Liz Gough is the Executive Publisher of Yellow Kite books & Lifestyle at Hachette publishing in the UK. Specialising in wellbeing and self help, she seeks out new and exciting books, and some of their bestselling authors include Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), relationship therapist Esther Perel (Mating in Captivity and The State of Affairs), and chef Gordon Ramsay amongst many others.
Here Liz talks to 35Thousand about her love of finding new authors and bringing book ideas to life, how walking has kept her sane during the pandemic, and why coffee deliveries and scented candles have become her WFH saviours.
Describe yourself in 3 words…
“Optimistic, driven, kind”
Tell us about your work…
“I head up a team of editors and we publish cutting-edge books with a focus on food, lifestyle, health, self-help and mental health and wellbeing. Yellow Kite is the name of the imprint I run and is part of Hachette. Some of our bestselling authors include Deliciously Ella, Gelong Thubten, The Food Medic, The Two Chubby Cubs, Eckhart Tolle, Esther Perel and Gordon Ramsay. My role is to lead the team, manage the budget, acquire books in this space, keep abreast of trends and keep Yellow Kite’s profile high among literary agents and authors so we can acquire the very best books. I’ve always worked in publishing and I absolutely love it. It’s a wonderful industry to work in – full of passionate, creative, interesting and fun people.”
Do you work in the spare room, a skyscraper or other?
“My company has gorgeous riverside offices on the Thames, but I have barely been there since March 2020. I miss the office buzz, the chats, and the rooftop café. My husband and I are in competition for the study at the moment, while we both work from home. It is a lovely room with stylish wallpaper, plants, bookshelves and a nice desk. If I am not in there, I am at the kitchen table trying to avoid the biscuit tin, or in my daughter’s bedroom. Occasionally I will take calls while I am out walking, for a change of pace.”
What parts of your work give you energy?
“Strategic planning for the future growth of the business, talking to authors and agents about book ideas and – best of all – acquiring new books for Yellow Kite. Finding interesting people with potential book ideas and reaching out to them can be really energising and exciting. I love forming and cultivating ideas.
Publishing books that can help readers change their lives in a positive way is incredibly rewarding and I find it very energising when we receive positive feedback on our books.
I also love collaborating and sharing ideas with colleagues – I love it when we have a challenge around a book, and through a really good conversation we can create plans, opportunities and ideas about how to make books really soar and become hit publications. It’s addictive.”
What parts of your work drain you?
“Endless emails. I have thousands in my inbox as I am hopeless at filing them. I also find Teams/Zoom calls can be draining if there are too many in one day.”
Most pivotal point of your career so far?
“Launching Yellow Kite in 2014 was pivotal for me – coming up with the name and starting and heading up this new list of books was such an exciting time. Publishing Deliciously Ella’s bestselling cookbook in 2015 put Yellow Kite firmly on the publishing radar and she and I have now worked together for 7 years and published 6 books. It was really only at the end of last year, which was very successful for the list, that I was able to reflect on what we’d achieved and how far we’ve come as a business.”
Best piece of advice you received that you now pass on to others…
“I have three:
1. As a working mother you have to learn to compartmentalise your life, and this will help you cope with all the demands on your time (this has obviously been much harder in lockdown).
2. Sleep on it. Things will look/seem different in the morning.
3. Try to move on from disappointment quickly, don’t get mired in it. Reframe it as a learning opportunity. Move on.”
What’s your context outside of work – do you have family, other people counting on you, pets, hobbies, external commitments?
“I have two children – a son, 14, and a daughter, 10 – plus a hard-working husband. Our two cats complete the family unit.
I am interested in lots of things – I am a naturally curious person. I read a lot, and formed a book group a few years ago, which has widened my reading choices. I love planning holidays and trips with friends, in normal times. I always have some project or other on the go. I also run my own personal Instagram which is called @micropleasures and is all about finding the tiny joys in daily life and living in the moment.
I am passionate about increasing young people’s awareness of publishing so we can attract people from all backgrounds to our industry and have done some voluntary work talking to young people about publishing with The Stephen Lawrence Trust.”
Describe your pre-pandemic day-to-day…
“I can’t really remember it to be honest. I just know it used to involve a lot of looking at the clock and rushing around feeling stressed. Life has definitely calmed down, but there are different stressors, such as the constant backdrop of anxiety about life, health, the children, parents, and when life will resemble normal again.”
How has your daily life changed, what’s your new normal?
“At the start of lockdown I was determined to keep active and embarked on a Joe Wicks and running routine, which lasted several months, but – sorry, Joe – I got bored! I now walk every single day – usually early – which really helps me cope with whatever the rest of the day throws at me. It’s been a life-saver. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts or walk with a friend. I have loved watching the seasons change on a daily basis and I feel more connected to nature than I ever did when I was commuting into town every day. I think this, plus the fresh air and the routine, have really helped my mental health during these anxious and stressful times.
Has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally? How?
“Thankfully the crisis has not affected my or my family’s health directly. Professionally it has made life quite intense and it has been very difficult at times managing the pressure of working from home with family life. The boundaries are blurred and I miss the ‘switching off’ that naturally happens when you physically leave the home or the office.
I am co-founder of the Working Families Group at Hachette, where I work, and our aim is to help support and provide a voice for employees who are responsible for children or other family. Having a supportive group during this time has been really good and I have made some new friends across the business, which is great – nice to see new faces on Zoom!
