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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Interview with Ame Verso, Publishing Director at David and Charles

By Zahra Islam, Karoline Tübben and Katie Barnes

This week we interviewed Ame Verso, Publishing Director at David and Charles – a craft and lifestyle publisher. Having worked in the industry for several years now, both as a freelancer and an in-house employee, Ame shared some of her experiences so far, shedding light on her current role and providing advice for those wanting to freelance.

Was publishing something you always wanted to do, or did you ever consider other careers?

I knew I wanted to work in the creative industries, but publishing wasn’t something I had really considered at all. I read Drama at university, not because I particularly wanted a career on the stage, more that it was just the subject that excited and energised me the most. With a BA qualification, I knew I could go on to do the same jobs as an English graduate and just have more fun in the process. When I graduated, I began working at the local arts centre, doing box office and front-of-house. People used it a bit like a tourist information centre, and I realised there was a gap in the market for a good local “what’s on” magazine. So, I started my own, and had a crash course in publishing that eventually led to seeking an editorial role in a publishing house.

What would you say are your main responsibilities as Publishing Director?

I oversee the publishing output of the business, leading the creative team to deliver the list. I commission a portion of the list myself, creating around fifteen new titles plus additional repurposed projects such as bookzines and card decks. My main responsibilities are to the management team, who place their trust in me to produce high-quality products that will drive revenue, to the content team in empowering them to do their best work and to my authors in helping execute their vision with care and attention.

With a long history of freelancing, is there any advice you can offer to those who are thinking about this as a way of either getting their foot in the door, or as a way of being more autonomous in the industry?

I think it can be difficult to start off as a freelancer without any in-house experience whatsoever. Freelancing for me was all about relationship building, and having solid relationships on which to launch a freelance career is vital. I worked in-house for three years, getting a good understanding of what’s important to a staff editor and what support they need from external editors. When I then went freelance, I had a solid base of experience and contacts to start from, and I was able to build on that with other clients. So, I would say to anyone wanting to be a freelancer that getting in-house experience of some kind will be invaluable.

Still considering your freelancing journey, are there any key skills or experiences you feel are vital to have before starting?

Freelancing requires cultivating an enormous amount of resilience. It can be feast or famine – learning to cope with that uncertainty was the toughest part for me. It’s also important as a freelancer that you’re putting time and effort into evolving at the same pace as the industry and not getting left behind, stuck in a pigeonhole you’ve made for yourself. When I was freelance, it was eBooks that were the big innovation of the day, now it’s artificial intelligence. Making sure you are taking the time to invest in your own training and upskilling is vital, or you’ll find yourself getting left behind.

When hiring, what would you say stands out for your organisation in a top candidate for entry-level roles?

For me, the standout candidates are always those who can demonstrate evidence of entrepreneurialism. Publishing is all about being an entrepreneur, spotting commercial and creative opportunities and going after them. Candidates who can show that they have done this in the past – in whatever small way – stand out, even if those ventures have ultimately failed. Failure teaches you far more than success, especially in the early days of your career! The “what’s on” magazine I launched after graduation folded after a couple of difficult years, but what it taught me about financial management and professional relationships were vital lessons. I like to hire people who’ve had the guts to try things, who’ve taken a step into the unknown and come back with a tale to tell!

What is the most unexpected or exciting thing you have experienced during your time in David and Charles Ltd?

The business has been through multiple changes of leadership over the years and with each one there has been new strategic directions, so there has always been a lot of change to manage. The most unexpected thing has probably been the need to push myself out of the comfort of non-fiction book publishing and into other media – instructional video and online learning in particular. Initially it felt like a real stretch, but in fact, editorial skills are highly transferable to video. You’re still figuring out how to break down complex processes into manageable steps, and how best to convey those to the end user in a visual format. It’s been fun to push myself and realise that I am more capable than I imagined, and to keep learning and building my skills and experience.



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