After a career working in PR agencies, in 2017 Sabah Khan was approached by Avon to spearhead the HarperCollins imprint’s publicity. She has truly excelled at thinking outside the box - including masterminding a signing event for Bristol-based Avon star C L Taylor which saw her promote The Fear on the train journey from her home town to London, earning reams of coverage. (Khan subsequently convinced the obviously hard-working Taylor to do a 60-day tour visiting bloggers).
Khan has also organised Facebook Live events for the Avon editorial team in order to solicit submissions from unagented authors, and set up a “Lean In” networking support group for female colleagues. This year, she was named one of the 2018 Bookseller Rising Stars.
Here, she shares five things inspiring her to think and work differently right now.
Hardware: I think my favourite piece of hardware has to be my Kindle. It took me a long time to agree to having one because I am that person who loves books and holding a real book – but it’s the most practical way of getting through a great volume of books! I’m lucky enough to read for pleasure and for work and I get to read books in their raw form before they publish, as well as helping the team here when we receive new submissions. It’s so exciting to be able to devour a new manuscript so easily on my commute without worrying about it not fitting into my bag, or getting in people’s way as we’re all squashed together daily. Kindles are amazing and I can still buy a physical book if I love it enough.
Software: I think I need to be honest here and say that one of my favourite apps is Netflix! I really love switching off from reading and consuming media in a completely different way. The sheer variety of shows on offer is amazing and I find myself watching things that I wasn’t sure I would like, only to realise that it’s something I have been missing. My favourite things to watch are true crime documentaries so I’ve just finished Wild Wild Country and will be moving onto something else now. If anyone has any recommendations, feel free to tweet them to me. I like being able to see and learn about all these things that are happening around us and having access to things in this way that even ten years was impossible.
Book: I’ve tasked myself with reading a lot more nonfiction this year and so far, so good. One of the best books I have read is Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love. I think it’s really allowed us all to understand that there is a lot more to life than just a romantic relationship, and there are so many different types of love that exist. There’s so much pressure on people all the time to find ‘the one’ and be in what looks like a perfect relationship but actually when I look at my life and how full of love it is despite being single, it makes me really happy and makes my life feel full in a way that I didn’t even realise I wasn’t appreciating before reading it.
Idea: Recently I’ve been listening to How To Fail, the podcast by Elizabeth Day, and I absolutely love the idea behind this. Again, we are all under immense pressure all the time to have the perfect life and achieve these amazing things but success doesn’t happen overnight and it’s reassuring to hear these brilliant authors share their lows as well as their highs which is rare to see. I think that recognising that it takes failure to become successful is something we should be taught at a young age – it might stop a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves when we’re young to constantly be the best – I know I certainly put that pressure on myself and it stops you from enjoying the moment as much as you can. It’s also really refreshing that these people who I admire so much are actually real people who have had bad times too – it just puts things into perspective and I know that if I’m feeling low, I’m not alone and everyone has been there too.
Person: I’m really lucky that I’m inspired all the time by the people who surround me! One person who has recently come into my life and constantly supports and guides me is [Avon commissioning editor] Phoebe Morgan, my team mate and friend. She has supported me through good and bad times and is constant source of inspiration to me – she is wise beyond her years and I am so grateful to have her in my life. From my other team mates who are incredibly supportive and driven, to my friends who have been there for me through the bad times and the good – to my family who could not be more supportive if they tried, I am inspired every day to be the best that I can be because of them. I’m also lucky to have mentors both internally and externally and they are incredible at helping guide me when I need it – so I am constantly inspired by the tribe of women around me! I’m also inspired a lot by Sheryl Sandberg – she’s the reason I started a Lean In Circle here at HarperCollins which I am hoping will continue to grow and develop with me.