Who's who at newbooks


Each issue we include a brief paragraph from each of the people involved with that issue as to what they're reading currently. However, what follows is something a little more personal about who each of us are and how we've arrived at this point in time.

Guy Pringle




I was a secondary school English teacher in Whitley Bay for several years before escaping into the world of educational publishing with Thomas Nelson and Sons. I mention the publisher because I had a wry smile when I saw them credited in the foreword of Andrea Levy's The Long Song as one of the 'best publishing  houses in Britain'.


Subsequent twists and turns in the world of publishing, including three redundancies, finally decided me to try an idea on my own. newBooks.mag, as it was initially, sprang from involvement with the library sector in the late 90s and the realisation that there was no magazine talking to and about this community of readers and reading groups which my many librarian friends had been cultivating.


And last year we celebrated our 60th issue and 10th anniversary - which makes it the longest period of continuous employment I have had in the last 30 years. Along the way I have met many more readers and librarians who are always a delight. Even now I am known for talking at length to subscribers who ring up, quizzing them about what they like (or don't like!) about newbooks and, just as importantly, what they've read and enjoyed recently. Being self-employed has been a joy at a time of life when I would have been looking over my shoulder for another round of redundancies. Long may it continue.


Sheila Ferguson


Managing Editor


My parents were both avid readers so my childhood home was always full of books, from the classics through to modern-day literature. And my mother and I had weekly expeditions to the local library where I happily picked my books in the children’s section as she perused the shelves of the main hall. Inevitably English was my favourite subject at school and when I went on to study it at university I felt that I wanted to work with books, though wasn’t quite sure in what capacity and I initially thought of librarianship.  


However, I actually started work at the respected Glasgow publishers William Collins & Sons a month or so before my university exam results and graduation. This was back in the days when you had to work your way up, so I started out as an assistant to the Art Editor before managing to cross over into editorial a year later. I progressed from Editorial Assistant to Assistant Editor, finally becoming a fully-fledged Editor, but the company had just begun its immersion into the Murdoch empire and our department was relocated to London.


As the bright lights of the metropolis held no personal appeal, I opted for a move to another long-established Glasgow publishing house Blackie & Son and there I stayed happily until it closed for business in the 1990s.


With two redundancies under my belt I found work back at the now-named HarperCollins, within the dictionary department, and the world of lexicography opened up to me. And it was during my years there that I met and worked closely with one Guy Pringle! The inevitable third redundancy in this parlous trade came along in 2001 and, by sheer fortuitous coincidence, Guy got in touch to tell me about the magazine he had set up. When he found out that I was a ‘free agent’ he suggested that I edit newbooks for a trial period. Some 9+ years and 57 issues later, I’m still waiting for the ‘verdict’!



Nicholas Clee 


I feel very lucky, somehow managing publishers to take on two books on subjects in which I had no qualifications. My first, Don’t Sweat the Aubergine, was about food and cooking: I was neither a trained cook nor a food writer. My second, Eclipse, was about a great 18th-century racehorse and stallion: I had written only two articles about horseracing, and was not a trained historian. But reviewers and readers have been kind, or tolerant.


I loved working on Don’t Sweat and Eclipse, because they allowed me to indulge in hobbies away from my day job, which is to write about books and the book trade. I had worked at The Bookseller, the book industry journal, for 20 years, first as book news editor and then as editor, before leaving in 2004. Since then, I’ve written for various titles, including The Times and The Times Literary Supplement. The best part of my Bookseller job was interviewing authors, and returning to this job for newbooks has been a particular pleasure.

Zoë Fairbairns


I’ve been a writer for most of my life - my fiction includes Here Today, Closing and Daddy’s Girls, all of which were published by the previous editor of newbooks, Elsbeth Lindner, when she was an editor at Methuen. My nonfiction includes the forthcoming Teach Yourself: Write Short Stories and Get Them Published (Hodder, November 2011), and interviews for newbooks.


High points of being a newbooks interviewer:

• discovering how people who consistently write bestselling and/or award-winning books manage it (clue: they work hard)

• finding treasure in a well-known author’s less well-known backlist

• thinking up questions that will get them to provide astonishing and previously undreamed-of revelations about themselves and their work.


And low ones:

• publicists who are only too pleased to set up the interview, but will they send the book? They will, but it will take three weeks. Yes, they know the interview is in two weeks, but the books are in the warehouse and that’s how long it takes to get them out.

• thinking you’ve extracted a unique and telling quote from someone, only to find that it’s all over the internet - they say that to everybody

• and an author who very kindly kicked off the interview by praising my books - only to make clear later that they were confusing me with someone else.