A warm welcome to Natasha Harding who recently joined Bookoutre as Associate Publisher. We catch up with her just a few weeks after her move.
You join Bookouture, something of a phenomenon in the industry, shortly after its acquisition by Hachette UK. Are you excited to be joining the team?
I remember reading the first books by Jenny Hale and Angela Marsons and I’ve been following Bookouture’s string of successes ever since. There is such a fantastic team of authors and publishers at Bookouture now, so I’m extremely excited to be joining such a creative and dynamic team.
Your own publishing journey has been impressive as well. You first came to the attention of this writer when you were with Pan Macmillan but that is obviously not the whole story. I’m sure our readers would enjoy a pocket history of your career.
I completed a Publishing Masters at Oxford Brookes, which gave me such a brilliant insight into the industry. At the start of my career, I worked at various academic and children’s publishing houses, gaining as much experience as an editorial assistant as possible. I then worked at Macmillan Children’s Books for a year before transferring across to Pan Macmillan’s commercial adult list. I had the very best mentors at Pan Macmillan and lots of publishing opportunities there. Most recently, I was commissioning fiction at Avon, HarperCollins, and enjoyed working with the incredibly hardworking and innovative publishing team.
I’ve been privileged to work with incredible authors and amazingly talented colleagues, which has allowed me to learn a lot about the publishing industry. I’m particularly passionate about the digital side of publishing because it opens up such wonderful opportunities for authors and such a huge variety of books for readers.
When a new manuscript lands on your desk and grabs your attention, what is it that makes it stand out from the rest? The writing? The genre? Are you even able to quantify it, or is it instinct?
It does tend to be quite instinctive. I can usually tell by the end of the first page if I want to buy a book. The narrative voice is absolutely key to making a story special but I’m also drawn by big commercial hooks as well.
For example, Elaine Everest’s debut book, The Woolworths Girls, immediately appealed to me. It has a gorgeous opening page and strong writing throughout the novel. But it stood out for me because the story explores the Second World War through the eyes of three strong central characters working at Woolworths. The characters and setting both work extremely well together and the title and package for the book were very clear to me. (If you haven’t read this yet, I highly recommend it!)
You have been instrumental in the success of a notable list of authors. What advice can you give to those who would follow in their footsteps?
My top five tips are:
1. Read and write often.
2. Don’t be afraid to get others to read your work. Constructive feedback really does help to polish a manuscript.
3. Similarly, find a support network. Twitter is great for connecting with other writers, but if you can join a writing group or go to a writing class the support will be invaluable. Or even better, join the RNA!
4. Be confident in your writing.
5. Don’t give up! It’s cliché but perseverance really does go a long way!
Does Natasha Harding have a life outside of the publishing world? What are your personal interests?
Well, I do spend quite a lot of time reading . . . but yes I always have a packed diary too! I love spending time with my little boy and my husband and we always have great fun together. We’re often visiting friends and family across the UK. Trips to the zoo and the park are also big features in family life at the moment!
Finally, Natasha, if you hadn’t joined an industry which you so obviously love, what else might you have done that would have fulfilled you in the same way?
Good question . . . I thank my lucky stars every day to have a career I enjoy so much. I remember discovering there was an entire industry dedicated to creating books when I was about 14 and from that point on becoming an editor was my dream – I was pretty determined!
However, I love to travel so, if I hadn’t found my route into publishing, I guess I may have been an eternal globe trotter! But I think I would have been drawn to jobs that involve adventure and stories in some shape or form – a librarian, a scriptwriter or even an archaeologist perhaps?
It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, Natasha. Thank you for talking to us today.
Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her recently completed Regency. She is now working on a new contemporary. Her next novel set in the beautiful Cotswolds is with Harper Collins HQ Digital and is due for publication at the end of June. You can follow her blog at http://bit.ly/2mDF99I
What a varied professional background you have, Natasha!
Natasha, lovely to hear about you and catch up on what you are doing now. Very good fortune in your new job. I hope we catch up in person again one of these days. Carolx.
Many thanks, Natasha and Natalie for producing such an enjoyable interview. Good advice and good reading!
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