I'm especially grateful to two authors today.

The first is Cherry Briggs, the author of the extraordinary travelogue about Sri Lanka that I'm editing this week. I only have three days to work on it, so I'm glued to my computer screen. But what a joy it is to read. Cherry followed in the footsteps of the forgotten Victorian Sir James Emerson Tennent, who was a good friend of Charles Dickens as well as being one of the colonial administrators of the island. The contemporary journey takes our intrepid young teacher through areas that had been war zones just a year before, and she immerses herself in local life to much entertaining effect. What a brilliant manuscript for a completely unknown writer to produce out of the blue. I foresee great things. The book will be called The Teardrop Island and comes out next June.

The other author is a chap who's written a book about his emigrating to Australia and sent it along for me to read. He writes: 'I know that these days if you have a job you are doing the work of two people, so I am happy to wait for your reply.' Bless you, Ross.

But I also owe some thanks today to the patient cartographer David McCutcheon who's been creating maps for a couple of other books I'm working on. He's gone through five drafts of each map in the last two days, I think. At the start of the week, I hadn't realised how many things there were to think about when putting a map together. It's been amazing watching them evolve.

My Home Office

It's well over a year now since I moved to a little Greek island to set up as a freelance writer and editor in a home office.

For the first year, I divulged my whereabouts only on a need-to-know basis. Thanks to the magic of, when I'm doing Summersdale work, it looks like I'm working from an office in Chichester. To a lot of agents, if you're not in London, it doesn't really matter where you are - most London agents (most Londoners, in fact) aren't quite sure where Chichester is.

I'd realised that most of my job was done by email anyway, whether I was dealing with someone in the US or Australia or Manchester. As long as I had a good internet connection, I could work from home. On an island, so that when I was finished at my desk, I could get outside and in ten minutes be walking up a hill, or down to the sea.

I work with people for whom 'normal' is to do something like rowing across the Indian Ocean, or skiing to the South Pole, or paragliding across the Himalayas. They weren't bothered that I was going to live on a Greek island. And in fact, a lot of people in the publishing business shrugged and said, 'Oh yes, I know someone else who did something like that.'

It's important to see people face to face a couple of times a year, and I love my trips back to the UK. But being far away from the UK has also forced me to get more connected with people online and to use social media resources more (which is, I suppose, why I'm writing this).

Last summer, a few months after making the move, I acquired a book called COMMANDO DAD for Summersdale after a series of Skype discussions with the authors; it got lots of attention, to be featured on ITV and in the Guardian and Telegraph: I also acquired UK rights to Torre DeRoche's LOVE WITH A CHANCE OF DROWNING, which would never have happened if I hadn't been spending more time on Facebook:

And two weeks ago, in a cafe in Rhodes, I acquired a wonderful new travel book about Sri Lanka by a British author who was at that point in the Andes. She was very relieved to find out that her not being in the UK wouldn't be a problem.


I've been meaning to write a bit more on this blog for a while. Thoughts over a glass of wine at the end of the day, that sort of thing.

An author wrote a very flattering and effective pitch letter to me at Summersdale not long ago, saying how his adventure book would be a perfect fit for our list. The way he described it, it certainly sounded that way. In the end, however, we decided it wasn't for us, and I wrote to let him know. He lashed back with a nasty email saying, among other things:

'I wonder if you didn't find the story compelling because it doesn't have tales of drugs, sex, drunkenness and generally hapless travelling exploits like... most of your other travel publications.' 

It would have been funny if it hadn't been so vicious and mean. The odd thing was, he also said he'd just been taken on by an agent, so he really had no reason to be bitter about the rejection. But if you've ever wondered why publishers often send standard rejection letters, that's one reason why. Still, I like to provide a personal note when I can. 99.9% of authors are grateful for that.

I remember a job I interviewed for back when I was trying to get into publishing in Canada. Well, I don't remember the interview at all, but I remember the rejection letter they sent had a spelling mistake in it (something like 'we recieved a huge number of applicants'). Of course, being young and foolish I had to write back to them and say maybe they should have hired someone who knew how to spell. Ouch. Just as well I didn't end up working in children's publishing, as it's a small world and I'm sure someone wouldn't have let me forget that.

