Lara Borlenghi has been Finance Director at Pan Macmillan for five years. Prior to this, Lara worked for 15 years in a variety of finance roles for different media companies, including Warner Music, Grazia magazine, Magic Radio and BBC Worldwide. Norah Myers interviews her here.
1) What trends have you seen emerge this year that you’ve been excited about?
2017 has been a contrasting year because, on the one hand, big brands have got bigger and so many of the most successful books this year don’t represent new trends but do lead to a really strong and healthy industry (don’t forget I’m a Finance Director so this is exciting to me) and on the other hand bubbling up into the mainstream are an amazing variety of books covering issues such as feminism and diversity or in different forms such as poetry. So I think the success of books like Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, The Good Immigrant or Rupi Kaur is really interesting. One of my personal highlights this year was attending an amazing event at a packed Union Chapel to hear Hollie McNish read from her collection Plum. She was brilliant, funny and wise and the atmosphere was electric.
2) What have you learned about yourself in work this year?
After five years I’m still relatively new to the industry and what I’ve learned is that book publishing doesn’t ever get boring. Every year is different and presents new challenges, new opportunities but also exciting new ways of doing things. There is still so much for me to learn, it’s endlessly fascinating.
3) What is the best book you read this year? Why?
2017 has been a great year for books and so this is a very hard question. At Pan Mac one of the many highlights this year has been Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age which is about the destructive impact of early Christianity on the classical world. It’s hugely entertaining, well researched and has astonishing parallels with elements of the modern world. Another fantastic book we’ve published and probably the one I raced through the fastest is Frances Hardinge’s A Skinful of Shadows.
Outside of Pan Mac books, La Belle Sauvage is probably the most magical reading experience I’ve had this year.
4) How do you think the industry has reacted to global changes in 2017?
Really well so far, despite how any of us might feel personally about politics here and elsewhere. The immediate impact of the Brexit vote was an economic one as the instantly weakened pound has a positive impact on exports and negative impact on imports and so the net effect of this will vary from publisher to publisher. In terms of the UK consumer market it’s so far pretty unaffected as a whole, people are still buying books and buying more of them. We don’t really know what lies ahead yet but it seems that in darker times people want to read more to be entertained and escape or to learn more about the world around them.
5) What will you be doing in 2018 that you didn’t do in 2017?
2018 looks like it’s going to be a fantastic year for Pan Macmillan. We have some amazing new authors including Mantle publishing our first Kate Mosse book The Burning Chambers (which I have just read and it’s wonderful), Bluebird publishing Bake Off’s Prue Leith and Picador’s brilliant debut Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce. I know this wasn’t really what you were getting at with the question but it’s a true answer! I am very lucky to have a fantastic team of commercial finance professionals working for me and next year, like every year, we will be working hard with the rest of the business to provide them the best support we can to help Pan Mac continue to be a success. This is a bit of a vague answer, but I’m not going to give you all my secrets!