Category Archives: Interview

Q&A with Novelist, Writer, and Comedian David Baddiel

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Last year you successfully published your first children’s book to add to the adult fiction you’ve written over the years. Did you find the writing process to be very different?

Quite, yes. At one level, it’s easier and more enjoyable, because my adult novels are all set in the real world, whereas The Parent Agency – as indeed is The Person Controller, my new one – is powered by a fantasy storyline, which allows me to let my imagination go.

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Q&A with Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random House UK

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Tom Weldon was brought up in London. After studying history at Oxford University, he was a graduate trainee with Macmillan. After three years as a non-fiction commissioning editor, he joined William Heinemann, then owned by Reed Elsevier. He spent nine years there as an Executive Editor, American Editorial Director based in New York, and then Publisher of the imprint.

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Q&A with Roz Morris, ghostwriter and author

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Roz Morris published nearly a dozen novels and achieved sales of more than 4 million copies – and nobody saw her name because she was a ghostwriter. She is now proudly selfpublishing as herself with two acclaimed literary novels My Memories of a Future Life and Lifeform Three. She has also been a writing coach, editor and mentor for more than 20 years with award-winning authors among her clients. We asked Roz about the challenges of her unique path to success.

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An Interview with Andrea Atzori

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Andrea Atzori has worked as an editorial assistant and consultant editor for a number of publishers, has a Masters degree in Publishing, and is the author of a successful fantasy fiction series, Iskìda of the Land of Nurak, published in Italy. For his latest project he has overseen the translation and release of the first instalment of that series into the English-language market. We spoke to him about that process and how it differed from his experiences with traditional publishers.

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An interview with Jonathan Baker

By | Freelance, Interview | No Comments

[intro]Jonathan Baker, one of the graphic designers we’ve worked with over the past two years, set up Seagull Design in 2001. He currently runs the business from Marbella, where he lives with his family.[/intro]


Let’s start with the most fundamental question. When and why did you start working as an independent freelancer?

Oddly enough, apart from some summer jobs I had when I was a kid, I’ve always been a freelancer. Many years ago I blagged my way into working for an employment agency as a freelance desktop publisher because the hourly rate on offer was so attractive. (It was something like £25 per hour, which was a small fortune for a teenager back then.) The first job I got through them was with Citibank, who needed someone to design some brochures using an early desktop publishing program called Ventura. I more or less knew my way around a computer and I’d done some record sleeve design work, so I thought I was eminently qualified to do the job. Luckily when I turned up at Citibank the job was delayed and I was paid to sit around for a couple of days, during which time I read the manuals for Ventura and taught myself enough of the basics to be able to impress (or at least con) the people I was working for. From there it was only a few accidental encounters in central London bars and a smattering of lies before I had convinced a book publisher to give me a book to design. And it was in book publishing that I made my home – banks and brochures were good for paying the bills, but they were deadly boring.


What do you most enjoy about being a freelancer?

Being able to work and live with my family by the beach in Marbella, Spain, where an average day involves building sandcastles on the beach with my son and drinking cocktails by the pool with my wife – oh, and some work, of course. I’ve never been an ‘office’ sort of person and I readily enjoy all of the freedoms that being a freelancer gives you. Seriously, anyone who works in an office should QUIT NOW and become a freelancer!


There are a few irksome parts the job – aren’t there? How do you keep track of finances and invoices?

There are no irksome parts to the job. Sometimes a job depresses you because it’s boring (and that’s usually because you can’t relate to it, not because it really is boring), but the beauty of working as a freelance designer/typesetter in publishing is that each project passes quite quickly and there’s always something new coming up. Some months you may have lots of money and some months very little. But after working as a freelancer for as long as I have you know there are ebbs and flows. Keeping a reasonably large client base is always sensible. Don’t place all your eggs in one basket, as the saying goes.


Let’s get specific. Do you find it easier to quote yourwork by the hour or the project?

