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Publishing Interview - Amanda Rutter

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I have another insightful interview from the world of publishing, from Amanda, editor at Strange Chemistry, an exciting new imprint.



Q. Hi Amanda, can you start by telling us your official job title, and a little about what that entails?


A. I am the editor for Strange Chemistry – within that, my job is meant to entail acquiring books, editing books, helping with the cover art briefs, and working with authors to promote their books. In actuality, I end up doing a vast amount of other ad hoc tasks, such as operating the Strange Chemistry social networks; going to conventions and other places to discuss the books, meeting with agents to see what they have coming up, wandering around bookstores to investigate trends in covers or subject matter, working with bloggers to generate extra content around our authors and their books. There is a lot to do, but it is tremendous fun and can never be accused of being a dull job!


Q. How did you achieve that role, what career path have you followed?


A. I’ve followed a rather unusual route into publishing, considering that, up until last November, I was a qualified accountant and had been for ten years! Rather, my “career path” into the role was what I had been doing outside of conventional work i.e. my blogging with Floor to Ceiling Books, my work with the websites Fantasy Literature and Tor.com, my freelance editorial work, my reading of the Angry Robot Open Door submissions from 2011, and other jobs like that. I ended up taking on whatever I could in an effort to build up my editorial CV – all of it unpaid and around my 9-5 job – so that I might start considering applying to publishing jobs.


Q. Did you always want to work within publishing, or did you consider other careers?


A. Do you know something? Even while at school and reading pretty much every book I could get my hands on, I didn't think about a role in publishing. I didn't even know anything about publishing (which seems naïve – I mean, how did I think that books came to be around?!) I did love English and I did love writing my own stories – for a long time, I thought I would become an English teacher and write in my spare time. Rather than that, though, I took a very sensible route and went into accounting, which is an area where jobs are never in short supply and where the money is very good. I didn’t enjoy it much, but I thought I was being sensible. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve loved my job (now that I’ve moved to Strange Chemistry) and I actually feel like I’m doing something I’m good at and passionate about.


Q. You’ve recently been involved in launching a new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. What does it actually mean when a larger publishing company produces an imprint?


A. It usually means that the company wishes to target a different readership with the books that they’re looking to publish. I mean, if Angry Robot had started to put out YA books without introducing Strange Chemistry as the imprint to do it, then it would likely have confused the existing adult SF/F readers and it is possible that YA readers wouldn’t have realised that the books being brought out were for them. So Strange Chemistry was born.


In terms of the work involved… Well, it is pretty extensive! Not only creating the name and the brand, but making sure that everyone knows you now exist – and, when I say everyone, I mean booksellers, distributors, agents, prospective writers as well as bloggers, traditional reviewers, book buyers. This is why I’ve been so delighted by the blogging community’s reaction to Strange Chemistry, and the work you’ve done to publicise us, because it helps IMMENSELY in getting the word out.


Q. What was it like to be involved from the beginning, and what has been the best aspect?


A. It has been amazing being there from the beginning and watching it grow, and being proud of what I’ve achieved in the first year. I think the best aspect has been building the family feel, both amongst my authors and amongst those who have been staunch supporters during the first few months. It does genuinely feel as though we’re all working together to create something fantastic.


Q. What would you advise anyone interested in publishing as a career?


A. I think that if you are looking to start a career in publishing and you’re still at a point where you’re deciding courses at college and university, then I don’t think doing English or English Literature would harm your chances. It gives you a real appreciation for all types of literature, for how English is constructed, the history of the language, things like that. Also, look out for internships or work experience within publishing companies – this can often lead to work at a later date.


If you’re currently in a job that isn’t connected to publishing, but want to make the move, then the best thing to do is make connections. Use Twitter and other social networks to get to know editors and publicists and those already in publishing. Don’t just use Twitter to pick their brains or be pushy – just use it to start a conversation with them and get to know who they are and what they do in their company. That way, you’ll hear more about job openings and opportunities and ways to get more involved in the publishing world.


Q. YA appears to be a rapidly growing genre at the moment. Being involved in it, why do you think that is?


A. I think that the style of the writing is one of the attractions of YA – the fact that the books are slighter, and have a strong immediacy. Most of them are written from a first person perspective, which really allows you to see into the mind of the protagonist and relate to them, and I think this invites the loyalty that a lot of YA books/series experience.


I also believe that YA books are pushing the boundaries in terms of the types of stories they’re telling – they’re being braver about subject matter.


Q. Many YA readers are passionate about the genre, including bloggers and tweeters – how do you manage to tap into this, and do you think it’s important?


A. I think the only way that you can tap into the passion and enthusiasm is by joining the conversation yourself, and making sure that people know you are just as passionate and enthusiastic! The idea of just projecting information about books you’re trying to sell is ludicrous, frankly. I think if bloggers and tweeters know that you are a genuine YA reader, who reads in the category for pleasure, then they will respond to you and feel more inclined to give your books attention.


Bloggers and those who read and review the books are massively important. They help spread the word if they love a book – and, indeed, if you hate a book. The former is like gold dust. You can’t force it to happen but, when it does, it is the greatest feeling in the world – people passing on the love for your books to other people.


Q. Tell us a little more about you as a reader – do you find time to read for pleasure, and if so, what are your favourite genres and authors?


A. I definitely find time to read for pleasure! I have a half hour commute by bus to and from work and that is my dedicated reading-for-pleasure time. I read across a number of different genres and enjoy them all equally. Some of my favourite authors are Sharon Kay Penman, Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Jacqueline Carey, Sharon Shinn and Charles de Lint. From the YA world, I particularly love Laini Taylor, Ally Carter and Maggie Stiefvater.


Q. Finally, what do you like to do away from the world of books?


A. I don’t have much time that is completely away from books, but I do love knitting – it’s a very therapeutic way to relax. I’m afraid to say that I am a big fan of shows such as X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, and the Great British Bake Off (maybe I shouldn’t admit that in public!) And, recently, I have become the proud part loaner of a chestnut gelding called Solomon and I love riding him and spending time working in the stable yard.

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Thanks Amanda. That was all very interesting. I wish you well in your new career which you have worked hard to get into. That was a good point about bloggers and tweeters and YA readership. I think that whole internet realm is something that young people own and feel is their own and are familiar with-it has it's own sort of integrity . Young people mistrust traditional methods of book advertising I think- the "blurb". They are a lot more savvy than we are.

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