Editorial Director, HarperFiction
There are few editors in the crime and commercial fiction space who have had a better 18 months or so than Phoebe Morgan—particularly in breaking new authors. Highlights include Catherine Cooper’s thriller The Chalet, launched in November 2020, which hit a height of number five in The Bookseller’s Mass-Market Fiction chart, and Abigail Dean’s Girl A, one of 2021’s biggest crime débuts.
Morgan has not just published bestsellers during the pandemic, she has given something back by organising, and getting the trade to rally behind, Books for Vaccines. The charity auction had bidders vying for items like a one-to-one with agent Jonny Geller, a signed box-set of Hilary Mantel hardbacks and a chance to have a character named after themselves in the next Sarah Pinborough novel; the auction raised over £60,000 for CARE International UK, to help distribute Covid vaccines to some of the poorest parts of the world.
Morgan’s publishing career started in non-fiction at Octopus, and though she loved the job, her “game-changing” moment came when she moved to HarperCollins to work in fiction in 2015. She has remained at HC in various divisions since, barring a nine-month Orion maternity cover. Oh, and there is the weekend job: Morgan is also an author, with her fourth thriller, The Wild Girls, published by HQ in April.
She is looking ahead to the next few months as a corrective for her authors as much as anything else: “A lot of them had hardbacks out during lockdowns and there were difficulties around that—even just not having launches or seeing their books in shops. So I hope to publish them well in paperback and they can enjoy that success. As an industry, I think we need to be kind to new authors who were published during the pandemic, because if you weren’t a big priority author it was harder to get cut-through. We should focus less on pandemic sales and more on voice and talent to give them the opportunities for a second book or second format.”
For the future she is excited about “finding new writers, new voices and authors that are doing something a bit different”. She adds: “And a wider range of authors. I think we need to work harder, be more active in seeking out talent as an industry and to use non-traditional routes to find new authors. Given what happened last year [with the Black Lives Matter protests], it’ll be interesting to see whether the industry follows through with real change. I would love to contribute to that, as this is an amazing industry and I feel lucky to work in it.”