Dynamism, agility and brilliance - according to Dialogue Books’ Sharmaine Lovegrove those are the qualities publishers should be looking for in new recruits. But she also believes that dynamism, agility and brilliance are not often things that can be accommodated in the rigid structure of many publishing houses.
"I think it would be helpful for the industry to not see the roles on the way to becoming a publisher as being static,” she says. “I think there are boundaries in a lot of those junior roles. If the industry were to look at agility and brilliance as being an asset as opposed to being a hindrance, if people could look beyond what they need to get the job done and instead to what can enhance their business, the industry could become more dynamic."
Lovegrove will be taking part in a panel at this year's FutureBook conference on December 1st, talking about alternative publishing approaches and how publishers and authors can reach more readers in a distracted world. She believes that independent publishing is where the innovation is really happening, and cites independents including OWN IT!, Peepal Tree Press and Jacaranda Books as publishers she is currently impressed by.
"I just judged the Clarissa Luard Award for Independent Publishers and it’s astounding to me how brilliant and dynamic independent publishers are," she enthuses. "It’s much more of a vocation than a job. If there is a way we can harness that, that is how we are going to create much better books. That’s the biggest challenge for publishing - how we are going to harness that agility and dynamism."
At Dialogue Books, Lovegrove is tasked with publishing fiction and non-fiction - commercial and literary - books that have inclusivity at their heart. Her first four acquisitions range from a crime novel set in Southall to a novel about a world in which female-to-female conception is possible.
She was one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars Class of 2017, and previous roles includes owning and running a bookshop in Berlin and working at her own scouting agency, Dialogue Scouting - jobs in which she took on a variety of different responsibilities.
In a publishing house, by contrast, "I am always amazed at how little crossover there is in terms of roles. I think that has been the biggest learning curve."