How an Ordinary Girl Like Me Ventured into Publishing

Everyone has a story. About their life, their work, their past and present.
And today I’m going to share one of mine.
My first full-time job was at an FE college – the familiar college I’d come to love after spending two years there studying a business and finance diploma. I was happy enough. My colleagues were (mainly) fab and many became great friends (still to this day – 20+ years on – I call on one to help me out with design and printing jobs).

But things changed. As they do.

My department grew and I was offered a role which didn’t suit me or my personality and, thinking I had no other option, I accepted and everyone congratulated me on my promotion.


It wasn’t long before I started my ritual of jobhunting and scouring The Northern Echo on a Wednesday, ‘jobs day’ and The Evening Chronicle on a Thursday after work. Remember, this was the 1990s and this is how we found new jobs!


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I didn’t know what I was looking for really. I knew what I didn’t want to do. But I hadn’t joined the dots of my ‘dream job’ either.

I was pretty smart, really (although I didn’t think so at the time). I left school with 4 ‘As’, 1 ‘B’ and 2 ‘Cs’ at GCSE. I’d always had a secret passion for writing. I’d kept a diary from around the age of seven – intermittently – but still well into my twenties too. Books were my comfort blanket. Non-fiction writing courses were my rock ‘n’ roll.

So when I saw an advert for an Editorial Assistant to work in a publishing company ten minutes away from my home, I knew this was the job for me. I spent ages writing and rewriting my application letter (yes, we used to handwrite our application letters in those days) and updating my CV.


I didn’t think I’d even get an interview but the letter plopped onto my doormat one morning and I couldn’t contain my goosepimples!


That’s when my little inner voice fired up. “Don’t count your chickens. Do you realise how many smart people are going to be in for this job? They’ll be graduates. They’ll be posh. They’ll have way more going for them than you.”

But I ignored it. I let my excitement override the negative vibes and the doubt.


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On interview day, I sat opposite the Editorial Director (who was very stern-faced) and his then-wife who managed the office, and answered the barrage of questions as best I could. I was so nervous. He was scaring the life out of me. And the people in the open plan office, well, my little inner voice had been right. But towards the end of the interview he smiled. And his whole face lit up. His cold, blue eyes twinkled as he’d laughed at a joke I’d cracked (it’s my default reaction when I’m nervous).


To cut a long story short, I got the job. Yay!


But so did another three people. Boo!

You see, the Editorial Director was a savvy kinda fella. Scary as hell. Regularly lost his temper. Often pulled three or four people into his office at a time and sacked them. ‘The Cull’ was palpable in both the build-up and the aftermath. But he was also a clued-up businessman with big dreams for his publishing company. So he hired four people and watched them closely.

The young, well-spoken graduates were so different to me. And as the Editorial Director had appointed me as his PA in the first instance, I got the feeling they thought I wasn’t quite up to their educational standard. In fact, one of the posh boys asked me one day if I’d like him to check a letter I’d typed up. Although my inner fire roared, I politely told him there was no need, thank you.

When I got to know the Editorial Director better, he began to divulge snippets about why he’d appointed me – he’d loved my application letter, it stood out head and shoulders above everyone else’s and he’d never received such an eloquent piece of writing before. He said he even kept it in his desk. Little by little my confidence started to grow. So did my self-belief.

Within three months I was promoted (The Cull had taken place the day before and yes, Posh Boy was one of the first to go). I became the Office Manager and got a pay rise. Then three months later I became the Deputy to the Editorial Director and got another pay rise. That’s when I started to believe in myself. And that’s where my business foundations were laid in the real world.

I accompanied the Editorial Director to author visits all over the country. We brainstormed ideas to take the business forward, create new services for past and current authors, and additional ways of finding potential new authors. Publishing was definitely my calling.

But then the Editorial Director fell seriously ill and the directors from the southern office had to step in. Things changed overnight. The shine disappeared. The desire to stay diminished. And although there’s way more to this story, I’ll just leave it there.


Anyway, fast forward ten years or so.


My babies had both started school and I wanted so much to be able to work around their school day and just be there for them.

So after juggling part-time temping work and setting up as a freelancer, I took a deep breath and went for it. The Editorial Director had contacted me to see if I could help him out – he was better and working on his own business (by this time the Kindle revolution had started). I was recommended to another publisher down the country somewhere who wanted someone to help with critiquing manuscripts for him.

And little by little, I realised I could make a go of this and I worked damned hard to make it a success.

I’d learnt from the best. But I also had to do a lot of training, learning and practicing. So that’s what I did.

I studied with the Open University and after six years got my BA (Hons) in English Literature – first class, would you believe? – and a Creative Diploma in Literature & Creative Writing. Take that, Posh Boy!

Then I signed up to all kinds of courses and programmes to learn all the self-publishing skills and business-building know-how I needed.

Seven years later, I’m still here. I’ve had a couple of wobbles this year just as every business owner does. I even applied for a couple of jobs and went through two intensive interviews because I thought it would be way easier to work for someone else.

But I know my heart wouldn’t be in it.  I know my creativity would have to be locked away in a cupboard again, just like it had been during my PA days. I know that if I gave up my business, it would be the biggest regret of my life.

I know that this publishing game, with all its advancements, its three steps forward and two steps back approach (sometimes) and helping authors venturing into the self-publishing world who are scared, feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed will always be my thing.


And since I’ve become an author myself, I know first-hand that this is my calling.


So, despite the occasional wobbles and the constant learning, I know I’ll be doing this until I retire (if I ever retire) because it’s my vocation to help people publish their books with confidence.

People just like me who didn’t venture down the traditional school > college > university route (I graduated when I was 40).

People like me who speak with a local accent, who were brought up in a working-class family where there were no authors, just factory workers and shop workers.

People like me who had no self-belief but heaps of passion.

People like me who used to feel intimidated by Posh Boys.

People like me who would have kept all these gifts hidden, had I not ventured into the world of publishing all those years ago.


If I could offer you any advice it would be this.


Don’t let anyone or anything put you off writing and publishing your book. Because if nothing else, it will prove to yourself that you’re smart, capable, worth it and destined for success. Let your excitement override those negative vibes and doubts too because seeing your book for sale on Amazon is the best feeling ever!


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If you’d like to talk to me about the different ways I can help you to bring your book to life, just message me.


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