Sometimes I quote by the hour, sometimes by the day. Sometimes I quote by the the week, the page, the job, its fun factor, its kudos rating, whether someone I like is involved, et cetera, et cetera. There aren’t any real rules. I’m still making it up as I go along.


Have advances in digital technology affected the way you do your work?

Unquestionably. A job that used to take a month can now be done in a few days. I used to have to be in central London to be close to a quick courier service; now I can be anywhere in the world. Everything changes all the time and change is exciting.


Do you feel you get good feedback from your clients?

Yes, I have lovely clients. (Even the horrible ones.)


Does your work come mainly from existing contacts within the publishing industry or from writing speculative emails? How do you approach a publisher who doesn’t know you?

Almost all by word of mouth or people moving from one publishing house to another and me tagging along for the ride. I am exceptionally bad at selling myself as I feel end results should speak for themselves. I rarely pitch myself to publishers – and when I do it’s always cringeworthy.


Do you think specialising in a particular area is important for freelancers?

It isn’t so important for book designers, since engaging with the subject matter is core to the design process and part of what makes each job a challenge.

An interview with Kathy Steer

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[intro]Kathy Steer became a freelancer in 1998, after working for a number of years in-house at Hamlyn and Quintet. She has specialised in cookery, gardening, health, home décor and crafts and works for a number of publishers in the UK and abroad. She’s one of our favourite Americanizers. We spoke to her last week about  finding and managing work as a freelancer.[/intro]


So, how did you get into freelancing?

I secured a couple of work placements in London after I graduated from university. I didn’t know whether wanted to go into magazine publishing as a sub-editor or into book publishing, so one of the placements was at the BBC’s Good Food Magazine and the other was at Hamlyn, which at the time was part of Reed International. After finishing at Hamlyn I was offered a full-time job as a cookery editorial assistant and after a year I was promoted to assistant cookery editor. I learnt how to proofread, copy-edit, Americanize and project manage my own titles. After one more year I became a project editor for another publishing house in London, and a year after that I took the plunge and went freelance. I worked in-house for a number of magazines at first (though I had the opportunity to decide where I wanted to work and for how long). I then started to get proofreading and copy-editing jobs from some book publishers, which meant I could work from home –and I haven’t looked back. I did enjoy working in-house but the overriding factors that made me go freelance were the flexibility and the varying types of work and subject matter.


What do you enjoy most about being a freelancer?

I love the flexibility of working from home as it means I can choose my own hours instead of working a nine to five job with a commute to and from London. I live by the sea, so I can go out for a walk on the beach in the middle of the day to clear my head. And I also get to work on a lot of varied projects, which are extremely interesting. I could be Americanizing a book on gardening one week, then proofreading a health book or copy-editing a cookbook the next.



What about the irksome parts of the job? How do you keep track of your finances?

Keeping track of finances can get out of hand, especially if some invoices take a long time to be paid, so I log all my invoices and expenses on a spreadsheet. When an invoice gets paid, I mark it up. I also keep two folders: one for invoices that are awaiting payment and the other are invoices that have been paid. I also keep all my receipts in that folder. I’m very disciplined in keeping up to date with this.


Let’s get into the specifics. Do you find it easier to quote your work by the hour or by the overall project?

It’s a lot easier to quote by the hour as I have set hourly rates for proofreading, copy-editing and Americanizing. Sometimes a project takes longer than expected so quoting for the job may not be so financially beneficial. Some of the publishers I work for have set budgets and they seem very fair, so I am happy to work to their budgets instead.


Have advances in digital technology affected the way you do your work?

Yes, definitely. I used to have to wait for the work to arrive by post on a CD then I would have to send the completed work back on a CD, but now this is all done online almost instantly, either via FTP servers or via the large file transfer websites. It makes life much easier. I occasionally proofread and mark up corrections on PDFs. That’s great if the schedule is very tight, but I do still prefer to proofread on paper as reading on screen all the time can get very tiring.


