Becoming A Trailblazer with Elle Brenton-Rounding: 5 Minute Interview

Becoming A Trailblazer with Elle Brenton-Rounding: 5 Minute Interview

The Trailblazer Awards, supported by the Society of Young Publishers and BookBrunch, celebrate the next generation of the UK publishing industry. Find out more about our 2022 Trailblazers – up next is Elle Brenton-Rounding.

Elle Brenton-Rounding is the Senior Sales and Business Development Manager at Bonnier Books UK, Children’s, where she has been since March 2021. She is co-head of the foreign sales department, focusing primarily on North America and global business development; she has personally sold rights into over 35 languages and is experienced in conducting audio, film and TV deals.

She has worked in publishing since 2016, starting in special sales at Octopus Books, doing a stint in academic publishing, and having most recently overseen the fiction rights department at Little Tiger.

She was the 2020 London SYP Chair, has been shortlisted for the Trailblazer Awards twice previously, and lectures on both on publishing courses and in social work departments on her MA dissertation research, The Use of Bibliotherapy in Supporting Bereaved Children.

What did it mean to win an LBF Trailblazer Award?

Winning an LBF Trailblazer Award was a huge surprise and a real honour. I haven’t been in publishing all that long, just a few years, but I have really tried to make the most of all my amazing opportunities so far – and I’m so grateful to everyone’s support along the way, including that of LBF and the judges on this award.

Want to know more about The London Book Fair?  

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In your opinion, what impact did the pandemic have on bookshops/the publishing industry, and what are your predictions for their/its future?

Being in a role where travel and face-to-face meetings are SO important, it had a huge impact – but both positively and negatively. In terms of positivity, my department has had record years, so on the one hand, we adapted quickly and made the most of developing our online presence, and with travelling a lot less, that was great for hitting our environmental targets.

However, nothing is as good as selling and – importantly – connecting in person; we’re a very connection-driven industry, and nothing will beat having a coffee or dinner with new and old customers when developing those relationships. Overall, we will travel less because we are concerned about our environmental footprint, but we will continue to be strategic where needed.

Tell us what you do in 20 words.

I meet the most amazing, creative brains worldwide and work with them to share our books with a global audience.

What do you love about your career? 

Global networking. I thrive on discovering new things about the markets I work with – and I have the privilege of working in every market across the globe – and finding ways for our content to reach and resonate with people there. 

What was your first job in the book industry?

Special Sales Assistant at Octopus – I loved it, but it was a temp role. The best manager and team, so much fun.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting in publishing today?

Speak up, get your voice heard, and keep an eye on related fields (Film/TV, licensing, toys etc.!) for what could be a big hit. Publishing could also do with learning from other industries, so if you can, attend free seminars in fields like law, finance, business, etc. – look on Eventbrite for opportunities.

In life, what guides you?

My grandma was singlehandedly my biggest influence. She didn’t have a lot growing up, but she instilled both my work ethic and love of books – she was a huge reader and had a way of hustling into everything she wanted and achieved so much. I want to make sure that’s the legacy I leave too. We both shared our strong spiritual faith, too – it’s nice to have a constant belief in something to keep you grounded.

What was the last book you read, and where did you buy it?

I am a huge Sarina Bowen fan – her characterisation is amazing. I will probably make many fellow publishing people gasp, but I love reading on my phone. I have all her books as pre-orders via iBooks. I also use my library a lot because, simply put, I can’t buy as much as I’d love to – my house and budget aren’t big enough! If you’re an author, make sure you’re signed up to receive royalties from the PLR scheme. 

Check out the below helpful links:

Public Lending Right (PLR)

British Library – PLR

What’s next on your reading list?

I try to alternate between print and audio – I like to listen to nonfiction audio in particular, so I have Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen next. I last listened to Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller: PHENOMENAL. 

Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?

Charles Bukowski, of dead authors, and Meg Cabot, of living ones.

Meg because The Princess Diaries are the best books ever, and Charles because I find the era of ‘dirty realism’ literature fascinating. He might have been horrifically sexist, but I love a fierce debate. Dinner with him would have been a night to remember, as his books have so much truth and showcase an honest portrayal of the US (and much of the world) at that time.

I would also like to put Michelle Obama in here because she’s amazing, and her autobiography left a huge impression on me. So much advice I wish I’d received as a teen and younger woman. 

You’re stranded on a desert island. What three books would you want with you?

A read I cannot ever leave behind is Steadfast by Sarina Bowen. Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Then I would probably need to say Becoming by Michelle Obama for calmness and guidance – preferably in audio. 

Which is your favourite bookshop or e-bookstore and why?

I have a huge soft spot for Through the Wardrobe Books in my husband’s hometown of Mirfield. A tiny, magical place. It sells children’s in-store, but when I buy (any adult or kids) physical books, I try to get Leanne to order them for me. Gorgeous packaging and speedy delivery! 

What would be the title of your autobiography?

Probably F*ck It. Sorry grandma, I know I swear too much, but I hope by the time I (if I were ever to be asked to!) write an autobiography, I may have learned to care a little less. Creating boundaries and also the power of taking chances (and saying no when you need to) are important life skills to learn – ones I’m trying to master. Plus, I say that a lot when I’m trying to pivot/figure things out because you have to try everything sometimes! 

Has a book ever changed your life?

Yes. Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis as a teenager possibly saved my life, and I read it whenever I felt a little lost for years. I didn’t have the best teenage years, and it was comforting to know that adults don’t have it figured out either! That was possibly the first thing I read that showed me that you will make huge mistakes over your life, but how you deal with these mistakes is the most important thing. As you can read above, Michelle Obama’s autobiography was also pivotal for similar reasons (boundaries!). 

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier as a younger child, and then anything Michael Morpurgo. Then Eragon and The Princess Diaries are the other two books I read as a younger teen that I still read again (I just re-read TPD recently). 

How does social media aid the publishing industry?

TikTok/BookTok has been an incredible phenomenon that we can’t describe yet. Ask Emma Quick, Bonnier’s TikTok genius, for a better analysis! But beyond that, YouTube and Instagram are great ways to showcase books, and people find a lot of inspiration there – all three platforms are accessible and reach people beyond our core market focus. I’d also say Twitter as a publishing professional is very important – I find a lot of information there! 

Who has been your greatest inspiration, and why?

My grandma – as above! I have to say a huge thank you to Caroline Hill-Trevor and Sharon Miller Gold for being huge influences and mentors throughout my career. 

If you’ve been to a London Book Fair, what do you love about the fair? And what piece of advice would you give first-timers?

I love meeting people! Book fairs are so important to my job, so I’ve been to lots of them, and London is great. It’s fantastic to welcome so many friends from around the world to our incredible city every year!

Lots of coffee/tea/your beverage of choice, comfortable shoes, and a tote bag are all essentials.  

Read more Trailblazer Awards 5-minute interviews.

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