I met the charismatic Fiona Brownlee at the Publishing Scotland Conference in Glasgow. She was a panelist for a student discussion breakaway session, and I remember thinking to myself, She is amazing. She wore her enthusiasm for the business on her sleeve and was an expert on all the aspects of publishing I had ever considered going into, like marketing, rights, and being an agent.
When the session was over, I quickly approached her. We got along really, really well and when I explained about my placement module, she was quick to offer me a spot with her at Brownlee Donald Associates.
As a new company, started in 2013, it was just she and I working side-by-side. The London Book Fair was fast approaching and my main tasks in the run-up to the fair included collating and designing our rights list (utilizing my InDesign skills), trawling through correspondence and updating our contact database, and networking at events such as the Publishers Publicity Circle party, the London Book Fair, the Canongate after-party, and many other events.
I feel really lucky to have been taken under her wing. I’ve been able to see the inner workings of marketing books, selling rights, and working as a literary agent all in a short amount of time. I’ve also been introduced to a lot of valuable people in the publishing world, from houses here in the UK to New York and Australia. I spent most of my time at the London Book Fair upstairs in the international rights area, sitting with Fiona Brownlee and next to other great Scottish agents like Judy Moir and Jenny Brown. How amazing is that?!
Fiona Brownlee wears a lot of different hats, and she’s fantastic at all of them. She’s a true people-person, and seeing her working so hard and juggling so many things with a smile on her face and a good laugh (even at the bad bits) inspires me so much to keep on aiming for the top. The trust she places in me to handle her contacts and work with the rights list really made me step up and truly feel like a working professional in the publishing industry.
We’ve also become good friends. Knowing that I can be a hard worker and make great friendships in this tumultuous industry really provides a silver lining on the long days.