Do you feel you get good feedback from your clients?

Yes I think so. I find feedback invaluable, whether it’s positive or negative, as I want to make sure I do the best work for my client. If I have made an error I would like to know so that I can improve and avoid making the same mistake again. It’s also great to get positive feedback on the work one is doing.


Does your work come mainly from existing contacts within the publishing industry or from writing speculative emails? How do you approach a publisher who doesn’t know you?

Now my work comes from existing contacts I have built up over the years, but when I started as a freelancer I sent out lots of emails with my CV plus follow-up calls to prospective publishing houses asking if there was any work. I still like to send round a few emails to publishing houses just to let them know that I am here and still working as a freelancer.


Do you think specialising in a particular area, such as food or business, is important for freelancers?

Yes. I have specialised in certain areas and have got to know my subjects very well.

If you would like to be listed on our database and receive not only leads but also useful tips on finding and managing your work as a freelancer, write to us at with a copy of your CV.



An Interview with Nathan Burton

By | Design, Freelance, Interview, Publishing & Consultancy | No Comments
[intro]Nathan Burton is a London based designer and illustrator. He left Penguin in 2008 to set up his own company, Nathan Burton Design. He now works for a variety of publishers in the UK and abroad. You can see his work at and follow him on twitter @buronint[/intro]

How important is the clarity of a brief, or do you prefer to have more freedom to design a cover based on your interpretation of the book?

I’ve worked with all types of briefs, from incredibly specific projects to ones which are completely wide open, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. With a lot of the literary titles I work on the brief is very open: ‘here’s the book, have a read and come up with ideas’. There’s usually a panicked feeling of ‘what the hell am I going to do for this?’ at the start of the project which is followed by lots of head scratching, rejected ideas and finally a looming deadline which forces you into action. Because no-one has any preconceived ideas of the final design you can (hopefully) come up with something that surprises and excites the publisher and author. Also, book cover briefs aren’t set in stone so there can be a lot of back and forth between the designer and publisher before you get to the end solution. What the publishers think they want at the beginning isn’t always what the cover ends up looking like, but that’s all part of the creative process.

Nathan Burton

Are you aware of a greater emphasis on well-designed covers coming from self-published authors?

This isn’t something that I’ve noticed but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Being noticed in a crowded marketplace is always going to be a challenge, so having a well designed cover is sure to be a bonus.


With the increasing move to digital, do you think more emphasis is put on having a cover that is eye-catching as a thumbnail on a screen, or in trying to make a book an attractive and covetable physical possession?

When I start to design a cover I don’t really worry about the thumbnail issue. Usually, a nicely designed cover will work as a thumbnail, so I wouldn’t advocate designing one based solely on its ability to be shrunk down. I don’t see why a cover can’t work digitally, as a thumbnail, and also as a beautiful object that uses the same design.


Who has most influence on cover design? The author, the publisher, or the sales and marketing team?

It really depends on the book, how big the author is and how much the publisher has paid for it. The cover needs to be initially approved by the art director who then puts it into a meeting with various people including the editor and sales and marketing. If it survives that then its off to the author for approval. It’s always a relief when covers make it through this process, but quite often it can be back to the drawing board.


In your experience are more publishers now using consumer insight to test covers?

I’ve had this happen on a jacket I’m working on at the moment but I’ve not had the feedback yet, so I’m not sure what the effect will be. I can’t see it improving creativity in book cover design.


What 2013 cover do you wish you’d designed?

One of my favourites from 2013 is Tampa by Alissa Nutting, designed by Jon Gray. It’s a beautifully simple idea that’s perfectly executed. Another book, or rather series, that caught my eye is the P. G. Wodehouse redesign by David Wardle/Barnes & Noble. They are a lovely balance of modern and retro. Printed in eye-popping neon, they really stand out in the bookshop.

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