In 2020 and 2021, we were thrilled to announce our collaboration with Nancy Adimora and HarperCollins UK! Nancy was the Talent & Audience Development Manager at HarperCollins Publishers and, following her generous Q&A session to demystify the publishing process, submissions of fiction and non-fiction books were open to Scottish BAME Writers Network members from 2020 – 2021!
Normally writers would need an agent to submit to editors at HarperCollins, so we were delighted to offer this opportunity to our writers! Find out more about Nancy and why she got into publishing…
Meet Nancy Adimora
Nancy Adimora was the Talent & Audience Development Manager at HarperCollins Publishers, and the Founding Editor of AFREADA, an African literary magazine. Originally from Nigeria, her interest in African stories and innovation led her to join the TEDxEuston organising team, where she spent five years managing strategic partnerships. Nancy has also worked as an independent consultant, working on a range of projects with companies including Twitter and the Royal African Society.
Nancy works across HarperCollins to help attract new authors, reach and market to new audiences and deepen engagement with communities that are currently underserved in publishing. Authors and titles identified by Adimora in her new role will be published by existing HarperCollins divisions and imprints.
Nancy, why did you get into publishing?
I got into publishing because I love books. Not the most original answer, and I promise I tried to come up with something more creative, but it’s definitely the most accurate. What would have been inaccurate is if I said, I got into publishing because I’ve always loved books. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In school, reading meant skim reading at best. I’d flick through pages, note down characters and key themes, and then say a quick prayer before doing my best to answer whatever essay question formed part of my coursework. Books were something I had to get through, they were a means to an end, but this all changed when I was gifted a copy of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
“Being introduced to characters with the same names as my cousins, seeing Igbo words and phrases casually dotted around the pages, it honestly changed my life.”
I was in Year 9 at the time, and I still remember how I felt when I unwrapped the gift and read Chimamanda’s name for the first time; I remember how long I spent staring at the cover, and how all the other Christmas gifts I received that year suddenly seemed insignificant. I can confidently say that the week I spent reading that book is the reason I work in publishing today. Being introduced to characters with the same names as my cousins, seeing Igbo words and phrases casually dotted around the pages, it honestly changed my life. I’ve been obsessed with books ever since, and I now spend my time looking for new writers from underrepresented backgrounds because I want to recreate that moment for someone else. Cheesy, but true.
Why you want to see more representation in publishing?
What I realised after being introduced to Chimamanda’s work was that reading was never the problem – my desire to skip past chapters and fast-forward to the end of books was largely down to the fact that I felt no connection to the stories that formed part of the national curriculum. Now, that’s not to say that you always need to feel reflected in stories in order to enjoy them. Far from it. I listened to a Mostly Lit podcast a few years ago where Arundhati Roy said, “if literature is approached with care and love, my stories and yours will meet somewhere.”
“Books are a sort of petri dish that allows us to dissect life and study it over and over” – Tendai Huchu
I absolutely love that idea and I completely agree with her, but I also think that there’s a limit to how much you can appreciate the beauty of other stories when you haven’t seen your own. You can only truly understand the transformative power of storytelling when you have experienced what it feels like to see yourself on the page (or on the screen or in any form of media!). That’s when you realise that most stories aren’t just stories, most books aren’t just books – in the wise words of Tendai Huchu, “books are a sort of petri dish that allows us to dissect life and study it over and over”. I say all of that to say that representation is not a “nice to have”, it’s imperative because stories shape our world. And if stories shape our world, we also need them to reflect our world.
What you love about your role at HarperCollins?
One thing I love about my job is that I started with a blank sheet. There was no handover document or rulebook, but I had a very clear objective which was to help attract new authors and deepen engagement with communities currently under-served in publishing. My role is all about examining every part of the publishing process and asking whether things can be done differently. The brief is broad, but it has creativity at the heart of it and I am grateful for the opportunity and the freedom to work on projects that I find interesting and collaborate with colleagues across the business. I got into publishing to help new writers navigate what can seem like an impenetrable industry, and this role if the perfect opportunity to do that.
Why are you collaborating with the Scottish BAME Writers Network?
A lot of my work around talent acquisition requires me to spend most of my time slipping and sliding into DMs on social media. It’s great to come across new writers, but I’m also aware of my personal limitations and blind spots. As an individual, there’s a limit to how wide I can cast my net, so I value the opportunity to work with partners and organisations who share the same vision.
“I know some writers in your network are taking that good energy, bottling it up, and are ready to share it with the world through their words and their stories, and I want to play a small part in making sure that they’re given the space and the freedom to tell the stories they want to tell.”
It goes without saying that regional diversity is incredibly important, but I’m particularly interested in finding more Scottish writers because I visited our distribution centre in Glasgow a few years ago, and I had the best time. It was freezing, and I cried out to my ancestors once or twice, but I felt nothing but good vibes from the moment I stepped off the plane. I know some writers in your network are taking that good energy, bottling it up, and are ready to share it with the world through their words and their stories, and I want to play a small part in making sure that they’re given the space and the freedom to tell the stories they want to tell.