We speak to Becca about her proudest publishing achievements, her favourite indie bookshops and her advice for publishing hopefuls.
Hi, I’m Becca. I’m currently the Marketing Executive at HQ, HarperCollins where I look after their social strategy, run campaigns across the HQ Fiction, HQ Nonfiction and HQ Digital lists, and try to keep some of their plants alive. I’m less good at that last bit.
How did you get into the publishing industry?
I’m constantly pinching myself and asking the same thing! When I graduated back in 2018 with a BA in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, I had very little clue what I actually wanted ‘to do’. Like most people on my course, I knew I wanted to ‘work with words’, though it wasn’t until my best friend (who actually studied Chemistry rather than English) suggested publishing that I’d even considered it as an option. All of a sudden, it became a dream I never even realised I had.
At the time, I was working as an Editorial Assistant for an edtech start-up, so I fortunately had some relevant experience under my belt already. From here, I made the move into academic publishing and joined the Oxford University Press (OUP) team as a summer intern, working in editorial and production for their English Language Teaching department. This was a hugely enjoyable and influential experience, but it also made it clear to me that my heart really belonged to the world of trade publishing.
Whilst at OUP, I interviewed for the HarperCollins Graduate Scheme, making it through the various stages but narrowly missing out on one of the two highly coveted places. It was because of my performance at these interviews, however, that I secured an interview for an editorial role at HQ. From this, I was offered an editorial internship with the HQ team, which developed into an extended internship in their marketing department. Though I’d never previously seen myself in a marketing role, I was keen to stay within the HQ team and learn new skills, so saying yes made perfect sense to me. Since then, I have discovered that marketing is 100% where I was destined to be and I haven’t looked back! After a few weeks, I applied for the Marketing Assistant role at HQ and have since been promoted to Marketing Executive, all within just 12 months.
TLDR; I said yes to every opportunity and kept an open mind about what being ‘in publishing’ meant to me. Though I originally started out with my sights set on editorial, falling into the world of marketing was exactly right for me. Sometimes you can’t imagine the best things for you!
Has your attitude to reading changed since working in the publishing industry? How has it changed your reading taste or the genre of books you usually read?
Oh my attitude and tastes have changed SO much! After graduating, I fell a little out of love with reading because I couldn’t switch off that idea that I was supposed to be reading a certain kind of book. I picked up classics and renowned literary works, and whilst some of them I loved, I found myself slogging through the rest just because I believed I had to have read it.
Working in publishing has really rejuvenated my love of reading for pleasure, especially as HQ publishes such a variety of genres so I’m now aware of so many different books I haven’t previously considered. And I’ve never before been one for reading nonfiction, but now my Kindle is full of it. I also think I’ve started reading differently because I now have people to discuss my reading with and people who recommend books to me (which I’m incredibly grateful for because choosing what to read next always stresses me out!).
Is there a project or book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of?
Where to begin?! I’m extremely proud of so many of the books I’ve worked on, including (to name but a few!) own voices YA LGBT+ fiction from Robin Talley, the gorgeous illustrated cookbook from social initiative The Luminary Bakery, and Robert Thorogood’s The Marlow Murder Club, which was chosen as Indie Book of the Month January 2021. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work on a number of Sunday Times bestsellers such as Just My Luck by Adele Parks, Speedy BOSH! from BOSH! and Linwood Barclay’s Find You First, and I was part of the campaign team for Louise Mumford’s Sleepless, which won the Book Marketing Society Award for a Guerrilla Campaign.
One of my proudest achievements, however, was starting the #ShowUsYourShelves social campaign in the middle of the UK’s first national lockdown last year. Not only did this become an internationally trending campaign, reaching #2 in Twitter’s United Kingdom trending subjects, but it was also such a beautifully organic campaign that brought the reading community together at a time when we all needed a little company. I will happily take responsibility for all the hours people lost to scrolling through that hashtag!
Where do you buy or access your books?
