1 What is your job title and company? And roughly how many people work for your company?
I am the publisher for social sciences in Europe at Princeton University Press. There are 11 of us in our European office in Woodstock, and around 100 in the main office in Princeton.
2 What are your qualifications and working background, and when and how did you take on your current job?
Like many publishers I am what is politely described as a generalist. I studied Drama and English at university, spent five years in the theatre and fashion businesses, before becoming a bookseller, then a sales rep and then a publisher. It was the best possible training I could have had and I think every editor should spend time on a shop floor. My time as an academic sales rep visiting academics and booksellers in Scotland and the north east for Longman Higher Ed (as it then was) taught me everything I know about academic publishing, the beauty of the northern countryside and malt whiskey.
I moved in-house at Longman to start a new list in psychology and communication studies, and after a few years moved to Cambridge University Press where I was senior editor for psychology and sociology. From there I was headhunted by Oxford University Press to become its publisher for economics and finance. I knew absolutely nothing about either subject, but as it did not seem to bother anyone else I decided to take the plunge, and it was the best decision I have ever made in my professional life. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I found economics fascinating. After a few years I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to learn about trade publishing with the wonderful team at Profile, but sadly I was only there for a short time as the four-hour daily commute proved impossible, and I quickly felt I was failing to fulfill both my domestic and my professional duties as I wanted to.
Wiley came to the rescue with an offer of a job as publisher for its economics and business journals, and though I can’t pretend I have much fondness for the world of journals publishing I learnt a lot and was lucky enough to work with some fantastic colleagues. Just over two and a half years ago, Princeton University Press approached me to ask if I would be interested in commissioning economics, psychology and some social and political theory for them, and it seemed like a perfect fit. I loved the list, and as well as having huge respect for their editorial team I was also very keen to work with Caroline Priday, our fabulous publicity director. It’s no use publishing brilliant books if no one knows about them!
3 What does your average working day entail?
The great thing about the job is that no two days are the same. But if I am in the office there will generally be some meetings, lots of email, conversations with colleagues—especially the brilliant Hannah Paul, who works with me on my lists and basically runs them—too much coffee and a brisk walk round Blenheim Park. If I am working at home I am usually line editing, and of course when I am travelling it’s all about meeting and talking with lots of different people.
4 What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love working with my colleagues, especially those in the Woodstock office whom I see every day. They are all intelligent, funny and hugely hard working and professional. It is also a great privilege to work with and meet so many people who are much cleverer and more interesting than me.
5 What achievements are you most proud of?
Still being here. Having helped younger people develop their careers. Publishing one or two bestsellers and books that contribute to important debates and may help influence, even in the smallest way, how people think about key issues. Not always towing the party line.
6 What are your biggest challenges?
7 What have you experienced in your job and publishing that you didn’t expect?
Discovering that economists are quite human really, and that not all bankers are bad. How lucky we are to work in an industry where people generally treat each other with decency and respect.
8 What is the best thing about working for an independent publisher?
Not having to worry about shareholders’ quarterly dividends or ploughing through endless bureaucracy to get things done.
9 How do you switch off from your work?
Spending time with family and friends, walking (running when I can), drinking wine, reading novels, and watching rugby and football—though being a lifelong Arsenal fan, that is not always the most relaxing activity.
10 What advice would you give anyone wanting to start or progress a career in publishing?
Think very carefully about what area of publishing you want to go into. Publishing is a very varied industry, but the different sectors are very siloed and it can be difficult to move from one kind of publishing to another mid-career.