Category Archives: Interview

An interview with Lana Beckwith

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lana_beckwith[intro]Lana Beckwith is a Digital Media and Content Manager at HarperCollins. As a digital content consultant, copywriter and editor she has also worked in-house for Amazon and as a freelance online content consultant, writing and editing online creative and marketing copy, and advising on metadata, layout, style and best practice.[/intro]

Why is everyone obsessed with metadata and SEO?

In the publishing world, it’s become such an important subject because more and more people are buying books online. Consumer behaviour is very different online: people tend to actively search, rather than browse in the way they would in a physical store. Strong metadata and SEO are key tools in boosting discoverability and, I suppose, helping to recreate the bookshop experience on someone’s laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Obviously, it’s not just discoverability either. Once a reader has found one of our books online, their decision to buy or not will essentially come down to metadata: the product description, the jacket, the reviews, etc are all key parts of metadata.

You have worked both in-house and as a freelancer for publishers. How have your experiences differed?

When you’re a freelancer, you certainly feel like you’re in control of the work you’re doing. There’s a reason the word ‘free’ makes up part of ‘freelance’! It also allows you to focus on the areas you’re passionate about, rather than those aspects simply being part of a wider role within a company. But personally, I also really enjoy being part of a team, sharing successes and contributing to a bigger picture. There are benefits to both.

With your skills, what is the most basic advice you can give writers and content creators?

Online copywriting is a completely different discipline to traditional, offline copywriting. It requires you to think more about how a reader will get to your content in the first place, and how you’re going to hold their attention when they have. How are you going to make them ignore that email that’s just flashed up, that instant message on Facebook, or that video of a cat riding a vacuum cleaner (which is pretty great, admittedly)? It comes down to getting readers (via SEO, metadata, paid advertising if you’re lucky), grabbing their attention (snappier copy, more paragraph breaks, recognisable keywords, visual stimulation) and pushing them to your call to action (buy something, sign up for something, come back another day, or simply remember this piece of writing). Think about how you read online yourself, and what engages you.

 What would your number one piece of advice be for someone looking to start working in the publishing industry over the next few years?

Be very open to various routes. When I started in publishing five years ago, people still talked in terms of career journeys through editorial, marketing, sales, digital, etc. Now, there are more blurred boundaries. There are elements of digital in most roles, PR and marketing are more combined than they have been in the past, and I’ve seen people who started out in traditional sales roles become digital marketing directors. It’s a more fluid place now, especially if you can find the area you’re most passionate about and go where it takes you (or where you push it).

An Interview with Alex Gerlis

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Alex Gerlis was a BBC journalist for over 25 years. He left in 2011 and is now a freelance writer, journalist, and media consultant. His first novel, The Best Of Our Spies, is an espionage thriller based around real events in the Second World War. It was published in 2012 by CB Creative Books with the help of whitefox.

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An Interview with Jonny Geller

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[intro] Jonny Geller has been a literary agent for more than 15 years, and is the joint CEO and Managing Director of the books division at Curtis Brown. He has represented numerous best-selling and prize-winning authors, journalists and writers, including John le Carré and David Mitchell. Last year he was named one of the most influential people in publishing by the Evening Standard and literary agent of the year at the Bookseller Industry awards.[/intro]
Tell us in 140 characters what your work involves on a day-to-day basis.

Every day is different. Something could land on my desk now that would change the day. But one thing is constant – it’s about authors. Their work, their publications, their development and sometimes their wellbeing.

How is the changing shape of the publishing industry affecting the role of literary agents?

We have morphed into the role of a manager now more than an agent. We often control publicity and some marketing as well as editorial on many major authors. The services we offer – whether it is through spreading the word on social media, improved and interactive agency websites, blogging – are very different to the ones we were offering, say, five years ago. The job is still the same – discovering, launching and guiding the careers of authors – but we have opened a creative writing school, launched an online submissions site, helped some authors to self publish, produced movies and television.

Your own book was published in 2006. What did the experience teach you about being an author as opposed to an agent?

That all the rules of agenting fly out of the window when it is yourself. I didn’t question anything, trusted that my three publishers knew best and became diffident and uncharacteristically reserved. I realised you need somebody to shout for you because otherwise it is simply too embarrassing. You are giving something precious to people who you hope will care about it as much as you do but can’t possibly, and you give yourself up to the erroneous thinking that if it is good, it will find its audience. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Everything needs strategy, a driving force to make things happen and an iron will. I learned a lot and had fun and am glad I did it. I think it helped my agenting hugely.

Do you feel that the current changes in the industry are allowing authors to assert more control over the publishing process?

To some extent. I have believed for some years that the industry need to stop looking in on itself – publishers viewing customers as retailers and not readers; agents looking to publishers to solve all their problems – and for everyone in the industry to concentrate their energies back onto the author. Without their work we don’t have jobs. So, my belief is that if we empower the authors, bring them into the centre of the publishing experience, the books will be better marketed, jacketed and ultimately will sell better!

And finally, what is the best part of the job?

There is nothing like the buzz of reading something extraordinary and seeing it in manuscript form, knowing you are one of its first readers. The knowledge that how you react to it will, in some ways, influence the path of this material to thousands if not millions of readers after you.

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