Amy Baxter, Editorial Assistant at Penguin Michael Joseph

Amy speaks to The Publishing Profile about working at Michael Joseph and realising how exciting non-fiction can be.

Hi! I'm Amy, I'm 23 and I'm an Editorial Assistant at Penguin Michael Joseph.

How did you get into publishing?

I was very lucky in that I had a fairly straightforward route into publishing. I was part of the 2019/20 Scheme at Penguin Random House, which is their editorial traineeship for those from a "BAME (Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic) community, and/or from a socio-economically disadvantaged background". I was placed at Michael Joseph, in the Non-Fiction department, and spent six months essentially as an intern there. I was very lucky that a role for an Editorial Assistant opened up two weeks before my traineeship ended within the Michael Joseph team, and here I am! I actually started the day before lockdown, go figure.

Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?

Working in publishing has definitely widened my reading taste - I've always been a fan of non-fiction insofar as history books and commercial non-fiction but working at a house like Michael Joseph has really opened my eyes to how exciting non-fiction can be. Never before have I wanted to own so many cookbooks, but here I am stockpiling them.

I think also - I've never been a super literary reader. I'm always upfront that I love a good romcom, I love a crime thriller, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?

I'm a bit of a snob, I love a hardback book. But nowadays I buy a lot more eBooks - just for the sake of space and speed.

Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?

I'm pretty new to my job, and was lucky to be thrown straight into Captain Tom's autobiography, which is the first book my boss bought when I joined! I'm really proud to be working on it; Captain Tom is an inspiration to us all.

What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to?

Good question! My most read genre is probably literary fiction (which is ironic, given that I call myself a commercial fan first and foremost). In my spare time, I run a literary review magazine, Bad Form, which platforms Black, Asian, and marginalised community writers. I receive proofs pretty regularly, and, frankly, Black and Asian authors are especially kept to the genre 'literary fiction' rather than commercial. I like to read marginalised community authors because I never really had access to them in the past.

Where do you buy or access your books?

From independent shops where I can! Any kids books from Knights Of, but I have a huge soft spot for Foyles on Tottenham Court Road.

What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?

I've kept many fairytales, but my favourite that I've kept is a huge edition of all of the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. It's got golden sprayed edges so it shines when you hold it, and I remember thinking it was the Best Gift Ever when my parents gave it to me for my ninth birthday.

What is the oldest book on your shelf?

Food: The Deciding Factor is a 1941 Penguin triband guide to food rationing and nutrition values. The advice isn't great but it's a lovely little thing to own.

What’s the most beautiful book you own?

I was gifted the most beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice a few years ago; it's blue fake-leather, with gold foil and the quote "Till this moment, I never knew myself" emblazoned on the front. I love it to death, and it's such a beautiful copy of the book I've never read from it.

Who is your most read author, and why?

Gosh, hard question. I think, judging by my bookshelf, it's Zadie Smith. There are a few authors who I will pick up every single time, without even looking at the copy. She's it for me.

What surprises you about your shelves? Is there a book you own that you were surprised to love as much as you did?

I love finding a book I didn't think I was going to enjoy! This will sound terrible, but The Confessions of Frannie Langton was like that for me. The Gothic never really appealed to me, but I gobbled it up. It was thrilling and original and beautifully written. Sara Collins is pure talent.

What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?

Gosh, there have been so many excellent releases this year. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara and, of course, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett I think are truly excellent books. It's been a good year for my bookshelf.

What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha is out I believe, and I thought it was gripping. It's just so well written, an insight into contemporary Seoul and the lives of the women who live there. I can't wait to be able to talk to more people about it!

What book should everyone read?

David Olusoga's Black and British is subtitled 'A Forgotten History' for a reason. The past few months have shown that we as the population of the UK have criminally suppressed the history of Black people in this country. I think it's fundamental reading for everyone.

Where can readers find you online?

I tweet sporadically at @amyindiamae, and you can find more structured content on Twitter and Instagram @BadFormReview!

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