My Job In 5: Jamie Joseph, Senior Commissioning Editor, Virgin Books, Penguin Random House

My Job In 5: Jamie Joseph, Senior Commissioning Editor, Virgin Books, Penguin Random House

Describe your role

I commission and publish a broad range of non-fiction on the Virgin and W H Allen lists at Ebury, one of the divisions of Penguin Random House. Specifically, my focus is on growing our business and technology list on Virgin and in championing and building W H Allen as a destination for “conversation starter” books on a wide range of contemporary topics across current affairs, politics, science, behaviour and more.

What do you like best about your role?

Commissioning non-fiction is loads of fun because you’re transforming an abstract idea or experience into something tangible that will grab the attention of readers in the bookshop. An entrepreneurial spirit, fresh thinking and a dynamic approach are often central themes of our books and also reflect how we publish, and this makes the office a really creative and stimulating place to work.

Which great new titles are you working on at the moment?

I’m publishing quite a range of titles in the next year or so, including The Off-Switch (how leaving work “at work” can actually make you more productive), How to Win Games and Beat People (a science/gift book of ridiculously over-qualified expert secrets for how to win every board game or family game imaginable) and The Agile Mind (a publishing phenomenon from Argentina on how creativity really happens).

Has self-publishing made commissioning more challenging?

Self-publishing is probably a much bigger issue in fiction than in non-fiction, but I think the fact that it’s become so much easier for anyone to print or distribute their book online has opened up a useful conversation about the role of publishers and, in particular, what skills and services we can offer authors and readers.

What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the industry?

Think broadly and creatively about what kinds of job you might enjoy in publishing and about the range of skills you can offer. In my experience, publishing is about imagination, creativity and having an entrepreneurial spirit and that’s what you need to have and to show off to potential employers.