We speak to Jemma about working at an indie self-publishing house and joining Bookstagram.
Hello I’m Jemma and I am the Editor and Creative Assistant at Partnership Publishing, an indie self-publishing house. We are a small team and so I can only describe my job as wearing many hats! One moment I am completely immersed in manuscripts, editorial and initial reads and the next minute I am wearing my hat for marketing and PR, but as with most roles in publishing they are always interchangeable and I love it!
How did you get into the publishing industry?
I studied Publishing Media at Oxford Brookes University as an undergrad course. This covered both book and magazine publishing! After graduating, I was seeking an internship placement or work experience at a publishing house. When I left uni, the publishing industry were still very particular about having previous experience along with a background in publishing, so I am glad to see the break down of those barriers over recent years. After facing the turmoil and monotony of being a graduate trying to find a job, it was when I came across Partnership Publishing whilst living at home. I was so excited to find an indie publishing house close to me, especially being from rural Lincolnshire. It was then that I applied for work experience with the team. After 4 weeks of my experience, they offered me the position of Junior Editor.
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?
I read so broadly nowadays! We receive a lot of non-fiction and poetry submissions, so that has encouraged me to read wider than I ever did before. I was always somebody that would grab the next ‘popular read’ from the airport before catching a flight, because I love contemporary/romantic light-hearted read. Since being in indie publishing I am a huge advocate for all authors having access to and the discoverability as those top bestseller lists, I think the industry should be an inclusive one and not judged on a bestseller or a bestseller-to-be. I am also inclined to buy poetry now, where I never would have purchased a poetry book before.
Is there a project that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of?
I am really proud of a book we worked on for a previous Bake-Off winner. It was an exciting project to be a part of, it was the first book I had worked on that was heavily design led. It was fulfilling to see the mountains of paper manuscripts we had piled up and trying to organise them all into chapters, to eventually seeing the end product a few months later. It gave me the opportunity to utilise all that I had learned from university in terms of composition and layout, both from my book and magazine modules.
Where do you buy or access your books?
My commute to work is a couple of hours a day, so I have actually really enjoyed audiobooks. I always try to buy books from my local independent bookstores and from indie bookstores on my travels. I have always been a fan of brick-and-mortar bookshops over purchasing books online, whilst living in Oxford I was spoilt for choice (not least getting to use the University of Oxford’s libraries). I am a nightmare when buying books, because I have to hold the book and get a feel for it before I actually buy it, surely I cant be the only one?!
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?
During lockdown I have read more autobiographies than expected, beginning with Michelle Obama last February/March. This was fantastic and I have followed it up with Barack’s too. I also read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was everything I needed in 2020 to escape! I also swapped books with a few friends, which led to me reading the lyrical memoir The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, which was just incredible and eye-opening. I must admit, I was late to the party in joining bookstagram but since starting my profile, I have had an impulse to read more fantasy fiction.
What is your most beautiful book?
I think my most beautiful book would have to be based on the feeling I got from reading it. Because it is way too difficult to choose from a cover! But The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was the first book that I remember making me cry. It is a book that has stayed with me and it’s heartbreakingly wonderful. The ending gets you every time because it is a story of friendship, love, family and those ties that stay with you for a lifetime. “For you a thousand times over.”
What surprises you about your bookshelves? Is there a book that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
I used to only read fiction but the most surprising thing about my bookshelves at the moment is that I am filling them with memoirs and non-fiction. I have recently bought The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager an MIT Astrophysicist which I am looking forward to reading soon. My bookshelf at the moment is leaning more towards audiobooks as well. It dawned on me that I had two spare hours of my day that I could fill with MORE books! I just finished Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights and it has been my favourite read in a really long time. It has to be read on Audible because he is just so glorious to listen to!
What are your most anticipated reads for 2021 and do you have any reading goals?
My most anticipated reads for 2021 has to be Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World Where Are You which will be published in September. I am a huge fan. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna – this book is just everything 2021 needs. I also think the Julia Quinn Bridgerton series will be one to watch, it is already very popular on bookstagram and with the added success from the Netflix TV show. I’m also looking forward to The Cove by LJ Ross, I love a mystery and the cover is so eye-catching.
What are your ultimate book recommendations?
There are so many books that I recommend! I am a huge fan of Rupi Kaur’s poetry – they are a need not a want on your bookshelf. I love how honest, vulnerable and insightful her poetry is and from manuscripts we have recently received through the pandemic, I think poetry is only to keep growing in popularity. I would recommend Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights. If you enjoy audiobooks, this is the book to listen to. Not only does Matthew delve into the story behind the fast-paced and dizzy heights of Hollywood, his down to earth and introspective story is a masterpiece and it was like having a pep talk every morning before work! The Midnight Library by Matt Haig has been hugely popular and I can see why, it’s contemporary fiction with a twist of fantasy was just the icing on the cake. This has to be on your TBR list of 2021.
Where can readers find you online?