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Industry Insight: Q&A with Sara-Jade Virtue (Simon & Schuster)

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 11th March 2019

Sara-Jade Virtue is the Special Sales Director at Simon & Schuster and Brand Director for Commercial Fiction. She can be found talking about books she loves, gin she drinks, cupcakes she eats and Pepper (her cat) on twitter @BookminxSJV. She also shouts about books on, the S&S women's fiction community she runs. I adore her bookshelves, I do love a good bookshelf, and the strange book habits answer sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

Tell us about your role in the book world.

I’m both the Special Sales Director here at S&S, selling our books into all those weird and wonderful retailers that aren’t traditional bookshops or supermarkets, and the Brand Director for our women’s fiction list - the project I'm most proud of working on. I've been here 12 years and still count myself incredibly lucky that I get to talk about books all day and get paid for it. Every single day is different, packed full to the brim with meetings, presentations, costing work, liaising with retailers, readers, 3rd parties, event organisers, media, bloggers and book lovers up and down the country.

How did you arrive in the industry?

Luck and blagging if I’m honest.  I started out in the post room at Waterstones Head Office in 2002 and through a combination of badgering, harassing, begging and pestering ended up wearing down the Buying Director just enough for him to let me apply for a role in his team as a buying assistant. The rest, as they say, is history.

What three words best sum up your job?

Books, books, books

Which fictional character or person from history would you love to read a book by (why is that) and what type of book do you think it would be?

Jack Python (from the classic Jackie Collins novel, Hollywood Husbands).  His biography would be AWESOME.

Who are your book world inspirations?  

I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with some of the best people in the world through my job.  Not just agents, colleagues, retailers, book reviewers and bloggers, but authors too. 

I’m constantly in awe of authors – I’ve said it before, and, no doubt, I’ll say it again, I just don’t know how they do it – but a particular highlight, both personally and professionally, was spending time with Jackie Collins. She was one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. Warm, witty, wise and every single bit as brilliant as you would expect from an author who has sold over 500 million copies of her books worldwide.

Describe your favourite place to read.

I love getting stuck into a manuscript on the commute, but most of all, I love reading in the Summer, on my stoop, whilst taking a #Bookation (

What’s your favourite book from childhood, how did it make you feel?

Where the Wild Things Are, the classic picture book by Maurice Sendak. I remember, quite vividly, sitting curled up in my dad’s lap whilst he read it to me.  He would trace the words with his big Dad fingers, and I would run my podgy little girl fingers over the illustrations.  We would linger over each page and I’d beg for him to go back to the beginning and start again. 

Hbk, pbk, ebook, discuss.

Hardbacks are to treasure, to keep in pristine condition in The Collection, preferably signed, and never allowed to leave the house. eBooks are brilliant for reading submissions and manuscripts on the commute and for trying out something that you might not normally have picked up, but paperbacks are my perfect format. 

Book Shelfie: could you take a picture of your favourite book shelf please and tell us what it is about this particular shelf that you love.

This is one of my favourite shelves at home.  I spend hours rearranging and sorting out my books, sometimes losing whole weekends to the ongoing curation of my collection.

Any strange book habits?

If it’s ‘strange’ to buy every possible edition of a book you love, then I don’t want to be ‘normal’.  Of course, I accept that the 3 different hardback editions of The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes, together with the eBook and 2 paperback copies (one to keep, one to read) may be seen by some as excessive, but what of it?! You do you, and I’ll do me OK?

Fun book fact

One of my favourite book facts I’ve recently learnt is that if you publish a book in Norway, the government buy 1000 copies to distribute to libraries throughout the country.  Meantime, in the UK….

If you enjoyed this article why not check out our other Industry Insight Features?

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