A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…. Jo Dickinson by SJV
What does a publishing director do?
I oversee the shape, strategy and profitability of the fiction list. Most days involve meetings; if I want to edit (which I really do as it’s an honour to help shape a book) then I work at home. I commission across a wide range of genres, from crime to literary to women’s fiction, and I love the variety. So, an average day for me might include: an editorial meeting, where we discuss new projects and update on books we are bidding for; a sales or marketing meeting; a ‘community’ (eg BATC) catch up, to look at social media plans, events, and promotion plans; and a US imprint call, where we have a video conference with editors at S&S US about shared projects and plans. Around this I answer emails and make calls, talk to colleagues across the whole business about book covers, copy, sales queries, typesetter queries, and relay information to authors and agents, who are also part of the team even if not in the office with us. I also look after the audio list, an area of real growth in the industry which is very exciting. There tends to be a trade event of some sort to attend every week, or I sometimes (if I am lucky) get to share the commute with @bookminxsjv and we put the world to rights (occasionally with gin).
Is there such a thing as a typical day, and if so what does it look like?
The fact that my days are never the same is one of the great joys of working in publishing. I never quite know what I will be doing from one moment to the next – but I do know that I will be working with very talented people who love books and reading, and what could be better than that?
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?
Just start writing. Write something that you can’t put down, that keeps drawing you back to be finished, and then you know your heart is in it. The reader can always tell this. Never write to follow trends.
We’re obsessed with other people’s TBR piles, how high is yours? And do you have 2, one for work books and one for pleasure books?
I have books all over the house. The closer to the bed they get, the more chance there is of me reading them.
Have you got a best and worst part of the job?
Sometimes books don’t sell in the way you want them to, which is disappointing to everyone. The key, I think, is to try and learn from them.
Is there an author you’d sell a limb to work with?
Too many to mention.
What book do you most recommend to others?
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I can still vividly remember reading it for the first time and being absolutely swept away by the setting, characters and humour. I am trying to get my daughter to read it now.
And lastly our quick-fire trivia round…
Favourite place to read? In bed.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Île de Ré
What’s the secret to success? Listening.
What’s on your current reading pile? I am reading On Golden Hill by Francis Spufford.
Staying in or Going out? Staying in.
What’s your Signature dish? A Thai green curry. And a pear tarte tatin for dessert. And then a glass of quince gin which is my new favourite thing.
Beach break or city break? Given the choice, I would spend every holiday on Île de Ré. But the rest of the family (quite rightly) want to explore the world.
Famous last words? She did her best.