Emily Thomas


What I do

I am a publisher. The definition of this varies a little but, essentially, it means I plan a list of books to produce and publish for a particular market or kind of reader. Before I buy any book I have to make sure it is going to be promotable and that often determines how much we pay the author, though other factors are often involved. I also edit as much as I can, and plan the cover with the designer.

How I got my job

A long time ago, I answered an ad for a job as a secretary to the publishing director of a small children’s books publisher. There were only three of us! This meant that, though I wasn’t a brilliant secretary, my love of books and reading was put to very good use and I knew I wanted to become an editor one day. I learned so much in at the deep end, that it gave me valuable experience and confidence for future jobs in publishing.

What I love about my job

Working with talented and sometimes vulnerable authors (writing for an audience is a brave thing to do!) to make a great book even better is the best feeling. And the relationship between an editor and author is like no other. You bond on a particular level and that feels amazing. I love the creative side of my job – the editing and the visual/design aspect.

What’s difficult about my job

Difficult is probably not quite the right word but certainly tact and sensitivity are two things that are sharpened in my job. Sometimes you have to have dificult conversations – whether about the editing or how well the book is selling – or convincing an author that the cover they hate is a good idea.

Where to start

After a degree, try hard to get experience as an intern with as many publishers as possible, and be focused about which area of publishing you feel most connected with. If you know that, then take all the extra work you can, and be prepared to start at the bottom, work hard, listen and be patient. Get a mentor too! Target someone you admire and respect and spend time talking to them about their job.

Read a lot, and keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry. It takes time to get to be an editor, and more time after that to run your own list, but keep focused and engaged and humble, and you’ll get there in the end!