News: In Conversation with Hassan Ali

Hassan Ali is an Account Executive at Faber Factory, with previous experience in sales and editorial. He manages the eBook conversion process for a wide range of independent publishers, and is keen to see them thrive and flourish. 

When did you realise you wanted to work in publishing? What led to this?

Not very originally, I’ve always been a big reader. When I left university, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to pursue, so I did some volunteering and a brief stint in retail before trying to get a job in publishing. After a truly disheartening number of rejections, I started to get interviews for internships. When I finally got a foot in the door, the landscape of publishing made me dig my heels in a bit. I felt like I wanted to prove that I deserved to be there. In reality, I think what actually convinced me to stick it out were the women who consistently encouraged me throughout my internships and interviews.

Tell me about your career path so far. What roles did you work in before? What lessons resonate most with you from your experiences?

I still feel very much at the start of my career path, but I have three years of experience in the industry under my belt now. I started off like most people do, undertaking a number of internships. The last internship I did was with Saqi Books, a brilliant independent publisher of trade and academic books on the Middle East and North Africa. They decided to offer me a job after I completed that internship and I worked there for a year as an editorial assistant and then a further year as a sales executive. The reality of working at a smaller independent publisher means really getting stuck in with all departments and processes. That was invaluable experience and is probably the best lesson of all; publishing isn’t just editorial, which I think is a common misconception (or at least, one I certainly had prior to working in publishing). Have a go at roles you don’t think would suit you. You’ll probably surprise yourself.

What does your role as Accounts Executive entail? Which of your responsibilities do you enjoy most?

I’m the first point of contact for about half of the Faber Factory client publishers regarding their eBook distribution. This can involve problem resolution with retailers, advice regarding files and formats, clarification of the retail terms and processes – really anything a publisher might have concerns or questions about.

I also manage the conversion process for publishers who do conversions with us and this is probably the task I enjoy the most. It’s a satisfying job to see the file creation and distribution process through from start to finish. Best of all, it lets me see so much of what independent publishers in the UK (and beyond) are publishing and every week I’m reminded that it really is a thriving scene.

What advice would you give to your younger self on your first day in publishing?

It would likely be advice that was given to me before I started that I, of course, didn’t take on board. Try to keep everything in perspective. It’s good to have high expectations of yourself but you’re lucky to work in an industry where mistakes rarely have grave consequences. Give yourself room to make those mistakes and learn how to fix them – which is one of the most valuable skills you’ll end up learning.

What are you currently reading?

Underland by Robert Macfarlane. His reflections on the world beneath our feet are both meditative and thrilling in equal measure. It’s a real treat to read something that hops from one country to another so freely.

Are there any other words you would like to leave with our readers with?

Namely that, if you’re trying to get into the industry right now, it’s tough and your obstacles aren’t imagined by any means. That hopefully doesn’t sound defeatist, it’s just a statement to reinforce your experience. If your current efforts aren’t bearing fruit, try a different avenue. There is a rich world of publishing beyond the Big Five that you should explore, both because it may help you land a position and because, in my experience, it is much more welcoming.