1 What is your job title and company? And roughly how many people work for your company?
I’m the co-founder and managing editor of Rethink Press, a hybrid publisher that publishes the business and self-help books of entrepreneur authors. My business partner Joe Gregory and I have a team of about 20 editors, coaches, writers, cover designers, typesetters and project managers based around the UK and beyond. We’re a lean and future-focused organisation, with no central base and all of us working from home offices.
2 What are your qualifications and working background, and when and how did you take on your current job?
I have a BA in English and Drama from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales in Australia, and a Diploma in teaching Adult Literacy and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.
I started my first publishing company when I was still a student in Australia, publishing a monthly performing arts magazine for eight years. That led to me writing for national newspapers and magazines and hosting my own TV show. Back in the UK, I worked as a writers’ agent, a freelance editor and then as director of development at an independent TV production company, where I also wrote and edited scripts for videos and TV series.
Later I segued into the area of work-life balancing, the subject of my first two books, and worked as a consultant to blue chip companies, big banks, the NHS, government departments, local authorities and SMEs. After three novels, my next self-help book called The Real Secret was published by Bookshaker, run by Joe Gregory. I became its commissioning editor and a year later we started Rethink Press together.
3 What does your average working day entail?
Mostly I’m in the office, where I’ll be combining the management of Rethink Press—financial, legal and admin stuff—with talking to new and current authors; managing our titles going through the publication process; contracting new authors and clients; and monitoring the coaching and writing work we do with authors. Every day includes writing and replying to hundreds of emails. Joe and I track our projects in Trello, share a Google calendar and communicate throughout the day on Skype messaging and chat. I often work on manuscripts in the evening, when I don’t get interrupted by other stuff.
I’m also the publishing mentor for Daniel Priestley’s Key Person of Influence (KPI) programme, and working days here might include full-day book-planning workshops for groups of up to 50 people in London, Birmingham and Singapore. I then coach them through the writing process via a series of evening webinars.
4 What do you enjoy most about your job?
Is it too undiscriminating to say all of it? I used to think of myself as primarily ‘creative’—an ideas, development, writing and editing person. But I’m really enjoying running a growing business, thinking strategically, identifying and managing great people who work with us, selling services I strongly believe in, seeing fresh opportunities and breaking new ground. All of which I now think of as creative work too. But I also love the flexibility of working for myself, the variety of the work and the people.
5 What achievements are you most proud of?
Our books and authors. I hate the over-used word ‘passionate’, but I am absolutely dedicated to providing our authors with valuable, high-quality books, and proud of those who come to us with well-written books that our editing process makes excellent. I’m almost more proud of the authors who come with a rough idea of what they want to write and less of how to do it, whom we mentor to produce great and valuable manuscripts; I’m proud of our unique and standout covers and typesets that Joe masterminds; and I’m proud of how we have grown Rethink Press from a germ of an idea to a burgeoning company at the cutting edge of publishing in six years.
6 What are your biggest challenges?
Building the creative team fast and flexibly enough to meet the growing pace of book production. Developing the management structure so I have enough time to work on the business while not losing oversight of what is happening in the business. Not letting myself get overwhelmed by too much interaction. To stay sane, I have to balance more days when it’s just me and my laptop against big events, training days and intense meetings.
7 What have you experienced in your job and publishing that you didn’t expect?
The fortuitous partnerships and opportunities that fall into place when you are doing something right. My partnership with the KPI programme has given me a platform to teach entrepreneurs how to write books and become perfect authors for Rethink Press. I’m now convinced that quality book publishing paid for upfront by authors is going to increasingly be the way forward for niche business and self-help publishing. Forbes has now started up Forbes Books for high-powered entrepreneurs on exactly the same model as Rethink Press; I had an instinct that this might work six years ago, but I couldn’t claim that I expected it.
8 What is the best thing about working for an independent publisher?
I’ve never had a ‘proper’ job, so working for myself as an independent publisher is the best thing! For a lot of my career I’ve worked as a freelancer, so having a team around me is great.
9 How do you switch off from your work?
My family—my husband, two grown-up sons, three grandsons, adopted teenage daughters, three dogs and some chickens give me plenty to do and think about other than work. My younger daughter has Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, so I research and interact with other families affected by this invisible, devastating and totally avoidable condition. More prosaically, I’m addicted to watching Neighbours on my lunch break, reading the New Statesman cover to cover every week along with at least one book (increasingly audio), and listening to The Archers Omnibus on a Sunday morning.
10 What advice would you give anyone wanting to start or progress a career in publishing?
Get a variety of experience in different aspects of writing, design, publishing and business before you decide on your central interest. People skills and the art of selling will always be important, along with any specialist skills you want to develop.
Stay open-minded and embrace change. Some aspects of publishing, like the market for printed books, will stay stable, but so much will continue to transform. It’s going to be a bumpy and potentially painful ride for organisations and individuals who are set in their ways, but a fun roller-coaster trip for those who are up for it.