#SYPConf20: The Impact of Coronavirus with Commissioning Editor, Katie Packer

Posted on November 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

Katie Packer is currently working as a Commissioning Editor at Headline Publishing, Hachette, where she commissions trend-led and pop culture non-fiction and a select few fiction projects. Her main focus is to build on the representation in publishing. You can find her on Twitter @katierpacker.

To put it simply, lockdown has been very mad. It’s been crazy for everyone, and before I say anything else I’d like to say I feel very lucky and blessed to still have a great job that I love doing in these times. That being said publishing has definitely felt the impact of lockdown. The buzzing in-person acquisition meetings planning out campaigns for the future have become virtual, and unfortunately, less exciting. The prosecco in the break area to cheers a successful author are a thing of the past. The meeting up with agents, authors and other editors to gas about life and books has been replaced by stilted phone calls and wifi problems. The glamour of publishing that drew in a common tart like me has melted away this year and left me sat back in my dad’s house staring blankly at a computer screen for hours on end, downing bags of minstrels.

It would be a lie to say my day-to-day job has changed because it hasn’t really. I go through my emails, speak to authors, agents and colleagues over Zoom and go to many a meeting. It’s more that the firey passion for your work becomes a bit difficult to keep alight when you’re stagnant in your home, sat in a pair of trackies you probably should wash more. The lockdown doesn’t really inspire creation, does it? You do see the fire reignite from time to time though when great things happen, but without connection, face-to-face human connection, it does easily blow out. How can you instil passion in projects where people can’t really quite see the enthusiasm in your face and voice? How do you maintain excitement when there’s no more coming together to lust over a book advance that has just been delivered? It’s difficult, but not impossible. I try and bring pizzaz to my working day where I can, reach out to people where I can, but most importantly rest where I can. Rest and time out have never been such important parts of my job before and I think that’s been the real change. That run in the middle of my day, or watching an episode of The Office US, honestly, a lifesaver.

One thing is for sure is that I have been incredibly lucky over this time to have had an author like Bolu Babalola. She was never phased by the coronavirus mess, she kept her head (mostly) thoughout the edits and trusted that we could bring the incredible book that is Love in Colour out into the world not just with success, but with vivacity and confidence. As a new Commissioning Editor at the time I was ready – and still am – to become a door-to-door saleswoman for this book, like an Olay Ambassador. I’d actually do that for any of my books, so if you see my around London yelling at people ‘oi, buy Love in ColourThis Is Why I Resist and Keep the Receipts init!’ please face your front. I didn’t need to worry though, Bolu had it from day dot. I think if anything lockdown made us grow closer because it was suddenly us against the world with it, except the world was actually with us. I don’t think I can box Bolu and me into an ‘author/editor’ relationship, like yes we are but also we are proper mates and proud parents, we brought a book into the world in this chaos of a 2020! And it was a Sunday Times bestseller! That sh*t bonds you.

All in all, it’s been a mixed bag this last year. Bolu’s friendship, Love in Colour and the prospect of more incredible books is definitely what keeps me going, as well as the odd bottle of wine, the new Ariana Grande album, and of course, minstrels.