Questions for: Kate Wilson

News - Interviews Wednesday, 18th September 2019

The co-founder and MD of Nosy Crow contributes to our Q&A series

Describe your current job in one sentence.
I am the managing director and a founder of Nosy Crow, an independent, multi-award-winning publisher for children aged 0-12.

What was your first job in the book industry?
I was a rights assistant at Faber & Faber. I bought the company's first fax machine from a shop in Tottenham Court Road and picked up my - brilliant - boss's shirts from the dry cleaners as well as learning a lot about rights.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?
So many people have helped and influenced me. The living publisher I most admire is Peter Usborne. The dead publisher I most admire is Peter Mayer, but then I also had a massive crush on him. However, if I have to choose one person, it would be my husband and former boss, Adrian Soar. His understanding of the changing book business, openness to learning, enthusiasm for international selling, wisdom and calm are inspiring to me and invaluable to Nosy Crow, where he's commercial director and a founder.

I wish there were more women on that list. But there's a new generation coming through - Aimee Felone is kind of amazing, for example - so there's hope!

How has the industry changed since your first job?
Women are now running it. Wait! No, just checked and that's still not true. The obvious answer is technology and the speed and ease of communication which delights me daily, as it would anyone who had to photocopy tens of copies of huge manuscripts and send telexes.

What's the biggest challenge in your job?
Managing my time. And staying true to the original vision and culture of Nosy Crow as the company grows fast.

What's the best piece of book-related advice you've ever been given?
I think the general question I hold in my mind is, "Who is it for?" to make me focus on the audience for a book or a piece of marketing, but I can't attribute that to any one individual. I once heard that Helen Fraser, when she was at Penguin, used to ask of a potential acquisition, "Does it make us rich? Does it make us proud? Does it make us happy?" I think the idea was that you were looking for at least two of the answers to be yes! That doesn't seem to be a bad idea to apply to most of publishing.

What are the most interesting things you're seeing at the moment in the industry?
As I write, I am on a bus going to the Beijing Book Fair, so right now I'd say every single thing to do with China.

What do you think might be the next big thing?
I have absolutely no idea! We just bash on, making and selling the things we love and continuing to experiment in lots of small ways. I think that the ecological impacts of the industry feel like a challenge for us all to address right now. That feels like a big thing. But then, depressingly, so does Brexit. I am going to stop answering this question because it is making me gloomy.

What do you most like doing when you're not working?

What is the best book you've read in the last year?
I've read and pitched The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros over a hundred times. And I get a wobble in my voice and a lump in my throat every time. It's a great book. I was on holiday in July and read eight (adult) books in a fortnight. My favourite was, I think, the clever and subversive Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Anker.

What are you reading now?
I am reading a manuscript that's on submission with a real sense of urgency. But before that I was reading Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams and I will return to it.

How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks?
I read books on screen and on paper, roughly equally. I find audiobooks are too slow, and also I start doing other stuff while I am listening to them, like chopping onions, and then I start thinking about onions and not the book. I like to read fast but with complete focus.