Comma Press launch the second iteration of the Northern Fiction Alliance mentorship scheme

Over the next twelve months, three early-career publishers currently working for Northern independent presses will virtually meet with their assigned mentors, who are experienced publishing professionals working for some of the country’s leading imprints and larger independent presses.


The scheme is designed to provide support and encouragement for the mentees taking part, who will benefit from at least four meetings with their mentor over the year-long scheme, online according to COVID restrictions but hopefully later in person if safe and able to do so.


A huge part of the work of Comma Press and the Northern Fiction Alliance is sector support and continued professional development for publishers based in the North of England in particular, where industry talent is underserved by training and networking opportunities.


The pairs who will take part in the 2021 scheme are as follows: Aisling Holling (Marketing and Editorial Executive at Saraband Books) and Alexa von Hirschberg (Publishing Director at Faber & Faber), Javerya Iqbal (Sales and Marketing Executive at And Other Stories) and Flora Willis (Head of Marketing at Profile Books and Serpent’s Tail), Paige Henderson (Commissioning Editor at Valley Press’ York-based imprint Lendal Press) and Genevieve Pegg (Publishing Director at HarperNorth).


Aisling Holling said of taking part in the mentorship and being paired with her mentor Alexa: “I’m really excited to be part of the Northern Fiction Alliance mentorship scheme. Networking opportunities have been limited, to say the least, for the past year, so I’m really looking forward to connecting with Alexa to learn more about the industry and her experience.”


Alexa von Hirschberg said of being paired with Aisling: “I've admired the Northern Fiction Alliance for many years and I'm delighted to be taking part in the 2021 Mentorship Scheme. I know how valuable making connections can be, especially when you are trying to navigate the industry from outside of London. I'm only too happy to be helping Aisling forge new networks and develop editorial knowledge.”


Becca Parkinson at Comma Press says “As someone who has benefited from the Northern Fiction Alliance Mentorship Scheme myself, I was delighted to convene this year’s pairings, particularly at a time when forging connections is both easier, because of the need to travel being removed, but also more difficult, as we must tackle the divide the virtual world puts between us. I am sure this year’s pairings will make the most of their virtual meetings until such a time as we can have in-person meetings again.”


About the participants:


Alexa von Hirschberg is Publishing Director at Faber & Faber. She began her career at Canongate Books before joining Bloomsbury Publishing where she published a wide range of fiction and non-fiction authors including Reni Eddo-Lodge, Melissa Harrison, Patrick deWitt, PJ Harvey and Benjamin Myers. At Faber she runs the prestigious music and pop culture list, working with authors including Kae Tempest, Brian Eno, Jackie Kay and Richard Thompson.


Aisling Holling is a marketing and editorial executive at Saraband. Previously a copywriter, she has a background in building brands, helping them find their voice and finding that point of connection between brand and audience. This is her first job in publishing.


Javerya Iqbal is the Sales and Marketing Executive (+ Subscriptions Manager) at And Other Stories. She works with the whole team to make sure our books are in all the right places, for all the right people, at the right prices.  After graduating with a BA (Joint Hons) in English Literature and Language, she interned at Granta Books, where she learnt ‘all’ there is to know about publishing. If she isn’t in a cafe reading (and drinking cocoa), she can be found wandering through the bountiful parks, peaks and museums of Sheffield. She is fluent in Urdu and picked up some German whilst living in Vienna.


Flora Willis is Head of Marketing at Profile Books and Serpent's Tail. She's worked on campaigns with Mary Beard, Ruby Tandoh and Carmen Maria Machado. Originally from York, she now lives in London. Follow her on Twitter: @FloraWillis_  


Born in Liverpool and raised in North Wales, Genevieve Pegg is Publishing Director at HaperNorth, bringing readers and writers together across the region. Gen has published authors from Kate Mosse to Belle de Jour and has worked at Penguin, Orion and with indie authors and publishers. She is always in search of page-turners, from bookclub stories to historical fiction, and from memoir to crime thrillers.


Paige Henderson is the Commissioning Editor at Valley Press’ York-based imprint Lendal Press, focussing on transparency, diversity, and opportunity. Paige studied English and Related Literature at the University of York.


Read the story at The Bookseller