Aimee speaks to The Publishing Profile about working in Design and her favourite independent bookshops.
Hi, I’m Aimee, Marketing & Design Executive at BookMachine. I promote their events and training courses for publishers, create engaging marketing campaigns, and help to run their vibrant online community. I’m also a freelancer and work part-time with authors, small businesses and startups providing typesetting, marketing design, website management and content creation. I live in Walthamstow in North London with my husband and cacti collection!
How did you get into publishing?
My route into publishing started with taking the Publishing MA at Plymouth University. I studied part-time and worked in a freelance capacity on the side doing content creation, copywriting and administration. On the course, I learned the ropes of Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator), led the editorial team for the Creative Writing department’s anthology publication, interned with Intellect Books (a visual arts educational publisher in Bristol) and attended the London Book Fair. I also grew my list of contacts, started a blog and got serious about using Twitter. It was great to have the structure of the course as my introduction to the industry!
Once the course came to an end, I relocated to London and started a job in medical recruitment. Though it sadly wasn’t publishing-related, it enabled me to explore publishing opportunities and meet new people at in-person events. At one of the first events I went along to, I was fortunate enough to bump into a book designer, who I later joined as part of her collective of freelancers. My experience with them was invaluable, and the work I did during those two years forms a big part of my freelance services today.
In 2018, I stepped in as the Social Media Manager for The Society of Young Publishers’ London branch, before becoming Co-Chair in 2019. My time with the committee completely broadened my scope of what was happening in the industry, and who the key players were, and helped massively when building my client list. It was also amazing to support others in their journey. I took the plunge and became a full-time freelancer in January 2019 until starting my role with BookMachine in April 2020.
Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?
Working with a few different types of publishers and authors has had an impact on widening my reading, by introducing me to new stories and voices. Additionally, it’s great to get different book recommendations from publishing friends on Twitter that I might otherwise have missed. However, the industry can act as a ‘bubble’ where only certain books or authors are discussed or recommended, which I’m sure has meant I’ve overlooked many titles. So widening my reading habits must be an ongoing practice.
What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?
I’m definitely a paperback kind of person, I buy hardbacks from time to time, and I also enjoy audiobooks – though only when I can give them my full attention! I wasn’t a confident reader as a child, so I think I’ll always have a love for audio storytelling as this was my hook into reading books.
Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?
I so enjoyed working with author Frances Mensah Williams on her book Imperfect Arrangements this year, a story of three sister-friends living in Ghana and navigating their various relationships. Frances’ first two novels were previously published by amazing small press Jacaranda, so the challenge for me was to live up to their beautiful designs and produce the third book to complement the series so far. Frances’ original artist returned to produce the beautifully vibrant cover art, and I handled the final designs for both jacket and pages. I’m so pleased with how it turned out! Frances managed to launch the novel just before lockdown to a room full of passionate readers, and her friends and family, and it was such an honour to be involved!
What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to? For example, fairy-tale retellings or books featuring a particular city?
Graphic novels and mystery books, probably in equal measure! I also love reading books set in San Francisco.
Where do you buy or access your books?
Waterstones and independent bookshops. There aren’t any indies up here in Walthamstow, so Hackney (the next borough over) is where most of my favourites live: Stoke Newington Bookshop, Pages of Hackney, Libreria and Brick Lane Bookshop to name a few. I also have an easy trip on the Tube to Round Table Books in Brixton, an inclusive children’s bookshop with a fantastic collection of titles. I can’t wait to visit them all again when it’s safe to do so.
What is the oldest book on your shelf?
A 1939 copy of Oscar Wilde poems I bought in a second-hand bookshop in Edinburgh.
What’s the most beautiful book you own?
I am lucky enough to own an illustrated First Edition, Third Impression of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe from 1956, which was a wedding gift. It has a colour dust jacket and a single colour illustration of Aslan at the front, with black and white illustrations throughout.
Who is your most read author, and why?
Probably Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket! I loved the Series of Unfortunate Events books as a young reader and still buy his adult fiction today.
What surprises you about your shelves? Is there a book you own that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
A collection of short stories by Carmen Maria Machado Her Body and Other Parties was something unexpected for me. The opening story wasn’t my favourite of the lot, so I wasn’t prepared for just how much I would enjoy this book and disappear into each tale. Just the right amount of surreality, humour, horror and politics to be right up my street.
What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo blew me away this year, and I also really enjoyed chuckling along to Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times. Each were amazingly humorous reads, but Girl, Woman, Other in particular explores such hefty themes within the narratives of real, loveable and flawed characters. I think everyone should read this book.
Readers can find Aimee on Instagram and Twitter as @aimeedewar.