Questions for: Diane Spivey

News - Interviews Wednesday, 21st April 2021

The former Hachette contracts director and now rights consultant contributes to our Q&A series


Describe your job
I'm still figuring it out: I'm taking on consultancies and projects related not just to my key skills in contracts and rights but to publishing more generally.

What was your first job in the book industry?
I was a bookseller at Holmes MacDougall, a small bookshop chain in Scotland, situated right in the heart of Edinburgh's tourist area.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?
There have been many inspiring women who influenced me, from my first boss at Hutchinson, Angela Elkins, who taught me everything she knew, through to Ursula Mackenzie at Little, Brown, who encouraged and supported me in new ventures.

How has the industry changed since your first job?
I started in a pre-digital era, at a time of card indexes, carbon paper and manual typewriters, so the changes in how we work day-to-day are mind-blowing. But the fundamentals of finding, promoting and selling great books never change. 

What's the biggest challenge in your job?
Finding a quiet place to work: we are in the midst of major house renovation and the dust is everywhere!

What's the best piece of book-related advice you've ever been given?
The two mantras of rights selling: "You can't sell what you don't own"; and, "Acquire broadly, license narrowly."

What are the most interesting things you're seeing at the moment in the industry?
The networking and support that is happening on-line. Initiatives such as the Publishers Without Borders Facebook page and Rights2Gether virtual meetings and socials have fulfilled a need we didn't even know we had.

How are you coping with working from home?
I'm surviving better than I thought I would. Retiring during Covid means there is no office life to miss, and I am getting used to the convenience of virtual meetings. However, I'm still looking forward to having a coffee with old colleagues on the roof garden of Carmelite House as soon as that is allowed.

How do you think the industry will come out of the Covid-19 crisis?
I think the book industry in the UK has reacted quickly and with real imagination to make the best of the changed situation. There will be some casualties, I am sure, but generally this time has shown how crucial reading and books are to so many people's lives.

What do you most like doing when you're not working?
I love walking and am looking forward to introducing all our friends to the Essex saltmarsh coast that we've now made our home.

What is the best book you've read in the last year?
I loved Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens but I've also been rediscovering the humorous writings of Nora Ephron - it's a joy when a book has you laughing out loud.

What are you reading now?
A quirky history of Wivenhoe by local poet and musician Martin Newell.

How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks?
I'm in love with the physical book so will never stop buying them, but I appreciate the convenience of reading on a Kindle. I'm just discovering how brilliant audiobooks are - perfect companions when gardening or cooking.