Being big fans of Myriad Editions here at LoveReading (see our glowing reviews of A More Perfect Union, New Daughters of Africa, and The Bread the Devil Knead), we’re delighted to welcome Vicki Heath-Silk, Editorial Director of this innovative independent publisher, to our regular Industry Insights series.
From an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design and Advertising and early career in copywriting, through to studying for an MA in Creative Writing and taking an editorial route, Vicki’s path into publishing makes for fascinating reading.
Read on to discover intriguing insights into life as an Editorial Director, and plenty of intriguing books, too - this piece is guaranteed to get you adding a host of Myriad Editions’ marvels to your to-be-read piles.
What was your route into publishing?
It was a bit of an unusual one… My undergrad is actually in Graphic Design & Advertising. I went on to work in a Soho ad agency as a copywriter, and then freelanced for several years as a writer and editor of online content and articles, radio ads, press and poster comms, brochures etc. But my creative side was getting stifled and so I decided to go back to uni and study for an MA in Creative Writing. It’s here that I started working for Thresholds – a now defunct short story journal – as Editor. After the MA, I carried on with Thresholds, but also took an opportunity for an internship at Myriad. A short while later, I started submission reading for them, then editing. I also edit privately, for new and emerging authors.
What are your career highlights to date?
Prize listings are always the highlight, because we get to see real recognition of books that we’ve worked so hard on – plus it means they reach a wider audience, which is tough to do as an indie press. We’ve had three recent and prestigious successes, and I’m incredibly proud to have worked with each author in one form or another: Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union has just won best adult fiction in the Diverse Book Awards; Coma by Zara Slattery has won the British Book Design & Production Award for best graphic novel; and Hannah Vincent’s short story collection, She-Clown and Other Stories, has been shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize, the only UK prize for a single-authored collection (fingers crossed for that end of January announcement!).
What’s the editorial ethos of Myriad Editions? What sets Myriad Editions apart?
What we look for in all our books are voices that aren’t heard elsewhere that have something important to say. I’ve been so lucky to have worked alongside Candida Lacey (who recently stepped down as Publishing Director) and Corinne Pearlman, Creative Director, whose respective roots in literary fiction and graphic novels have informed the eclectic mix of genres we publish – from graphic medicine to topical atlases, memoir to historical fiction, literary romances to thrillers.
To give you a few examples of exactly what we mean by saying something ‘important’: our landmark anthology, New Daughters of Africa, celebrates 200 women of African descent; Pondweed is a working-class love story about two septuagenarians; The Bread the Devil Knead is written in Trinidadian creole; The Day I Fell Off My Island comes from a debut novelist over the age of 60; Fury: A Memoir tackles sexual abuse; How to be Autistic is written by an author who actually has autism; The Roles We Play is about the challenges of a British Pakistani upbringing… I could go on and on, because all our books have so much power behind them…
Describe a typical working day in the life of Vicki Heath-Silk.
Non-stop and varied. Myriad is a small press and so we all do a bit of everything to keep things running smoothly. For me, it’s not just editorial – which involves everything from reading submissions and actually editing the books, to keeping eBooks up to date and typesetting the latest paperback – it’s also overseeing social media, working on promos, keeping in touch with the PR team, even designing web banners (graphic design degree comes in useful sometimes).
What’s the best aspect of your job?
I love working with an author to get their book in the best possible shape it can be. It feels such a privilege to be paid for reading and commenting on amazing stories.
What sets your editorial heart a-fluttering?
A unique voice and beautiful storytelling.
Which book/s are you most proud of publishing?
Every single one I’ve worked on!
Which classic novels (or works of non-fiction) would you have definitely published back in the day?
The Handmaid’s Tale, The Colour Purple, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Mrs Dalloway…
Which authors would you invite to your dream literary dinner party?
Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, Margaret Atwood, AL Kennedy, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Acevedo, Haruki Murakami…
Give us an elevator pitch for some of your upcoming books.
From Yvonne Bailey-Smith (mother of Zadie Smith) we have The Day I Fell Off My Island coming out in paperback in March. It’s a story of immigration, from ’60s Jamaica to London, and all the stress and strains the cultural and personal change puts on a teenager and a woman.
Then there’s Veronika Muchitsch’s Cyberman, which is the unusual and stunning graphic non-fiction account of Ari, a Finnish man who streamed his life 24/7 online. It’s all about voyeurism and reflecting ourselves through the life of another.
Tell us a secret about books.
I think a lot of new writers assume that editors are cold-hearted beasts who thrive on the souls of rejected writers. But each and every rejection letter I have to write gets me down, because I know how much a person has poured themselves into their work. So my secret is: I wish we could take on every book that comes in…!
And for more wisdom from the people who bring us all those books we love, read the other pieces in our Industry Insights series.