By Sara Jade-Virtue (Books and the City, Simon & Schuster UK)
2014 is shaping up to be a cracker for books and women isn’t it? We have the glorious drive to get everyone championing female authors as part of #readwomen2014. We’ve had International Women’s Day. There’s been World Book Day. We’ve got the £1 Quick Reads. There is the on-going Books Are My Bag campaign. There are literary festivals and events around the country all year round.
I’ve been a fan of women’s fiction for as long as I can remember. I may have started, as many of us did, as a confused teen reader with Agatha Christie, Jeffrey Archer and My Sweet Audrina, before moving swiftly onto Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins, but with the arrival of Bridget Jones Diary in 1996 an entire new genre of fiction was born. FINALLY there were books written by women like us, about women like us. Books that could happily sit on the shelves snuggling against literary, crime, thrillers or historical fiction… Books that could happily lie on the coffee table next to Cosmopolitan and Company magazines. Books that were aimed squarely at ME and other women like me. It was a revelation.
On the night of the Romantic Novelist Association Awards Ceremony, Helen Fielding was honoured by the Romantic Novelist Association with a well-deserved Outstanding Achievement Award. Surrounded by the great and the good in the women’s fiction world, including bestselling, award winning authors like Lisa Jewell, Paige Toon, Katie Fforde, Ali Harris, Veronica Henry, Ali McNamara, Adele Parks, Milly Johnson, Jenny Colgan and Fiona Walker I clapped and roared, with tears in my eyes to celebrate this ground breaking author. An author who was brave enough to ring in the changes. And now, 18 years after Bridget first donned a pair of granny pants and drank one too many glasses of wine mid-week, it feels like we are coming of age. We are legal people. We are over the age of consent. Let’s vote with our dollars and our feet. And celebrate this awesome 18th birthday of Women’s Fiction by buying more books.
I pinch myself almost every day that despite a ‘patchy’ education to say the least, I get to work in the Publishing industry. An industry that, until I applied for the Office Manager job at Waterstones Head Office back in 2002, I didn’t even really know existed. I didn’t know how books got published. I certainly didn’t know how they reached the shelves of bookshops. I didn’t know there were ‘Buyers’ who were responsible for deciding who and what we, as readers, got to buy. And I didn’t know that even further back in the chain there were all sorts of people, with various skills, who ‘made’ the books I wanted to read. People who designed the cover jackets. People who decided when certain books should be published, and in what format, and how much the RRP should be. And whether the title was right. And whether the first, or the last chapter of a book needed work. And people who pushed the books months, sometimes YEARS ahead of publication day, into the hands of magazine reviewers, and Retailer Buyers, and fans. And people who planned and plotted and schemed away at building a readership, an audience, a market for a book. So yes. I pinch myself every day. I work in Publishing. I have a day job in the UK Sales team. I work with retailers across the spectrum, from The Works to Alton Towers. From Urban Outfitters to Costco. From English Heritage to Daily Telegraph to ensure that wherever a potential book lover might be lurking, a Simon & Schuster book is always within arm’s reach. And when not doing my day job, I run Books and the City. I indulge in my passion for women’s fiction. I get to work with incredible authors. I get to arrange their events. I get to read their books almost as soon as they’ve typed The End. I get to promote their books in ever more exciting ways. And I love it. I love love love what I do. So if you have a passion for books, and specifically a passion for Women’s Fiction, check out the website http://www.booksandthecity.co.uk – She’s my baby. And because of her, I’ve never been prouder to work in publishing.Sara Jade-Virtue is the Project Manager at Simon & Schuster UK. She is the brains behind Books and the City (www.booksandthecity.co.uk). Follow her on Twitter @BookMinxSJV or @TeamBATC!