We speak to Sanne about the online literary world, reading apocalyptic books and the Book Club Journal.
Hi! I'm Sanne Vliegenthart and I'm a freelance Social Media Producer and Strategist and literary event host. I also have a YouTube channel called Booksandquills, where I've been making videos for over 10 years, covering books, my career in the publishing industry, uni advice and UK travel. I'm originally from the Netherlands, but have been living in London for 9 years now.
How did you get into publishing and what advice would you give to aspiring publishers?
My first job was Digital Coordinator at YA publisher Hot Key Books and I could not have wished for a better start! It took me about 9 months to find a job in publishing after moving to London (right after I finished my English Lit and Translation MA in Leiden, the Netherlands), but working at Hot Key Books allowed me to learn so much about all the different roles in publishing. They were incredibly supportive when it came to getting creative and working together and I felt really empowered from the beginning.
I knew very little about the industry before starting the job hunt and I didn't even know what kinds of jobs there were, so I'd advise to really embrace researching the different parts of the industry and what you think might best suit you, so you can focus on skills that would be helpful for that sector. Follow loads of publishing people on Twitter, become aware of the current conversations in publishing and don't disregard any skills or experience you have that you might think isn't relevant at first.
What has working in lockdown been like for you as a freelancer?
Working in lockdown weirdly hasn't been that different from the way it was before (besides all the obvious changes). I still spend most of my time behind my desk answering emails, scheming the next social media campaign, editing videos and shooting photography in my living room. The main thing that's changed is that there's no longer any in-person events, whether they are ones I would usually attend or where I would interview authors myself. Some of them have moved online, but I've definitely felt more disconnected from the publishing industry by not running into people and catching up with them at events.
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've become a lot more aware of 'what's going on'. I used to read a weird combination of books, mostly because I didn't have access to great recommendation sources, and before that had limited English options at my local library. The more I've become involved with the online literary world on YouTube and Instagram, in addition to being able to go to bookshops in London and seeing what's new, plus working in publishing, the more I've started reading newer releases and getting really spot on recommendations. I also think I'm reading more widely, while also being able to dive into genres I already love.
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?
I've read quite a bit of historical fiction and apocalyptic fiction. I know most people are shying away from reading pandemic-related books, but I've always loved them and it's such a unique time to be able to read them. And since most apocalyptic stories are even worse than our current situation, it doesn't make me feel anxious.
What is your most beautiful book?
Probably my full Jane Austen set by Vintage, they've got some gorgeous painted covers (by Leanne Shapton) and look beautiful together, my Penguin John Wyndham collection and I still have a weakness for the Penguin English Library sets.
What is the oldest book on your shelf?
My oldest books are the series I read over and over again as a kid and that I just can't get rid of: Artemis Fowl and Darren Shan. I've been a fantasy and Sci-fi enthusiast from the beginning it seems! I used to get all my books from the library, so the oldest books in my collection are ones that I'd read lots before and really wanted to own myself as a child and teenager.
What surprises you about your bookshelves? Is there a book that you own that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
What often surprises others about my shelves is that I don't own that many books that I've read. I only keep the ones I really loved and think I'll recommend or want to share online again. Most of my books go to friends or charity shops. Sometimes I regret getting rid of a book, but I love the excitement and unknown potential that comes from having a full shelf of books that I still want to read. As I keep reading I'm sure the 'favourites' shelf will slowly keep growing and I can't wait to see what that will look like a few years from now.
Which authors or genres do you look forward to reading more of in the future?
I loved historical fiction as a child and teen, and read a bunch of books set in the Netherlands and Belgium with feisty female protagonists, who run away from home in search of adventure. I've slowly started buying more historical fiction and witch-themed books, and I can't wait to read those this year!
What were the best books you've read in 2020?
Some highlights were Severance by Ling Ma (a contemporary pandemic novel set in New York), Black and British by David Olusoga (I listened to the audiobook for this, which I'd highly recommend), The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh and the Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman.
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of the year?
I'm actually working on a video around this topic! I can't wait for Reputation by my good friend Lex Croucher (think Jane Austen meets Gossip Girl), The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris and Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (which came out the week I was writing this).
While I often needed to read books for my job to be able to talk about them to an audience and pitch them in an interesting way, the reading I do for YouTube reviews has always been an interesting challenge. Trying to keep ahead of the publication of books (when I've received a proof copy) has never been my strong suit. And while in the past I used to make single book review videos, these have quickly fallen out of favour and I personally prefer to make more themed videos (e.g. 'my favourite fantasy novels' or '5 classics to start with'). But this often means I have to read 3 to 4 specific titles before I'm able to film that video, which means my videos dictate my reading. It's a fine balance between being efficient with my reading and also keeping it fun, because that's so important to me! I'm currently reading the YA Book Prize shortlist, as I'm lucky enough to be a judge this year and I've actually made a reading tracker that I've put up above my desk, to make sure I don't fall behind. I'm not great with reading deadlines as they can often seem a bit daunting, but strangely being able to see progress right in front of me is a great motivator for me.
Where can readers find you online?
On YouTube and Instagram. And I've also got a Book Club Journal coming out on May 6th, which is a beautiful guided journal to document your reading and get tips and inspiration for your Book Club meetings and book picks!
You can pre-order Sanne's Book Club Journal here.