“You don’t necessarily need an English degree to do well in editorial…”
Laura Higginson introduces us to Ebury non-fiction and what it’s like to work on books that are right on trend.
So, you’re a Senior Commissioning Editor. Tell us what that means in one sentence?
As Senior Commissioning Editor for Ebury Press I am constantly on the hunt for new books to publish (specifically illustrated non-fiction ones for adults), which I then work on from first proposal to the final pages ready for the printer.
Sum up what it’s like to work in your team in three words.
Creative, collaborative, challenging
Share with us a project you’re proud of.
Our list is diverse: we publish Hemsley and Hemsley and Ottolenghi, but we are also the home of mug food and the spiralizer! We published the coveted style guide How To Be Parisian written by four female powerhouses from the worlds of journalism, theatre, television, fashion and beauty. We have two successful colouring books from a Korean illustrator, Daria Song, and an interactive guide to mindfulness from London-based The Mindfulness Project (for which there are now 16 foreign editions around the world). This year our line up includes chefs and home cooks, social media stars and entrepreneurs, journalists and bloggers.
What’s the one book you wish you’d published and why?
What I like about publishing is that, for all the trend watching we do, every so often a truly original book captures imagination and leaps up the bestsellers chart. I wish I had published Norwegian Wood, for example, which is both a great concept and great package. As an editor, these gems are what inspire you to keep on hunting for the next brilliant idea.
What was your biggest surprise about working in publishing?
You don’t necessarily need an English degree to do well in editorial and I think that might surprise many people. You do need to be able to write, have a good eye for detail and be able to communicate clearly but, equally as important, you need to have a creative, open AND strategic mind. My best learning has been done on the job.
What’s the best thing about your job?
In editorial, your days are varied, tasks are diverse and each book throws up different challenges. New authors and ideas can come from anywhere, but each author and book has a USP that makes it stand out. That’s why everyone in our small team has to be free-thinking and market aware. We all have to keep on top of the latest trends while looking forward to what’s coming next.
What’s the worst thing?
It’s an exciting time to be in publishing, as the industry evolves to remain relevant in a digital age. While it adapts it is also beginning to tackle its weaknesses, such as its lack of diversity – both in the types of books we publish and the people we hire. Fortunately, as we find ourselves in greater competition with other creative industries for the finest talent, things are changing for the better.
What one piece of advice you wish you’d been given when you started out in editorial?
Take some time to study the market and know what sells and but also follow your instincts and believe in your ideas, because new ideas – even the mad ones sometimes – and fresh ways of publishing books are how this industry will continue to evolve and remain relevant.