Alison Fraser is the Managing Editor at Book Therapy, a business she founded in 2018, where she guides and assists authors through the publishing process.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My life has always revolved around books. English was my favourite subject at school and reading books was my preferred pastime.
I majored in Australian Literature at Sydney University and early jobs included bookshops (Shakespeare & Company in Paris and Darling Street Books in Sydney), as well as a position at the NSW Writers Centre.
After completing a postgraduate certificate in editing and publishing at the University of Technology, Sydney, I did a stint in legal publishing at LexisNexis before beginning with Reader’s Digest Australia in 2006.
I spent twelve years with Reader’s Digest, in the Reading Series department. My specialist training in book condensation furnished me with an excellent understanding of book structure, and running the Select Editions fiction series was a demanding but fulfilling role.
I began my own business, Book Therapy, in 2018, with the aim of improving people’s lives through books.
In addition to promoting great books, my company assists authors to transform early drafts into polished manuscripts and guides authors through the publishing process. I’m gradually building a team as my business expands.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
A normal work day starts at 9.00am, answering urgent emails. Then I turn to my highest priority project for the day, usually around 10.00am.
Today, that was reading the final chapters of an emerging writer’s novel and beginning work on her manuscript assessment. Then I had a (Zoom) meeting with an author and a designer to assess first cover concepts.
A regular mentoring meeting with another author followed, before returning to emails and finishing my day around 6.00pm.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
My role offers a high degree of flexibility and/or remote working. As a business owner I set my own hours and schedule.
However, I suffer from the same issue as many others – most jobs take longer than I expect – and there are numerous tasks to complete, from strategic planning to financial management.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To me, work–life balance is about matching your work situation with your individual needs and your priorities. You can’t have everything, so it’s important to be clear about what matters most to you. I’m easily susceptible to migraines, so taking care of my health is a priority.
Yet I’m also passionate about my business, and I don’t like to miss a deadline or reschedule clients. For me, this means I sometimes work evenings and weekends, when I have taken time off due to migraines.
I also prioritise my exercise routine, making healthy meals and not working after 9.00pm. I like to spend time with my family and friends, but at this point in my life it sometimes takes a back seat; when my kids were younger and before I had children, my priorities were different.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes. I start my day with a minimum of four rounds of salute to the sun, more if I’m feeling enthusiastic.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I recommend Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage for Identity by David Whyte for an insightful exploration of the relationship between work and identity, and Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton for a great new talent in Australian writing.
Psychologist Alice Boyes has excellent tips about positive tools to manage work and personal stressors, and I also like Zen Habits and The Book of Life.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Since COVID, Zoom has been extremely useful. I also rely on Google Calendar for scheduling and I’m currently trialing Asana for project management.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’d be highly interested in any tips that Barack Obama could pass on.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think it’s important to have a philosophy that encompasses what you are aiming to achieve in life beyond work – your personal principles – in order not to become overly focused on work. It can also assist you to maintain a sense of perspective when conflicting demands arise.
Knowing what I value has helped me to have clarity around my business strategy, and leads me to treat the people I connect with and the books that are entrusted to me with a high level of care and consideration.
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