By Georgie Graham, Leyla Mehmet, Karoline Tübben and Aimee Whittle
This week, the team had the pleasure of speaking to Sinéad Molony, Editorial Director at Hart Publishing…
Tell us about your journey into publishing; did you always want to work in academic publishing?
Like a lot of my publishing colleagues, I undertook a literature degree which set me on the road for a role in publishing; but looking back, my understanding of publishing - its different sectors and roles – was patchy to say the least! I just knew I wanted to work with books. I started in professional/legal publishing, as I also have a law background. This was crucial in learning the basics: attention to detail, author care, organisation and teamwork. Gradually, however, I came to realise that academic publishing was the sector in which I really wanted to develop my commissioning career.
What does the typical day of an Editorial Director consist of?
It is hugely variable, which is both the challenge and the attraction! My role still contains a commissioning element, and this helps to keep me close to the market and to our authors. I also spend a lot of time working at list level, signing off print fixes, reprints, tracking the performance of different subjects and working with colleagues across the sales/marketing/production divisions to ensure we are doing the best for our authors, books and customers. Keeping abreast of and (if possible) ahead of trends is another central part of the role.
How does your job differ now from when you first entered publishing?
The print landscape has been transformed, with digital coming to the forefront. Technology has made the process more responsive and speedier meaning frontlists have increased significantly. There is also a lot more pressure on academics to publish, leading to a marked increase in proposals, so curating the list and monitoring quality is more important than ever. But the fundamentals of strong author care, a focus on excellent scholarship and responding to the market’s needs remain unchanged.
What are some of the skills/qualities you think would really help a candidate stand out when applying for a role in publishing?
A willingness to learn about all the components of how a book is published and a can-do attitude are hard to beat. Also, it’s important to show an interest in the sector and list you are applying to. If you are considering a role in a subject that is new to you, curiosity and excitement about the field will always be welcome: authors want to feel that editors care about their field of research. There is a temptation to be laser-focused on the end goal of managing a list but do take time to learn the trade: those early years are essential in setting editors up for a successful commissioning career.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It is hard to pick just one, but my best days are always when I realise that by going the extra mile in terms of encouraging, supporting and advising an author, I have contributed a little to transforming a good book into an excellent one.
If you could give one piece of advice for people looking to get into editorial, what would it be?
Keep trying! It’s a competitive field, so consider lots of different subjects, lists and types of products (book, journals, digital). Experience is never wasted, and you really do learn by getting stuck in.