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Interview with Senior Rights Manager Sarah Harvey

Sarah Harvey is Senior Rights Manager at Pan Macmillan where she sells translation rights around the world. She has previously worked in Rights at Hachette, Quercus, and HarperCollins. Here, Norah Myers interviews her about the progression of her career.

1) How did you personally know when you were ready to progress to your next role?

With Rights, the seniority of your position is usually related to the size of the markets and territories that you look after — it is basically like a real-life version of the board game Risk — so I knew I was ready to progress once I started to take on bigger markets and became more confident negotiating the more complicated deals at that level.

More generally, I have always tried to learn from those senior to me and put myself forward for more responsibility, where possible; through doing this, I think you get to a point in each role where you see a job description for a more senior role and think to yourself “oh actually, I could do that.” And most of the time you can.

2) Which qualities do you think help certain people to get to the top of their profession?

In our small industry, I think one of the most important things is to be inquisitive about the wider industry and to put yourself out there as much as possible, whether that is inviting a few people to go to the pub after the last London Book Fair meeting, or volunteering to distribute books on World Book Night. It doesn’t necessarily involve going to events in conference rooms with strip lighting and networking in the cheesy Bridget Jones let’s-introduce-somebody-to-somebody-else-with-two-interesting-facts way.

Word travels fast in the publishing world: nearly every new role I have got has been because I’ve been recommended by others in the industry. The other side to this is that word of mouth can work against you and I know people who have been turned down for jobs for this reason.

So I suppose my advice is to always do the best job that you can and, ultimately, try not to be a d*ck to other people! The intern who you were rude to once could eventually be your boss.

3) What has been the most challenging element of a senior position?

I think one of the most challenging things is that the more responsibility you take on, the less people you have to hide behind if things go wrong, so it is important to have the courage of your convictions and to learn from your mistakes.

I am by no means at the top of the tree yet, but it saddens me that even in our relatively-liberal industry, the further you progress, the more of a struggle it is to juggle family life and your career, particularly if you’re a woman. In an industry dominated by women, our board rooms are still disproportionately filled with men and we need to do much better.

4) Where would you like to be in 5 years?

(I’m answering this in the hope that Trump hasn’t nuked us all by then…) I think a lot is going to change in the next five years, both technologically and politically (Brexit: GAH!), and I see both of these things impacting on our industry in a huge way, so it is hard to predict where we will be.

Whatever happens, I hope that I am still working on disseminating great stories and important information around the world, in whatever form, and that I am working in an arts world that is more diverse and less London-centric.

5) What advice would you give your younger self?

I think I would tell her to not sweat so much about things going wrong, to always leave any job that was making her miserable, and reassure her that everything always works out okay in the end (even when you get made redundant!). Oh and to put a bet on Leicester City winning the 2015/16 season…

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