A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…. Clare Hey by SJV
Next up in our series of A Day in the Life of features is @TeamBATC member, Publishing Director, Clare Hey!
What does a Publishing Director do?
I head up the fiction editorial team and am ultimately responsible for the fiction list. I oversee the strategy for the publishing as a whole, and work with the brilliant and creative editors in my team to bring the very best books to readers. I look after many authors directly myself and publish across women’s fiction, historical fiction and reading group fiction.
Is there such a thing as a typical day, and if so what does it look like?
There is a shape to the week which starts with a cover art meeting on a Monday, goes through a weekly sales update meeting, acquisitions and editorial meetings, and then various scheduling, financial and creative meetings inbetween. I have weekly one-to-ones with each of my team to make sure they are all on track and happy.
But it’s not just meetings – though they provide a structure. I spend a lot of time talking to authors and agents, either editorially, or around titles, cover copy, covers, marketing and publicity and sales strategies. Publishing is about communication really and authors are at the heart of everything we do.
Seeing as I am writing this during the #lockdown, I should add that I have tried to keep a structure in my week even though we’re all working from home. Our meetings are all happening on Zoom now and I am enjoying nosing at the backgrounds of my colleagues’ houses! I normally cycle to work so that’s the main thing that has changed for me – I’m trying to get out for daily exercise as much as I can.
For the record, if I was a budding debut author, faced with the dreaded blank first page, what would be your top tip to bestseller success?
Not to think about bestseller success in the first place! First thing is to write what you want to write. And to read a lot – writers are all readers at heart. And remember, it’s easier to edit something than nothing so get writing and then revise. When you’re ready to share, choose someone you trust to tell you the truth as your first reader. Listen to their feedback but keep your own intention in writing the book in your mind – you don’t have to make every change a reader suggests. The revise some more. And put in a drawer for a couple of weeks before submitting to agents. You’ll spot things you might not have noticed before with the benefit of some time away from it. Also, the value of the first read for an agent or editor is really important so make it as good as you possibly can before submitting.
We’re obsessed with other peoples TBR piles, how high is yours? And do you have 2, one for work books and one for pleasure books?
I have a virtual TBR on my kindle for work books and it is always higher than I want it to be. I know that for every unread ms on my kindle – submission or ms from someone I already work with – there is an author biting their fingernails somewhere! The guilt of taking time to get back to people does weigh on me.
I don’t like to call the other pile the pleasure pile, as there is so much pleasure in my ‘work’ pile, but I do differentiate by reading this pile in physical format. It means my editing brain switches off and I generally am not reaching for a red pen!
Have you got a best and worst part of the job?
The best part is definitely sharing the good news – from bestseller successes, prize nominations, amazing reviews; these are all a joy. My role is really about helping authors connect with readers and when that works it feels amazing.
The bit I still – after nearly twenty years – feel nervous about is the moment a book arrives from the printers. I live in fear of spotting a mistake that I should have seen before. Of course, we have stringent processes in place to stop this happening and lots of checks from lots of different eyes, but it still makes me nervous!
Is there an author you’d sell a limb to work with?
I am already working with so many authors I love that I’d be surprised to have any limbs left to sell!
What book do you most recommend to others?
I’ll choose ones I didn’t work on for fairness: probably Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.
And lastly our quick fire trivia round…
Thing you’d never leave home without? Bike lights. Even if I don’t have my bike with me. Don’t know why!
Favourite place to read? On a beach. Or in the pub, by myself with a glass of wine.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Somerset, near enough to the Glastonbury festival site to get free tickets.
What’s the secret to success? A mix of determination and creativity. And admitting and learning from when things go wrong.
What’s on your current reading pile? Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. And on the editing pile: The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain.
Staying in or Going out? Right now it’s going out, mainly because we can’t!
What’s your Signature dish? Really good roast potatoes.
Beach break or city break? Countryside break.
Favourite Literary Hero? Anne of Green Gables.
Famous last words? I’ll be right there after I’ve finished reading this chapter…