Passion, Publishing, and Career Advancement: Interview with Michelle Halket

Books I read in May 2014. The one with no title showing is “The Essential Pocket Guide to Local TV News”.

Michelle Halket and I had been in contact regarding a poet and their writings that Halket’s built-from-the-ground-up publishing house, Central Avenue, personally releases. I decided to take the opportunity to ask her a few questions concerning the industry of publishing, as it is a popular choice for English (or any) graduates to enter upon entry into reality. Having attended the Spotlight On: Publishing event at the University of Nottingham in Autumn semester, I thought getting some first-hand insight would be valuable to current students,  graduates, or anyone interested in pursuing a career in publishing (or any career involving books, for that matter)!

How long have you been in the industry?

Almost 9 years.

I understand that you haven’t always been a part of the publishing industry.  How did you get from your previous job role and industry to where you are now?

 I had decided to leave my former role in market research for a large multinational company. I took a few months off and in those months decided that I wanted to do something on my own and in a field that I was passionate about. It was a discussion with a colleague where we talked about how difficult it was for authors to get published and that conversation coupled with a basic knowledge of the ease and relatively low cost of digital publishing that set me on the road to where I am now.

What was it about the publishing industry that enticed you?  Did you always have a passion for books?

I’ve always been an avid reader. I can remember where I was when I read a particular book that resonated with me. I really knew nothing about the industry when I started, and I think that was a good thing. Otherwise, I might have been scared off!

“I’ve seen many authors become publishers, only to fail a few years later…”

What is your favourite book (whether you’ve published it or not), and why?

Oh, that’s a hard question since there’s so many. I always loved Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid. As a younger woman, I fell in love with Interview With the Vampire and a lot of Anne Rice’s books. Recently, I really grooved on The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. As for books I’ve published, I can’t choose, it’d be like saying which of my children is my favourite.

What is your opinion, from a publisher’s perspective, on the ever-debated “real books” vs. eBooks? 

 Oh, I had so many discussions and thoughts about this when I was only publishing ebooks. If it weren’t for ebooks, I would never have had the start I did in the industry. Back then, it was easy to see where the market would go with them and those who discounted them were fools. That said, I really don’t see the difference between them. It’d be like arguing that hard covers are more of a book than paper backs. It’s the same content, no matter the format. There’s a lot of garbage in the digital market, and there also is in the print segment.

“…I wanted to do something on my own and in a field that I was passionate about.”

I see creating both formats as complementary and necessary to the publishing process. Now that I’m where I’m at, I don’t know that I would ever publish a book only in digital formats anymore since I like seeing our books in stores and getting reviewed and accepted by the trade. That acceptance doesn’t happen for digital only books. 

Here at The University of Nottingham, we did a Spotlight On: Publishing event, where different employees of publishers with various job roles came in and discussed their experiences.  Do you think this sort of event is useful?  If so, why?

I think that would be a very beneficial event indeed. I believe that it’s easy to fall in love with the romance of creating books and not see the business behind it. I’ve seen many authors become publishers, only to fail a few years later because they didn’t realize all the aspects that came with running this type of business. I’m still learning myself, and I try to approach the business with the left side of my brain and leave the romance and creativity to the talented authors and illustrators I work with.

In a nutshell, follow your gut. If you don’t get it right first time, there is always another path you can take.

 Louise Baker

Image credit The Marmot via Flickr


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