well as working in a high-end boutique as an assistant buyer. I loved both jobs at the time, but at that point fashion still had my heart and eventually I moved to London to work in buying at a bigger brand. I then moved into events for a Danish brand. But none of this was doing what I really wanted to do – work at a magazine.

Eventually I decided I needed to make a change, and because I’d loved my role at the indie publisher before, I thought seeking a role in publishing would be the best place to start. I applied for tons of assistant jobs, and Bookouture got back to me the same afternoon I sent in my application to invite me to an interview. Fast forward nearly four years and I’m still here! I was a publishing executive here at Bookouture for a year and nine months before I was promoted to commissioning editor.

So I think the moral of the story here is to get as much experience as you can, where you can! Try out different things, take opportunities and be open-minded. You might end up finding a role you love in a totally different area of the industry than you expected when you first started.


What are you reading, watching and listening to now?

My taste is varied when it comes to books and TV. I’ve just finished reading The Fury of Kings by debut author R.S. Moule. Think epic fantasy world building, warring families and political factions, and a country teetering on the edge of ruin, with characters you’ll really love (and some you’ll hate!). It’s very reminiscent of GoT. I adored it and I’m absolutely desperate for Book 2 now.

As for TV, I just finished watching Queen Charlotte. Anything Shonda Rhimes does is excellent in my book. I really tried hard not to binge the whole series too quickly, but it was tough to wait.

I’m loving the podcast My Therapist Ghosted Me at the moment because it’s just so hilarious and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. I’m also listening to the audiobook of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. The author reads it herself and it’s just brilliant. It’s wise, compassionate, and serves as a reminder that we are never alone in our struggles.

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