Keshini Naidoo is associate publisher at Bookouture. Early in her career, when working at Waterstones, Naidoo had something like a Damascene moment. Seeing the bulk of customers gobbling up bestsellers, "I thought, 'Oh, most people don't want to read Raymond Carver or Caesar's The Conquest of Gaul." At Bookouture she has taken that lesson and applied it to the digital marketplace. The company's first real breakout success was Angela Marsons, whose Silent Scream was brought in by Naidoo (Marsons has gone on to shift an eye-popping two million units). She loves the "democratisation" the firm has brought about for its authors: "We don’t have to wait (or pay) for space in W H Smith or Tesco - we're always there for our customers."
Here, she shares five things inspiring her to think and work differently right now.
Hardware: The one piece of hardware that's revolutionised my life is rather pedestrian, but it has to be my iPad. I use the Kindle app to read eBooks and manuscript submissions, watch TV on Netflix, and read my favourite horror movie blogs before bed. It's just an incredible bit of kit that enables me to check work emails and sales reporting on the go, FaceTime family members and occasionally (oh, who am I kidding - quite often) keep my children occupied while I get on with other things, all while fitting into my handbag.
Software: As a part-time, remote worker, Slack is the software that I use on a daily basis. It enables me to instantaneously keep in touch with colleagues and is my office away from the office. Being so much more user-friendly and targeted than email, it allows me to break work into manageable sections, and enables me to prioritise my tasks in a way that maximises my work time. As a home worker, I do sometimes miss the random chat found when working in-house, but I usually find that a quick dip into Twitter or Facebook fulfils that need more than adequately! And it's no exaggeration to say that I could not manage my job without social media. It is the greatest tool at my disposal for publicising new releases, making connections with book bloggers and potential new authors and accessing new trends, as well as keeping abreast of what’s happening in the world.
Book: I’ve been incredibly inspired by the success of The Good Immigrant. I’ve been following Nikesh Shukla for a number of years on Twitter and to see the concept grow organically from a crowdfunded book into a publishing juggernaut has been tremendous. Even two years ago, I’m sure no one could ever have predicted that a book of essays about race in modern Britain would be a huge bestseller and even voted as the favourite book of 2016 by the public! I think it’s kicked off a number of necessary and important dialogues about the make-up of UK publishing right now, especially in our current political climate, and it moves me to strive harder for inclusivity in my own publishing output.
Idea: It might be a little low-brow, but I am a complete stan for RuPaul’s Drag Race – I adore the concept of absolutely being yourself, pushing creativity to the limits, rejecting conservatism and being unaffected by what others might be saying about you. I think the mantra ‘if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else’ shows that valuing yourself, and in turn using that as the foundation to putting out love for your fellow human beings, is actually an important life lesson for us all.
Person: Before I joined Bookouture, I’ll admit to being rather uninformed about the digital landscape. Working in trade publishing meant that output was focused on print editions and securing slots in bricks and mortar retailers, with any publicity for the book being generated in traditional media publications. Since my commissioning has become honed for the digital market, I have come to understand just what an incredible job book bloggers do. Many of them work full-time and still post reviews multiple times a day, are incredibly engaged on social media and can make a book through word of mouth buzz alone. The success of Angela Marsons’ first book, Silent Scream, can in no small part be attributed to the incredibly enthusiastic response it received from the blogging community – they simply took the book and ran with it, shouting about it purely because they loved it. It didn’t matter to them that it was the first crime novel published by a (then) small publisher like Bookouture and it was such a triumph to see it reach number one in the digital charts, beating off the established writers who were backed by expensive marketing campaigns. Book bloggers, along with consumers and authors, are at the heart of everything we publish and I am forever thankful for their support.