By Aimee Whittle, Leyla Mehmet, Elizabeth Guess, Kathryn Smith and Chloe Francis
We interviewed Katie Packer to find out more about her role as Senior Commissioning Editor at Headline.
Tell us about your journey into publishing.
When I was growing up my passion for reading developed through stealing my mum’s adult books and being low-key traumatised by Jacqueline Wilson’s books. I ended up studying English Lit at university, and it was there that the idea and existence of publishing was revealed to me. I did a toss-up between that and trying to get a job in radio, and went for what I thought was the easiest option! How wrong I was. After many rejections, I made it onto Hachette’s Fresh Chapter scheme. I’ll never forget entering the offices for the first time – I felt like a boss business lady for sure. I worked in Hachette Children’s for two months, and across those two months I did everything from editorial to publicity, rights to finance for a day. It was definitely a whirlwind but I made sure to make my presence known and chewed everyone’s ear off to the point where I could not be forgotten. Two weeks before my internship finished I went for a Publishing Assistant role at Hachette Children’s, and after a few weeks they decided to let me back into the building once again.
Which of your skills and attributes have been most useful in advancing your career?
I was told early on that my personality wasn’t suited to editorial. I was very loud and have never been afraid to say what I think. Little did I know those qualities are perfect for editorial. You are constantly having to pitch and be the spokesperson for your books and projects and the louder you are the more people will (hopefully) listen. That, being great at forming relationships and being full of ideas are definitely the key things that have advanced my career.
What are your main responsibilities as a Senior Commissioning Editor at Headline?
Commissioning, commissioning and commissioning a bit more. My main role is to bring book projects to Headline, via approaching people or agents, and publish them with expertise and flair. A lot of responsibilities exist within that, including meeting deadlines, doing costings, editing, outreach, research and taking time to think up an idea that might just be a bestseller.
You’ve worked your way up through the industry, what is the most unexpected or exciting thing you have experienced during your time?
One of the things I completely didn’t expect was that I could come up with the ideas that might become books in the future. I never thought an editor could be that proactive in the creation of content, and that’s something that has excited me through the years – and still does!
Could you describe one way you feel representation within the industry could be improved?
Right now, I am focusing on building the representation of our freelance workforce. It’s simply not good enough that the freelancers the industry defaults to are mostly white and middle/upper class people. That’s across designers, illustrators, copyeditors, proofreaders and project editors – it definitely needs to change! I’m working to build a list of people who are representative across the board. On the designer and illustrator side of things, Ebyan Egal is doing amazing work with her designersofcolour website and Instagram.
You are a host on the Main Characters Podcast. Could you tell us about the podcast and about what inspired you to start?
Well, my friends and I all love to chat so I thought why not start a podcast and do it for free, but on a platform like Spotify! Soraya, Rochelle (my co-hosts) and I had a lot of opinions about publishing, pop culture and life and we thought it would be great to involve everyone else in a conversation about books that were real and not pretentious or high-brow. If you want to start your own podcast, I would just say think about what you are committing to. It involves more work than you might initially think (recording, editing, promoting) and consistency is key for it to reach an audience. Make sure you are excited enough about it to pursue it even when things aren’t great for you in other parts of your life.
Are there any other projects you are working on at the moment that we should all be looking out for?
Next year I am publishing an incredible memoir by the comedian, writer and producer, Sadia Azmat. It’s called Sex Bomb and is all about her experiences of sex (or lack thereof), the ups and downs of comedy and learning to love herself. On top of that I am publishing The Girls Bathroom by Sophia Tuxford and Cinzia Baylis-Zullo – a must-read for any young woman – and Lil’ Kim’s autobiography later in the year. It’s going to be a busy one, but I can’t wait for it all.