Another author who took my rejection of his manuscript rather bitterly a year or so ago has ended up being a friend. He recently told me he thinks I was right to turn down his first manuscript. I understand how much rejection hurts and niggles - I'm an author, too. But it's part of the process of publishing - it's unusual to find a famous author who hasn't had rejection letters.

Anyway, I wish more of our books had drugs, sex and drunkenness. We'd probably make a lot more money.

Travel Writing Workshop

I'm a travel writer and editor, and I live on an idyllic Greek island. I'm thinking of running a travel writing workshop in 2013, if there is interest.

This would involve coaching new authors on developing your travel notes or manuscript into a narrative travel book or travel memoir (not articles for newspapers or magazines).

I've been publishing this kind of book for more than seven years at Summersdale, and have recently started working for Bradt also on their travel literature list.

I also work directly with authors - feel free to contact me for details.

If we succeed in setting up a workshop on Tilos, participants would need to make their way to Rhodes, and we'd organise transfers, accommodation and meals for the duration.

My Career in Books So Far

My first full-time job in publishing was with literary agency Westwood Creative Artists in Toronto. I'd moved there from the UK a year or so earlier, taking on any part-time work in publishing I could find. I started out doing admin and assisting the agents, then became foreign rights manager. The agency represented Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and Yann Martel's Life of Pi. I remember the frisson of excitement as Naomi Klein's No Logo came off the fax machine (it was that long ago).

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When I took on my first client and struggled selling her novel, Bruce cautioned me against taking on too much literary fiction. A year or so later, I sold rights to a first novel called What the Body Remembers in a dozen countries for a total of half a million dollars and it won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel (The Times called it 'astonishing...enthralling'). He let me get on with it. It was tough to get a publisher for Michael Redhill's novel Martin Sloane, but then it won or was shortlisted for pretty much every single literary award. My last big coup at the agency was selling US rights to Jack Todd's memoir of being a deserter from the US army during the Vietnam War.

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After seven years at WCA, I left and went travelling in Asia, planting the seeds of my first book, Meeting Mr Kim: Or How I Went to Korea and Learned to Love Kimchi, still just a loose folder of stories. Meanwhile, Amy Logan and I put together an idea for a collection of travel stories by some of Canada's top authors; Vintage Canada launched AWOL: Tales for Travel-Inspired Minds in 2003, Metro called it 'wonderful' and the Globe and Mail listed it as one of the Great Summer Travel Reads.

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I almost took a job working as a non-fiction editor with a big company but decided to move to France, where I worked as a freelancer with English-language clients, assessing submissions for a literary agency and writing book club guides for Random House. I worked with a Zimbabwean author on a first novel published as Unfeeling; and a Canadian author on Water Inc ('a smart, sexy, witty and hard-hitting eco-thriller' - Booklist).

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Moving back to the UK, I became Commissioning Editor and then Editorial and Rights Director at Summersdale Publishers. I joined because of the superb travel writing list, but learned about gift and humour books and got to grips with the business side of publishing, balancing commercial necessity with editorial passion. In 2010, we were shortlisted for the IPG independent publisher of the year award for the first time. In 2011 I moved to a Greek island where I continued to work as commissioning editor for Summersdale until July 2013, acquiring books such as Commando Dad and Love with a Chance of Drowning.

 Product Details  Product Details  Product Details  Product Details  Product DetailsProduct Details  Product Details  Product Details  The Life of Fly  Product Details Product DetailsMy Life as a Hooker  Keep on Running   An Apple A Day    Commando Dad: Basic Training   Love With a Chance of Drowning    A la Mod    Canoeing the Congo    Head Over Heels in France    Extreme Sleeps

My freelance work currently includes selling North American rights for Legend Press, and project managing and selling international rights to the travel literature list at Bradt.

My latest book, Falling in Honey, set in Greece, was released in Britain in March 2013, and has been featured in the Daily Express and the Mail on Sunday You magazine. It will be published in North America in March 2014.

Falling in Honey

  • Speaker: Travellers’ Tales Festival, Globetrotters Club, Korean Cultural Centre
  • National radio appearances (UK – BBC Surrey – consulted as expert on political situation in Korea; BBC GNS – interviewed by stations around the country about republishing Janet and John and Gerald Durrell) and television (Canada – book panel, Korea – various appearances)
  • 2009-2011: Social networking consultant, blogger for the Korea Tourism Organisation, London