Anywhere and everywhere! I’m an absolute sucker for a second-hand bookshop and I spent a considerable amount of my time (and money!) at the ‘Leather and Books’ stall in Norwich Market when I lived there (spoilers: I never bought any leather). I also love independent bookshops and I’m currently on the lookout for one around the Kentish Town area if anybody has any suggestions. Also, I’m a little bit in love with the Bradford Waterstones (IT’S IN AN OLD CHURCH, PEOPLE!). I grew up in West Yorkshire so I spent a lot of time there when I was younger.
More recently I have been turning to eBooks, which have been an absolute life-saver during lockdown, but I still much prefer a good ol’ fashioned paperback, purely because they look good on my shelves! I cannot WAIT to get back into a bookshop again.
What books have you been reading in lockdown? Do these books typify your usual reading taste, or have you found yourself reading other genres and authors?
It comes in waves! I’ll go through periods of wanting to read nothing but comforting books, so I’ve found myself frequently returning to books like David Nicholls’ One Day and stacks of Mike Gayle. I’ve also been devouring all the uplit I can find; The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn was such a lockdown game changer.
On the other hand, I’ve also been talking to a lot more people about what they’ve been reading, so I’ve been constantly seeking recommendations and picking up books that might not have otherwise made it onto my TBR list. I read my first Toni Morrison last year, for example, and absolutely loved it!
Lockdown has also seen me pick up more of the ‘big books’ - the contemporary fiction titles that everyone seems to be talking about, such as Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, Abigail Dean’s Girl A and Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. I think this is possibly because the loneliness of lockdown makes me want to feel like I’m part of something, and what better ‘something’ than the book community?!
What is your most beautiful book?
Such a cruel question. Can I choose a few…? Objectively, I think it has to be my Penguin Clothbound Classics edition of Frankenstein. It’s actually one of three different editions I own (no prizes for guessing what my favourite book is), but it’s just perfect (sorry, other books.)
I also have a 2007 Crime Club edition of Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie that I am absolutely obsessed with. The uncoated dust cover and retro cover design are gorgeous and add a real something to the feel of reading a Christie classic.
And it’s impossible for me to answer this question without also mentioning my 50th Anniversary edition of Charlotte’s Web. It also has a stunning uncoated dust cover, finished with gold foil, and it’s beautifully illustrated throughout. It was given to me as a 6th birthday present, so it also carries quite a lot of sentimental value, and I can’t wait to hand it down to my (very hypothetical and far far far away) future children.
What surprises you about your bookshelves? Is there a book that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
Skulduggery Pleasant. I’m not even ashamed to admit it, but it’s absolutely Skulduggery Pleasant. I’m a fully-grown adult woman, and yet nestled in between my James Joyce collection and To Kill a Mockingbird, you will still find a copy of Skulduggery Pleasant.
What are your most anticipated reads for 2021 and do you have any reading goals?
There’s a whole list on my phone of books I can’t wait to read this year, but right at the top of that list is Kirsty Capes’ debut novel Careless, which is coming this May. It just sounds breathtakingly good. I can’t wait to meet Bess.
And my reading goals for 2021 are pretty modest; just 2 books a month. I don’t like setting myself huge goals when it comes to reading because I think reading should first and foremost be a form of entertainment, and I don’t want to start making it feel like homework by setting myself an impossible task.
What are your ultimate book recommendations?
I’ve been staring at this question for the last 10 minutes and the answer hasn’t become any easier, so - in no particular order - here’s my (current) top five…
· Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Sutanto
· Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
· This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
· Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
· Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I can guarantee that as soon as I submit this, I’m going to want to change all of my choices, so please don’t judge me.
Where can readers find you online?
I’m constantly shouting about books on my Twitter, or you can follow my recently created bookstagram page for half-decent photos of various paperbacks and some plants. And yes, I’m very aware that my IG handle makes me sound like a piece of IKEA furniture… See you soon!