Meet Mainga Bhima, Assistant Editor at Penguin Random House Children’s. She shares what’s hot at the moment in children’s publishing, what it’s like to work with an author you loved as a kid, and what makes an editor a great all-rounder…
So, you’re an Assistant Editor. Tell us what that means in one sentence.
I look for amazing stories, work with authors, senior editors, and experts in other departments across Penguin Random House Children’s to make the best possible books, then work with them to tell as many people as possible how brilliant these books and authors are.
Sum up what it’s like to work in your team in three words.
Challenging, fast-paced, exciting.
What’s hot right now in your area of publishing and what are you most looking forward to being published in the coming months?
Children’s publishing is going from strength to strength and retailers are dedicating increasing amounts of shelf space in their stores to children’s books, which is really exciting for us. The ascent of young adult (YA) fiction has been well documented, but I think 2016 is going to be all about middle grade fiction – books for 9–12 year olds. As such, I’m delighted to be working with the hugely talented Jennifer Bell on her debut novel The Crooked Sixpence, the first book in her middle-grade adventure series The Uncommoners. It’s a special kind of thrill to be involved with a brand-new author right from the beginning, and to see a manuscript through from first to final draft, to watch it develop, take shape and become the story that readers will take home and share.
Share with us a project you’re proud of.
I support our senior editors on a number of amazing projects from authors including Joseph Delaney, Steve Cole and Abie Longstaff, so it’s really hard to pick just one project to talk about here. But as a lifelong Jacqueline Wilson fan, I am particularly privileged to be supporting on her projects, and it’s been a really special experience working with the team to bring her latest book Rent a Bridesmaid into the world. It’s a gorgeous, warm-hearted story about the power of friendship and I can’t wait for young readers to be able to get their hands on it!
What’s the one book you wish you’d published and why?
I love what Andersen Press has done with Julian Clary’s children’s debut The Bolds, about a family of hyenas who manage to pass themselves off as humans living out the suburban dream in Teddington. The humour sparkles off the page, and David Roberts’ illustrations work beautifully with the text to make a brilliantly appealing package for young readers.
What was your biggest surprise about working in publishing?
Before coming into publishing, I thought an editor basically sat around reading new manuscripts all day – but the job involves so much more than that! Of course, reading and discussing stories are at the heart of the job, but project managing the creation of the books, building relationships and being a champion for our authors are hugely important elements too.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Working with amazingly creative, interesting and inspiring authors and colleagues. It is a dream come true to be building relationships with authors I’ve loved from my childhood, get an insight into their creative processes, and have conversations with them about the direction of their stories and publishing programmes. Every day I learn something new from my brilliant colleagues – each project comes with its own unique challenges that require us to work together in new ways, and I’m always astounded by what we can achieve when we all put our heads together!
What’s the worst thing?
When we lose out to another publisher in an auction for a book we’ve fallen in love with.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when you started out in editorial?
You can never be too organised. When I think about the exceptionally gifted editors I work with every day, I realise they’re great all-rounders: not only do they absolutely love books and stories, they’re passionate about great writing and nurturing talent and finding innovative ways to bring classic content to new audiences; they’re always looking out into the world and are excited by changing trends and, particularly in our part of the business, youth culture; they are masterful communicators – and they’re fantastically organised.
This post originally appeared on Penguin Random House's The Scheme blog in November 2016.