My team have energised me during the whole pandemic and period of working from home. Like everyone, at times during Lockdown, I have found it hard. I think, weirdly, the pandemic has brought us closer together as we’ve had glimpses of each other’s lives, and more of a chance to bond, to share the ups and downs and keep each other going. We have learnt how to communicate differently and I am really proud of how strong we are as a team.
I feel really fortunate that the book industry has proved to be extremely resilient during the crisis, as people have continued to turn to books for entertainment, comfort and solace. My purpose continues to be to find and publish the very best books that speak to the current times and people’s needs – and help my team do the same.”
What, if anything, keeps you up at night?
“Interestingly, my sleep has vastly improved since I stopped drinking in January. I have a tendency to go to bed too late as I get distracted a lot by books, telly, Instagram etc – the usual. If I do wake up in the early hours – usually 4am – it will usually be work worries or concerns about the kids that prevent me from getting back to sleep. These periods of insomnia tend to come when I am feeling stressed or have too much on my plate. “
What have been your 2020 coping strategies? Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you found particularly uplifting? Gin or Gym?
“Walking has kept me sane, and – strangely – stopping drinking. I haven’t had a drink for nearly two months and I really don’t miss it. I sleep better and feel less anxious. I’m not saying I won’t go back, but it suits me for now. Getting the children outside every day also helps me cope, because otherwise I worry about them being cooped up indoors on a screen all day. This pandemic has been so hard on them mentally and physically and they miss their friends and school.
One rather lovely new routine is a Saturday morning walk with my husband – although we are together all week we are busy working/dealing with children/on domestic duty – and this time is just for us, to chat, catch up and have a laugh. We always get a coffee and a croissant and I really enjoy the routine. Previously, Saturday mornings were all about getting the children to activities – this is much more chill!
In September 2020 I ran 100 miles over the month to raise money for The British Red Cross ‘Miles for Refugees’ campaign. This was a lot more running than I’d done for years, so it was a good challenge and I raised over £400. I enjoyed the focus it gave me and felt proud of the achievement.
Writing my @micropleasures 28-day daily challenge in February has been enjoyable and fun and a nice way to connect with people in a positive way. Writing the posts has become a new little routine.”
What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane?
“Cake! My daughter has become a veritable baker and will bake about three things a week. It’s inspiring watching her get really into it, with no adult help whatsoever. Annie Bell’s Baking Bible is her go-to book these days. We all love her homemade offerings.
Otherwise, walking, exercise, connecting with friends – including old friends, which has been lovely – in real life and on Zoom for quizzes and chats. My husband has been amazing planning and cooking lots of meals, which he enjoys – without him in the kitchen I think I would have gone bananas.
My lovely neighbours and the community where we live in southeast London has been amazing – it’s made me really value the support and friendships I have on my doorstep and appreciate all the green space and parks.
Lastly, our two cats, Peanut and Lebron, are my constant working-from-home companions and bring the whole family so much pleasure.”
How has 2020 changed your outlook on life?
“I learned to relax more at home (when I wasn’t working) and not always be ‘doing’ stuff. I also learned to appreciate the little things more. I have had time to practise mindfulness and meditation and live more in the moment rather than constantly planning ahead or living in the future.
The covid pandemic has made us all more aware of the importance of our health and the value of the NHS and the nurses and doctors who are there to protect and care for us, and I feel a responsibility to stay fit and healthy, which I never felt before.
It’s made me even more passionate about my belief in books and literature as a way to discover stories and philosophies to help you escape and find freedom in your mind.”
Are you travel ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?
“I would love to get away somewhere warm and sunny, like the Cote d’Azur or Italy, where I can walk, swim, switch off and not have to worry about work or home-schooling or anything domestic! I wouldn’t mind a couple of days on my own, and then the rest of the family could join me afterwards.”
Finish this sentence “Currently stashed in my handbag is…’
“My handbag has been replaced by a Lululemon belt bag which has become my favourite bag and is used every day. It contains my Nuxe lip balm, tissues, key, face mask, phone, Revolut card and coffee shop loyalty card – the essentials.”
What are your WFH saviours? (routines/ products/ coffee/ music?)
Coffee from a local roastery, which is delivered to the door by bike, and which we grind at home – it’s become part of our lockdown routine as something to keep us going. This was particularly important when all the coffee shops were closed! I have also developed a penchant for scented candles and I love having one burning on the desk while I work – this wouldn’t be an option in the office, so I am taking it as a WFH win.
Otherwise, my daily walk, Radio 6 Music, endless mugs of tea, and frequent hugs from my daughter who loves interrupting my work calls.”
Describe your style?
“Relaxed with a sprinkling of smart. I love a cashmere jumper, and I am currently very fond of my Boden trackpants. I love a pop of colour and a dab of leopard print. Erica Davies taught me everything I know!”
Name your 5 essential items of clothing
- Cashmere jumper
- Sweaty Betty leggings
- Leopard print top/scarf/jumper
- Whistles leather jacket
- Lululemon sports bra for the daily plod!
How do you see your business in two years from now?
“Bigger, better, brighter, bolder. I want us to expand and grow so we can reach more readers and inspire, motivate and help more people.”
What’s your go to mantra or life motto?
“You only regret what you don’t do – so don’t say no, say yes.”
If you loved reading about Liz then you will love our other How She Carries On articles which delve into the daily lives of other inspirational women here