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Amy Wong, Production Controller at Bloomsbury Publishing

Amy speaks to The Publishing Profile about working in production and re-evaluating her attitude to physical books.

Hi! I’m Amy and I’m a Production Controller at Bloomsbury Publishing. I produce a mixture of adult fiction and non-fiction titles. My job involves working with other departments and external suppliers to transform an author’s manuscript into the final product that readers buy. This includes preparing text and cover files to send to printers, drawing up schedules, and calculating how much books will cost to make.

Outside of work, I’m the UK Vice-Chair of the Society of Young Publishers, an organisation which supports both aspiring and early-career publishers.

How did you get into publishing?

During university, I took part in a scheme run by New Writing North and Inpress Books, through which I met various publishers and attended several publishing events. Separately to that, I did work experience and internships at three different publishers to learn even more about the industry.

My first job was at a children’s publisher in Leicester. Although I’d applied for an Editorial Assistant position, I was actually offered the dual role of Editorial and Production Assistant instead. This was because I’d learnt how to use InDesign while editing a student newspaper.

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

I definitely started reading more literary fiction and narrative non-fiction after I joined Bloomsbury because I wanted to understand the company’s lists and where its titles fitted into the market better. However, sometimes it goes the other way – if I’m struggling to fully switch off from work, I’ll purposefully read books that are completely different to those I work on (e.g. graphic novels).

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

Generally, I prefer paperbacks and eBooks for convenience. I find it hard to resist a beautifully designed hardback though, especially when there’s printed endpapers or foil on the case! My preferred format often depends on the type of book and where I’m reading. Pre-lockdown, I used my Kindle a lot while commuting. I think I read more YA and non-fiction books on my Kindle, but I’m also more likely to take a chance on eBooks due to their comparatively low cost.

I have to admit, I struggle with audiobooks – I’m far too easily distracted. However, there are a few that have won me over: the stream of consciousness narrative style of Emma Glass’ Peach (read by Yasmin Paige) suited audio perfectly, as did the part-podcast, part-standard-novel structure of Courtney Summers’ Sadie (a full-cast audiobook).

If I’m reading a long book or a book I don’t want to get damaged, I’ll sometimes switch between different formats. I definitely get through eBooks more quickly!

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

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I’m proud of it because of how much I’ve learnt while working on it. The fact that it has the most gorgeous design (courtesy of David Mann) doesn’t hurt either – I can’t wait to see finished copies!

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

Questions like this always throw me into a bit of an existential crisis! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself recalibrating the way I define different genres (especially fantasy) and realising that my identity as a reader isn’t as clear-cut or fixed as it used to be.

I’m definitely a mood reader though. I go through phases of being super into certain types of books rather than having one definitive favourite genre. At the moment, I’m really enjoying contemporary fiction about female protagonists, such as Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams and Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth.

As for more niche interests, I’m often drawn to books about food and motherhood, such as Lucy Knisley’s Relish and Kid Gloves.

Where do you buy or access your books?

Most of the print books I’ve bought this year were from Waterstones and unfortunately, I’m a bit of a sucker for a Kindle Book Deal on Amazon. However, I’m trying to shop at independents and buy directly from smaller publishers more going forward.

What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?

I have about a dozen childhood books on my London shelves. The oldest are Stargirl and Marshmallow Magic and the Wild Rose Rouge ­– both bought at a Scholastic book fair.

I absolutely loved fairy tale retellings when I was younger and liked how the protagonist in The Book of a Thousand Days wasn’t your typical heroine. I remember buying it at the same time as Twilight, which I’ve also kept. I know it has a lot of issues, but I can’t deny that it had a huge influence on my reading tastes and led to a bit of an obsession with vampires.

What is the oldest book on your shelf?

A collection of Ben Jonson plays which I got for my birthday.

What’s the most beautiful book you own?

Either Circe by Madeline Miller (designed by David Mann) or The Binding by Bridget Collins (designed by Micaela Alcaino).

Who is your most read author, and why?

Probably Jacqueline Wilson? She was one of my favourite authors as a child, partly because her characters were so relatable. I must have read over thirty books by her! Interestingly, I feel like the older I get, the less likely I am to go back through an author’s entire back catalogue or read entire series. There are just too many books I want to get through!

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

I’m surprised by how my attitude towards owning physical books has changed. I used to dream of having a massive library containing all the books I’ve ever read and lots of beautiful old editions of classics. While I do still own a lot of books, I’m much less sentimental about keeping hold of them. I’ve had two big ruthless clear-outs this year and I was shocked by how many books I’d acquired that I just wasn’t particularly fussed about. One of my resolutions for this year is to be more mindful about accumulating new things in general.

In terms of individual books, I was surprised by how much I loved the audiobook version of the Locke & Key comics. I’m not usually one for audiobooks to begin with (especially not ones as long as Locke & Key!) plus I had no prior knowledge of the original comics. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the story and sceptical about how well such a visual medium could be translated into audio. However, the excellent cast and high-quality production had me hooked from the beginning!

What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?

Tiny Moons by Nina Mingya Powles (the perfect comfort read for a rainy day), Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong (searingly honest and incisive) and The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (incredible world-building).

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

Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education sounds fantastic and Alice Oseman’s Loveless has also been on my radar for a while.

What book should everyone read?

The Good Immigrant!

Where can readers find you online?

My Twitter handle is @_amywong and I’m always happy to talk about books and working publishing!


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