We speak to Esther about following her strengths, the surprising books on her shelves, and creating connection through vulnerability on Instagram.
I’m an Associate Marketing Manager at Oxford University Press. I work in Planning and Program Development in the Marketing Operations team, where I essentially work with marketers across the Academic division to make their workflows and processes as streamlined and effective as possible. It might not sound like a particularly glamorous role (very few roles are!), and I certainly didn’t expect to end up there when I started out in publishing, but I’m a big believer in following your strengths and interests to guide you along your career path rather than just focusing on the job title. I love problem-solving and am good at finding efficiencies and building relationships. My role enables me to put that to good use and I really enjoy working with a wide range of people across the business.
How did you get into the publishing industry?
I actually wrote a whole post on this for the Society of Young Publishers’ blog here. Long story short my route into publishing was fairly unoriginal. I completed a few work experience placements at a number of publishing companies, including an internship in Children’s Book Marketing at OUP. After that I went off to do a placement at a School Book publisher in Germany before landing my first grown-up job as a Marketing Assistant in journals at OUP.
I haven’t always known that publishing would be my career choice. I used to spend a lot of energy worrying about what my dream job should be (and sometimes still do!) but it wasn’t getting me anywhere and I felt like I was banging my head against a wall. So instead, I’ve always tried to just focus on the next right step. I do that by tuning into what I enjoy and am good at and looking for roles and opportunities that match those. If you can develop a strong sense of who you are and what you like by being curious about the tasks and aspects of a job that you do and don’t enjoy then you’ll find yourself pulled towards certain things.
Is there a book or project that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of?
I’ve worked on lots of campaigns that produced good results which always gives me a thrill but nothing that would be remotely interesting to anyone but the target audience. I know this because I’ve tried to interest family and friends by waving beautiful graphics and carefully-crafted web copy in their face in the past yelling, ‘looook what I did’, but they were having none of it.
In all seriousness, I think the projects I am most proud of are the ones where I’ve worked closely with colleagues to help them optimise their own campaigns. Whether that’s working with new starters and junior members of staff or running interactive workshops to improve the team’s digital advertising skills. I get a real kick out of helping others to build their confidence and am grateful that I get to incorporate that into my job.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: follow your skills and interests, not just the job title.
Where do you buy or access your books?
Sometimes Amazon (Yikes. I know). Sometimes my local independent. I also do a lot of book swapping with friends. Apologies to those who lent me books before lockdown and who I have yet to see again to return them! I promise they are safe and you will get them back.
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?
Before the pandemic I was reading a lot more nonfiction but a while after the lockdown hit I noticed that I was actively avoiding reading altogether. I realised it was because the nonfiction wasn’t giving me the escapism I was craving. Once I switched to fiction, I started rattling through books. I’ve been sticking to a lot of romance novels with the occasional literary fiction thrown into the mix.
What is your most beautiful book?
I know it’s not a popular way to be but I am terrible at keeping books in good condition so I don’t trust myself to own anything too beautiful. I love my Penguin Clothbound Jane Austen collection but am too scared to take them out of the box, so they remain on display and I have some well-thumbed copies from charity shops which I actually read.
What surprises you about your bookshelves? Is there a book that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
Excellent question! I’m surprised I haven’t got rid of (donated) my old texts from uni which I will certainly never read again and are taking up valuable shelf space. If I’m honest I’m only keeping them there as trophies to make me look like a well-rounded and educated individual. Perhaps it’s time to detach my self-worth from these old, cracked-spined titles and move on.
I’m also surprised at the collection of nonfiction I have built up in recent years as I was never that into it before I graduated university. I have social media to thank for that. As my exposure to new ideas and thinking on platforms like Instagram grew so did my accompanying book collection. I’m forever grateful for the lasting impact some of these books have had on my personal growth in that time. Random highlights include Girl Up by Laura Bates, Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton, Period Power by Maisie Hill, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, and most recently How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes.
What are your most anticipated reads for 2021 and do you have any reading goals?
I have Beth O’Leary’s The Road Trip on preorder which I immediately ordered after reading her others. Other than that my main focus is getting through my current TBR pile although I’m sure I’ll acquire more as new releases come out. As much as by TBR pile feels like a never-ending To Do List, I am always hungry for recommendations and am easily influenced by the wonderfully skilful book marketing of my fellow publishing professionals.
What are your ultimate book recommendations?
Anything by Brené Brown.
Where can readers find you online?
You can find me on Twitter at @_esthermorrison where my DMs are always open for anyone who fancies a chat or has questions (publishing hopefuls and professionals alike).
I also have an Instagram account which is a little passion project of mine with the aim of creating connection through vulnerability. I share positive messages in a non-toxic way and open up about some of the struggles that come with being an overachiever trying to find inner peace, plus the occasional bookish content thrown in for good measure. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy then come join me at @thehappyovershare.