Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Lucy Nathan, and I work as a reporter, features writer and interviewer at Bookbrunch.
What does your job involve? What happens on a typical day on set (or off of it)?
It sounds like a cliche, but every day is different. What stays the same is that I send out our newsletter first thing in the morning (depending on which editor I'm working with that day), and then I set up our social media posts for the day. In the afternoon, I write up some news stories for the next day - these might be about book deals, book prizes, indie bookshops, pretty much anything going on in the book world. For the rest of the day, I set up interviews, research pieces - anything the job requires. I often go to events - for instance, tonight, I'm going to a showcase that celebrates novels that are being released by Vintage in the first half of 2023. I'm going to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, which I am super excited about - and a little nervous!
What’s great about what you do?
It's a joy to write about something I'm passionately interested in. I am a big geek about the publishing industry - I love knowing all its ins and outs and seeing new trends. I also love getting to champion what I think is important. This week I commissioned a piece by the author Eve Ainsworth about being a working-class writer in the industry. She wrote an incredible piece for us.
What are the toughest parts of your job?
I am intrinsically pretty shy and sometimes find it hard to network at industry events - I feel so lucky to go to them. Still, starting up conversations with people I don't know and who I often respect deeply always requires a deep breath as I attempt to steel my nerves. It can also sometimes be difficult as a freelancer to manage my time - I am terrible at procrastinating. Other freelancing problems include doing my taxes at the end of the year - always a deeply stressful time!
What are the highlights of your career to date?
It's a real joy to attend the Women's Prize ceremonies. They are always really wonderful and packed with incredible, interesting people - getting to talk to my personal heroes is always mind-blowingly cool. I also attended the Booker Prize ceremony when both Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo won - the atmosphere could have been cut with a knife. The real highlight, though, is getting to write about something I love and doing a job which sincerely interests me with a team of people who are unfailingly kind and supportive.
What was your career path to this job? Have you also worked outside of the arts?
I took my first step into the arts in 2013, when I interned at a company called the Media Eye and was offered a researcher job. The company provided event listings and celebrity contact information, and we wrote news stories too - a particular highlight was when we wrote a story about Lucy Mecklenburgh from TOWIE supporting Egg Week. It was a fun job, and most importantly, it taught me how to write cleanly and quickly. After that, I did an MA in Novel Writing at City University, worked at Waterstones as a bookseller, and then applied for my current job at Bookbrunch. Other than that, I have worked as a learning support assistant - I loved every second of it, but it doesn't pay enough to live. Behind the bar at my local golf club, I spent a while churning out terrible blog posts for a content farm. I did a PGCE in Secondary English, which is probably why nothing has the power to stress me out too much. Once you have dealt with a class of rampaging 11-year-olds, nothing can really faze you.
What's been the biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
I've spent a lot of time feeling very uncertain about what I wanted to do and not knowing what would make me happy. I hated the way you could never switch off when you were teaching. I really disliked commuting into London every day when I was at the Media Eye (I love London, but dealing with my intense claustrophobia every day during the rush hour was a battle I really could not win). I have worked in some very toxic and upsetting office environments, and although I enjoyed doing my MA, I also had no idea what I would do afterwards. Working at Waterstones helped - it was a practical job that you could leave at the store when you went home. I just want a job that fulfils and interests me, gives me a measure of independence and provides me with flexibility so that I can spend time with family - my mum has dementia, so I see her a lot. I don't know how I would balance things with other jobs that are less flexible. To me, that balance is what matters, and it's a real joy that this job provides me with both that balance and something I am sincerely interested in and that gives me satisfaction. It's hard figuring out what will make you happy in your working life, and I'm glad I've found it.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry in recent times? If so, what?
I think BookTok is the biggest thing going on lately. When I worked at Waterstones earlier this year, we had a huge influx of brand-new younger customers looking for books by authors like Colleen Hoover and Ali Hazelwood, which was brilliant. There was also a big boom in dark academia, like The Secret History and If We Were Villains. It's fascinating that BookTok is driven entirely by readers and not by the industry, which at times has struggled to catch up. Another thing I have noticed lately is that in the summer of 2020, publishers talked a lot about Black Lives Matter and went through a phase of signing a lot of Black authors. Whether that has continued and whether enough money has been put behind those books to give them success is another matter. These things need to be a long-term commitment, not a trend.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
Unfortunately, when your parents said you need to put yourself forward for things, they were right. Have confidence in your ideas and abilities, take up more space, speak up, and be louder.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in your field?
If you have a job where writing is involved, talk to your bosses and editors and ask for constructive criticism and feedback. It will make you better, even if it's painful to hear. Have faith in yourself but know there will be a lot of space for you to develop and improve. Look for mentors, ask for advice, and talk to as many people as possible. Be interested in and curious about things. Also, if you want to get into anything book-related, go to as many book events as possible - it's easier than you might think to make contacts if you go to an author Q&A and chat with the people sitting around you beforehand.
Where can people find you and your work online?