Publishing taught me how to drink.


I'm in the process of getting my new coaching offering up and running, which is, given my background, not going to cause any great surprises for anyone. 

I spent 20 wonderful, wordy years working in publishing and frankly I just need to empty my head of all this information to make space for new stuff. So I'm on the prowl for aspiring authors to lay some knowledge on them and help them get their books out into the world. Expect WAY MORE on this anon...

In the meantime, google threw this blog post up at me that I wrote for the Hodder & Stoughton company blog a couple of years ago. I worked at Hodder for 5 years as Marketing Director and was lucky to not only work with a really wonderful team of creative people (if I thought they'd be reading this I'd have called them millennial layabouts) and some major premier league literay-crush authors.  

To some people, publishing is a bit of a closed book (SORRY. You can't do 20 years in publishing and not end up punning like a complete twat. That and epic name dropping). And it can seem like an arcane industry to break into as well, hence the blog post below that I was asked to write about how I came to work in it. Just to put things into context for all the hip young things that are reading, when I started out I had to make catalogues by cutting up bits of paper and moving them around and sticking them onto other bits of paper. 

So, without further ado, I present this little morsel from the archives:

Publishing is a competitive industry to get into, and the route to success varies wildly when you speak to those who have ‘made it’. We asked our very own Jessica Killingley, Marketing Director for Hodder & Stoughton, to tell us the tales of her publishing experiences and how she ended up leading this team of superhero-type marketing gurus (that’s us!). Publishing wannabes, pay attention now…

Full disclosure: I could really easily have ended up selling pants for a living instead of books.

Twenty years ago, I was kicked out of politely asked to leave my job at Warwick University Student’s Union. I had to concede the pesky technicality that I hadn’t been a student there for six months, so it was probably a reasonable time to seek alternative employment. Armed with a CV, I hit the streets of the teaming metropolis that is Leamington Spa to get a Christmas job. And reader, let me tell you, I was *employable*. I had the pick of the high street, with job offers from Next, M&S and Waterstones.

Drunk with the power (of the crushingly ignorant), I considered my options. Sure I liked pants and prawn sandwiches, but… booooooks. The branch of Waterstones was newly opened and sparkly. There were no wonky table pyramids, no dusty overstocks, just shelves and shelves of un-cracked spines. It was love at first sight. And when I saw the deputy manager firing out ten digit ISBNs on her keyboard, fingers a-blur, I was hooked. The Christmas job became permanent. Leamington Spa became Camden. My eager demeanour became a practiced insouciance that meant I could spot someone who was trying to shoplift tarot cards at 10 paces and flick rubber bands at them.

There’s nothing that makes you sound more ancient than using the phrase ‘in my day’. But in my day, we didn’t study publishing as a degree. I don’t even know if they existed back then but it would have been impossibly glamorous. Instead I learnt what it was to live and breathe books by being surrounded by them every day. I learnt about what the collapse of the net book agreement meant for the industry by gossiping with reps. I learnt what it was to craft a collection on any given subject that displayed both breadth and depth; that what you personally liked was only half the story. That a good bookseller could think of something to say about any book in the shop; that you could find a customer a new book based on the scantest information about what they liked.

Fast-forward in wobbly fashion to the present day, where I now run a team who think about how to get someone’s next great read into their hands on a daily basis. We might have a ridiculous array of tools at our disposal to do this, but it’s all just a variation of how I learned to have real conversations about books with real people on a shop floor. It was a natural progression for me to go from selling books to help making them. (Plus the talk of the lunches sounded legendary. Bookselling taught me plenty, but it was publishing that taught me how to drink). And I have to say that answering stupid questions with a smile on my face is certainly a life skill that never leaves you.

‘It’s got a red cover you say. Ah yes, madam, step this way…’



Are you starting to think there might be something in all this sorting-your-shit out? Feeling that it's time you gave being healthy, wealthy and wise a shot? Need someone to help boot yourself out of your own way?  Come join Team JKill. Are YOU one of the aspiring authors that wants to get a book published? Drop me a line at so I can pick your brain about what would be helpful to you!

Time for a tune? (just for the record I was only 5 when this came out)