A Day In The Life Of… Suzanne Baboneau by SJV
I’m SO excited to have Suzanne Baboneau, the Managing Director of our Adult Publishing Division in the A Day in the Life of… hot seat! Suzanne is in charge of EVERYTHING here at @TeamBATC, our Boss, our Mentor, and one of the most inspiring and influential women in publishing. There is NOTHING she doesn’t know about the book world, so grab yourself a cuppa, and settle in for a whirlwind tour of life as the MD of S&S!
What does a Managing Director of the Adult Publishing Division do?
Not carry a briefcase for one, or wear a suit! In managerial terms, I oversee the Adult Editorial teams, Fiction, Non-fiction and Scribner, and also, rather wonderfully, the Adult Art Department. Not that I design jackets in my spare time! I work with my editorial colleagues on the shape and strategy of our list, with strong links to our colleagues in Australia, India and the US. At heart, though, I am still the editor I set out to be over 40 years ago, with a stable of wonderful authors which I add to now and again, and am still able to be very hands-on with their editing and publishing. Once a commissioning editor, always a commissioning editor… it gets into your blood.
Is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ day, and if so what does it look like?
Never! And I am glad that there isn’t. I love the variety and not knowing what a day will hold, what will land in your inbox, who will put their head around the door of my office asking to ‘have a word’ (which often portends something challenging!). We do have our meeting structure day by day which, like a school timetable, anchors you and gives a shape to the day. I love having a clear afternoon, say, to get down to book work, the detail, the ideas. Creativity, if I can call it that, usually comes, for me, later in the day or into the evening.
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?
Be yourself. Be true to yourself. Do not try to emulate others. Do not imagine that there is a magic formula to writing bestsellers that is eluding you. There isn’t. Close the laptop or your notebook and go for a long walk and crack that first sentence or paragraph in your head. Then you’re away. Isn’t it said that the hardest part of going for a run is lacing your shoes?
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?
Eek. It’s a tottering pile or would be if submissions aplenty weren’t lodged on my Kindle, some of which lurk there for far too long. But it’s the easiest and most efficient way to read them now, I guess. Before Kindles, I used to leave the office on a Friday evening with a book bag over my shoulder stuffed to bursting point with scripts. I have a pile of non-work related books that sit in a corner waiting for my summer or Christmas break, added to when there is an exciting new release I want to read. Of course I always read for pleasure, whether work or play!
Have you got a best and worst part of the job?
Among many best parts: seeing an author outperform, exceed expectations, whether by the calibre of their newly delivered work or, of course, hitting the bestseller list (and staying there). Reading a new submission and getting that shiver down my spine when I know instinctively that it has what it takes (even a rough first draft) and we should go all out to publish.
Worst parts: losing that book in a hotly fought auction, despite everyone moving heaven and earth to clinch it. Seeing a book underperform and managing an author’s expectations. And turning down submissions. Would that we had self-rejecting manuscripts!
Is there an author you’d sell a limb to work with?
So hard to think of just one. Let me be nostalgic for a moment. I grew up, in my early days in publishing, reading and actually working on a list that published her, and have continued to read her work ever since. Anne Tyler. I just love her ability to make the domestic and seemingly mundane absolutely gripping, thought-provoking and relevant. Which limb would I sell? I am glad you haven’t asked that!
What book do you most recommend to others?
Impossible to answer because it’s usually something I’ve just read. In which case, I will say Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I was given a copy two years ago and only read it this Christmas just gone. I thought it was astonishing.
And lastly our quick fire trivia round…
Thing you’d never leave home without? Something to read in case I get stuck somewhere.
Favourite place to read? In bed (with our cat curled up at my feet).
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? My home in London. It’s home…
What’s the secret to success? Perseverance, hard work and, above all, sheer love of what you do. And patience. It won’t all come at once.
What’s on your current reading pile? Unread submissions!
Staying in or Going out? Staying in.
What’s your Signature dish? Macaroni cheese (I am no cook)
Beach break or city break? Beach break – the perfect place to read.
Favourite Literary Hero? Olive Kitteridge.
Famous last words? This will sell over 100,000 copies, no problem…