At least ten people work on each book that Picador publishes, all helping to get the author’s words into the hands of readers: there’s contracts and rights, editorial and publicity, production and design, sales and marketing... Find out what all those jobs entail and see what makes the Picador team tick when it comes to books, reading and publishing.
Describe your job in two lines.
I’m the Publisher of Picador, the literary imprint of Pan Macmillan.
I’m responsible for overseeing all of Picador’s publishing as well as editing and publishing my own list within the imprint.
How did you get into publishing?
Circuitously. I started working at Waterstone’s when I was studying for a PhD. I never finished the PhD but I was soon a bookshop manager in the Charing Cross Road. After other jobs at Waterstone’s, I moved into publishing at the independent Harvill Press in the mid-90s, and have remained in publishing, with various highs and lows, ever since.
What do you love about it?
I love telling people about books; I love talking to writers about their books (and about other books); I love helping great books find readers.
What was the book that got you hooked on reading?
I loved faintly anarchic books about boarding school life, a world that eluded me personally but always seemed a lot more exciting than the goings on in my various northern grammar schools. So first, Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans (with Ronald Searle’s brilliant illustrations), and then Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge. But my absolute favourite was Grimble by Clement Freud (the later edition – the one I had as a child – was wonderfully illustrated by Quentin Blake) which had the added bonus of some extremely unappetising recipe ideas – it resulted in my first and only fan letter to an author who I remember sent me a charming reply.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in publishing?
Keep trying and accept any offer that comes to you at the start of your career. Try not to be phased by the poshness and privilege of so many of those around you. Talent will be recognized.
Desert island book?
Impossible, and, as I can’t/daren’t select from those I have published at Picador, I will look further back. There is a strand of novels that I love – I would describe them as romantic tragic – and these include The Good Soldier(Ford Madox Ford); Tender is the Night (F Scott Fitzgerald); The End of the Affair (Graham Greene); and more recently Asylum (Patrick McGrath) and A Goat’s Song (Dermot Healy).
Favourite Shakespeare play?
Of course the tragedies, and of course Hamlet and King Lear are the greatest, but I also love the history playsfrom Richard III to Henry V. I know that’s a cheat, but how can you choose?
Shakespeare’s Sonnets, always.
I can’t name one in the UK as it will only alienate all my friends at Daunts, Waterstone’s, Foyle’s and all the great independents. However, I ran three Waterstone’s branches and only one – Hampstead High Street – still remains, so that remains a special place for me. Otherwise, Shakespeare and Co in Paris.
Elevator pitch for the most recent books you acquired.
Fathers & Sons by Howard Cunnell
A memoir of fatherhood and childhood that only this writer could have written: it is the story of how love (and books) can allow a man to escape the cycles of violence and self-destruction; and how every father struggles to explain what it means to be a man. Publishing early 2017.
Everyone is Watching by Megan Bradbury
A novel about four of the most extraordinary and original creative figures New York has seen (Walt Whitman, Robert Moses, Robert Mapplethorpe, Edmund White) – a book that shows how New York shaped the lives of its greatest artists; and how New York’s artists created our vision of the city. Publishing summer 2016.
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