Inside Publishing: David Shelley
An interview with Little, Brown Group Publisher
Find out more about publishing from the Little, Brown Group Publisher, David Shelley.
What is your current role and what does it involve?
I am Group Publisher at Little, Brown. This means that I oversee the editorial and design departments and work with our CEO, Ursula Mackenzie, and the various imprint heads, to maximise the potential of our publishing. I edit and publish a few authors myself too – including Mitch Albom, Mark Billingham, JK Rowling and Val McDermid.
How and when did you start in publishing and how have you got to the role you’re currently in?
I started in 1997 as an editorial assistant at a small publisher, Allison & Busby. I was then lucky enough to start commissioning the following year (literary fiction, crime fiction and pop culture non-fiction being the company’s specialities at that time), and in 2000 I became Publishing Director. It was a company of five people, so my role ranged from negotiating deals with agents to finding a new distributor to hauling post bags down to the post office! It was a great experience, but when Ursula called me in 2005 to tell me about a job at Little, Brown, I felt the chance to work at a large, dynamic (and legendarily nice) publishing company was too good to pass up.
I started here as editorial director commissioning crime and thrillers, was then promoted to Sphere Publisher in 2008, and to Group Publisher in 2011. It’s always hard to say exactly how and why things happen, and of course having successful books is key to any rewarding career in publishing, but in addition to that I hope I have got to my current role by taking an interest in all the publishing we do, and caring very much about nurturing the talents of people here.
What do you like most about your job?
I like seeing people’s careers flourish – seeing people rise up from editorial assistant or junior designer to commissioning editor or senior designer. Along with our authors, our staff are our major asset and it gives me a huge amount of satisfaction to work with a great team and to see them excited and energised by what they do. I also find working with my authors hugely rewarding, particularly when I am in some way helping them to sell more books.
What advice would you offer to people wanting to work in publishing and a role like yours?
You have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and tackle anything that is given to you. Don’t be put off by any task – I spent the first year of my career typing letters, making tea and running errands – and show the company you work for that you are hungry for new challenges. Read as widely as you can, and try to think as commercially as you can, without ever losing sight of the fact that this is a creative business.