Catherine Gough, founder of Catherine Gough Editorial
How I started in publishing
My route into publishing wasn’t a direct one. I had lots of jobs after I graduated from university, including admin support in JCB and teaching English to Japanese students via the internet, until I got a job in a translations and transcriptions company where I had my first taste of editing.
I decided to do a distance-learning course in proofreading, and I found my way into publishing as an assistant editor for Veritas. There I got an invaluable amount of on-the-job training that no course could match, and so I was able to pursue a role as Managing Editor in Gill Books.
I decided to do a distance-learning course in proofreading, and I found my way into publishing as an assistant editor
As the list in Gill grew, so did my skill and ambition, and I built a small but agile editorial department that worked across all genres – memoir, narrative non-fiction, sports, children’s, lifestyle, cookery, and fiction. I was promoted to Head of Editorial Development, and from there I moved to the newly established HarperCollins Ireland imprint as commissioning editor where I got to cultivate my own list.
Where I work now
As satisfying as working for a global publisher was, the publishing industry is unforgiving when it comes to work−life balance, regardless of position. So, due to a change in personal circumstances, I decided to launch my own freelance editorial business in June 2023. I had been working in publishing for over 15 years at that point, so I knew there was a gap in the market for someone with my editorial experience.
Due to a change in personal circumstances, I decided to launch my own freelance editorial business in June 2023
My strengths lie in developmental and structural editing, so lots of work has been coming my way from publishers. I’ve also recently launched offerings for independent authors where I help them brush up their pitches and navigate the often-nebulous publishing process. There are great stories with authors who need help getting them onto paper, and skilled writers in pursuit of a book deal – my range of publishing experience means I’m in a position to help them both.
The best thing about my role
There are few desk jobs where you get a physical manifestation of your work at the end of the process; I’ve always thought being an editor was unique in that. There’s a sense of achievement in being able to hold many months’ worth of work in your hands.
There’s also so much variety in the job, particularly because I work across genres – people have extraordinary stories, whether fact or fiction, and I love being a small part of bringing those stories to life.
A mistake I made
I’m struggling to answer this question because there are so many to choose from. So, so many. I’ve missed typos and written poorly worded or poorly timed emails. Mistakes are an editor’s bread and butter, and we make plenty of our own. As you become more experienced, you don’t stop making mistakes, you just make different ones. The key is to learn from them without dwelling on them, and that’s a skill I’ve had to develop like any other.
Mistakes are an editor’s bread and butter, and we make plenty of our own
My proudest moment so far
I’m proud of all the books I published while at HarperCollins Ireland, but a standout has to be the award-winning children’s book Girls Who Slay Monsters by Ellen Ryan, illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald. Seeing my vision for the book unfold and readers’ responses to it has been one of the most fulfilling moments of my career.
I was also the editor of the Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling series while at Gill Books. Having a front seat to the books becoming a cultural phenomenon and sell almost half a million copies has been surreal. The authors, Emer and Sarah, are a class act. I feel lucky to have worked with them.
What the future holds
For the first time in my career, I feel like opportunity is around every corner. As a freelance editor, I get to work on projects for so many different publishers, and I’ve been working with UK-based publishers as well as Irish ones.
I’m excited about the flexibility that freelancing provides, not just in time but also in taste – I have the freedom to work with new organisations and explore more writing work when the opportunity presents itself. I don’t know what’s going to come my way, but I’m ready to say yes!
I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, so short books have been my go-to when reading for pleasure. I recently read Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, which was published in 2018. It is 144 pages of power, like someone put a ghost pepper on your appetiser. The story builds, your anticipation mounts, and when the big moment happens it hits you like a rock to the head. I’ve been recommending it to everyone, regardless of their reading tastes.