Upskilling Tips: Pride Month Special with Nick Coveney
By Tanvi Jaiswal, Misha Manani and Georgia Stack
In our last issue, the Upskilling team came up with a varied range of resources for LGBTQIA+ individuals highlighting the ever-evolving space in the public forum. In this issue, we bring to you an interview with the inspiring Nick Coveney. Nick is a digital publishing bod, author, co-chair of the voluntary network Pride in Publishing and most importantly, a member of the LGBQTIA+ community who will give us an insight into his journey as a gay person in the publishing industry and provide his top tips.
You have plenty of interest in digital publishing. Could you tell us about your career journey and how you entered the sector?
I started in the industry after completing an MA in Publishing at UCL (way back in 2010). I was incredibly fortunate in that I completed a work placement as part of my course and was then approached directly by Jamie Hodder-Williams (then CEO of Hodder & Stoughton) about an unique opportunity to work across the company on audio and digital development.
How do you feel your identity as an LGBTQIA+ individual has impacted your experience in the publishing industry, if it has at all?
Sadly, I feel like my identity as an openly gay man has impacted me quite heavily at times. Before I joined I believed the publishing industry to be an incredibly welcoming and liberal space, a bit of a creative utopia. After twelve years in the industry, I’ve realised that there is a lot more conservatism, privilege and heteronormative prejudice ingrained into the fabric of the industry and its power structures than you might expect.
I’ll never forget when working as an editor I was seeking to commission an openly gay celebrity as the author for a fun middle-grade series when a senior colleague informed me in a meeting that they, speaking as a parent “wouldn’t buy their kids a book by that big poof off the telly.” Comments like that should never be made in any professional environment, let alone a creative industry which claims to be an inclusive and welcoming space.
Since 2017 I’ve been one of the co-chairs of the voluntary LGBTQ+ network for publishing staffers, Pride in Publishing – we try to uplift and celebrate LGBTQ+ creators and voice the concerns of the queer community within publishing as well as running networking events and we’ll have a new event coming soon so please get involved if you’re interested. There have been big strides made in recent years to increase the number of marginalised voices being published, including authors and illustrators who identify as LGBTQIA+ but there is still so much to be done to achieve anything like true representation.
There has also been a worrying increase in the number of “counter-culture” and openly anti-LGBTQIA+ books being pushed by major publishers into the mainstream. I believe in the power of books and respect their influence, therefore I am dismayed to see supposedly reputable businesses seemingly embracing authors seeking to create real-world harm to the Trans, Gender Non-Conforming and Non-Binary population.
Do you have any favourite queer books or authors that you have read or worked on?
None of which I’ve worked on directly, unfortunately, but there are so many brilliant Queer authors I would recommend wholeheartedly: Lev AC Rosen, William Hussey, Juno Dawson, Benjamin Dean, Kate Davies, Damian Barr, SJ Watson and Patrick Ness to name just a few of my personal favourites.
Do you have tips and advice for members of the LGBTQIA+ community hoping to get into publishing?
Focus on following your passions and strengths. People often ask whether they should take any entry-level role or join a department they’re not excited about to try and pivot to something more appealing to them afterwards to which I’d always recommend following your real calling first. It might take longer but companies can always tell if someone isn’t fully invested in their career.
There are many great groups and resources available as well as networks like ours at Pride in Publishing, I’d always suggest people join the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and other groups like BookMachine to meet more people across the industry. Networking and cultivating your curiosity about what other publishers are doing will always stand you in good stead!
Despite all the challenges and some of the recent hostility which has been levied against myself and other openly inclusive Queer members of the publishing community, this is a vital and thriving space with some of the warmest and most talented people. The industry needs you, your creativity and all your gifts. So please don’t feel like you can’t bring your authentic selves to the industry, we need you!
Thanks for reading Issue Forty-Nine! The upskilling team would like to give a huge thanks to Nick for his powerful insights and for sharing his experiences. Join us again for Issue Fifty, where we will be covering Upskilling Tips for Entry-level Roles.