Meet the Mantle team: Sam Humphreys
At least ten people work on each book that Mantle publishes, all helping to get the author’s words into the hands of readers. Next in our series introducing the Mantle team is Sam Humphreys, Mantle Associate Publisher.
Describe your job in one sentence.
Lots of reading, some editing, and then the rest of it is that mysterious process otherwise known as ‘publishing books’ – although I have no idea what that actually entails on a day-to-day basis. (Also, before you say anything, I’m aware I’ve cheated slightly on this question…)
Any secret hobbies/skills?
I can make my feet point in opposite directions. To be fair, it’s not a great (or remotely useful) skill. I’m also an avid collector of books on fashion photography, despite having no interest in fashion per se, or any skill as a photographer.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
So many to choose from! One: you nearly always have a choice. Two: Never blame anyone else for your decisions (to which I’d also add: or your mistakes). Three: if an editor takes an agent out to lunch, the editor always pays.
What was your greatest piece of luck?
Professionally, landing a job as an Editorial Assistant at Picador with pretty much no interview whatsoever, after doing some work experience, and subsequently temping, briefly, for the then Picador Publisher.
What makes you happy?
Sun. A submission that lives up to its pitch. The smell of freesias (my Mum’s favourite flowers).
What was the book that made you fall in love with reading?
I actually have no idea; for as long as I’ve been able to read, I’ve loved books. I remember devouring Enid Blyton books as a child – The Famous Five
, The Secret Seven
, The Five Find Outers
, The Faraway Tree
, Malory Towers
, her circus and farm books (you name it, if she wrote it, I probably read it) – and I graduated straight from them to Agatha Christie, as my Mum was a big Agatha Christie fan.
Which book do you most often recommend to friends?
I actually hate recommending books. Books are a bit like art, I think: a very personal taste – and what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I do occasionally give books as gifts, but only if I know the recipient very well. (And I always give them the receipt, just in case.)
What do you love about Mantle books?
I love a good story, basically, and I think a Mantle book is always guaranteed to provide that, since that’s so much of what we’re about.
Who is your favourite literary character?
There are just too many to choose from! I have a bit of thing for child narrators, though, and/or quirky/dysfunctional/damaged (for want of a better word) adult narrators.
Who would be in your dream book club?
No-one who works in publishing (except me, of course), just because I think it would be nice to talk about books without any of the publishing ‘stuff’ intruding for once.
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Publishing Emma Donoghue’s Room
was a wonderful experience, and probably helped establish my name as an editor, but equally, it’s very satisfying to buy a book that no-one else believes in and see it become successful. I’ve done that once, and that was also pretty amazing.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in publishing?
Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom – we’ve all done it – and be as pro-active and/or useful as you can. Also, talk to as many people as you can; the publishing world is relatively small, and networking can be crucial.
What advise would you give someone who wants to become a published author?
Write something completely brilliant and you will get published.